05/10/2004 11:00PM

Ashy trades suit for condition book

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It's not uncommon to see a trainer change careers and become a jockey agent, but it is an unusual move for a racetrack vice president. In the case of Charles Ashy Jr., who represents jockeys Kerwin Clark and the comebacking Tracy Hebert at Evangeline Downs near Lafayette, La., becoming an agent made sense.

Ashy used to be the track's vice president and director of racing and simulcasting, but the facility changed ownership and he was let go following the live racing season in 2002.

"At that point I kind of felt I wanted to be an agent again," said Ashy, 42. "I'd done it in the past when I was younger. I had worked as an agent for five years at Evangeline, Delta, Louisiana Downs, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn."

Among the riders he represented were Shane Sellers, Mark Guidry, and Dave Borden. Borden was a longtime client, and when he decided to retire to become an agent, Ashy took up an offer from his father, Evangeline's president, Charles Ashy Sr., to put his business administration degree to use and help manage Evangeline.

That was 1987.

"I started as director of racing, then that evolved into director of simulcasts, then I was promoted to vice president," said Ashy. "It ended up being a 16-year stint."

Despite being around racing all his life, the move from management to the backstretch was more difficult than Ashy expected, in part because racing is held at night at Evangeline.

"My schedule prohibited me from being as involved in the mornings as I would have liked," he said. "I'd come in around 1 p.m. until the races were over, and didn't have as much day-to-day contact with the horsemen.

"It was kind of tough making the transition back to the agent business."

Ashy had to work overtime to reestablish relationships with trainers in his new role as agent. His task was complicated by the fact his old job included allotting stalls at Evangeline - not exactly a way to make friends.

But Ashy said his job has become easier now that he has two quality riders like Clark and Hebert, once a top rider in Kentucky who returned to the saddle last Thursday night after being away for about three years because of what Ashy called personal reasons. Clark won his 2,000th career race last Thursday with Golden Rail.

"I'm very happy with the caliber of riders I have in Kerwin and Tracy," said Ashy. "They're two riders known for their abilities, and between them they have won 5,200 races."

Ashy said being an agent has been satisfying on several levels. For one, to do it he did not have to uproot his wife, Kim, and their two children, Evan, 5, and Jordan, 2. He also could not have imagined going into another industry just to remain at home in southern Louisiana.

"Like most people on the racetrack, my heart's in racing," he said. "It's not just somewhere I work. I knew I wanted to be involved in it some way ever since I was 10."