Trainer Profile: Randy Weidner

By Katie Merritt

Trainer Randy Weidner now calls Ocala, Florida home, but he was raised in Northfield, Minnesota, only about 45 minutes from Canterbury Park. Growing up in a family that always had a foot in the equine industry, be it with barrel racers or backyard show horses, Weidner grew up riding and working with the animals. Before he came to the racetrack, he followed the rodeo circuit around the country, where he rode bucking broncs for 12 years.

Weidner got his first taste of horse racing almost by accident. “I met a friend that sold me a Quarter Horse off the track that we were going to sell as a barrel horse,” he explained. “But we ended up bringing it back to the track because they needed help filling races.” Randy decided he preferred horse racing to the rodeo, and got a job as farm manager for trainer James Lackey. When Lackey consolidated his two farms into one, he sent Weidner to the racetrack as his assistant. In the meantime, Randy had also gotten into the game as an owner, and had horses in training with different trainers across the country. Once he had spent ample time working as an assistant, he decided it made sense for him to take out his trainer’s license and train his horses himself.

That was about seven or eight years ago, and since then, Weidner has kept a steady barn of about 12 horses in training, the majority of which at this point are for other people. Throughout the year, he follows the Quarter Horse meets around the country before heading home to Florida. Originally, he moved to Florida to race his horses at Hialeah over the winter months, but now he takes that time to work on getting Thoroughbreds ready for the two-year-old training sales in Ocala. “They breeze an eighth of a mile like we do our Quarter Horses so there are a lot of similarities,” he pointed out. Breaking young horses and preparing them to run is one of Weidner’s favorite parts of training horses. “I like seeing the progression that the young babies make when you start with them,” he said, “They learn so much so fast!”

One horse who seems to have learned his lessons particularly well is JJSir James, the fastest qualifier for the NCQHRA Futurity. “Since we broke him he’s been mister professional,” Weidner said with a smile, adding “And he’s proven to be pretty quick, too!” Though they expected him to qualify based on what he’d been showing them, the Weidner team didn’t expect to find themselves in the top spot. “Being the fastest qualifier, you can only go one direction. You stay the same or you do worse,” said Weidner. Two years ago, he had the fastest qualifier and the horse got caught in the final yards to finish third. “I’m hoping that this horse has got just a little bit more than that one did. JJ Sir James really seems like he’s the real deal,” he said with a smile.

Justine Klaiber, a jockey who has only been riding for about a year, rides first call for Weidner and will be in the irons on ‘James’ on race day, this Sunday. “She’s tough,” Weidner said of his jockey, “What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in talent. She’s going to be a superstar one day.”

Win or lose, Weidner enjoys coming to Canterbury Park to run his horses, and not just because he’s a native Minnesotan. “Canterbury is a super track,” said Weidner, having worked at many tracks around the US. “This is one of my favorite places to be, by far. So many people come here to watch the races. That makes it so much fun!” Weidner eventually sees himself venturing more into pin-hooking young horses, but he plans to continue training and to keep coming back to Canterbury every summer.

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