Day At The Track

One on One with Owner/Trainer Brent McGrath

03:00 AM 10 Sep 2013 NZST
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Brent McGrath, harness racing
Brent McGrath

We are talking today with Brent McGrath of Nova Scotia, the renowned owner and trainer of the world champion pacer and sire, Somebeachsomewhere. But for this interview the focus was on a very impressive son of SBSW named Melmerby Beach. Named after the famous Pictou county beach, Melmerby Beach shocked the racing world recently by winning his very first pari-mutuel start in 1:52.4 last week at Mohawk Raceway. Conducting the interview for is Brian McEvory.

HLINK: You’re back at Mohawk with a promising son of SBSW in Melmerby Beach. Tell us a little about this colt and his first impressive race.

BM: We raised him in Pennsylvania at Dr Eggloff's farm. I bought his mother at Harrisburg and she ended up having a stifle issue, a broken bone in her stifle, and I bred her as a 3-year-old. I brought him to Nova Scotia and broke him and trained him. I've been very happy with him all along. I qualified him three times in Nova Scotia, last time in 2.01. We thought we had a nice horse. When we got him on the big track he stretched out and we were very happy with him.

He had an abscess on his foot which pushed us back a little. We had hoped to get him to the Metro, but the foot abscess set us back a little. We had to wait on him a little. We trained him in 1:58 and 1:57, then he qualified in 1:56, very strong.

We were not expecting him to be as impressive as he was the other night. I didn't expect him to do it as easy as he did. He was on cruise control. We are very excited.

He came home in 27.2, winning by 7, and seemed to have a lot of horse left and Paul said he was as strong the last quarter as was in the first.

HLINK: Is there a reason you brought the colt out so early in the season?

BM: We have rough winters, and I didn't have a harness on him till March. He had a little bit of sickness and missed a little bit of time. The abscess foot slowed him down a little. Those are the only reasons. When you don't get started till March you don't have a lot of time. The schedule we put him on seems to work for us” McGrath said

HLINK: What do you see in Melmerby Beach that you saw in his daddy SBSW?

BM:  They are both exceptionally good gaited horses, and both willing to do what you ask them to do. Beach had very high speed as this colt does to. The question on Melmerby will be can he carry his speed. He certainly is acting like he can carry it a ways. Can he carry far enough to do the damage, and what we would like him to do is hard to predict. We are just going to take our time with him and give him the opportunity. They are both very smart. Most of the “Beaches” are very smart, and the gait is there.”

HLINK: Tell us about his dam, DB Blue Chip.

BM: I don't have a lot to say about her. I bought her as a yearling. She had that stifle issue. She had a beautiful video on her. I thought she would be a terrific gaited filly. She never got that gait. It was a long time finding the problem. We didn't find out what was the problem was until she got to the farm.

Her dam, She's Smashing, is a full sister to Panned Out. Panned Out is one of Hanover’s top brood mares. She is a Jate Lobell mare. The family has speed all around and this colt is no exception. He has really quick speed. He loves to come out of a hole. He loves to follow. Some of that family can be a little warm, but he shows no signs of that.

HLINK: I see you have Paul Macdonell back driving the horse. Tell us a little about your relationship with Paul.

BM: Paul and I go back a long ways. We became friends about 30 years ago when I first went to Ontario. That relationship has always been very strong. I like the way Paul handles young horses. He seems to keep a little in the tank, educates them, and builds up confidence in them. He and I are clearly on the same page Paul looks after this colt when I go home. He jogs him and trains him. I am back home now managing a couple of businesses. It just is a great relationship, Paul’s. Wife Lynn is great friends with my wife, Rhonda. We are a close family of friends and have been for years.

HLINK: When will we see the colt race next race next?

BM: I would think it would be a week from tomorrow (interview Thursday). Whenever they race the open two-year-olds at Mohawk. He was eligible for the Champlain and it was just too quick and too tough with the education experience he has.

HLINK: You were very meticulous in planning out the race schedule for SBSW. What are your plans for the rest of the year for this colt?

BM: We plan one or two more races at Mohawk to prep for Lexington. Then we are looking at the two stakes at Lexington, International Stallion Stake, and the Bluegrass. That would be 4 weeks in a row with those two. Then the Breeders Crown, if he is so lucky to get into the final.

That would be all for him this year. We kept him eligible for the Matron, but probably won't do that.  I am going to go to Florida with him and his sister, a baby, and another Beach, Adadir Hanover, out of Armbro Romance. He was an extremely big colt (Adadir Hanover) and late. He started showing some growing pains and we just shut it down. I am very patient with young horses. I really love him. He is big strong beautiful gaited horse, smart and happy. I plan on firing him up for an early 3-year-old year.

HLINK: Are you planning to race Melmerby Beach in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes next year and what are your other stake plans with him?

BM: I plan on staking him in the big ones from what he has shown us. We will be planning on pointing him to the big races, NA Cup and the Meadowlands Pace. That will start the year off and see what happens from there. That's the kinds colt he acts like he is. We will mange him accordingly. That will be the first plan. If he is not a Grand Circuit horse, the PA Sire Stakes is a great program. That is why I left the mare in Pennsylvania. It is a great program and we will be in the Pa Sire Stakes for sure.

HLINK: Do you have any plans for buying any horse at the sales or breeding any dams to SBSW?

BM: We have a filly to break this year, a full sister to Melmerby Beach, and a full brother the next year. She is back in foal. This year, the three are all I am going to handle in Florida. I am not going to buy. I might next year depending on when he gets his feet under him; I may be able to get away a little bit more. I would like to have four, or maybe five. I'll see how it all shakes out.

HLINK: You had quite a following for SBSW from you home track, Truro Racetrack, with many people coming down to see him race and a website for SBSW. Do you see that happening for Melmerby Beach?

BM:  That is probably a little bit premature. There is a lot of pressure on Melmerby for who he is and because of his connections. Face it; I wouldn't be getting this call today if it wasn't for the “Beach” connection. I don't want to put too much pressure on him. He is a really really nice colt and we are very happy with him, and if he takes off and does some special things, and the town jumps behind him like he did for his father that’s good. If he does what his father did, or is close, there will be plenty of support here.

HLINK: I see you were looking to run your hometown track, Truro Racetrack in Nova Scotia. Can you tell us what is happening with that?

BM: I want to be clear on that! I am not looking to run the track at all. They closed the track a month, a month and a half ago. We offered to step up and put some money into it. We wanted to see some financial information before we did that. I was prepared to quarterback a group with a plan that would go to the government looking for support. The exhibition board had an annual meeting for new members added. We got five members on there that we wanted on there. It looks like we got things moving in the right way with support from five new members who are horse people. There will be no closing of the racetrack anytime soon. I am working away in the background with the new members and existing board.

I am very confident we have the right board in place that are going to do everything in their power to keep racing going at Truro Raceway Whatever help I get give them, whether that be professional, or financial, or prepared to do both. The first thing is we have to come up with a plan. I think we are on our way. I am very optimistic.

By Brian McEvoy for


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