There is a deep history of harness racing in the Barnard family, so it was inevitable that 18-year-old Jesse would be bitten by the harness racing bug at an early age.
“My dad, Robert Barnard, is a first-generation trainer,” Jesse said. “My mom (Tina Marie Gelly) comes from a long line of trainers. She comes from the Turcotte family in Canada.”
The family is based at the Meadows Racetrack in Washington, Pennsylvania, and Jesse works with his family stable, with an eye on a career as a trainer or driver, or both, in his very near future. “I’d like to do a little bit of everything. There’s a lot of appeal in being a catch driver, all the ‘pizazz’ that comes with that. But also, I like training down my own stock and really, working with my own horses. Drive,train, and own them all is always a blessing. I like it all!”
Catch driving is the intriguing part of harness racing to the young horseman. “It’s exciting, all the people you get to meet,” he said. “All the different horses you get to sit behind. When you just get to drive what you train, you only get to see a certain number of horses. When you are a catch driver, you can sit in three different horses in three different weeks in the same class in the same race.”
When it comes to trotters vs. pacers, Jesse favors pacers at the present time, but has worked with trotters, and hopes to train some in the future. “I worked for a man named Bill Daugherty for a while and he specialized in trotters. I’m looking to get a trotter, and hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to train both pacers and trotters.”
As a young horseman starting out in the business, he has several drivers he admires, and has inspired him. “Aaron Merriman and Ronnie Wrenn at the Meadows. They’re the standouts, kind of like the poster boys of modern harness racing. They’ve worked for it and it’s just an inspiration on how they achieved it. As for drivers at other tracks, definitely Todd McCarthy and Tyler Buter. They give every horse that they drive a chance no matter the odds. Even if they are 99/1, they aren’t afraid to give the horse a chance and put it on the front.”
“Trainers I admire, Ashley Brown and Chris Shaw are definitely up there. They’ve worked hard for what they have. Dirk Simpson is another guy who I’ve always looked up to in a sense that he gives me opportunities every week to go and help them train his stock. And Tim Twaddle too, just his story in general is inspirational.”
Jesse works with his father’s barn, and they currently have six horses. “We’re trying to grow our barn back up to where it was. After Covid, it kind of went down in stock a lot. We’re trying to get it back up. For the most part, I wash the race bikes of all the drivers (at the Meadows) and I work for Dirk Simpson on the weekends. I do stalls for Chris (Shaw) and Ashley (Brown) on Sundays. So I kind of hustle around,” he laughed.
He does barn work and paddock work, jogs horses and helps train, and he’s just a senior in high school! While Jesse is planning his future in harness racing, school comes first. “I’d like to pursue a career in racing, but I’d also like to get some sort of education, or some sort of backup plan, in case it doesn’t work out. Maybe do some sort of online school so I could work too.”
Hoping to branch out across Pennsylvania and beyond, Jesse hopes to someday drive in races at other tracks. “We’ve all had big dreams. I’ve always wanted to head out East, and try my luck at big tracks like Yonkers, Meadowlands, and Pocono and Harrah’s Philadelphia. I’ve never really raced out there. It’s always exciting to get out there.”
His dreams are big, he’s passionate about harness racing, and his work ethic is impressive. Jesse Barnard is a rising star in harness racing with a bright future.

POV it’s time to goooo 😍🏇 ...

It was a great opening weekend at Harrah`s Philadelphia! Catch up with what you missed of opening weekend at the Link in Bio!

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Today we have FREE Past Performances for Parx Racing AND here are Dawnelle`s picks for today`s race card at Parx! Good Luck 🍀

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Dropping by your timeline to wish you a Happy Monday 🩷 I mean how couldn’t this cute standardbred foal cheer you up ❣️ ...

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Happy Opening Day at Harrah`s Philadelphia! Here are Dawnelle`s Picks for todays race card! Get your Free Past Performances at PHHA.org ...

Happy Friday! Start your weekend right as we bring you a brand NEW episode of Hot 2 Trot featuring special guest Jeff Matty, the Executive Director of the PTHA! Listen to the full episode now on your favorite podcast platform or at pennhorseracing.com/hot-2-trot! 🎙️🐎 ...

A NEW Episode of #Hot2Trot drops tomorrow and you don`t want to miss it! We have special guest Jeff Matty! Tune in to the full episode out tomorrow wherever you listen to your podcasts or at pennhorseracing.com/hot-2-trot ...

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