“We try to do what makes sense. Patience does pay off in the long run. If you do what is right for the horses and the clients are on board with the plan, everything can work out.” - Cherie DeVaux
When Cherie DeVaux made the move last year of becoming a trainer, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially after spending nearly 80 years of working as Chad Brown’s assistant while handling top-quality horses that included 2017 Eclipse Female Turf Champion Lady Eli.
She made the best of her 10-horse stable with a couple of second-place finishes at Saratoga before going to Laurel Park in the fall and Gulfstream Park for the winter for a few more good races from her horses.
As part of her plan, DeVaux continued to build on her stable with 30 horses that included some 2-year-olds. The 37-year-old Saratoga Springs native also earned her first career win with Traveling at Gulfstream Park at the end of March.
“We started at zero,” she said. “For what I had for horses and just starting out, I thought we did pretty well. The full picture of our business is starting to become clear. For things to finally come into fruition, it takes a while. On the best circumstances, to get a horse up and running, it takes a year-plus to even reach
DeVaux has always been around horses since her family has been involved in harness racing. Her father Adrian “Butch” was a long-time trainer and her brother Jimmy has become a successful driver at Saratoga Raceway.
However, DeVaux didn’t follow that same path, especially after her family moved to Florida.
After graduating from high school, DeVaux went to Florida Gulf Coast University as a pre-med major leading into physical therapy two years. She then came back to the Capital Region to attend the University at Albany. Going into her last year at UAlbany, Devaux wanted to follow her passion of working with horses.
“I remember my advisor telling me what courses I had to take for my last semester,” she said. “I told her, ‘No. I want to go do something fun.’ I don’t regret it. I learned a lot and lived a lot of life during those four years.”
For the next several years, DeVaux became more educated on the business and physical aspect of working with horses. She started as a hotwalker for Phil Gleaves before working for Chuck Simon, a Saratoga Catholic graduate, though, DeVaux never thought about being a trainer until Simon convinced her about being his assistant.
“Unlike most people, I am a fan of the horses,” DeVaux said. “I am not a handicapper; I never followed the sport. I followed along the business end. It has never been a dream of mine since I was a kid. It was more about following my heart into something I felt passionate about.”
DeVaux’s passion and hard work for her horses paid off last month when she won her first race at Saratoga with Heartstrings, owned by Saratoga Springs native David Lyons, head partner of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds. DeVaux’s husband, David Ingordo, is also a part owner.
Purchased by DeVaux with the help of Ingordo for $45,000, Heartstrings had been training at Saratoga last year until she realized the filly needed more time. After getting back to training at Keeneland and again at Saratoga, the filly was ready for her first career race.
“We took our time with her,” DeVaux said. “We try to do what makes sense. Patience does pay off in the long run. If you do what is right for the horses and the clients are on board with the plan, everything can work out.”
Everything did work out. Stalking the pace as much as 12 lengths in the early stages of the race, Heartstrings made a strong move in the stretch run to win going away at 39-1.
“I was happy on a personal level,” DeVaux said. “To come out with a first-time starter at any level, then to fire, and with the hard work we have put into her, it is a gratifying feeling. The partners of Blue Lion, since they are from this area, were really ecstatic. To be able to give the moment to them, it really meant a lot. For them, it was a dream since they were kids. To them, it was more gratifying.”
A key person to DeVaux’s business development has been Ingordo, who also has an extensive background in the horse racing industry through his family.
His late father Jerry Ingordo was jockey agent for Hall of Fame riders Laffit Pincay Jr., Patrick Valenzuela, and Sandy Hawley; his mother Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs helped manage late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel’s business; his father-in-law John Shirreffs trained champion Zenyatta and 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo.
After working as an assistant for Frankel during his teenage years and Juddmonte Farms during college years at the University of Kentucky, David Ingordo has become a highly-regarded bloodstock agent who is known for help selecting Zenyatta and assisting in other purchases that include Lady Eli, 2015 Whitney winner Honor Code and 2015 3-year-old champion Stellar Wind.
Ingordo met DeVaux in New York while checking on eventual Grade 1 stakes winner Gift Box, a horse he has purchased for Will Farish III. Their friendship eventually evolved into marriage last year. Ingordo believes DeVaux has the ability to get to that next level.
“I think Cherie is one of the more talented horse people out there that just has to get her own career started,” he said. “Her record doesn’t reflect some of the really good work she has done. She is trying to develop horses. I see some of these horses coming from different places and different conditions. I see the improvement. Objectively, that’s what a horse trainer is supposed to do. She has a knack for that.”
“If she can keep hanging in there, she will continue to move forward,” he added. “The cupboards aren’t bare here. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes for her. Anyone who knows me know that I don’t follow any empty wagons.”
DeVaux indicated that she has been satisfied with her meet so far, especially with the way her horses have been running on the track. With about 10 days remaining in the Saratoga meet, she will continue to work with her plan before going back to Kentucky for the Keeneland and Churchill Down meets in the fall.
“So far, the meet has been gone well,” she said. “All of them have put in solid performances. We really tried to pick specific horses to target certain races, and not to bring horses just to run.”
More important, DeVaux is grateful for the support from Ingordo.
“I am fortunate to have my husband who is business-mined,” she said. “We have a three-year plan to up to that full capacity. We cannot just focus on the stats and wins. We have to look at the body of our work as a whole. He has been really good in keeping me focused with that.”