Brandywine Hills, the oldest race of its kind in the Delaware Valley, is known for its longtime tradition of being the starting point for leaders and champions in equestrian sports. Steeplechase trainer Leslie Falini Young is one of these leaders.
Born and raised in West Chester, Leslie is from a family of avid riders. Her parents, Dominick and Peggy Falini, hunted with the old Brandywine Hounds, and Dominick rode in point-to-points. From the beginning, both of her parents encouraged Leslie’s equestrian aspirations – pony club, fox hunting and pony racing.
As a rider, Leslie won 16 of 43 races from 1979-1991. She is the trainer of 2019 NSA timber titlist Andi’Amu, 2017 NSA champ Lady Blanco, 2014 NSA champ Bittersweetheart, and 2013 Virginia Steeplechase horse of the year Gustavian (also an Eclipse finalist).
Leslie got her start in equestrian sports due to family, friends and the Brandywine horse community.
She excelled in the saddle, and won gold at the Pony Club Eastern Pennsylvania Region eventing rally with her C-3 team. She was nationally ranked in girls tetrathlon, and rode the DelMarVa pony race circuit, claiming year-end titles.
In high school, Leslie worked for Hall of Fame trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Jack Fisher, while also excelling at lacrosse and field hockey, and making All-Stars and All-American for both. After graduating from Lynchburg College with a degree in health science and athletic training, Leslie returned to Pennsylvania, and began a career as a physical therapist and also as the lacrosse coach for a championship high school girls team. Leslie left the horse world behind.
She later met Irish Jump Jockey (and later Five-Time Steeplechase Champion) Paddy Young in Pennsylvania in 2003, and they became great friends who shared a similar outlook on life and the same passions and goals. Everything clicked, and they married in 2007. Leslie got her trainer’s license in 2007, their son, Rory, was born in 2008, and daughter, CeCe, was born in 2009. Paddy’s older son, Tom, joined them in the United States, and the team was all together, working, thriving and winning in the racing world.
Leslie says the toughest thing about being a trainer has nothing to do with the animals. “Sometimes, you need a degree in psychology to deal with the owners and staff. The horses are the fun and easy part."
On the horizon, Leslie says she also looks forward to welcoming new horses into her barn. “We have some exciting new horses coming, in and some old stars returning.”