LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen November  15, 2019

TRAINER ROBI MECHE

It's difficult to sum up Louisiana-based trainer Robi A. Meche in a few words. She's just 23-years-old, extremely outgoing and has boundless energy and enthusiasm. This is just her first year of training Quarter Horses, and she is off to a terrific start. In addition to running a 40-horse barn, she ponies her horses to the track on race nights and loves to help out and socialize with pretty much everyone.

Love for Horses Began at an Early Age

Robi is the daughter of horseman Robert Meche and his wife Annette. She grew up around horses on the family farm in Church Point, Louisiana.

"I think I have a picture of me on horseback in diapers," she admitted.

Barrel racing was her chosen sport and she began competing as a 6-year-old. She soared through junior competition and began winning at the open level as a teenager. Robi won over 40 championships, and loved both the thrill of competing and socializing with her fellow racers.

"I always cheered for everyone," said Robi. "It's just the way I am!"

Family Tragedy Rocked the Meche Family

In her senior year of high school, the Meche family suffered an unspeakable tragedy. Robi's older brother, Jess, who was a Quarter Horse jockey, was working horses and lost his life in a training accident at Delta Downs on April 11, 2013.

The close knit family was devastated by the death of Jess at such a young age. Robi remembers how suddenly everything changed for her and her parents.

"I don't think I went back to school that semester," she said. "My dad had to go back to work and I needed to be there for my mom."

She could have attended Odessa College on a scholarship, but furthering her education was not a priority for her at that time. In December of that year, Annette was diagnosed with cancer, and staying close to home was important to Robi.

Once her mom was on the road to recovery, Robi realized that being around horses was what mattered and moved forward.

Encouraged by Many to Become a Trainer

Robi was happy to work as a pony person and serve as an assistant trainer. But several conditioners, including Kenny Roberts and Wendy Garcia, encouraged her to get her license.

"Our barns are next to each other at Delta," said Roberts. "She learned from a great guy and really loves her horses. And few people work harder than Robi."

Closing week at Delta Downs, Robi will saddle horses in three major stakes. FM Im A Zatanaz Too will run in the $186,925 Firecracker Derby; Doc Hockaday qualified to the $308,355 Firecracker Futurity and Runaway Second Down, set the second-fastest qualifying time in the richest race of the Delta Downs meet, the $700,293 Lee Berwick Futurity.

Runaway Second Down had two troubled trips prior to his June 15 Lee Berwick trial. Robi decided to put blinkers on the son of Sir Runaway Dash, and his performance exceeded her expectations. He covered 350 yards in :17.503 seconds, under jockey Antonio Alberto. notching the second-fastest clocking in in 15 trials.

"I had ponied him, so I was behind the gate, watching the race on my phone," she explained. "I was so excited that I galloped on my pony (Big Hook) and did a flying dismount to get to Runaway and Tony. We were ecstatic!"

Alberto rides several stakes horses for Robi, and is one of her biggest supporters.

"She's has a very vibrant personality and really loves what she does," said Alberto. "When she ponies for me, we joke around so much and have a really good time. I honestly think the horses feel her energy."

Her Brother Jess Never Forgotten

The initials on her stable are JM, in honor of her brother Jess.

"People have asked me why I don't have the initials RM on my tack," said Robi. "I have JM for my brother and will always have him with me and as part of my barn."

She is understandably a little nervous heading into the big racing week at Delta Downs, and hesitates when asked how she would feel to win her first major championship.

"I honestly don't know what I'll do if we win the Firecracker or Lee Berwick," she said. "We have worked hard and have sound, strong and happy horses. That is what matters the most."

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Photo: Robi Meche barrel racing on JDS Runaway Trouble

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.