Desiree Dessureault’s daily menu always includes harness racing

by Chris Lomon

When it comes to the recipe for success, Desiree Dessureault is worthy of a five-star review.

That she continues to fare well in standardbred racing is by no means simply good fortune.

Instead, the horsewoman from Norway, ME, has worked earnestly in every role she has had over the years.

Her love of standardbreds and standardbred racing comes naturally.

“I was born into racing,” she said. “I went to high school and graduated college. I moved to Pompano in 2008 and that’s where I met my husband [trainer Mario Dessureault].

“My grandparents have had horses, my parents have had horses, my brother has had horses, and my husband has horses.”

Desiree has now added the title of trainer to her long list of harness racing achievements.

And, to no surprise at all, it has been a winning beginning for the woman who also works at Oceanic, a popular Florida oceanfront restaurant in Pompano, known for its American cuisine and fresh seafood dishes.

“I can’t say that I see any similarities between racing and restaurants,” Desiree said with a laugh. “I suppose both can be demanding at certain times.”

Whatever the role, Desiree is guided by the same philosophy.

“When you work hard, it is a rewarding feeling,” she said.

That approach can also make others take notice.

In 2013, Desiree earned Caretaker of the Month honors at Pompano Park.

She earned the recognition from the Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association for her work with L M Canon, who went undefeated with four straight wins that May.

The following month, Desiree was feted with a special winner’s circle presentation.

“We have that plaque hanging in our barn,” she said. “We had the mare L S Cannon. She was a good mare with us. One day, they told me I had been recognized for an award. It was nice to receive it, but I can’t believe it was 11 years ago.”

A lot has changed since then, but not Desiree’s love for racing and its equine athletes.

Winning her first race as a trainer, a milestone she achieved on May 17th at Tioga Downs.

The victory, an unexpected one, came with a bona fide veteran of the sport.

Kokanee Seelster, an 11-year-old son of Camluck—Kiddie Cocktail, has nearly 300 career starts to his name.

Desiree, along with Dennis Whittemore, claimed the brown gelding less than two weeks before the milestone score.

Sent on his way at 9-1 with Aaron Byron in the race bike, Kokanee Seelster got away third before taking over the proceedings before three-quarters.

He crossed the wire three-quarters of a length clear of his closest rival, stopping the teletimer in 1:53.3.

“It was nice to break the ice,” Desiree said. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take, so it was nice to get it out of the way early. He’s an older horse, who I think knows more about things than I do at times. But that’s okay.

“It was very exciting. We weren’t expecting it, which makes it even better. He is a nice horse, very friendly and great to be around. It’s a win-win.”

The original $17,000 purchase at the 2014 Forest City Yearling Sale appeared to know what he had accomplished.

“He definitely knew that he had won that day,” Desiree said. “He was very proud of himself.”

Desiree had no shortage of support, both on and off the racetrack.

“It was nice to share it,” she said. “My husband was there, and my parents were watching and cheering us on, so that was wonderful. I was still on cloud nine the next day.”

As she was one week later when Kokanee Seelster was back in the Tioga winner’s circle again, this time courtesy of a head triumph in 1:54.2.

Desiree is content to remain in the moment, rather than casting her thoughts towards the future.

“I am just going week-to-week and enjoying everything in the moment,” she said. “Hopefully, all goes well between then and the fall when we return to Pompano.”

She is grateful for the journey that took her from Florida to Nichols, NY.

“We have been racing in Saratoga for a few years, and I have been working in the restaurant business for the last little while in Florida,” Desiree said. “My husband and I were talking, and I thought if we did go to Tioga — we had been there before — it would be nice if I could train there. And that’s how it ended up working out.

“We still have our house in Pompano, even though the racetrack has closed. When I’m not working with the horses, I’m working at the restaurant.”

Desiree is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside her husband at the barn.

Does that mean the couple that races together, stays together?

“Definitely!” she said. “We do work well together. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Mario has five horses now and I have my one, so it’s six in our barn. It’s the right number and the horses are wonderful.

“I’m so grateful for Mario’s support. I have learned so much from him and his father. It’s been very important to me. This is one of those industries where you never stop learning, so I am very fortunate to have a lot of people by my side and helping me.”

For now, she will keep her focus on the short term, content to campaign Kokanee Seelster as her lone trainee.

But if the chance were to arise, there is one place where winning a race would be deeply meaningful for Desiree.

It is a racetrack she knows well.

“I have a sentimental attachment to fair tracks,” she said. “Fryeburg Fair has always been a special place for me. I would go there with my family when I was growing up and I loved it. That’s where I first remember going to the racetrack. I would like to train and race there for sentimental reasons.”

Her life is a busy one.

Between working at Oceanic and the barn, there is little time for outside interests or personal pursuits.

Whatever happens to be on the menu for the day, Desiree is simply happy to be along for the ride.

“I do like to read, but I end up falling asleep,” she said with a laugh. “If we aren’t at the track, we are getting things ready for the track or we are on our way to another track. And that is a good thing.”