By Kristin Bechthold
Hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, Eric Heitzmann made his first appearance at Canterbury Park last year. With the help of his wife Carmel as stable manager and eight employees, he currently trains 22 horses at Canterbury. “We had a great time here last year,” Heitzmann said. “We love Minnesota, the people are nice. It’s a pleasure to come back.”
Prior to racing at Canterbury, Heitzmann trained at Louisiana Downs. The switch was due to the incentive of better opportunities, including increased purses and cooler weather for the summer meet. He trains at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans in the winter.
Heitzmann started in the racing industry as a boy since his father raced horses from the 1950’s to 1970’s. When he wasn’t in school, he was at the racetrack working on the backside. “I loved it from the beginning,” Heitzmann said. “The horses, all the track personalities, things like that. It’s easy to fall in love with.”
Heitzmann’s wife, Carmel, is a large contributor in the operation of the Heitzmann training barn. Although she is a stable manager and works in the barn seven days a week, she wasn’t always a horse person. Originally from England, she was a flight attendant in Dubai for eight years. After marrying Eric, they began a life in America where Eric could start training horses. However, much like her husband, she quickly fell in love with working around the horses and decided to leave her career with the airlines. “I would say I’m the real boss now,” she joked in an interview last year.
Although Heitzmann is a busy person, he would like to travel with Carmel if he were to have time away from the horse racing business. If he were to choose another career, he would like to make a career out of helping abused and abandoned animals. He has a soft spot for dogs and even rescued his own dog from the streets.
When he’s not focusing on racing, Heitzmann’s hobbies include playing golf and cards. In addition to the competitive nature of his career, Heitzmann enjoys any sort of hobby or activity as long as it is competitive. “It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as somebody is keeping score,” he said.
Though Heitzmann doesn’t have a plan for retiring from racing and hopes to keep doing it for as long as he can. “If I were to get a peak position to where I thought at the end of the day, ‘Man, it just doesn’t get better than that and everything else might be a let-down,’ then I would think of it,” he said.