At just 22, Carter Gimblett wears several harness racing hats

by Chris Lomon

It was fitting that Carter Gimblett’s first driving win ended in a photo finish.

Typically, the 22-year-old Gimblett is the one looking through the lens at the finish line at Flamboro Downs.

But on the night of March 10 at the half-mile oval in southwestern Ontario, he was the one who came into focus at the end of the third race.

In rein to Always Been Crazy, a 6-year-old son of Sunshine Beach—Notable Beauty whom he also owns, Gimblett, in his pari-mutuel debut, and the bay crossed the wire neck winners in a time of 2:00.4.

As far as compelling milestone wins go, this was one for the ages.

The race featured a little bit of everything: front-end tactics, late-stage dramatics, a disqualification, and a few minutes to sort out all that had transpired.

“There were a lot of interesting parts to it,” Gimblett said.

Gimblett, fully aware that Always Been Crazy had solid early gate speed, put his charge on the front end soon after the starter car sped away.

Holding a four-length advantage on the backstretch, the pair reached the open quarter in :29.1. The duo was still in front through a half-mile in 1:00.1, as pocket-sitter Carson Star Choice sat 2 lengths behind the pacesetter.

“I wouldn’t say that I exactly had a shot to win, but I knew that my horse was good off the gate, so I wanted to get him out of there quickly and at least get him in a good spot early,” Gimblett said.

Carson Star Choice upped the pressure soon after, but Gimblett and Always Been Crazy responded to hold a length lead through three-quarters in 1:29.4.

Then things started to get interesting.

A length clear straightening for home, Always Been Crazy left a seam open on the rail for any later comers. Just A Poor Boy took advantage and stuck a head in front, but Gimblett and the gelding dug down and re-rallied.

In the final steps before the wire, Just A Poor Boy broke stride, which opened the door for a neck victory.

Just A Poor Boy was subsequently disqualified to fourth after the lapped-on break at the wire, which elevated Boots N Brian to second and Shadow Warrior to third.

The race, which unfolded like a high-octane action thriller, had finally reached its conclusion.

And, not unlike a big-budget Hollywood whodunnit, Gimblett had to wait until the final scene to see if he had come out on top.

“I wasn’t sure if we got it or not,” he said. “It was as close as the line reads. Being my first pari-mutuel drive, it was hard to tell if we did get there. But when I heard our name, it was a very exciting moment.”

Always Been Crazy, who paid $20.20 to win, also delivered Gimblett with his second career training triumph. His first came in 2022 with Wine Tyme at Kawartha Downs.

Fittingly, it was his father, longtime harness racing photographer Todd Gimblett, who was taking the photos that night.

“You only get that first win once and I am going to cherish it my whole life,” Carter said. “It does give you a boost of confidence in knowing that you can get the job done.”

When he returned to the paddock, Carter, in a familiar scene after a driver’s first win, was doused with water by his contemporaries.

“I was sort of expecting that, but I didn’t expect that so many people would be there with the water buckets,” he said. “[Drivers] Travis Cullen and Austin Sorrie came up behind me and got me with the water. As cold as it was, it is something I will never forget.”

As for how that victory came to be, it is a story in itself, one that is equally, perhaps even more compelling, than the dramatic score.

No stranger to the standardbred world — racing is in his DNA — Carter grew up around the sport.

“Harness racing runs in my family, four generations, to be exact,” he said. “It started with my great-grandfather and then my grandfather and father owned a bunch of horses in the early 2000s.

“They got out of the horse business and my father became the track photographer at a bunch of racetracks, through his He started doing Flamboro, Kawartha Downs, Georgian Downs, a little bit at Pocono at one point; so, he has always been involved with harness racing.”

Like father, like son.

Throughout his childhood and teens, Carter would tag along whenever his father went to the racetrack.

He never needed to be asked twice if he wanted to hop in the passenger seat.

“Some of my earliest memories were at the barns,” Carter said. “Even after my grandfather and dad got out of owning horses, I would go to the racetrack, and I always loved being there.

“I would help my dad shoot the races and that’s when I learned to read a program and picked up things here and there about racing.”

Around eight years ago, the younger Gimblett added another role to his racing repertoire.

“I want to say it was around 2016 or 2017 when I bought a few shares in horses through,” he said of the fractional ownership group created by Anthony MacDonald and his wife Amy in 2015. “It gave me a great introduction to what the business was all about.

“Following that, I started my undergraduate studies [Sporting and Event Management] at the University of Guelph. It was around then that I started helping a friend of mine, Nick Boyd, at a training center. I knew Nick through Kawartha Downs, where he was one of the leading drivers.”

Under the tutelage of Boyd, Carter expanded his knowledge of the sport.

“Nick, he really took me under his wing and taught me a lot; training, equipment, and so much more,” Carter said.

Carter continued his racing education with trainer James ‘Friday’ Dean.

“I have had plenty of great opportunities, including being able to look after Ron, who we got to race in the 2022 North America Cup final,” Carter said. “We partnered on a couple horses together, including his now 3-year-old sister Dontmesswithmolly.”

Ownership eventually led to Carter attaining his trainer’s license.

“It has all been great,” he said. “I consider myself lucky to be able to wear so many hats with racing.”

Where all of it leads, Carter isn’t quite certain.

Balancing a busy life between the classroom and the racetrack keeps the horseman on his toes, something he doesn’t regard as a negative.

“The last three or four years have gone by in no time,” he said. “But it is an amazing feeling. You never know what the future has in store, but I’m optimistic and excited for what’s to come.”

On this day, Carter has completed his work in the barn, finished his studies for the day, and is in the car, headed to Western Fair for a 10-race card.

He’ll take up residence in his usual spot, just across from the finish line, camera in hand.

For a few hours, his focus, literally and figuratively, will be on the drivers and their horses.

When he heads home, Carter will likely take some time to ponder his future, at the racetrack and after he graduates.

In his final semester at Guelph, he will soon have some big life decisions to make.

Whatever those happen to be and wherever it may lead him, racing will always remain a big part of his life.

“Getting the chance to drive, let alone win a race, was something I have always dreamed of,” he said.

A picture-perfect moment in every sense.