ELORA, ON — Casie Coleman is just 33, but she has already been voted Canada’s harness racing trainer of the year five times and won many of the sport’s biggest races. Yet, the Cambridge, ON resident says she nearly walked away from the game at the height of her career. Despite all her success, her stable was too big, her health was suffering and she says she was absolutely miserable. “There were times I would say ‘I’ve had enough, I want to get out. I don’t like it.’ I didn’t like going to the barn,” she said July 15, a day before she swept all three $70,000 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Gold events at Grand River Raceway for two-year-old pacing colts — all three sons of her former stakes star Sportswriter driven to victory by Chris Christoforou. On July 18, at Grand River, Coleman will try to repeat the hat trick when she sends out a trio of Sportswriter fillies to compete in OSS Gold events the same night the track celebrates the 40thanniversary of the sires stakes program. Saturday, her world champion McWicked will race in eliminations for the $600,000 Adios at The Meadows near Pittsburgh. In June, McWicked set a 1:47.3 world record on a five-eighths mile track when he won the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Regardless of what happens on the track, Coleman says her biggest victory came this winter when she lost 57 pounds and worked herself into peak shape in Florida as part of a number of major life changes. “I hired a personal trainer. I worked with him all winter. Basically, I was doing anywhere from two to four hours every single day. I never took a day off,” she said. “The diet thing was a huge. All I drink is water and green tea now, whereas before I would drink about four coffees a day (double-doubles), Grey Goose and Sprite, probably three or four Starbucks frappuccinos, Pepsi. You name it. I was drinking about 3,000 calories a day, I figured out. Now, all I have is 1,000 calories a day on the diet I’m on.” In recent years, Coleman was more of a barn manager overseeing 120 horses. Today she’s cut back to 41 — 20 in Ontario and 21 at her New Jersey stable. She is also back on the track training many of her horses herself. “I couldn’t be any happier. I’m glad I’ve finally seen how out of shape I was and I wasn’t training my own horses and a million different things that I was doing wrong. I got them all corrected and back on the right path now,” Coleman said. “I feel awesome now. I used to always be tired and just not really feel that good all the time and always in a (bad) mood,” she said. When she returned to Ontario this spring after five months of training horses in Florida, Coleman said many people have done double takes. “You’ll hear them say, ‘Is that Casie?’ They don’t even recognize me. Everyone says I look 10 years younger,” she said. “I had some people tell me, ‘You’ve trained a lot of good horses, but the best training job you’ve ever done is on yourself.’” To hear our conversation with Casie Coleman — including wild tales of O’Brien Award parties, driving her new Maserati and what music she thinks is playing on repeat in hell — check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway By Dave Briggs, for Grand River Raceway
ELORA, ON - Robert Shepherd is on a big roll at Grand River Raceway. The quiet 34-year-old Prince Edward Island native is second at the Elora track in driver wins and money. He's also Grand River's second leading trainer in money and wins when combined with his girlfriend, Isabelle Darveau, who recently took over Shepherd's stable. "This year I'm a little more motivated," Shepherd said. "I had some changes in my life. I kind of got past that and moved on ... I'm driving a lot more. Last year, I didn't drive as much." Shepherd said there's a lot more to love about Grand River Raceway than being one of its leading horsepeople. "Everyone's happy to be there. Even the people there are excited for racing. It's a great atmosphere. They want to race," Shepherd said. He said Grand River Raceway's commitment to providing a great fan experience starts at the top with the track's general manager Dr. Ted Clarke. In August, Dr. Clarke will be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as a builder for his work turning Grand River Raceway into one of the best small tracks in the nation. Shepherd said Dr. Clarke is always present on race nights and helping out where he can. "Ted's always part of it, which makes it great because when someone's running something and you never see them, it makes you feel like he doesn't care. But you can tell Ted cares, because he's always there. Every night he's one of the last guys to leave there," Shepherd said. This year, Robert Shepherd surpassed $15 million in career earnings as a driver. He recorded his 2,000th career win in the sulky near the end of 2013. He said being both a trainer and a driver in an age when most people in the sport focus on one or the other, has given him an advantage. "I guess training helps my driving because I sit behind a bunch of horses every day. So, I know when they're good and when they're not good... You drive them a little more conservatively if they don't feel right to you," Shepherd said. "Lately, it seems to be working out great for me. I end up working out a great trip or something like that from the feel of the horse." Shepherd said the greatest Christmas gift he ever received was a set of blue, yellow and white training colours that his mother and father gave him. "I got the training suit when I started training a couple of my own," Shepherd said of the family colours that were started by his dad, Harold. "I think I might have been listed as a trainer when I was 19 or 20." He said his driving career received a huge boost 10 years ago when he won the 2004 Nat Christie Memorial at Stampede Park in Calgary driving The Bruster. "When I won the Nat Christie it changed my life in driving," Shepherd said. "I'd have to say The Bruster started it all." Today, Shepherd lives in Cambridge, which is a short trip to one of his favourite places to race. He's hoping his success at Grand River Raceway will be a springboard to even bigger things. "I'd love to win an O'Brien Award for the horseman of the year, if I could," he said. To hear more of our conversation with Robert Shepherd - including which person he'd like to change places with for a week - check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway
ELORA, ON - Veteran trainer Larry Ainsworth has a beef to pick with Grand River Raceway. "They need to expand the dining room to get more people into the buffet," he said, laughing. "$16.99 for a buffet and you can sit and watch races all night? That's the best deal in Southern Ontario." Ainsworth recently celebrated his 76th birthday, but the trainer isn't slowing down one bit. He's one of the leading trainers at Grand River Raceway and, for the first time in 13 years, he's back down as the official trainer for a family stable that has a long, enviable record of producing champions. "It's just in name only," he said. "I'm still involved the same as I always was." For well over 20 years, the Ainsworth operation has been led by Larry's son, Jim. In April, Jim stepped back from horses to help run the family's growing school bus business in Petrolia, ON. "I suggested to Jim one day, 'Why don't you go and get the buses going in the morning over at Sarnia and then come out to the farm?' The trouble is, he never came back to the farm. He loves it, which is good. The timing was great." The Ainsworths have cut back in recent years due to the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program and shrinking Ontario Sires Stakes purses that are the staple of their operation, but Larry said he can never fully quit the horses. "I'll die doing it," he said. In its heyday, the Ainsworth operation trained as many as 35 horses, including such greats as Beau Jim (career earnings of $230,000), Debbielynnekillean ($335,000), Armbro Oliver ($835,000), Carolache ($530,000) and Cathedra ($735,000), a mare that was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2007 after a successful career on the track and an even better one as a broodmare. Cathedra's offspring have earned nearly $4.4 million, combined, on the racetrack. "As a broodmare, yeah, she was really outstanding. But, that's hard to believe. I would have never expected her to be a great broodmare." Today, Larry is training about six horses in Ontario and another half-dozen that he just sent to Indiana to race. He can't imagine doing anything else besides working with horses and having a family school bus company. "That's all I've ever known. I can't think of ever doing anything else," said Larry, whose career with horses started when he was a teenager with his grandfather. "My grandfather raced horses and had saddle horses," Larry said. "When my grandfather died he left me one racehorse. She made $9,000 the first year that he died. So, I thought, 'If one will make you $9,000, six would make you $54,000.'" Naturally, his math didn't work out, but school buses quickly played a significant role in Larry's horse stable. He bought his first small bus company in 1976 and "in '77 and '78 Beau Jim made enough to pay for the bus business." Today, Larry Ainsworth enjoys watching the races on simulcast at home and getting out to the track when he can. He said he particularly enjoys "the closeness" of the races to the people at Grand River Raceway. "We had people there last week and what a nice facility. We were sitting in the restaurant down below and it was nice for people watching. The races are right there close. It's a great little spot. It's made for people." To hear more of our conversation with Larry Ainsworth - including his choice for the best show on television - check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway
Dresden, June 25, 2014 -- Lucille Laprise says there's no better way to herald a new era at Dresden Raceway than to open the 2014 season on July 1. "It's Canada Day, so how much better can you have it than that? We think that's a perfect fit for us," said Laprise, the president of the Dresden Agricultural Society that has taken over management of the track from Windsor Raceway's parent company, Winrac Development Inc. This year marks the first time the agricultural society has run the track since Winrac began operating it in 1997. "Winrac wanted out and we wanted in. So, it was a perfect fit for us at this time. We want to run the races ourselves. We're quite encouraged about doing that and we're enthusiastic," Laprise said. "This is what we want to do to try to keep racing alive and well. I feel we owe it to the generations in the past that worked so hard to put it on and make it as good as it was. We owe it to the future to bring back everything and make it good for them... It would be a real shame to let that industry die. We don't want to be part of it dying. We want to be part of it growing and flourishing." The Dresden Agricultural Society brought in Greg Blanchard to be the track's general manager for the 11-race meet. Blanchard is the Raceway Manager at The Raceway at The Western Fair District in London. "With Greg's help and everyone else at Western (Fair) we're going to do everything we can to bring back the Little Saratoga to what it used to be," Laprise said. Harness racing has been conducted in Dresden for over 140 years. "This year our Dresden Exhibition is 139 years old," Laprise said. "They were racing a few years before then." In the late-1800s, the Dresden Driving Club organized trials of speed at the track. In the early 1900s, locals gathered in the winter to watch races over the icy Sydenham River. After the 10-race Tuesday, July 1 card, racing will be conducted at Dresden on Sunday afternoons through Labour Day, the exception being the two holiday weekends. Dresden will race on the Aug. 4 civic holiday Monday and on Labour Day Monday, Sept. 1. Post time for all 11 cards of racing will be 1 p.m. "We felt that for this year, being newbie's in the racing ring, that 11 cards would be a good fit for us," Laprise said. "Hopefully next year we can do bigger and better." Gary Patterson will be back calling the races, which will also be video streamed at www.dresdenraceway.ca. "We've got great community involvement and the directors, the board, everybody is on side," Laprise said. "We've got great community support from all the other organizations, the other racetracks. They all want to see us do well. We really appreciate their support and their help and their encouragement." Laprise said it's been a lot of work to get ready for Opening Day, but there have been a lot of people pitching in to help. "The horsemen have been really supportive in helping us spruce up the place. A coat of paint here, cut the grass there," Laprise said. "We're just trying to clean it up and do the best we can. I know it's going to take time, but time is on our side." Plans are in the works, Laprise said, to bring back the free corn promotion on Labour Day that was a hit 15 years ago when Tom Joy and Joe McGorisk from the Windsor crew ran the track. In the meantime, Laprise's message to the public is: "come celebrate Canada Day with us. We'll make it worth their while. Tell people to wear their red and white, too. We're going to have a great big huge eight-foot cake we're sharing with everybody. We've got face painting and giveaways. It's really kind of like a family fun, fan appreciation day." Those who arrive early will receive a commemorative giveaway item (while supplies last) and programs will be available for just $1. The 'Wanna Drive' team will be on hand giving rides in their double-seater jog carts and a special Mini Horse race has been planned as well. By Dave Briggs, for Dresden Raceway
ELORA, ON - What's it like to be going crazy fast behind a 1,000-pound animal, with no seat belt, just two strips of leather as your steering wheel and only millimeters separating you and eight other thundering horses? Veteran driver Randy Waples says there's no feeling anything like it. "It's the greatest high in the world when you get to line up behind the gate. I've never lost it. It's been 31 years of driving horses now. Every time I go behind the gate I get that same kind of a rush, that adrenaline rush. It's just fantastic," Waples said. "You want to feel what it's like to be in a horse race? Get on a motorbike and do 100 miles an hour down the 401." Randy Waples went to high school in Fergus. When he was young, he used to play in a field in Elora that became the site of Grand River Raceway. Today, he's one of Canada's leading harness drivers and a four-time winner of Grand River Raceway's signature race, the Battle of Waterloo. At the age of 49, even after more than 6,000 wins and over $100 million in purse earnings, Waples said he still gets pumped when he takes the reins. "It's got that dangerous sort of aspect. You know they're close to you. You know how powerful the animals are. But you really don't put that into your mind because, basically, the whole time you're thinking, 'What should I be doing? Where should I be? Is this one live? Is that one stopping? Can I get out? Do I want to pull now?' There's a lot of things that go through your mind where you kind of push the dangerous part in the back of your mind." Waples said there's no better place for fans to get a taste of that adrenaline rush than at Grand River Raceway. "First of all, you're up close to the horses. To me, that's more important than anything," Waples said. "The other thing is, I think Grand River Raceway has gone out of their way to treat people the way they should be treated. It's customer first. "It's just such a friendly kind of an experience. That's Elora. Fantastic people." Waples is one of the most personable drivers in the game. He invited fans to say hello at Grand River. "I hope I see you there and if I do, come over to the fence, lean over and say, 'Hi' unless you're an ex-school teacher, then stay away," he said, laughing. Waples said horses are simply the greatest animals on earth. "We've been so lucky that God put these animals on the earth... They're so accommodating," he said. "Horses went to war with us, they carried the guns... Years ago, when there was no cars, the doctor went to the houses in a horse and a buggy. If that doctor couldn't get around in that horse and a buggy, a lot of people wouldn't be here today. We've got a horse to thank for it. "A lot of people don't know horses have blue eyes. You get up close to them, every one of them have the prettiest blue eyes you've ever seen in your life." As for the horse that changed his life, Waples didn't even think for half-a-second before answering. "San Pail. Absolutely San Pail," he said of the Breeders Crown and three-time Maple Leaf Trot winner. "People looked at me differently. I was able to compete at the highest level with a very good horse and he made me look good and people just, all of a sudden, looked at me in a different light. "He's meant everything to me." To hear more of our conversation with Randy Waples - including which three people, living or dead, he'd pick to have dinner with - check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer for Grand River Raceway
ELORA, ON - Which horse came the farthest to race at Grand River Raceway? That's easy, it's Kid Galahad, a horse that arrived at the Elora track last week all the way from New Zealand. Despite having a famous Canadian dam, the five-year-old pacer was born 15,000 kilometres away on New Zealand's south island. Kid Galahad is a son of New Zealand's top sire, Christian Cullen, out of millionaire Ontario-sired champion Precious Delight. The colt made his Canadian debut on June 4 with a second-place finish in the $6,370 Preferred class at Grand River Raceway. In April, Kid Galahad was loaded on a plane in Christchurch, NZ on a Thursday afternoon and arrived at Sam Taylor's farm in Lucan, Ontario Sunday night, some 80 hours later, after making stops in Sydney, Shanghai, Germany and New York City before being trucked the rest of the way across the border. Taylor said it cost about $20,000 to send Kid Galahad all the way from New Zealand to Ontario. The horse was trained in New Zealand by Laurence Hanrahan, but 71-year-old Taylor has taken over conditioning duties. Taylor has owned harness horses for over 30 years and he and his wife Nancy have been traveling to New Zealand a little longer than that. "We decided to take a trip in 1988; we had never gone anywhere. We went to Hawaii and then on to New Zealand and Australia," Sam said. "We go back once or twice a year... My wife and I have been there probably 40 times." Clearly, the Taylors have fallen in love with New Zealand. "It's a beautiful country. Everybody that races a standardbred should go to New Zealand," Sam said. Sam has raced a few horses in New Zealand over the years. Four years ago he took some friends to a horse sale. He quickly spotted Kid Galahad and honed in him because he knew the colt's famous dam. "He's got some pretty nice blood running through his veins," Taylor said. Taylor paid 65,000 New Zealand dollars - about 50,000 dollars Canadian - for the horse. Over three years at Kiwi tracks, Kid Galahad distinguished himself enough to earn back his purchase price. It was only when he was forced to race against more talented company that Sam Taylor decided to send Kid Galahad to Canada to race, despite the fact the horse's specialty is racing from a standing start on grass tracks. Kid Galahad won't see either in Ontario, but Sam Taylor is pleased to race him at Grand River Raceway while he's personally waiting to get back to New Zealand. On December 13 members of the Taylor family - Sam and Nancy along with their two children and their children - will climb on a plane to New Zealand for a family vacation. Sam Taylor said he already has the plane tickets. "One group is staying for three weeks and the other family is staying for a month and Nancy and I are going to stay for three months. We love it down there." To hear more of our conversation with Kid Galahad's trainer, Sam Taylor, check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway
ELORA, ON - What Ontario track reminds driver and political candidate Anthony Macdonald most of his native Prince Edward Island? Grand River Raceway in Elora. "I love Grand River because the fans are right down by the fence," MacDonald said. "You get to talk with the fans as you let the horses walk by. It's just nice. It reminds me a lot of home... It's built like PEI and the people are always nice at Grand River... I love racing there. "A couple of times I even got to announce the races, which I thought was pretty cool." As the provincial election enters the home stretch, MacDonald, 37, is drawing from his experience as a harness driver as he battles to get to the wire first in the riding of Guelph where he lives with his wife, Amy, and their two young children. "You have to learn to be humble in politics and driving horses certainly teaches you that. I think in that respect it's helped me quite a bit," he said. MacDonald is running for the Progressive Conservations in the June 12 election. He's been campaigning for the better part of two years. "Politics, if you can believe it, takes more patience and a little more tolerance because you have to deal with situations that you do not have control over. It's very similar to what goes on, on the racetrack." In more than 15 years as a driver in Ontario, MacDonald has purses earnings of more than $22 million to his credit. He's won more than 2,600 races and said, so far, campaigning hasn't sidelined his driving career too much. "I've been lucky," he said. "The horses have been racing well. I've had a pretty good run even throughout the election. I can't complain too much." Though he admits the days are long and tiring. "I'm two weeks away from finding out if I'm going to be in politics. I'm working18 hours a day non-stop canvassing, talking to peopwle. Usually, I have enough time to drink some Red Bull and go to the races." As the campaign enters the hectic final week, MacDonald, an extrovert, admitted there's times he misses a quieter life. Asked what superpower he would pick if he had the choice, he gave a very unpolitical answer: "Invisibility... It seems like whatever you're doing and wherever you're at, people want to ask you something or ask you to do something. It would be nice to hide away from people just for a little while," he said, laughing. For now, though, Anthony Macdonald is happy to invisibility on hold as he tries to get as much notice as possible in the hopes of landing a seat at Queen's Park. To hear more of our conversation with Anthony Macdonald, check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway
ELORA, ON - Driver Doug McNair of Guelph doesn't know where his career would be without Grand River Raceway in Elora. Monday, the track will open its 11th season of live racing six years after McNair made a name for himself at the age of 18 when he won Grand River Raceway's signature event, the Battle of Waterloo, with a horse named Trail Boss. "If he hadn't come along and I wouldn't have won that race that early (in my career) I don't think I would be where I am today," McNair said. "That just jump-started my career and after that I started getting between five and 10 drives a night at Grand River. It really boosted my career." Today, at the age of just 24, McNair is one of Canada's elite drivers. He was a finalist for the nation's driver of the year award in 2013. He finished the year third in the nation in money with over $5.2 million earned. He was fourth in wins with 291. Though he made just 70 starts at Grand River in 2013, McNair finished second in the track's money standings behind leading driver Trevor Henry of Arthur who had four times as many starts. McNair earned over $475,000 at Grand River in 2013, largely on the strength of winning the track's two signature stakes races - the $145,000 Battle of Waterloo and the $75,000 Battle of the Belles. Monday is the first of 48 cards of live racing at Grand River to be held through Sept. 29 on Mondays, Wednesdays and the track's popular Fun & Frivolity Friday Nights. Grand River will feature a 6:30 p.m. post throughout the summer, except for the annual Industry Day card on Aug. 4 that features a 1:30 p.m. post and the rich finals of the Battle of Waterloo and Battle of the Belles that, this year, will go for purses of $180,000 and $120,000, respectively. Grand River Raceway opened just eight minutes from McNair's house in 2004, the same year he was in Grade 9 at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus. "There's a lot of things I love about that track," McNair said. "The atmosphere is fun ... I know a lot of people there and it's close to my house." McNair was just 12 when he won his very first race at a fair in Dundalk racing against drivers as old as 60. On the same February day in 2008 that he received his harness driver's license, he won his very first pari-mutuel race at Western Fair Raceway in London driving a mare named Eagle Kay that had never won a race before and didn't win another. That year, McNair drove the winners of over $1 million at the age of 18. Today, he is closing in rapidly on 2,000 wins and $25 million in lifetime earnings; numbers he said he wouldn't have been able to compile this quickly without Grand River Raceway playing a key role in his career. To hear more of our conversation with Doug McNair (including his brave confession about the song he secretly loved in high school) check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway
London, Ontario, May 21, 2014 --- Jack McNiven calls the people enshrined in the harness racing Wall of Fame, at The Raceway at The Western Fair District, his buddies. So he says he's thrilled his farm, Killean Acres, will be officially joining them in perpetuity at the London track he calls home. Friday night at a ceremony during The Raceway's live card, McNiven's respected breeding operation based in Ingersoll, ON will become the first farm and 34th overall inductee into the Wall of Fame. McNiven, who has been coming to Western Fair regularly since it became the first track in Ontario to usher in night racing 53 years ago, has known all of the prior inductees personally. "It's quite an honour. We're thrilled to be there because any time I go up to the Top of the Fair, one of the things I always have to do is I have to go along the wall and look at all my buddies that are on there," McNiven said. Friday's card begins at 7:05 p.m. Apart from the Wall of Fame ceremony and a Wall of Fame pace, The Raceway will feature three $70,000 Gold Series divisions of the Ontario Sires Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts, a pair of races for mini horses, a Horse Player Interactive (HPI) contest in which patrons wagering $50 or more on The Raceway card through their HPI accounts will be entered into a draw for a chance to win a $500 deposit and draws for tickets to the 2nd annual London Beer and BBQ Show June 20-22 at The Western Fair District. McNiven, 79, will be there as well, of course, representing Killean Acres, the farm founded by his father, Robert, 59 years ago. Jack and his brother, Don, who died Jan. 18 at the age of 81, devoted their lives to building Killean into one of the nicest little standardbred farms in Ontario. For over 50 years, Don McNiven also wrote a weekly harness racing column in the Ingersoll Times newspaper called Horse Chatter. "I'm just so sorry Don is not here. I'm sad about that because Western Fair was Don's pet topic for his horse articles because of our proximity and it being our home track. Anything special that went on at Western Fair, Don always made that his topic of that week's article. I'm sorry he isn't going to be there to enjoy it, but he'll be beaming down at us I'm sure." Killean Acres has produced numerous standout performers in its nearly six decades and stood three of the province's most popular stallions - Frisco Byrd, Dallas Almahurt and Run The Table. Jack vividly remembers sponsoring a race in Frisco Byrd's name at The Raceway at The Western Fair District during the 1950s. "We were so excited with Western Fair being there, we wanted to do something to put some spice into it," Jack said of the track located just 30 minutes from his farm. "When they first started night racing in London, we were there every night," Jack said. "Back in those days we weren't as busy with the stallions and mares. So, we'd do our chores and then rush up to Western Fair. From the very beginning we thought, 'Can you imagine we would have in our backyard the first night racing in all of Ontario?' It was so exciting." Jack quickly developed a reputation for being one of the nicest, most talented and hardest working breeders in the game; a man with a particular knack for preparing yearlings for sales. Jack was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2007 just a year after Run The Table was enshrined and became the first horse to be led through the banquet hall and up to the stage to accept his honour. Run The Table died in 2012 at the age of 28, but not before he became a game-changing stallion for the Ontario breed. Killean Acres no longer breeds any mares, but you can always find Jack McNiven puttering around the farm that became a little slice of heaven in the midst of the subdivision that grew up around it. "We're still here and I'd love to see this place stay on because we have so many people come down here from town. It's so special for them and I've had people come back to the farm with their grandchildren and say, 'This is where I used to come when I was a kid,'" Jack said. As for which of the members of The Wall of Fame McNiven is most excited to be joining, the breeder wouldn't bite. "I'm not going to mention names because they're all special. They're there for a reason," he said. "What an honour it is to be with the people that we started out with together." by Dave Briggs, for the Raceway
Last week we had only some minor victories, four of ten races in a losing effort financially. Now we really get into the start of the Grand Circuit harness racing stakes season with events around the country. Yonkers is the main scene with the Levy and Matchmaker Finals but we also travel on Friday to Northfield Park for the Courageous Lady, to Freehold for the Dexter Cup elimination and the Meadowlands for the Reynolds Memorial. Some great racing on tab plus we handicap a few other special events. Good Luck! $110,000 Courageous Lady 3YO Pace Northfield Park 11th race FRIDAY – The little lady from Michigan, Kayla Grace, brings her undefeated 15-race win streak and throws it on the line facing the biggest challenge of her career. If she is the real thing she may just wire the field as she usually does but she will be tested and may prove her mettle by coming from off the pace. Use That Woman Hanover and Sister Stroll in exotic plays. $38,460 Dexter Cup 3YO Trot Elimination Freehold Raceway 9th race SATURDAY – Local trainer Tom Fanning will have the hometown crowd behind him as he sends out Sumatra in this well matched field. Sumatra won $108,000 last year and off his very impressive qualifying wins seems ready for action in here. Use Well Built and Dave Briggs in exotic plays. $49,015 Reynolds Memorial 3YO Pace Meadowlands 3rd race SATURDAY – The class of the field will be the favorite and rightly so. Allstar Partner sports career earnings of $282,000, which is nearly the total earnings of the rest of the field. Is making his debut this season off decent qualifying effort and if class is any indicator he should be primed to win with ease. Use Always B Miki and the entry of Frankandjoanne/Parnu Hanover in exotic plays. $20,000 Pace Diplomat Series preliminary Woodbine 3rd race SATURDAY – It’s the return of early pacing sensation National Debt. Despite being 49 days off since his last start, his connections say he is more than ready to put in a tough mile, but not with my money. This is strictly a watch race as you don’t know how he will race since the layoff but if he is prime he should have it easy in here. Use Somewhere In L A and roger Mach Em in exotic plays. $25,000 Preferred Handicap Pace Pocono Downs 10th race SATURDAY – What a stellar field of good pacers in here. Abelard Hanover is the local favorite and rightly so after his last two tight wins but I have to have faith with Bandolito. He was awesome in his last two starts at Dover, pacing what would have to be :24.4 fractions, some of the fastest ever and he should be primed to steal this one for Daryl Bier after his last two big successes. Use A Stitch In Time and Abelard Hanover in exotic plays. $43,000 Final Don Mills Trotting Series Woodbine 7th race SATURDAY – After scoring a lifetime mark of 1:54 in the preliminary round last week, it is tough to not come right back with West Side Story. Has won four of his last five starts and gets faster with every victory. Use Mego Moss and Hldontghttoyurdrms in exotic plays. $75,000 Pace Matchmaker Series Consolation Yonkers 8th race SATURDAY – The favorite may be Ramalama but I am going with Ideal In Vegas. This one actually won a division of the series and against field of non-winners she has good inside post to get the jump on the field and may never look back. Use Ramalama and the entry of Camille/Charisma Hanover in exotic plays. $371,400 Final Matchmaker Series Yonkers 9th race SATURDAY – Boy oh boy will they be battling it out in here. It will most certainly not be a cakewalk but I have to go with Yagonnakissmeornot as she has been the dominant force throughout this series and has won five of her last six starts. Plus she can do it from either on or off the pace. Use Somwheroverarainbow and the entry of Rocklamation/Summertime Lea in exotic plays. $30,000 A-2/FFA Handicap Pace Meadowlands 11th race SATURDAY – This will be a great slugfest between a couple of very promising youngsters against the older world class Golden Receiver. I am going with Golden Receiver to rebound from his past two disappointed fourth place finishers. This guy usually does not put in three clunkers in a row this early in the season. Callahan can fire him out of the gate and not look back. Use Allstar Legend and Dovuto Hanover in exotic plays. $100,000 Pace Levy Series Consolation Yonkers 10th race SATURDAY – Burke Racing Stable is looking to have a great evening and in here they have a powerful entry of Easy Again/Clear Vision. Either one of these can take this field. They have both won prior legs of the series and are razor sharp. Use Word Power and Rock On Moe in exotic plays. $567,000 Final Levy Pacing Series Yonkers 11th race – The first 2,000 fans to come to Yonkers Saturday night get a free Foiled Again t-shirt and I think despite any rumors of his poor finish last year that this game world champion will rebound with good inside post position and wire the field. He has been the fastest and gamest of all in this series plus as an entry with Bettor’s Edge you get an extra bang for your buck. Use Apprentice Hanover and the entry of P H Supercam/Mach It So in exotic plays.
Trainer Tom Fanning and owner Joe Smith did pretty well for themselves when they bought then-2-year-old trotter Possessed Fashion at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale's Mixed Sale and hope the same game plan produces winning results this year with Sumatra. Sumatra was purchased at the 2013 mixed sale in Harrisburg for $100,000 out of the stable of trainer Julie Miller. Last season, he won five of 11 starts - including the Standardbred Stakes and divisions of the Historic-Harriman Cup and Arden Downs - and earned $108,334. On Saturday, the colt trotter makes his debut for the Fanning Stable when he races in the $38,460 elimination for the Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. The $115,370 Dexter Cup final, the first major stakes test on the road to August's $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands, is May 3. The top eight finishers from Saturday's nine-horse elimination advance to the Dexter Cup final. Sumatra, with Brian Sears listed to drive, will start the elim from post No. 3 and is 7-2 on the morning line. Well Built, from the stable of trainer Chris Ryder, is the 5-2 choice from post two with driver John Campbell. "We were looking for another trotter and we felt he was the best one," Fanning said about buying Sumatra. "I saw him every day here at Gaitway (Farm training center); I had watched him and watched him race and saw him a lot in the mornings. We put a price on him and we got him for what we expected." Possessed Fashion, who was purchased for $82,000 in 2012, has won four of 23 races and $243,030 since joining Fanning's stable. He has earned a check 21 times, including last year in the Matron Stakes, Beal Memorial and his elimination of the Hambletonian. "We had Possessed Fashion the year before; a similar situation, (age) 2 turning 3, and he worked out well," Fanning said. "We've had some luck buying 2-year-olds out of that sale." Sumatra prepped for the Dexter elim by winning two qualifiers at the Meadowlands, the most recent in 1:55 on April 12. "He didn't really impress me until his last qualifier," Fanning said. "He's not a particularly smooth-going horse; he's not a particularly good trainer. He gets a little hot and can be kind of a pain in the neck to be around. But in the race, he trots and he's focused. "His last qualifier he really showed some good speed. He really looked like he was going in the right direction." Andy Miller, who co-owned Sumatra prior to his sale, drove the colt in his qualifiers but was injured April 15 in an accident at Yonkers Raceway and is expected to be sidelined for six months. "That was kind of deflating because I really thought we were a good team; Andy, myself and the horse," Fanning said. "We look forward to seeing Andy back." Sumatra, a son of stallion Muscles Yankee out of the mare Lola Seelster, will have a full stakes schedule ahead of him. Following the Dexter, his slate is expected to include the Simpson Stakes at the Meadowlands, New Jersey Sire Stakes, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial, and Hambletonian. He also is eligible to the Breeders Crown and Matron. "I think he's going to be a big-track horse, so I'm looking forward to the Meadowlands races," Fanning said. "The (available purse) money is good. I think if you're smart where you place your horse and manage him right, take a couple of shots, I think we can make some good money with this horse." Following is the field in post position order for the Dexter Cup elimination, with listed drivers, trainers, and odds: 1. King City, David Miller, Jonas Czernyson, 6-1; 2. Well Built, John Campbell, Chris Ryder, 5-2; 3. Sumatra, Brian Sears, Tom Fanning, 7-2; 4. Consumer Rate, Daniel Dube, Rob Harmon, 10-1; 5. Sheer Action, Jeff Gregory, Ray Schnittker, 5-1; 6. Dave Briggs, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 9-2; 7. Sarcastic Man, Ron Pierce, Gail Wrubel, 8-1; 8. Derby, Jordan Stratton, Ray Schnittker, 5-1; 9. Donato's Wish, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker, 5-1. *Sheer Action, Derby, and Donato's Wish are a three-horse entry. ** Donato's Wish will start from the second tier. Hambletonian eligible: King City, Well Built, Sumatra, Dave Briggs, Sarcastic Man. by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications
Dave Briggs, writing for the Guelph Mercury newspaper, and M. Kelly Young, writing for Hoof Beats magazine, were named the winners in the 52nd annual John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism, the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) announced Monday. Meadowlands Racetrack photographer Michael Lisa and Dave Witten of Horseman and Fair World magazine were the winners in the 14th annual George Smallsreed Awards for excellence in harness racing photography. Woodbine Entertainment won the 30th edition of the John Hervey Award for excellence in broadcasting for a feature on Sydney Weaver, a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy who is a licensed groom, horse owner, award-winning writer and public speaker. Briggs won the news/commentary category for his story titled “Horse barns at Mohawk ‘silent as a grave,’” which examined the shutting of the backstretch stables at Mohawk, and appeared in the Jan. 9, 2013 edition of the Guelph Mercury newspaper. Briggs has been awarded a record six Hervey honors. Melissa Keith received honorable mention in the news/commentary division for her story, “What Women Want; Can Racing Attract the Female Horseplayer?” It appeared in the April issue of Trot magazine. In the feature category, Young won for her story, “Win One for Ryan; Pacer races for stricken youngster,” which appeared in the November issue of Hoof Beats. The story recounted the chance meeting between Marc Reynolds and Marie Hunt and Reynolds naming a horse, River Run For Ryan, in honor of Hunt’s son, who has a rare genetic disease called Hunter Syndrome. Susan Higgins and Lauren Lee received honorable mention in the feature category. Higgins was recognized for her story, “‘Make Sure Things Go Right;’ Maine Cast fulfills a dying wish with sire stakes championship,” which appeared on the U.S. Trotting Association website on Nov. 21 and in the December issue of Hoof Beats. Lee was recognized for her story, “The Cornerstones,” about Meadowlands media duo Bob Heyden and Sam McKee entering the Communicators Corner of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, which appeared in June 20 issue of The Canadian Sportsman. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of longtime horseracing writer Neil Milbert, Dorf Feature Service newsroom assistant/writer Lou Monaco and Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. In the photography categories, Lisa won in the race feature division for a photograph of driver David Miller heading onto the track on a snowy night at the Meadowlands. The photo appeared in the March 13 issue of Horseman and Fair World as well as the March 14 issue of The Canadian Sportsman. Witten won in the race action category for a photograph of the first turn of the Hambletonian. The photo appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of Horseman and Fair World. Claus Andersen and Mark Hall received honorable mention in the race action category; Andersen for a photo of Bee A Magician winning the Hambletonian Oaks that appeared on the Oct. 17 cover of The Canadian Sportsman and Hall for a photo of Pet Rock winning the Winbak Pace that appeared on the USTA website on Sept. 19. Dave Landry and Barbara Livingston received honorable mention in the race feature category; Landry for a photo of John Campbell driving with his great nephew Tyler McLinchey that appeared on the Sept. 12 cover of The Canadian Sportsman and Livingston for a photo of retired star Staying Together and Kentucky Horse Park Equine Operations Director Wes Lanter that appeared on the USTA website on Oct. 1. The photography categories were judged by Bill Denver, the track photographer at Monmouth Park and Parx Racing as well as a regular contributor to the New York Daily News and Wall Street Journal, and Phil McAuliffe, a longtime newspaper and magazine photographer who worked as a harness racing groom while a teenager. In the broadcast category, Woodbine’s feature on Sydney Weaver was written, voiced and produced by Paul Salvalaggio. It originally aired on June 26 as part of the one-hour North America Cup presentation on The Score television network. To watch the video, click here. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of award-winning longtime horseracing writer Neil Milbert, Daily Racing Form Programming Manager Lou Monaco and Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. Hervey Award winners will be honored as part of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 23 at Dover Downs. For more information about the banquet, visit www.ushwa.org. by Ken Weingartner for USHWA
The Canadian Sportsman is seeking contributions from the harness racing industry to celebrate the life of Canada’s oldest magazine. In 300 words or less, please email your thoughts, memories, stories, comments — just about anything you want to say about the magazine — to editor Dave Briggs (firstname.lastname@example.org) before noon (eastern time) on Thursday, Dec. 5. We will publish as many comments as possible. On Nov. 18, The Sportsman announced it was publishing its farewell issue in December after 143 years of continuous service (see www.canadiansportsman.ca for details). For more information contact: Dave Briggs Publisher & Editor, The Canadian Sportsman 519-866-5558 ext. 22 email@example.com
This week's celebrity sections come from a Dave Briggs. Briggs is the publisher and editor for the Canadian Sportsman magazine. He was presented the Harness Tracks of America's Dan Patch Award for exceptional media, publicity and public relations contributions to the sport of harness racing earlier this year. Little Brown Jug Top 10 Contenders By Dave Briggs - Canadian Sportsman 1. Vegas Vacation inherits top spot after winning the Simcoe and the connections of Captaintreacherous elected not to race in Delaware. Can trainer Casie Coleman win back-to-back Jugs? 2. Sunshine Beach was a solid second to Vegas Vacation for trainer Mark Steacy and has a 1:47.4 mark set a month ago beating Captaintreacherous in the Battle of Brandywine. 3. Sunfire Blue Chip has been a consistent money-maker all year for trainer Jimmy Takter and topped Vegas Vacation in the Adios on July 27. 4. Lucan Hanover, Casie Coleman's other horse, won the New Jersey Classic on Hambletonian Day and has been a solid producer all year. 5. Word Power was just a neck behind Captaintreacherous in the Cane Pace and the Larry Remmen trainee has cashed a check in all but one start this year. 6. Twilight Bonfire was second to Captaintreacherous in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup in June and the Danny Collins pupil has cashed a cheque in six of the seven starts since. 7. Johny Rock has been a solid performer his last five starts for trainer John Butenschoen. 8. Wake Up Peter is, perhaps, the best winless sophomore pacing colt on the continent. Though a little on the inconsistent side, when he is on, he's near the front-runners. 9. Emeritus Maximus is a sizable longshot, yet the Alagna trainee has been on the board nine times this year in 14 starts against stakes competition and sports a 1:48.4 mile at Pocono. 10. Lonewolf Currier has won a third of his starts, but has been either on or out of it too much to be a serious Jug threat. 1. Vegas Vacation (Last Week #2) Owners: West Wins Stable (ONT), Adriano Sorella (ONT), Anthony Beaton (ONT) & Phyllis Saunders (ONT) Trainer: Casie Coleman Driver: Brian Sears & Scott Zeron Career Earnings: $646,516 Career Mark: 1:48.3 TgDn He won the $114,948 Simcoe Stakes (9/7) at Mohawk Raceway in 1:48.3, equaling his lifetime best. 2. Sunfire Blue Chip (Last Week #5) Owners: Christina Talker (NJ), John & Jim Fielding (ONT), Brixton Medical AB (SWE) and RAW Equine Inc. (ONT) Trainer: Jimmy Takter Driver: Yannick Gingras Career Earnings: $476,819 Career Mark: 1:48.3 Mea The son of American Ideal was third in the Simcoe Stakes on September 7. 3. Sunshine Beach (Last Week #6) Owners: Hudson Standardbred Stable (QUE), Conrad Leber (QUE) and Diane Bertrand (ALB) Trainer: Mark Steacy Driver: Chris Christoforou, Jr./George Brennan Career Earnings: $531,565 Career Mark: 1:47.4 PcD He was second to Vegas Vacation in the Simcoe at Mohawk Raceway (9/7). 4. Johny Rock (Last Week #8) Owners: William C. Wiswell (WI), Jean A. Goehlen (IL) and Eugene W. Schick (IL) Trainer: John Butenschoen Driver: Andy Miller Career Earnings: $387,498 Career Mark: 1:48.0 PcD He set a new lifetime mark with a 1:48 win at Pocono Downs (9/7) in a conditioned event. 5. Lucan Hanover (Last Week #NR) Owners: West Win Stable (ONT) and Christine Calhoun (ONT) Trainer: Casie Coleman Driver: David Miller Career Earnings: $232,284 Career Mark: 1:48.3 M Finished third in a $114,948 division of the Simcoe Stakes (9/7). 6. Twilight Bonfire (Last Week #7) Owners: Robert J. Key (PA) Trainer: Danny Collins Driver: David Miller Career Earnings: $681,489 Career Mark: 1:50.1 Mea Took the fifth spot in the Cane Pace Final at Tioga Downs (9/2). 7. Wake Up Peter (Last Week #3) Owners: Wake Up Peter Partners (IL), Brittany Farms (KY), Louis Willinger (KY) and Eagles Soar Partners (NY) Trainer: Tony Alagna Driver: Ron Pierce Career Earnings: $532,680 Career Mark: Q1:50.0 M The son of Rocknroll Hanover has yet to win in 2013. He could set Jug history with a win. 8. Word Power (Last Week #9) Owner: Bradley Grant (ONT) Trainer: Larry Remmen Driver: Jody Jamieson Career Earnings: $225,802 Career Mark: 1:49.4 M He was just a nose short of an upset of Captaintreacherous in the Cane Pace Final. 9. Odds On Equuleus (Last Week #NR) Owners: Odds On Racing (IL) Trainer: Tony Alagna Driver: John Campbell Career Earnings: $622,801 Career Mark: 1:50.0 M Recently moved to the Tony Alagna Barn. He only has a couple of weeks to straighten him out. 10. Lonewolf Currier (Last Week #10) Owners: Francis Azur (PA) Trainer: Kevin McDermott Driver: John Campbell/Jason Bartlett Career Earnings: $274,495 Career Mark: 1:48.4 Mea Did not race last week. By Jay Wolf – Little Brown Jug Publicity Director
When the draft plan for a sustainable horse-racing industry in Ontario recommended harness racing no longer be held at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, few people were more surprised than the man running the track. Nick Eaves, the president and chief executive officer of the Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates Woodbine and Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, said Monday he was caught off guard when the three-member bipartisan Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel recommended in its June 28 report that harness racing use Mohawk as its lead track and leave Woodbine solely to the thoroughbreds. To read the full article written by David Briggs click on this link
The Canadian Sportsman Magazine and Woodbine Entertainment Group have teamed up to produce a superb harness racing handicapping section for this year's 30th annual North American Pepsi Cup racing stakes races this Saturday night at Mohawk Raceway.