Breeder, owner, trainer Cassandra Lecourt has a lot of emotion for her horses

by Chris Lomon

What’s in a horse’s name? For Cassandra Lecourt, a perfect one to start the New Year on a winning note.

As the field of six trotters began to pick up speed in the 10th race on Jan. 11 at The Meadows, Lecourt wasn’t anticipating a walk over to the winner’s circle.

She was, however, confident of a competitive performance from the 4-year-old bay gelding whom she bred, owns and trains.

“I didn’t expect that win,” Lecourt said. “I knew that he could finish kind of close, but I didn’t expect him to win because he had been off three weeks.”

Getting away fourth, The Great Emotion, a son of Lookslikeachpndale—Apogee, was a half-length in front at the stretch call with Aaron Merriman at the controls, before pulling away for a comfortable 1 ½-length score in 1:55.2.

It was the fifth lifetime score from 27 races for the horses who made the first 21 starts of his career at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The Great Emotion rewarded his backers with a healthy $33.60 win payout.

“At the three-quarter mark, he was still going strong and with him, if he is in front, he doesn’t like to be passed by other horses,” Lecourt said. “So, I thought he was in a good position to win. It was very nice to see him perform so well.”

Especially considering there was a point in time when Lecourt felt the trotter might not make it to the races.

“When we broke him, we didn’t think that he would get there because his conformation isn’t that great,” she said. “We didn’t think he would be a racehorse, but he trained down very well, and he showed he had some speed. We shut him down in his 2-year-old season, in August. I was very patient with him. We gave him some time off and we made some adjustments going into his 3-year-old season.

“You can drive him any way as well. He will come from off the pace or be happy wherever you put him in the race. No matter where I put him, Grassroots or Gold, or anywhere else, he always tries and competes.”

Eleven days later, that grit was on display again, this time at Miami Valley.

In rein to Jeremey Smith, The Great Emotion, at 4-5, notched a 1 ¼-length victory in 1:56.1, for his sixth lifetime triumph.

“He is a funny guy,” Lecourt said. “He is always willing to do anything. We put the saddle on him, and he is fine. He is a ‘yes man.’”

The wins, however, were bittersweet.

His dam, Apogee, passed away days after the victory at The Meadows.

Lecourt owned the daughter of Kadabra, who went winless in seven starts before moving on to the breeding shed.

“I don’t know where I will be without that mare in a few years, but we will keep going forward the best we can,” she said. “I have a couple of The Great Emotion’s siblings, so hopefully, it will work out well for them.”

The passing of Apogee served as a reminder of the ups and downs horsepeople are faced with throughout their careers.

“My first couple of years, we had a horse Esprit Dequipe, and she raced very well,” Lecourt said. “She was always there at the finish, so you think, ‘Wow, this is great.’ And when you have a tough stretch or bad year, you think, ‘Wow, this is awful.’

“Sometimes it is bad luck and sometimes unexpected things come up in this sport. You never know what can happen. Sometimes, you think a horse will be great and things don’t work out and other times, a horse you don’t think will do well ends up doing better than you expected.”

The hard times haven’t dampened Lecourt’s enthusiasm for the sport.

She launched her training career in 2016, a year in which she posted a trio of thirds from eight starts.

The following campaign, she earned her first victory, the milestone courtesy of Art De Gagnee, a now-retired daughter of Shadow Play—Eclatante.

Driven by Pierre Luc Roy, the chestnut, who was bred in Quebec by Guy Corbeil, bested her closest rival by three-quarters of a length in 1:58.1 at Hippodrome 3R on Aug. 29, 2017.

Since then, Lecourt has trained a modest number of starters each year.

Lecourt’s best season, win-wise, came in 2019 when she won 13 of 42 starts. In 2022, her horses recorded a career-best $123,093 in purse earnings.

Last year was a difficult campaign, one which yielded three wins from 43 starts.

“We thought that The Great Emotion would perform better than he did, so it was a tough 2023,” she said. “I have a pacer, Revolt, who was racing in the open level at Mohawk, but then he had some tough results. Now he is back and just set his lifetime mark [1:49.4, at The Meadowland on Dec. 9]. Thankfully, the year ended well and 2024 has started well.”

Lecourt, who has five horses in her barn, has ample reason for optimism beyond The Great Emotion, including a 2-year-old trotting daughter of Muscle Mass—Apogee.

Massive Emotion, whom she bred and owns, is being prepared for her rookie campaign.

“For this year — my horses are all staked in Canada — I will probably race them in Quebec,” she said. “Massive Emotion has shown great aptitude. Maybe she will compete in the Gold Series at Mohawk.”

Winning a Gold event sits atop Lecourt’s wish list.

“I have had horses in Gold Series races for a couple of years, but we haven’t won it yet,” Lecourt said. “Those would be the races I would like to win. Maybe this filly, Massive Emotion, will be the one to do it.”

The bay filly won’t be lacking in support, through the good times and bad.

“I have a connection with all my horses,” she said. “I was there when The Great Emotion was delivered. I enjoy having a bond with my horses, watching them grow and develop, and then go on to the races. It gives me a lot of joy.”