07/01/2009 12:00AM

Lejeune follows unusual career arc


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Sidney Lejeune has always been thought of as a blue-collar rider, busy in the mornings during training hours and riding some horses that perhaps some of the higher-profile riders would not be as enthusiastic about. That willingness to work was as least one of the reasons that the 36-year-old Arkansas native underwent a recent career change.

"I was between meetings about two years ago," Lejeune remembers. "I had done some welding in the past, and it was something I was interested in so I decided to put myself through welding school. The time just felt right for a change, maybe to do something a bit more steady."

Lejeune joined the ranks of the conventional work force in January 2008 and remained there until the economic downturn resulted in him being laid off last October. Never one to be idle, Lejeune resurrected his riding career at Delta Downs soon after. Following a steady meeting at that south Louisiana track and a short but successful stay at Evangeline Downs, Lejeune is enjoying one of his best meetings at Louisiana Downs. After winning three races last Saturday, Lejeune entered the week solidly placed in the top 10 in the standings.

The transition from welder back to jockey was not a difficult one, Lejeune says, largely because of the nature of the work he was doing.

"They had us welding inside these big tanks and it was hot," he said. "I never had a problem with my weight because it was like working in the hot box all the time."

Ronald Ardoin is acting as Lejeune's agent, renewing a relationship that began years ago when Ardoin was still adding to his win total as Louisiana Downs's all-time leading rider and a young Lejeune was just beginning his career.

"I've known Sidney since he first started riding," Ardoin said. "He has always been a good little rider, a hard worker.

"I was down at Delta this past winter and noticed Sidney was riding really well. He called me up before the Louisiana Downs meet opened and asked me to represent him, and I said sure."

Ardoin also handles the business of defending riding champ and current leading rider Don Simington.

"It's great having that one-two punch," Ardoin said. "It allows me to do some things as an agent that helps out everybody. So far, it has worked out really well."