Brian Todd Bochinski's riding career started long before his first mount at Assiniboia Downs in 1986. In a way it had been a work in progress for years.
It was always his life-long dream to be a jockey and win races, lots of them.
His father, Bill, owned horses, and his mother, Hazel was a trainer. Needless to say, young Brian's interest in racing was a natural fit, as was his knack for "fitting" his horses. His goal was to pattern himself after the great Bill Shoemaker and his local hero Irwin Driedger.
Brian always had a way with horses, but his was not so much a natural talent, but rather something he had to work hard at. He learned a great deal thanks to the Hawkeye Hill Riding School in the USA, where his riding skills grew to a level on a par with his enthusiasm for the sport!
In 1986, the 19-year-old won four races from 68 starts. These wins weren't foreseeable and didn't come easy, but they gave a glimpse of the good things that were to come.
Brian won his first race at the end of July aboard Canadier Force, who paid a handsome $48.90 to win! Win number two came a month later when Vecchia Roma got to the wire first and paid $31. Brian didn't have to wait long for his third win. A couple days later he guided $29.10 winner Galazee to the winner's circle.
Jump ahead another two days and he had his fourth win on $71.90 long shot Muffie McCraken. He took the balance of the meet off knowing that his 10-pound apprentice allowance would be reduced to five when he scored his fifth win.
Brian dreamed of riding in Toronto, but that would have to wait until he was ready. He had a lot to learn before turning his sights to the larger eastern tracks of Ontario. In 1987 he honed his skills, and that coupled with his five pound "bug" had trainers tripping over each other to have the young talented apprentice, the heir apparent to Todd Kabel, ride their horses.
Like any good jockey, Brian rode with confidence, and as the Downs' 1987 season closed out, he was on fire! On the final weekend of the meet, something magical happened. The eager apprentice went into the final weekend with 86 wins, rode four winners Friday night, followed that performance up with five more wins on Saturday, and closed out the meet on Sunday with five more!
It was almost unheard of for an apprentice to chalk up 14 wins in three days and yet this is what he needed to do to reach the 100 win plateau. Brian would have been content to have had the 1987 meet go on forever!
Brian rode a lot for Tom Dodds, a trainer who described Brian as simply a "good fit" for a horse. Dodds acknowledged Brian's love of riding and said that horses respond well for him, that he just had a great way with his mounts.
In 1988 Brian became the first Winnipeg native to win the riding title at Assiniboia Downs since Tommy Stadnyk in 1961. He worked hard at his craft and was at the track six days a week starting at 5:15 a.m. He enjoyed working horses in the morning.
Brian spent the 1993 season riding in Alberta, although many felt that he could have easily made the jump to the Ontario tracks. His view was simple. He felt more welcomed in Alberta and it was where he belonged at the time. He said he never regretted going to Alberta, that he met a lot of good people and had many great times.
Eventually the larger tracks of Ontario called and like Irwin Driedger and Todd Kabel before him, Brian ventured east to try his hand at the elite Ontario tracks.
Brian had a terrific career at the Downs and had he stayed he was destined to re-write the record books at Assiniboia! As it was he rode here from 1986 to 1992, winning the riding championship in 1988, 1990 and 1992. He currently sits in ninth place on the all-time jockey leader board here with 950 career wins.
Brian loved the Downs, after all, it was home for him. As a young apprentice he remembers fondly Don Gray, C.J. "Shorty" Gray, J.H. "Red" Johnson, Tom Dodds and many more names than I could ever list here!
Brian said his all-time best horse at the Downs was Nephrite -- fast, smooth, athletic and a stone-cold runner!
His all-time favourite Downs' horse however, was Lord of London, a horse that he just, "clicked" with.
You need only speak with Brian once to understand why he is so well-respected and admired by those who know him. His father, Bill and his mother, Hazel, have every right to be proud of a young man who is as genuine as they come.
Brian hung up his tack in 2007, spending his final season at Fort Erie race track. He explained that it was time to retire and that it was a tough decision. On his retirement, all Brian would offer was that he just knew it was time. As we spoke, his voice faded and there were no more words. It was a subject he found difficult to talk about.
In the summer of 2011 Brian was home visiting family and friends, and while taking in a night at the races he was asked if he missed riding. His brief, to-the-point answer still resonates with me. Without missing a beat, the 44-year-old who lived out his boyhood dream summed it up in two words.