Some people have a knack of achieving things when others find the going a bit tough. That's not the case with Nova Scotia harness racing trainer-driver Myles Heffernan. In fact it's no 'knack' for the 44-year-old - it's simply natural ability.
It’s like the New Waterford native can communicate with horses. Well he can actually – but not through speech. Proof of this comes in the form of two of his pacers.
Both, This Is Your Night and Crusinart have won five of their last seven starts.
Crusinart is the star of Heffernan’s 11-strong Glace Bay team, while This Is Your Night has gone from a $30,000 gelding who failed at his previous stable to a $1,000 Heffernan purchase who is now proving to be something special.
But as talented as those two pacers might be - it’s 9-year-old gelding P H Mike who has forced Heffernan to get even more serious about his job in 2011.
“It’s because of that horse I’ve started to take things a little bit more seriously than what I have in the past. He is my wife Jackie’s favourite horse and ever since we got him (May 2009) there has been a whole new attitude in our marriage regarding me buying horses.
“Once upon a time Jackie was a bit reluctant about me getting to deep into buying, but now she’s fully behind me. She is the reason our stable is doing well. Jackie is the reason for our success this year.
“Jackie fell in love with P H Mike from the moment we bought him, and ever since he won the Horse-of-the-Year title (2009) Jackie has loved horses more and more.
“He’s just a big gentle giant and a great animal to be around. Because of him Jackie is now encouraging me to buy - when once upon a time she would tell me to hold off. The horse might have been the best thing to have happened to our stable but Jackie is the best thing to have happened to me. With her support I feel I am enjoying harness racing more now and can really get serious about the sport,” Heffernan told Harnesslink.
Jackie and Myles have been married for 15 years. Heffernan said another reason his horses were winning regularly in 2011 was because of the solid staff the couple had around them.
“My son Myles (Junior) is 19 and is the backbone of the stable when I’m away. He’s starting out in the game at the exact age I started out and like my father did to me - I’m giving him the best possible advice to succeed in harness racing.
“That’s the career he has chosen and that’s fine by me. I also have my brother John helping me and an older experienced horseman named Richie O’Donnell. Then there’s my other brother Sheldon and my buddies Brian O’Donnell and Terry Doyle, not to forget my daughters Samantha (21) and Corinne (16) who do a lot of the hard unseen work.
“So you can see I have a lot of support which I am extremely grateful for. We have a great team helping us,” Heffernan said.
Heffernan could easily have been a policeman like his father Myles Senior.
“Dad had a few horses when I was a kid but being in the Police Force it was hard for him to create time to train his horses on a regular basis so that’s when I stepped in. I remember sitting in the cart with Dad when I was five and then I started jogging them on my own when I was about 12.
“We used to train our horses just two minutes walk up the road from our house in an old coal mine which was converted into a training track. We called it the ‘14-yard track’ for some reason. It was about 100 feet short of half a mile.”
Heffernan said when he graduated from High School he toyed with the idea of joining the police but he had already caught the harness racing bug and decided to go with his passion.
“Dad and Mum (Julie) were fine with my decision because they knew how much I loved horses. It was that attitude which makes me want to reciprocate the same with my son.”
Heffernan has been training since 1994 and won 125 races from 790 starts. He’s also won $80,172 in purses. He races at the Northside Downs (North Sydney) and Inverness Raceway tracks but trains his team at the now closed (2006) Tartan Downs Racetrack.
“That track closed down in 2006 and many people will tell you it’s still as good as some of the tracks we race on.”
Heffernan’s wife is certainly making the difference when it comes to training. With still more than five months of this season remaining the Glace Bay conditioner is experiencing his most profitable year as a trainer.
So far he’s trained 29 winners – 10 more than his previous best in 2008.
But it’s driving where Heffernan has made the biggest splash.
Since 1985 Heffernan has won 515 of his 4,293 starts and placed 1,023 times for $279,418 in stakes. His best year was in 1994 when he won 45 races and $17,533.
He’s already on target to beat that with 33 wins in 2011 and $17,771 in purses.
Although Heffernan has regularly figured in the top three of the premiership at Northside and Inverness he is yet to win any driving or training titles at those tracks.
However that could all change in 2011. He is currently 10 wins clear at the top of the Northside Downs driving premiership having saluted the judge 27 times - and is currently 18 clear at the top of the Inverness training premiership with 26 victories on the same track.
Go you good thing Myles – go!
By Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) The Myles Heffernan trained Hali Sylberun claiming his fifth straight victory at Truro Raceway on July 26, 2008:
(2) Myles Heffernan’s home tow of New Waterford, Nova Scotia:
(3) The now closed Tartan Downs Racetrack where Myles Heffernan used to race and now trains his horses: