LEXINGTON, KY (April 19, 2017) – Some people never get tired of being at the races. Keeneland Stakes Coordinator Tiffany Bourque is one of those people.
As a youngster, she enjoyed many afternoons at various tracks with her mother, Mary, and five siblings. Part of the lure was seeing her father, jockey Kenny “Chopper” Bourque, win on a steady basis before he retired in 1999 with nearly 2,500 victories.
“Everywhere Daddy went, we went,” she said. “We did a lot of traveling. When we started living in just one place while my dad was out of town riding, I didn’t care for it that much. I preferred the traveling.”
She also was drawn to the Thoroughbreds her father rode at tracks in Louisiana, Illinois and Arkansas.
“I fell in love with racing by watching the horses but I never wanted to ride,” she said. “All through high school and college, my father kept telling me he did not want me working at the track. But I love the track.”
Despite her father’s encouragement to avoid a racing career, Bourque accepted a string of entry-level jobs at assorted tracks before landing a Keeneland position in 2004. She was promoted to stakes coordinator last year.
In her role, she and Racing Secretary Ben Huffman stay updated on horses throughout the country that are suited to Keeneland’s upper-tier races. Bourque color-codes her lists to indicate what horses are most likely to race at Keeneland and transfers the data to her computer. Despite the ever-changing nature of entries, Bourque has much of her work memorized, especially for headliner races such as the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) that come with massive media coverage. As the liaison with the Keeneland Communications department, Bourque helps keep reporters updated on likely runners, which is key information for those planning stories for TV and other outlets.
As entry date nears for particular stakes races, trainers stay in touch with Bourque to see how the competition is stacking up so plans can be finalized.
If a race appears to be attracting only minimal entrants, Bourque encourages trainers to think about the race. The strategy can produce a happy surprise when a horse wins after not being originally considered for a race.
“It is always satisfying when a horse runs well after not being considered at first,” she said. “That makes my job exciting. But I never encourage a trainer to enter if I don’t think the horse has a good chance of winning. They have learned to trust me when I recommend that they enter.”
The ever-changing nature of her job means Bourque must stay apprised of which runners are best suited for Keeneland even before the racing season begins.
“I watch the races and I keep up with the horses,” she said. “It is something I enjoy.”