Harness racing has played a huge part in Laurie Mackenzie's life. Up until four years ago Laurie and her husband Gerald had given 26 years to the sport. They then relocated to Florida two years ago. Laurie's a nurse now and her husband Gerald - a former trainer and driver who boasts more than 1,300 driving wins - works in the oil industry.
“We left harness racing when we thought it was time for other challenges. The industry was good to us. Gerald had a good 10 years as president of the Maine Harness Horsemen's Association. We didn’t leave with any animosity towards the sport. We were both in our mid 50s and it was just the right time to try other things,” Laurie said.
“Our last horse was Ok Blue Jeans from Australia in 2008,” she added.
But there is still family involvement. Their daughter Elizabeth is married to reinsman Kevin Switzer Jr.
And on October 1 a children’s book will forever link Margate-based (Florida) Laurie to our great sport.
That’s the day she launches: Margarita – One Fair Lady. It will be sold world-wide on the internet on Amazon Books.
It’s also the day Laurie’s website – www.margarita-one-fair-lady.com is launched.
The 26-page hard cover book, which has been professionally illustrated in England, is about a little boy who dreams of becoming a top reinsman.
The book also centres around the little boy’s grandfather and kids growing up in rural Maine. Laurie said she also wanted to stress in the book how vital State Fairs were to the harness racing industry.
“If we keep losing State Fairs there will be no harness racing to go to – simply because there will be no fairs,” she said.
Margarita – One Fair Lady is also about a horse named after their former pacer, Keystone Margarita. She was a grand old mare who won 19 of her 70 starts and $25,353.
“It’s also about the kids on a farm who loved Margarita and she loved them back with big kisses.
“I thought it was important to get a book like this out there because we want more children dreaming about racing horses.
“I enjoyed growing up in a harness racing family and I loved writing this book. The purpose was to get other children to enjoy racing and reading too,” Laurie said.
The Mackenzies worked about a dozen horses in Maine from up until 2007. Their best was pacer TB Two who won 37 races and just over 438,000 in the mid 1990s.
Gerald started driving when he was 16 and won 1,345 races from 9,433 starts in the bike. He also won 227 races as a trainer. Son Cain later took over the driving.
Laurie said her husband’s father raced horses horses all of his life.
“His dad used to race standardbreds on the ice. As for me I got my first racehorse when I was 12 back in 1969.
That is when I fell in love with horses. It was so great to see ‘Margarita’ win several races while in our stable.
“Today I still miss the excitement and the thrill of winning, but my daughter is still involved and one day my 13-year-old old grandson Chase and little 3-year-old grandson Garrett (Switzer) will be a driver just like their Dad and two Grandads,” Laurie joked.
“I have always loved horses, they are such beautiful animals,” she added.
Laurie said that her three grandchildren, Chase, Rylee, and Garrett are her inspiration.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
Fairs in Maine have more than just harness racing: