by Chris Lomon
Editor’s note: Full disclosure… This story was originally published on Friday, Feb. 4. On the same day it was published, Jessie Pacheco appeared on the USTA’s fines and suspensions list with a $5,000 fine and a 364-day suspension from the California Horse Racing Board for “Possession of hypodermic needles, syringes and/or injectable and/or other drugs.” Pacheco has appealed that ruling. Note that Pacheco did not disclose to HRU or the writer that he was under suspicion for this offense at the time of the interview which was done in advance of public notification of this alleged offense. The article remains here, otherwise unedited. If notified of the result of Pacheco’s appeal, we will publish the results at that time.
Jessie Pacheco is as modest a horseman that you’ll find. His numbers, however, are quite a different story.
A brief glimpse at his statistics might suggest the California-based conditioner would have plenty to boast about, big-time successes worthy of big talk.
But that’s not what the 28-year-old standardbred trainer is about.
That the hard-working son of Lino Pacheco, a successful horseman in his own right, is flourishing isn’t necessarily a surprise considering his dedication to the sport and its equine athletes.
“When I was in high school and my dad asked me what I wanted to do, I said, ‘Well, I want to be a trainer just like you.’ He asked me if was sure and I knew that I was. He said if I wanted to be a trainer, that in this business you don’t get a day off, that I have to be constantly taking care of the horses, working as hard as I can, and doing everything I can to make it all a success. I told him that it’s definitely what I wanted to do.”
After several years under the tutelage of his father, Pacheco has carved out a strong career of his own, including at his home base, Cal-Expo.
He managed to turn plenty of heads in his rookie campaign in 2016.
Pacheco posted 28 wins in 161 starts, along with $136,183 in purse earnings and a .283 UTRS.
His sophomore campaign, which yielded 22 wins, was followed by 50 victories the following year.
In 2021, Pacheco, born in Torrance, CA, set a number of personal-best marks, including 56 wins, 176 top-three finishes and $244,900 in earnings.
One of his top horses is Pancetta, a 13-year-old son of No Pan Intended, owned by Richard Morita and David Yamada.
The veteran pacer has earned over $500,000 in a career that has covered 199 starts.
“Pancetta is a very nice horse and he always tries his hardest. I’ve been very lucky to race him. I’m An Athlete [a 12-year-old son of Art Major] and so is Delightfully Wild [a nine-year-old daughter of Bettors Delight]. She’s a good horse too. I’m happy to have a lot of nice horses to work with.”
The fact that Pacheco has seen his efforts come to fruition is a minor miracle.
“When I was two, I was in a bad accident. A horse kicked me in the face. My dad, he used to work at Los Alamitos training Quarter Horses. My mom brought me and my sister to see my dad at the racetrack. The horse went out with the hotwalker and I tried to follow the horse. The horse kicked me in the face, so I was in the hospital for almost a year. After that, my mom and sister went back to Mexico, so that is where I grew up until I came back to California when I was 18. I started working for my dad as a groom, and maybe six years later, I had the horses racing under my name. My first start, it came in Minnesota. I went there with seven horses and I came back to Cal-Expo with 16 for the wintertime.”
He hasn’t looked back since.
Currently, Pacheco has 17 horses in his barn. He’s also added a new role to his racetrack repertoire.
“I have had some pretty good seasons and I am happy with that. Two years ago, I started to do my qualifying to become a driver because sometimes here at Cal-Expo, we need drivers. So, that’s why I started driving. It’s been good because since I train the horses, I know them and what they like and don’t like.”
Pacheco has also kept the countless pieces of advice his father shared with him top of mind.
“He always told me to respect the horses, to be good and kind to them all the time. He also told me that I need to be patient with the horses, to do everything the right way, and to make sure they are taken care of and prepared so they can be at their best when they race. And one day, he told me that I have to be willing to work hard to find the key to each horse, that every horse is different, and you need to treat them as individuals. Every horse has its own personality, and you have to find the best way to unlock their talents.”
Pacheco is hoping to open more doors for himself this year and in the future.
He knows exactly what it will take to reach his goals.
“You always have to keep pushing yourself to be better. I have kept my same owners for a long time and I hope that I can keep bringing them success. I want to work with my horses to make them better. Maybe my next step could be going to New York one day and compete at the tracks there.”
For now, he’ll continue to compete in California, and look to build off an impressive 2021.
And when he’s not in the Golden State working hand-in-hoof with the horses, Pacheco can be found in a familiar spot.
“Usually when I’m not at the racetrack, I’m back in Mexico, which is my second home. We have beef cattle there, so I like to be at the ranch, doing whatever I can to help. We also have riding horses, Quarter Horses, there, so I enjoy that too. I never think about needing a vacation because even though it’s work, it doesn’t feel like that for me. I grew up around animals. When I was in Mexico and I would finish school, I would come home, put a saddle on my horse, and I would ride. It makes me happy.”
As does his harness racing career.
Pacheco is hopeful that the best is yet to come.
“Every day, I go to the racetrack and try to help my horses the best way that I can. I’m going to do my best to make them be the best they can be and I’m going to work hard to be better myself.”