Phil Hudon comes from a big harness racing family, there is Jerry and Dave who are cousins, Jerry is in Alberta and Dave is located in British Columbia, (BC). Phil also has brothers John and Steve out in BC and in Ontario, Phil has his brother Pat and dad Joe. If anyone has had the pleasure of speaking with Phil, there is something about his laugh that seems so genuine. Phil comes across laid back and easy going and the laugh suggests he truly enjoys having a good time, regardless of who he's talking to. A touching moment right of the bat is Phil describing what his brother Pat had to overcome. Several years ago during a qualifier, Phil's brother Pat was driven into the track due to a horse accident. "He's lucky to be around" Phil says. "He's good now, but it was scary at the time." Thank God Pat is okay, it is tough to think of what the drivers have to contend with at times day after day. Yes drivers wear helmets, but all their limbs are exposed and it's a blessing and a testament to the skill drivers possess that accidents rarely occur. Big Jim by far, would be Phil's most exciting horse he's raced to date. "We won the Breeders Crown (at Pocono Downs) and the Governors' Cup (at Woodbine Racetrack) and we got to race against all the top horses for a couple of years and I've never experienced that before. It's pretty thrilling to drive a horse like that, a world class horse." Phil explains. "That's what it's all about right there" says Phil. "Drivers can get good horses... but great horses make you look so much better." Away from the rush of racing horses, if Phil isn't following hockey, you can catch him at a baseball game. "I used to like the Canucks, but I like the home teams so now it's the Leafs unfortunately" says Phil laughing. Oh Phil, I feel your pain and so does every Maple Leafs fan out there. "I like the Blue Jays, LA Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers in baseball." Phil notes. Life has been hectic for Phil who races seven days a week! "I go everywhere now. I go to Flamboro once a week and Western Fair on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the rest of the week I'm at Mohawk/Woodbine." That sure is a lot of mileage and travel time, but it only goes to show how much Phil is dedicated to the sport he's passionate about as well as doing his very best to support his family. Phil has three kids, Madison 14, Zach 7 and Delaney who is 7 months old. "It's tough; you miss out on family time because it's work, work, work." Phil acknowledges. "There are nights they're going out for dinner and you miss out on all of that. On weekends, you just can't take off and go to the cottage unless you book the weekend off but then you lose your drives." It must be difficult trying to hold together two firm commitments. On one side you have your family in your heart and the other side, there's horse racing which you love and you need to be fully committed to driving and ensuring you're always showing up to the track to be able to provide for the family you love. It is reasons like these that I feel the horsemen and women within the horse racing industry do get enough praise for what they do with the sacrifices involved. Phil does admit it's tough on the family at times with all his travelling. "I'm hustling a bit more this year" explains Phil. "I got to get back rolling because I was slumping for a bit.... I find I am sharper when I am racing everywhere. Plus I am going for 4,000 wins so I'd like to get that. I am still a couple hundred away though." It would be awesome for Phil to win his 4,000th win at Woodbine or in a major stakes race. Talk about what an awesome win photo shot of that would be, nothing short of spectacular. North America Cup for number 4,000! "Wins are wins" says Phil. "You can win a five claimer and it picks you up.... I find racing all the time keeps you sharper." Phil came to Ontario from British Columbia at a very young age, Phil was only 16. "It was tough; I had no friends, nothing." Phil says. "It was just me, my dad and his girlfriend at the time and two dogs, we only had four horses." "I quit school at 16, but I wish I didn't though." Phil explains, "I thought about (finishing school) a bit... but I wanted to drive horses, that's what I really like doing." Phil explains how it can be tough in some races when the horse you're driving is really pulling, but there isn't one particular drive that sticks out to Phil that would he would consider his most intense drive. Phil unfortunately has been in a few accidents which resulted him popping out his shoulder a few times and cracking his wrist once. Phil considers himself lucky to date, which is remarkable and that must say a lot about his driving skills and his keen awareness for the horses and drivers around him each and every race. "There's been people badly hurt, you know with broken arms and legs. I've just been lucky, touch on wood." Phil says. Luck plays a role in many things in life, but for the time Phil has been driving, I strongly believe it's his driving aptitude combined with luck that has brought him this far. Phil does not give himself enough credit. During our conversation, Phil pays respect to his fellow horsemen, the horses, the owners, but not once did Phil give any credit to himself. Phil should give himself more credit; no one lasts long in any career without being skilled, decent, humble and respectful. Of which all of these attributes Phil possesses. Phil was a big wrestling fan back in the day; Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock were his two guys he would cheer on. "Back in the day, the Rock was awesome and with Stone Cold, they were playing a good role." Phil says UFC is another sport Phil really enjoys watching. One of his favorite fighters is BJ Penn. "I loved BJ Penn he was awesome, the Prodigy... I like watching good fights, there's a bunch for great athletes like St. Pierre, and he was awesome." Phil says. However, don't expect Phil to be entering the Octagon, he enjoys watching the fights, not being a part of the fights. Phil enjoys the brotherhood of the driver's colony at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks. "I don't really do grudges" says Phil. "You go about your business; if you end up in a grudge match you're only hurting the owner and the horse. You need to keep your head on right; you always need to use your head." Phil does consider himself a joker, one who can dish out the laughs and still be able to laugh at himself. To be a fly on the wall in the driver's room, one can only imagine how much fun the drivers have with one another. by Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
TORONTO, April 11 - Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), on behalf of its other racetrack partners in the Standardbred Alliance, and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association are pleased to announce that Mohawk Racetrack will be available for qualifying and training next week. The Campbellville oval will be open each morning for training except Sunday and Wednesday, beginning Tuesday, April 15. Qualifying and schooling races will be at Mohawk, beginning at 10 am each Monday and Friday starting on Friday, April 18. "This initiative will assist trainers in getting their horses trained, qualified and ready to race at Woodbine, Mohawk, and all other racetracks in the Standardbred Alliance," said Bill McLinchey, WEG's Senior Manager of Standardbred Racing. The last day of qualifying at Woodbine will be Friday, April 11. Morning training will be restricted to Mohawk. The Mohawk summer meet will begin on Thursday, May 22. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
If anyone knows Jonathan Dury, aside from always being busy, they know he is truly a student of harness racing. From his time working with his father, Barry Drury, at Mohawk Racetrack, (Campbellville, ON), during the summer to picking up on slight nuisances' at all possible moments is what has driven Jonathan to the level of achievement he is currently earning as one of the top drivers at Woodbine Racetrack. Jonathan would help his dad anytime he was not in school. When Jonathan was very young, his ideal dream job would have been to drive big trucks. Moving several years down the line, when Jonathan was in high school, he contemplated having a career in architecture but due to his on-track success, that venture has been put on hold. If what we have seen of Jonathan the past few years is any indication of what lies ahead, there's a strong feeling he may put a permanent hold on entering the field of architectural design. Jonathan's dad still trains horses and Jonathan noted his dad used to work for harness racing legend Ron Waples back at the old Meadowlands as an assistant trainer. Jonathan started out at Woodstock Raceway and the first horse he drove was "a trotter for Chris Christoforou Sr. "It was my first time start and it was with a trotter" says Jonathan. "I like driving both pacers and trotters and I have had success driving trotters. A lot of trotters are trickier to drive than pacers but I still love driving trotters a lot." Away from the track earlier in his career, Jonathan enjoyed playing golf in the summer and hockey during the winter. "I was playing hockey for a few years for fun, then I broke my arm and called it quits for that..." says Jonathan with a laugh. Jonathan worked for several high caliber stables, such as Anthony Macdonald who had a lot of trotters. "I really learned a lot about how to handle a trotter" says Jonathan. Anthony Montini and Casie Coleman are two other elite trainers Jonathan worked for. "You see different ways of doing things." Jonathan explains. "Anthony Montini is a really nice guy; he even let me drive Primetime Bobcat in one of his last career starts. I can't say I learned one thing from anybody, its things you pick up and expand on when you work for someone else." It's about growing and learning while remaining humble and approachable that can you a long way in every aspect of life. As he progressed Jonathan moved on to drive at Kawartha Downs, (located in Fraserville, ON), "I really dug Kawartha Downs, I love driving on the 5/8th mile track. I spent time last summer driving at one at Pocono Downs. Kawartha was a great experience because I got to drive a lot of the better horses that went down there." Jonathan explains. "I was driving all of Corey Johnson's horses at one point and I was driving a lot of Tommy Riley's horses plus I was driving whatever Casie (Coleman) brought down there." Jonathan notes he learned a lot from driving horses for top notch trainers. How did Jonathan get to the point of driving all of Corey Johnson's horses? Well, Jonathan says he didn't know Corey at first but kept seeing his name listed to drive Corey's horses. "I was having a lot of luck down there and I was one of the top guys there driving for Tommy Riley... then the entries came out one day and I was listed to drive on three of Corey's horses and it was all trotters and I won with all three of them." Take off indeed, what was set in motion at Kawartha Downs truly snowballed for Jonathan, to the point that he was able to make a seamless transition to Canada's biggest racetracks, Woodbine and Mohawk. Winning with Vegas Vacation was special to Jonathan. "I actually spent a lot of time training him when I was working for Casie. I got to qualify him and I won with him on his first lifetime start." It holds a special spot in Jonathan's heart, especially given what Vegas Vacation has accomplished. "Vegas is a wicked horse with a ton of potential, I think he is going to get bigger, stronger and better" according to Jonathan and it is safe to say everyone would agree with his opinion. I certainly do! Jonathan admits it can difficult to get good drives and yes, if it was that easy everyone would be number one on the leader board. "I just try to work hard to get me to where I am" says Jonathan. "Carmen Auciello gave me the opportunity to go down to the Poconos to drive his horses down there and it was a great experience. I think it really helped me to be to where I am at today. It's a different style of racing down (at the Poconos), it taught me a lot and I am able to use that to my advantage now." "I love the Poconos and the track; it's a beautiful facility and a fast track that also gets a lot of good horses down there." I hear the architecture aficionado in Jonathan's voice when he's describing the facility at Pocono Downs. Jonathan was at the Meadowlands for the past three weekends driving Corey Johnson's trotter Hldontghttoyurdrms in the Horse and Groom series and expresses how much the new facility at the Meadowlands has improved. Jonathan's focus is to keep driving and learning more and more so he can better not only himself, but also better the results for the trainers and owners. His approach is to zone in on a team goal, not as an individual. "That's the best thing you can do is know as much as you can" Jonathan says when it comes to learning about other horses. "Knowing your horse, and knowing the rest of the horses, you can find ways to beat them with what you know about them." Jonathan enjoys watching elite drivers like Tim Tetrick and Brian Sears, "they can get so much out of their horse, put them in all the right places." Jonathan says. "I try to learn things from everybody to better myself." "I am very content racing horses; it's something I love doing so how can I complain about something I love?" Jonathan admits. "Horse racing has been a big part of my life, and now it is my life." "I like aggressive horses racing wise, I feel I can keep them calm" says Jonathan. When he's not driving, Jonathan will go out to his dad's barn to give him a hand or in the summers past he would help with Casie Coleman's stable. "If I have time off, I take it easy for the most part; maybe play some golf in the summer. Really I try to get some rest so I am ready to go." Jonathan explains. "I haven't raced since I was at the Meadowlands on Saturday. I had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off and I was bored out of my mind having so many days off." In his time off, what keeps Jonathan mentally busy is music. "I'm a huge country music fan and also a huge Eminem fan. My favorite country group is Florida Georgia Line. I like all kinds of music depending on the mood I am in, but generally I listen to country." Jonathan says. As any avid music listener, Jonathan has his list of favorite concerts he has attended. The Jay Z and Eminem Home and Home tour concert, which took place in Detroit, is at the top of the list. A close second would be the concert he saw earlier this year that featured Jason Alden and Florida Georgia Line. This August, Jonathan will be rocking out to Linkin Park at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. A group he's been wanting to see live for quite some time. I posed the question to Jonathan, that if he could record a song with anyone or any group, he chose Florida Georgia Line. "Only because they look like they have a wicked time in their music videos." Jonathan says. A twist to his music curiosity is if Jonathan had the opportunity to sit down and talk with any music artist about their career, hands down it would be famed rapper, Eminem. "I've actually sat down and read through the meanings of all the lyrics to a bunch of his songs." Jonathan explains. "He's lived a very different life and gives you the courage not to give up.... He's come from a pretty rough family and battled against everything to get to where he is today. I read a documentary on him and he has boxes of papers with little groups of words scribbled on them that he just randomly has pop in his head." "And (Eminem) kept them in case he could ever use them in a song. It's really amazing what he can do with words and how each song has a meaning deep down inside the lyrics that you may not understand just listening to it." When it comes to interacting with fans, Jonathan truly enjoys the experience He's more than willing to sign autographs or give his whip away. One time at the Meadowlands, Jonathan was set to drive a couple of races and ended up giving away his whip to a fan without realizing he didn't have any more whips, as he only brought one with him to the track. Luckily Scott Zeron was there to help him out. So if you see Jonathan, don't be afraid to ask for an autograph as he is more than willing to oblige. "I wasn't expecting anyone to ask for my whip because at Woodbine the fans are so far away, you don't see them. It was shocking to see the fans up so close at different tracks. Once over a three night period at the Meadowlands, I won one race each night and gave away my whip after each race I won." How many sports can you account where the athletes and players involved give away game used items? Maybe baseball if you catch a foul ball, once in a blue moon an NFL football or a hockey puck, but in no other sport is this possible, only in harness racing where a fan can meet the people they cheer on and get an autograph on a nightly basis. by, Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
It was no April Fools' Day prank as today the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) announced its decision in regard to the race-date applications for the nine Standardbred racetracks in the province. The ORC has announced the approved race dates for Woodbine Racetrack, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Rideau Carleton Raceway, Clinton Raceway and Hanover Raceway. On Monday, March 31, the ORC released the proposed race dates for the period: April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, for almost all of the province’s racetracks. To view a list of the proposed race dates, click here. The ORC's release regarding approved dates explains that the live race date schedules for other racetracks will be announced as their agreements are finalized. The ORC release appears below. ORC approves Ontario Race Dates for 2014 and beyond Notice of Director’s decision regarding 2014 Race Dates The Director of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) today announced the decision regarding the schedule of live race dates for 2014 for certain racetracks. Following the successful conclusion of agreements, the following racetracks were in a position to commit to their race date schedule for the remainder of 2014: Woodbine Mohawk Western Fair Flamboro Downs Georgian Downs Grand River Rideau Carleton Clinton Hanover The live race date schedules for other racetracks will be announced as their agreements are finalized. Agreements were possible due to government’s commitment to provide funds to horse racing to support the industry`s efforts to grow its business. This five-year commitment has allowed for the negotiation of long term agreements which secure this schedule of race dates for each of the next five years. The Director confirms and approves the schedule of race dates for the 2014 as follows: APPLICANT – 1st quarter (prior approved) – Remaining dates – Total dates Woodbine Racetrack Standardbred (Premier) – 37 – 71 – 108 Thoroughbred (Premier) – 0 – 133 – 133 Mohawk Racetrack Standardbred (Premier) – 0 – 102 – 102 Western Fair Standardbred (Signature) – 38 – 87 – 125 Flamboro Downs Standardbred (Signature) – 52 – 94 – 146 Georgian Downs Standardbred (Signature) - 0 – 40 – 40 Grand River Raceway Standardbred (Signature) - 0 – 48 – 48 Rideau Carleton Raceway Standardbred (Signature) - 14 – 78 – 92 Clinton Raceway Standardbred (Grassroots) - 0 – 15 – 15 Hanover Raceway Standardbred (Grassroots) - 0 – 16 – 16 In accordance with Policy Directive 3-2007, all other race date calendars are approved, but are subject to change where a racetrack operator or other interested party makes an application to vary the approved dates, which will be considered based on the strengths of the business plans submitted and the industry funding available. The Director has been moving forward to implement the components of the five-year Horse Racing Partnership Plan (HRPP), as approved by the Ontario government. Announcements have been made awarding Woodbine Entertainment Group as the single teletheatre operator under a procurement process that is now complete. Revenue earned from the teletheatre network will be used for the benefit of the Centralized Racetracks, which include Woodbine, Mohawk, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Western Fair, Grand River, Clinton, Hanover and Ajax Downs. Additionally announcements have been made designating WEG as the single telephone account betting operator, where revenue earned will be used for the benefit of the Centralized Racetracks. Operation of regional racetracks and the related purses will be funded through a mix of on-track wagering and Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program funds. Please be advised that you or any other aggrieved party have the right to appeal the Director’s decision to the Commission. From Steve Lehman, Executive Director for the Ontario Racing Commission
The more and more I have the opportunity to speak with people within the harness racing industry, the more and more my view on humanity changes for the good. For all the negatives in the world that grab the headlines, a shadow is cast on what should be the brightest of headlines, which is the horsemen and women that form harness racing. Despite the uncertain future of horse racing in Ontario, many within the industry remain positive and hope for the best. The best being the Ontario Government will come to terms with the racetracks to ensure further growth, such as we see south of the border in states like New York and Ohio. Having to deal with these issues over the years is one of Canada's top harness racing drivers, Sylvain Filion. "In 1999 I came here to Ontario and after three years I went back to Quebec. I was there for five years and then came back here." Sylvain explains. Making a big move from his native hometown in Quebec, Sylvain Filion made the move to Ontario as racing in Quebec declined and became virtually nonexistent. "They quit racing in Montreal" says Sylvain. "The racing was very good there, but when they quit racing I came to Ontario." "It sounds kind of like what is happening here" Sylvain notes. "They had money from the slots and then the Government took the money away and that is what killed harness racing. So hopefully that won't happen here." It must be deja vu for Sylvain. There is one positive rumor circulating that the government may have a plan to help the horse racing industry. There is word that negotiations are under way that will ensure the success of harness racing for the next five years, if not longer. Speaking with Sylvain, he's currently feeding his adopted daughter, Stella-Rose and little Stella-Rose will be turning one in a few days. Sylvain and his wife Dominic adopted Stella-Rose eight months ago and they could not be happier. The cheerfulness is Sylvain's voice radiates of pride and joy all due to the new edition to the Filion family. Will Sylvain and Dominic adopt another baby so Stella-Rose may have a brother or sister? Sylvain says possibly but it's too soon to say for sure. "It's about time I became something" Sylvain says with a laugh. "Right now it's my greatest achievement. My wife and I couldn't have a baby and we have wanted a baby for over twenty years so we adopted and it has worked out. We are very very happy!!" Sylvain comes from a family with deep roots in the horse racing world. "I was born with horses all around me. My father still has that farm in Quebec and my grandfather had 5 or 6 horse as well. That's how my father and uncles got started." Sylvain says. Sylvain's father, Yves won the North America Cup and the Prix d'Ete with Runnymede Lobell in 1988. One is of his uncles, Herve, is the world renowned Hall of Fame horsemen. "There's still a lot I want to do, there's big races I'd like to win, like the North America Cup, (which takes place at Mohawk racetrack). I came second once and my father won it. The Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug are ones I would like to win." "At the start of each year, we cross our fingers and hope a horse comes through that can have us do great things." Sylvain says about any potential break out horses. Sylvain does not train any horses, as he puts it, he is 100% focused on driving. If he had to pick one of his favorite horses out of all he's driven, he feels Breeders Crown winner Goliath Bayama is the favorite. As for Sylvain preference for track type and style, he says he enjoys the one mile tracks like the Meadowlands compared to the 7/8th mile tracks. Yes, that one eight makes a difference. "When you're on the 7/8th, you have the whole stretch to get into position and at the mile tracks, when you leave the gate you have an eighth of a mile until you hit the first turn" is how Sylvain describes the flow. "If you decide to leave hard, you might have a long drive going into the first turn." Meaning you're stuck on the outside leading to a longer trip for the horse and burning unnecessary horse power. During the warm months, Sylvain loves to play golf and is an avid fan of the sport. The one golfer he admires most is 'The Lefty', Phil Mickelson. "I like his aggressive style, every time he goes for broke when he plays." Sylvain says. When the weather turns cold, Sylvain and his wife Dominic usually head south for a vacation getaway. This year was a tad different as the happy parents were basking in the warmth of their new bundle of joy, Stella-Rose. Happy Birthday Stella-Rose! When Sylvain decides to hang it up and call it a great career, what he hopes to do with his family is travel. "I like Costa Rica, the wildlife there is pretty amazing. I'd like to go to Europe. I was there once to train a horse and that was at 9/11." Sylvain went to France to work with and train a horse he was set to drive in a big trotting race in Montreal, the Trot Montreal. "They invited horses from all over the world to race in Montreal." Sylvain explains. "I was a little anxious to come back because I was stuck there for an extra five days." Sylvain was telling me about how much fun the drivers have amongst themselves. Once they're in the bike and on the track, it's strictly business and game on, "Here at Woodbine we take our jobs very seriously. Once we are out there on the track we are all professionals and may the best horse win." However between drives and/or races, the horsemen really know how to keep the atmosphere light. "There are jokes amongst the drivers" Sylvain says. "We spend so much time together. Especially in the summer when we are driving five or six nights a week, we get to the Paddock for 6:30pm and we are there until 11:30pm. So we have to find a way to have a bit of fun and enjoy ourselves." Some examples of jokes played on one another; a driver, who has a couple of races off, may grab a pair of gloves from another driver and tie knots in the fingers of those gloves. So when the owner of those gloves grabs them to head out, that driver has to go out without any gloves on or has to rush and get a pair from a trainer. For fun, sometimes baby powder is put into the helmet of an unsuspecting driver. As you may guess, when the helmet goes on, that drivers' entire head and face is covered. Another prank is putting shoe polish around the goggles of another driver where that said driver is left with rings of polish around his eyes for the rest of the night. They must be tearing up with laughter at times! Sylvain admits, one prank that happened to him is when someone tied his shoe laces "into 2000 knots so I had to cut out all the laces before I left to go home after the races." Priceless! Sometimes they tease one another, "You have to be able to laugh at yourself" says Sylvain. "You have to remain humble. When a guy is parked out the whole mile and he comes in last, he's asked if 'he's caught a cold out there?'...we are a tough group, but a fun group." By Roderick Balgobin, for Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
Chris Christoforou is one of the premier names in harness racing, and if a fan does not recognize his name it's most likely they are new to the sport. Chris has quite the extensive resume from winning the Little Brown Jug in 2000 with Astreos, to winning the Breeders Crown in 1993 aboard Earl. Chris won the Breeders Crown two more times, in 1999 and 2002. Chris has won pretty much every major stake race between Woodbine Racetrack, (Toronto, ON) and Mohawk Racetrack, (Campbellvile, ON). This includes the Canadian Breeders (twice), the Don Mills (twice), the Oakville Stakes (twice), the Burlington, the Fan Hanover and both the Champlain Pace and Trot which combining both Champlain series wins gives him a lucky seven victories (4 times in the Pace and 3 times in the Trot). Acknowledging these major wins is the tip of the iceberg and there's at least two dozen more stake wins. That's a pretty big iceberg that could take down the Titanic once again. What is left for Chris to win? Pretty much every race where he's driving and despite the success, Chris maintains a strong and focused drive to continuously reach the Winner's Circle. "The Hambletonian..." says Chris, "...is one I would love to win given the opportunity." With the future uncertainty that looms for harness racing in Ontario, (with the Ontario Government cancelling the slot revenue agreement), Chris remains passionate about wanting to stay close to home. "It depends on the future here in Ontario," Chris says, "but I have no plans to leave. I'd really like to stay here, it's my home, it's my family... and hopefully I can. "I enjoy my life, I enjoy my career and we make a living." Chris explained, "It's tough at times but I would never discourage anyone from wanting to get into the (racing) business." Chris is fine with the thought of his children following in his footsteps as well as his father's. Chris won his first race in 1990 at Flamboro Downs driving Delias Star to the Winner's Circle. In all this time, Chris continually keeps it fresh by maintaining a positive attitude and keeping things light whenever possible. "I find if you are enjoying what you are doing, people catch that vibe from you and it rubs off on them." Chris explains, "The guys I drive with, we all get along and it's a good group of guys here (at Woodbine Racetrack). It's not easy when you are competing with guys night in and night out, but I thing we do a really good job of (having fun)." Asking Chris if he had a memory of a special time where the drivers meshed cohesively and were quite successful, he says "It was strong in the WEG circuit (Woodbine Entertainment Group), in the 80's and up til now it's been very strong." "The top 5 or 6 guys here can drive with anyone in the world as far as I'm concerned. From Campbell to Sears to Lachance, just because we drive here (at Woodbine/Mohawk), it doesn't mean we are any less skilled. Put up Jody Jamieson, Randy Waples or Paul MacDonnell and they can drive with anyone and they have proven that in the past." Talking with Chris is quite fulfilling, and not in terms of generic terms or metaphors, but the open honesty of how good his fellow drivers are, no matter where they race. A perfect example is Chris paying respect to Dave Palone who drives predominantly at the Meadows (located in Washington, PA). Yes, it is a different size track than others, it's a 5/8th mile oval but according to Chris regardless of the type of track, Dave Palone can drive with the best no matter where. Chris is quick to point the good and talent in others. With Chris you get the sense that there is always a silver lining. "Take the top 50 drivers in North America and it's a very slim margin as to who is better." Chris looks to the horses that make up the difference, "Give the 50th guy the best horse and the top guy the fifth best horse and I am pretty sure, 90% of the time the guy with the best horse wins. To that point, it's all horse power." When driving any horse, Chris looks at past performance to see how to best deal with the horse during the race. However "...tactics can switch in a split second. If the horse is moving from a low percentage barn to a higher percentage barn, you are more likely to be more aggressive." "An extreme chess match" Chris says, "very very fast chess game." Horse racing has its strains like any other career, and Chris is grateful to his wife, Camilla, for being so supportive. "It's tough when the kids are off for two months in the summer and I'm busy racing." Chris says. How does Chris balance the intensity of work with family, "every now and then in the summer if I'm in a slump, we'll jump in the car for two days and go to Niagara Falls, ON, change things up and get a refresher." It's all about quality time. In any job, business and career one thing that's constant is communication. Flat out, it's a requirement. During a race when fans are standing at the fence, the sound of the horses charging to the wire is intoxicating. Along with the ground vibrating you can hear faint sounds coming from drivers, but not all the discernable. At the start of the race, Chris explains very little, if any is being said. "You hear drivers hollering down the stretch for sure but the only thing a driver hears, and I don't think drivers even realize it, you can hear if a horse is getting rough, or if his gait is changing." Chris explains, "The sound pattern the horses make when their gait is changing, short stepping. A lot does get blocked out, you're in the zone." "At Woodbine, if a driver's horse is getting rough, he starts screaming and it's usually a sound of panic so everybody knows what's coming and tries to avoid that guy. We all know what each other's voice sounds like, so even if you can't see him and he's three or four horses ahead of you, you know who it is." When it comes to pacers or trotters, Chris would have taken the pacer over the trotter in his early days. Now with his experience, Chris will opt for racing a trotter, not only for the strategy but for the technique involved. When it comes to any game outside of horse racing, Chris' favorite sport is soccer and he loves the English Premier League. His team is Manchester United aka the Red Devils. "We're having a tough year, with a new manager and the team wasn't left in the best shape. There's some older players that need to retire, it's been a slow process." Chris thinks Manchester United will give team manager David Moyes a couple of years to figure things out. "Ferguson (Sir Alex Ferguson was the previous manager) has his back and picked him as his replacement. So they will give Moyes time to work things out." If you're planning to come over to his place to watch the Derby where rivals Manchester United and Manchester City square off, you better be wearing the right colors. No City fans allowed. Ok well, Chris being the nice guy he is may let you in but I think that's just the Canadian politeness poking through. Let's just say United fans only. With a laugh Chris says there's a driver/trainer at Flamboro Downs, Anthony Haughan, who gives Chris a hard time as Anthony is a supporter of another Manchester United rival, Liverpool. "He sent me about 5 messages yesterday about how bad my team is. We have a lot of fun with it." Chris says. Being the soccer fan he is Chris is cheering for England in the 2014 World Cup taking place in Brazil. "My mother is English... so I got to cheer for them. I think Germany has the best team this year and are probably the favorites and Brazil to." What's the one sporting event Chris has on his bucket list that he definitely wants to cross off? It's the World Cup. It's tough for him to go, because June is part of the peak season for horse racing, but when he retires, that's one of his first trips. So long as it's taking place somewhere warm! By Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
It's all about team work. That's the feeling I get when listening to Casie Coleman describe the dedication of her harness racing employees. Casie Coleman is one the most recognized names when it comes to trainers. There's no doubt that every time you see one of her horses listed to race, that horse is bringing its 'A' game, ready to contend. Casie admits her success, aside from her work and the owners providing quality horses, is all due to her employees. Casie values everyone on her team as equals, people with heart and soul who dedicate their lives along side hers' to get the best out of the horses in the Coleman stable. Take the best race horse currently running and if it went without proper care and attention, guaranteed in a short period of time that horse's value will diminish alongside its health. "Before I went on my own, I worked for a lot of people" Casie explains, "and I know what it's like when you work long hard days and you don't get paid so (well) or treated so (well)." It's due to the tough experiences Casie had to grind through for her to know how important it is to recognize the staff on her team. "We work long hard days here, and I try to keep everyone happy... if you're miserable, then your horse is going to be miserable." Casie notes, "I knew when I started training I wanted the best help I could find. You need to pay them and take care of (the employees)." "I have employees here who have been with me for the past 8 or 9 years. That being said, I've been through a whole lot of staff come through and work for me, and it's not saying they are not good; everybody is good in their own way. It's just the long hard hours we do and in my program some people aren't up for that." 110% is what Casie expects out of her staff but at the same time, Casie gives them 110% back in way of pay and recognition. "It's definitely not an easy job working for me, by no doubt but we have some good guys here." So what did Casie go through or see to realize how valuable a trainer's staff is? "Whether its people I worked for or whether it be people that I watched working for another stable. Some of the things you see in the paddock, I say to myself 'I'll never treat my staff that way'." Casie continues the mentality should always be "treat people right". With Casie having had a large or you could even say huge stable (over 100 horses), she's had to hire more help and become more of a trainer/barn manager. "If you're just a small stable, you're able to things yourself but when you get a big stable like I do, I am only as good as my staff. I can't manage all these horses by myself, no doubt." Casie provides a great explanation of how intense it can be, especially in the summer time when racing is at peak season. "There's going to be good and bad days. Some of my staff start at 4-4:30 in the morning and a normal day we will get done around 2:30-3pm or some days it might be 4:30-5pm depending how busy we are. Then in the summer time, we race at night so we'll get a couple of hours to go home and shower then go racing and you might not get home until 1am. Then the next day you do it all over again, and you are only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep." So what happens when Casie and her team are having a rough day, Casie will throw a barn barbeque for the entire staff full of steaks and burgers. As I type this, I am getting hungry! "Just last night" Casie says, "I had the whole staff over to my house for a steak barbeque and all the alcohol they wanted. We played poker, we were up late and had a busy day today and everything went good. Now I just ordered some pizza and pasta and they are all happy. Today was a long day, but they all know I am out here with them and know I'm feeding them. You got to keep them happy, keep the morale up." As the interview was going on, Casie had to take a moment to sign for the pizza she ordered for her staff. Growing up, it was a rough go for Casie and her family. She would work for her parents and go to school, money was tight. Back in British Columbia, Casie would find jobs wherever she could so she could get by. "Whenever somebody would buy you lunch or take you out for dinner, something like that to me was a huge thing because growing up we never had the money to go to these types of places. I realized how much I liked it when someone would take me to a steakhouse, I appreciated it." Something Casie said really hit home for me, and it's how people change their perspective of a person once money is involved. The line Casie quoted was, 'if you are not doing well you're an idiot and if you're doing well, you are doing something wrong'. "You'll hear a lot of people say that I'm 'stuck up'." Casey says, "When I started doing well there were a lot of horsemen that didn't like me too much. Anybody who asks me something I will answer them, if they need something answered about their horse or anything, I try and help out." "Now that I am fortunate to have luck in racing, I want to give back... any charity that asks me for help, I will help. It's just the way I was brought up, to help others when you can." Since Casie has been quite successful, she has opted out of racing in claimers. Now Casie focuses on 2 and 3 year olds and older stake horses. "I was up to 120 horses a couple of years ago. Right now I have 38 here in Florida and I am much happier." Casie explains the relief with fewer horses is fewer owners, less staff and a lot less stress. Now that Casie has fewer horses, she can purely focus on training horses as opposed to training and being a barn manager. Having a stable of 120 horses kept Casie busy with a ton of paperwork and constantly having her on the phone entering horses into various races. Casie's lightened office work allows her to enjoy jogging horses. "I took the winter off from racing so I don't have to worry about entering anywhere. I got back into the bike and I really enjoy being back in the bike. I'm sad I got away from (being in the bike) and now I'm happy to be back." Casie's plan for stake season definitely involves the Little Brown Jug! "I'd love to try a threepeat of the Little Brown Jug. I won two in a row and saying that I have a couple of really nice pacing 3 year old colts... whether they are going to be of that caliber I'm not sure about that. I think they are going to be nice Sired Stakes... and I have some really nice 3 year old pacing fillies that could be better than the colts." "I would love to win the Canadian Pacing Derby at my home track, (Mohawk Racetrack located in Campbellvile, ON)." Casie says, "I have Vegas Vacation, Lucan Hanover and Michael Power entered into that race." If Mark MacDonald decides to come back and race at Mohawk Racetrack, Casie definitely wants him to drive her horses. Casie first met Mark at Flamboro Downs, (Hamilton, ON) and it's been a great relationship ever since. The synergy between Mark and Casie is quite unique and if you remember when they were in action together, they seemed unstoppable. Casie acknowledges how important Mark's feedback is after every drive of her horses. Currently Mark is racing at Yonkers, (New York) and hasn't decided what his summer plans may be. If not Mark, Casie is still pondering which driver will lead her horses past the wire first. A really neat event Casie would love to be a part of is the World Poker Tour. She enjoys playing poker with friends and kicking back to watch a movie. Casie's top 3 favorite movies is Rounders, Seabiscuit/Secretariat and 8 Seconds. Casie loves going to Las Vegas. Her first Vegas experience was with her boyfriend, and one of her owners paid for her to stay at the Caesars because he thought she needed a break. Casie quickly realized what she was missing out on with her always being with her stable and now makes sure she takes time for herself and hitting Vegas at least once a year! It's only fitting that one of Casie's top horses is Vegas Vacation! by Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
TORONTO, March 27 - An elite group of 70 horses remain eligible to the 31st edition of the Pepsi North America Cup, one of harness racing's most prestigious events and Canada's richest harness race with a $1 million final. The one mile pace for three-year-olds at Mohawk Racetrack, is scheduled for Saturday, June 14. Headlining this year's group of nominees is the Dan Patch Award winner and undefeated He's Watching, who set two world records last season along with six track records for trainer and co-owner David Menary. The son of American Ideal boasts a 1:50 speed badge along with $291,722 in earnings. O'Brien Award winner Arthur Blue Chip, who banked $400,120 last season, also remains a top contender for this year's prize. The son of first-crop sire Shadow Play amassed a 6-2-1 record from 11 starts last season. He capped off his year as the richest two-year-old colt pacer. Luck Be Withyou, the 2013 Breeders Crown champion, is also on the list and one of the early favourites for the race. National Debt, who remains undefeated in his career after capturing the Buddy Gilmour Memorial at The Meadowlands, is also on the list of nominees. The Pepsi North America Cup eliminations are set for Saturday, June 7. Sustaining payments will be due on April 15 and May 15. The list of nominees follows: AGADIR HANOVER ALWAYS B MIKI ARI ALLSTAR ARTHUR BLUE CHIP AVALANCHE HANOVER BEAT THE DRUM BONDI HANOVER BOOMBOOM BALLYKEEL BRODYS SCRAPPER BUGGER BRUISER CABANA BOY HANOVER CAPITAL ACCOUNT CARRACCI HANOVER CRAFTY MASTER DANCIN HILL DOO WOP HANOVER EWALD HANOVER FOR A BETTOR TIME FORT KNOX GOLD ROCKS HERE COMES WILLIAM HE'S WATCHING IDEAL COWBOY IDEAL MAGIC IDEAL SHADOW IDEALBEACH HANOVER IM DRINKIN DOUBLES JACK ATTACK JET AIRWAY JIGGLE IT JK ENDOFANERA JOURNEYMAN LETS DRINK ON IT LIMELIGHT BEACH LUCK BE WITHYOU LUCKY KING LYONSSOMEWHERE MAJOR DEAGAN MAJOR TRICK MCWICKED MELMERBY BEACH MOLIERE HANOVER NAKED CITY NATIONAL DEBT ODDS ON RHODONITE ON GOLDEN Ponder P L HELLCAT PARNU HANOVER PLAY IT AGAIN SAM SILVERHILL SHADOW SMACK TALK SOME MAJOR BEACH SOMESTARSOMEWHERE SOMETIMES SAID SOMEWHERE FANCY SURPRISE HANOVER SWEET BEACH SWEET TALKIN CLYDE TELLITLIKEITIS THATS MY OPINION THREE OF CLUBS UNLOCKED WACO BRUISER WEATHER HANOVER WELL WRITTEN WESTERN VINTAGE WHISKEY N PIE WHISTLE JIMMY K WICKED BUSINESS WINDS OF CHANGE Total Horses after the following payments. February 15 - 77 Qualifiers moved to Saturday Due to mild and wet temperatures scheduled for this Friday, Woodbine Racetrack will shift its qualifying sessions to Saturday. Seven qualifying sessions till take place, beginning at 4 p.m. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
Ever since I have had a passion for harness racing I had always wondered what is was like to sit behind a racehorse and jog it on a track. What was it like to feel the horses hooves hit the ground so close to my feet? What was it like to be in the “zone” when jogging a racehorse? I have always known having Cerebral Palsy; things would be different for me. But that never stopped me from dreaming. My parents said I should never let my disability limit my dreams. In May 2012, my dream came true! My first time of ever jogging a racehorse would be an experience I would never forget, and not only because my dream was coming true, but who I went with that made it even better. Bill “Magic Man” O’Donnell contacted my dad. Yes, the harness racing legend and Hall of Famer Bill O’Donnell. He said that another harness racing legend and Hall of Famer, Ron Waples, had a modified seat that he had made for Holly Dapp that fit on a jogger, and asked would I like to jog one day. Knowing that my dream was to jog a horse, my dad quickly agreed to the idea and we set up a date a week later just to meet with Ron Waples to discuss the details. He also wanted to meet me and see what my capabilities were. He was asking me questions to see how much I understood. He explained that he would sit on the jog cart beside me. He was asking me questions to see how much I knew and to make sure I understood what was happening! He asked me one question that I will never forget; he said “now Sydney, what do you do if I fall off dead?” That’s when I kind of panicked and began second guessing myself. I replied “grab the lines.” He chuckled “but Sydney, you already have the lines.” That’s when I was lost for words; I was actually going to jog a racehorse! He told me “Sydney don’t worry, just stay in the middle of the track, and the horse will do the rest. Just keep going around.” A week later my mom, my dad and I met up with Ron Waples, his wife Liz, Bill O’Donnell, and his friend Cathy. The horse that I was going to be jogging was named Learn The Lingo; he was a retired Standardbred gelding. After we found a helmet to fit me and put me in the jogger, the time had come, my dream was coming true! As we jog Ron tells me about some of his fondest memories of being a trainer/driver. All of the horses he drove, some of which I recognized. It was starting to sink in, not only was I jogging, but I was jogging with a harness racing icon. Don’t ask me how many laps, I got lost in the moment, I was on cloud nine. I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to keep going. So after the final lap we stopped and my dad hopped on the jogger with me and Mr. Waples. After, Mr. Waples said Learn the Lingo was ready for a break. We headed back to the barn, and I told everyone about my grand adventure! We go in the barn, we get me back into my wheelchair and I watch Mr. Waples give Learn The Lingo a bath. Then after he was all dried off, Mr. Waples tossed me a bag of licorice and said “feed this to him, it’s his favorite!” It was a treat well earned. I sat there in front of Learn The Lingo, staring in amazement, trying to wrap my head around that afternoon’s events. I couldn’t believe that my dream of jogging a racehorse had come true. They say Disney World is the happiest and most magical place on Earth, but on that May afternoon, the backstretch of Mohawk Racetrack was, and I had just gotten off the ride of my life. I have been so lucky and blessed in my 13 years to have dreams come true. I can hardly wait to see what the future has in store for Sydney Weaver is 13 years old and resides in Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, grooms horses, jogs them on the track, co-owns a racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy, but has never let her disablity hold her back from achieving her goals.
The Ontario Horse Racing division of the Ontario Racing Commission has provided the Premier of Ontario and the province's Minister of Agriculture & Food, Kathleen Wynne with this update on the progress in implementing the five-year Horse Racing Partnership Plan. While the announcement does not include a racing calendar, it does officially announce the Ontario alliance tracks. The Honourable Kathleen Wynne Minister of Agriculture and Food Government of Ontario Dear Minister, I am pleased to provide a further update on progress in implementing the Ontario Horse Racing Partnership Plan. Under your direction, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) and its business development division – Ontario Horse Racing (OHR) – have been tasked with building a racing calendar for Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses. The Partnership Plan supports Ontario’s proud legacy of Standardbred racing and the thousands of jobs across the province with three distinct components; - Traditional summer grassroots racing in rural Ontario. - A long racing season at Rideau-Carleton Raceway. - A year round circuit of top quality racing at eight core tracks. While a robust Standardbred racing industry requires all three components, the cornerstone of the program is year-round, world-class racing that will attract a global audience and increase its fan base and wagering revenues. To ensure a circuit of high quality racing is coordinated for the benefit of horsepersons and horseplayers, I am pleased to inform you that eight racetracks - Clinton Raceway, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District and Woodbine Racetrack - have united in a world-leading alliance. This innovative and cooperative racing alliance has collectively determined there is greater benefit for the industry as a whole in working together to capitalize and succeed in presenting Ontario Standardbred racing to a global audience. We have recently completed an agreement with the alliance tracks and are now ready to engage in discussions with horsepersons groups as the final step in preparation for an exciting season of racing featuring guaranteed purses and some of Ontario’s finest racehorses. Partnerships are all about people and we continue to benefit from the passion, commitment and expertise of the Ontario racing community as we implement the Partnership Plan. John Snobelen From the Ontario Racing Commission
Longtime racing official Ken Middleton, Sr. passed away Thursday, March 6 at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. He was 67. The resident of Bobcaygeon, Ontario, who began his career in the racing industry as a teenager in the mailroom at the Ontario Jockey Club, held a number of racing-related positions. He was the Toronto Sun's handicapper for racing from the Ontario Jockey Club before moving on to be the racing secretary at Kawartha Downs. He later became the racing secretary and general manager at Elmira Raceway, and was a driving force behind the introduction of full-card simulcast wagering and the creation of the ever-popular Industry Day. He also worked as the racing secretary and general manager at Hanover Raceway before spending more than the last decade as the author of the Horseplayers' Journal for the Standardbred program at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetrack. Middleton, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, is survived by his dear wife Judy (Lacey) Middleton; sons Keith (Tania) and Ken, Jr. (Stacey) of Cambridge, Ontario; and was the loving poppy of grandchildren Justin and Kendal. He was predeceased by his father (Ernie, Sr.), mother (Eleanor), brother (Ernie, Jr.) and sister (Jackie). Those wishing to make online condolences to the family can do so by clicking here.
TORONTO, CA March 5 - An impressive group of 77 sophomore including rookie standouts Hes Watching, Arthur Blue Chip and Luck Be Withyou have been nominated to the 31st edition of the Pepsi North America Cup. One of harness racing's most prestigious events, the $1 million race is set for Saturday, June 14 at Mohawk Racetrack. Headlining this year's group of nominees is the Dan Patch Award winner and undefeated Hes Watching, who set two world records last season along with six track records for trainer and co-owner David Menary. The son of American Ideal boasts a 1:50 speed badge along with $291,722 in earnings. Arthur Blue Chip, who banked $400,120 last season along with an O'Brien Award, was the richest rookie-pacing colt of 2013. The son of first-crop sire Shadow Play amassed a 6-2-1 record from 11 starts last season. Luck Be Withyou, the 2013 Breeders Crown champion, is also on the list and one of the early favourites for the race. The Pepsi North America Cup eliminations are set for Saturday, June 7. Sustaining payments will be due on March 15, April 15 and May 15. The complete list of this year's Pepsi NA Cup eligibles are listed below: AGADIR HANOVER ALWAYS B MIKI ARI ALLSTAR ARTHUR BLUE CHIP AVALANCHE HANOVER BEAT THE DRUM BEST OF THE BUNCH BONDI HANOVER BOOM BOOM BALLYKEEL BRODYS SCRAPPER BUGGER BRUISER BUSHWACKER CABANA BOY HANOVER CAPITAL ACCOUNT CARRACCI HANOVER CRAFTY MASTER DANCIN HILL DEVIL'S ARCADE DOO WOP HANOVER EARTHSHAKER EWALD HANOVER FOR A BETTOR TIME FORT KNOX GOLD ROCKS HERE COMES WILLIAM HES WATCHING IDEAL COWBOY IDEAL MAGIC IDEAL SHADOW IDEALBEACH HANOVER IM DRINKIN DOUBLES JACKATTACK JET AIRWAY JK ENDOFANERA JIGGLE IT JOURNEYMAN LET'S DRINK ON IT LIMELIGHT BEACH LUCK BE WITH YOU LUCKY KING LYONS SOMEWHERE MAJOR DEAGAN MAJOR TRICK MARCO DE VIE MCWICKED MELMERBY BEACH MOLIERE HANOVER NAKED CITY NATIONAL DEBT ODDS ON RHODONITE ON GOLDEN Ponder PLAY IT AGAIN SAM P L HELLCAT PARNU HANOVER SHADIOS SILVERHILL SHADOW SMACK TALK SOME MAJOR BEACH SOMESTARSOMEWHERE SOMETIMES SAID SOMEWHERE FANCY SURPRISE HANOVER SWEET BEACH SWEET TALKIN CLYDE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT TELLITLIKEITIS THAT'S MY OPINION THREE OF CLUBS UNLOCKED WACO BRUISER WEATHER HANOVER WELL WRITTEN WESTERN VINTAGE WHISKEY N PIE WHISTLE JIMMY K WICKED BUSINESS WINDS OF CHANGE by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO, February 26 - If you take a close look at the Woodbine drivers standings this season, there is a noticeable change near the top of the leader board. Twenty four-year-old Jonathan Drury is currently in second place, three wins behind three-time O'Brien Award winner Jody Jamieson. Drury, a resident of Rockwood, has certainly made the most of his drives this season accumulating 23 trips to the winners circle and $335,471 in purse earnings. Drury is also the regular pilot behind Hldontghttoyurdrms, who has captured the $34,000 Preferred Trot for a fourth week in a row for trainer Corey Johnson. "It's definitely horse power," Drury said explaining his stellar start in 2014. "When you get that kind of power to sit behind every night and get results, obviously your confidence goes up. So far this season, everything couldn't be better and I'm very fortunate." Drury was born into the harness racing business. His father, Barry, has operated a small stable for many years. Drury, who appears poised in his yellow and blue silks, a nod to his father's colours, is thankful for the valuable lessons he learned at a young age. "All the fundamentals of this sport came from my parents," Drury said. "My dad was stabled along the Mohawk backstretch for many years and my mother (Patricia) was in the barn too. When I wasn't in school I was in the barn or on the track." Drury also ventured out to other trainers before and after getting his trainer's license and he gained valuable experience while working with such trainers as O'Brien Award winner Casie Coleman, Tracey Brainard and Tony Montini. "That was a great learning curve for me," Drury said. "I got to see other methods of training and see the way they do it and run their operation. I've worked for Casie off-and-on for the past three years and got the opportunity to drive for her, which was amazing." After gaining his license in 2008, Drury began driving at Flamboro and Georgian Downs, but the move to Kawartha Downs a few years later and teaming up with top trainers in Corey Johnson and Carmen Auciello yielded great dividends for the young reinsman. "I was a regular driver there (Kawartha Downs) and they started using me and we developed a relationship and it just snowballed from there," said Drury. "Now they both have powerful stables at Woodbine and I'm just thankful to get the work." Perhaps the most valuable experience Drury gained was a summer spent at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania where he drove regularly for Ontario-based trainer Carmen Auciello, who sent a team of roughly 12 head. "Driving with a different bunch of guys at Pocono was a lot of fun," he said. "It's a little different style of driving and I learned so much in a short period of time. That was the most valuable experience I got, especially when I came back to Ontario." Drury was also a key player in the development of O'Brien Award winner Vegas Vacation. Drury "baby-raced" the son of Bettors Delight, before guiding the colt to victory in his first lifetime start at Mohawk Racetrack. "I was working for Casie at the time and would sit behind her two-year-olds on a regular basis," Drury said. "She asked me to baby-race him and teach him in his early stages and that was a lot of fun to sit behind that type of animal." Needless to say, Drury certainly has gained a lot of experience north and south of the border at a young age, and with a little patience and a lot of talent, it appears to be paying off nicely for the man they call JD. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
"He is the fastest and gutsiest horse I ever sat behind," Sylvain Filion stated. Panther Hanover established himself as one of the fastest pacers in the history of the sport. His career cut short by injury was brilliant. During his short career Panther Hanover won eight of fourteen starts and banked more than $365,000, while taking a mark of 1:47.2 at the Meadowlands. His three-year-old campaign was highlighted by victories in the Anthony Abbatiello New Jersey Classic and the Simcoe Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack. Owned by Jim Carr, Panther Hanover will now stand stud at Win Place and Show Farm in New York State, just one mile from the Canadian/U.S. border. Stud fee for 2014 will be $3,000 with a multiple mare discount available. A two mare discount is available for $3,000 for the first live foal and $1,000 for the second live foal. Foals will be eligible to the lucrative New York State Sire Stakes Program. Sam and Carolyn Trombley own and manage the picturesque Win Place and Show Farm. "We have already has a lot of inquiries about him. He is easy to manage and handle and knows when it is time to perform. His personality and attitude is terrific." Sam Trombley said. James Dean trained Panther Hanover for his racing career. "He was wicked fast and if he had stayed sound there is no telling how fast he would have gone," James Dean said. "He went in 1:47.2 in the New Jersey Classic. It was the fourteenth race of the day. Had he raced earlier in the day he would have gone in 1:46 and change. By the time of our race a wind kicked up pretty good in the backstretch. Earlier in the day there was no wind at all. If he had stayed sound he could have been the fastest horse I ever trained.” Owner Jim Carr is looking at a book of over 75 mares. "He was an awesome looking horse who had the look of a thoroughbred," Carr said. "He had the gift of great gate speed and a tremendous brush. He could sit the pocket if needed. He had a great attitude and was well mannered. For Quebec mares we have a special opportunity. If you bring your mare to the farm nearby (50 miles), and the horse is bred at the farm, you can now race both in the enhanced Quebec Sire Stakes Program and the New York Sire Stakes Program. You can get in on the ground floor of the fifth fastest horse in harness racing history and the fastest son of Rocknroll Hanover. He was bred to be great and his paternal family shows it. Panther Hanover is a half brother to outstanding performers Pan Hanover, Philos Hanover, Platinum Hanover and Passmaster Hanover, who are the winners of over one million dollars in purses. Remember all of his foals are eligible for the rich New York Sire Stakes Program. To contact Sam and Carolyn Trembley call (518) 297-3506. The farm is Win, Place & Show Farm, 474 Hayford Road, Champlain, NY 12919 and their website is http://winplaceandshowfarm.com/arrival. By Brian McEvoy, for Harnesslink.com
Standardbred Canada has announced the winners of the 2013 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the event, the annual Black Tie Gala was held in Charlottetown, PEI, at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel and PEI Convention Centre. The awards are named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. O’Brien was born in Alberton, PEI. Bee A Magician who was perfect in her 2013 season, was the unanimous choice in the Three-Year -Old Trotting Filly division and was also voted Canada’s Horse of The Year. Bee A Magician won all 17 of her races last season and earned in excess of $1.57 million for a perfect sophomore campaign. The daughter of Hall of Fame sire Kadabra took a mark of 1:51 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The invincible filly’s stakes victories included the SBOA elimination and final, the Casual Breeze, the Elegantimage elimination and final, three Ontario Sires Stakes events including the Super Final, the Delvin Miller, Hambletonian Oaks elimination and final, the Simcoe, Breeders Crown elimination and final, American National and Moni Maker. Sylvain Filion successfully defended his Driver of The Year title. In 2013 he led all reinsmen in the nation in terms of purse earnings, as his mounts banked $6,111,736. Filion finished as the leading money-winning driver on the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit with over $5 million to his credit between Mohawk Racetrack and Woodbine Racetrack. The resident of Milton, Ont. earned the Lampman Cup for the second straight year, as he topped the Ontario Sires Stakes standings for drivers. Filion celebrated his richest win of the season while steering Boomboom Ballykeel to a 10-1 upset victory in the $683,000 Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack. Richard Moreau was voted Trainer of The Year following an impressive season that saw his stable win 279 races and earn $3,623,805 in purses. The resident of Puslinch, Ont. earned training titles across Ontario at Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District and Woodbine Racetrack. Moreau topped the Canadian trainer standings with $3.5 million in earnings and 270 wins. He celebrated the biggest win of his career this past season when Boomboom Ballykeel captured the Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack. The 2013 season marked the 14th consecutive year that his stable has surpassed the $1-million mark in purse earnings. Alberta’s Kelly Hoerdt won the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship. Hoerdt is a successful driver/trainer who is annually near the top of the training and driving charts in Alberta. The 2013 season was another productive year for Hoerdt, as he trained 82 winners and horses to $623,000, and drove 66 winners and horses that earned over $490,000. Hoerdt was the leading trainer in terms of earnings at Alberta Downs. His stable was led by sophomore pacing colt Premium Attaction, a multiple stakes winner that rattled off six wins in 11 races and over $111,000 Precocious Beauty was honoured as Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly of The Year. Precocious Beauty won seven of 11 races, $462,912 in purses and took a mark of 1:50.1 which tied a world record for a one-mile track. Her richest payday was a victory in the Shes A Great Lady at Mohawk. The two-year-old pacing colt title went to Arthur Blue Chip, who scored six wins in 11 starts and bankrolled $400,120 for his connections. The son of Shadow Play took a mark of 1:51.2 in his Metro Pace elimination at Mohawk before being scratched ‘sick’ from the final. His most lucrative payday was a runner-up finish in the Governor’s Cup. He also won a handful of Ontario Sires Stakes races, an elimination of the Battle of Waterloo and a division of the Nassagaweya Stakes. I Luv The Nitelife returned as a seasoned sophomore in 2013 and added another O’Brien (Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of The Year) to her trophy case. The talented filly boasted a record of 13-1-1 in 15 races and $1.2 million in earnings. She took a mark of 1:48.4 in the Valley Forge at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. She also set a two-heat world record of 3:42.2 in the Jugette. She swept the Fan Hanover, the Lynch, the Mistletoe Shalee and closed the season as strongly as she began with a win in the Breeders Crown and runner up finish in the American National. Little Brown Jug winner Vegas Vacation took the hardware home as Canada’s Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt of The Year. Vegas Vacation gave his connections the ride of a lifetime in 2013. Conditioned by Casie Coleman, the son of Bettors Delight put together a sophomore record reading 10-4-1 from 20 starts while banking $976,037 in purses. He wheeled off victories in his first four races which included the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and an elimination of the Pepsi North America Cup. On September 19 he captured the Little Brown Jug in straight heats – both timed in 1:50. ‘Vegas’ finished his sophomore season with a win in the Matron Stakes to put his bankroll at just over $976,000. Anndrovette continued to dominate the pacing mare ranks in 2013, and, for the third consecutive year, was crowned Canada’s Older Pacing Mare of The Year. The daughter of Riverboat King was on the board in all but three of her 21 races. Some of her major wins included three legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway along with the Roses Are Red and Breeders Crown eliminations. On July 20 at Mohawk Racetrack she captured the Roses Are Red final in a career best 1:48. The talented mare now has 35 lifetime wins and a career bankroll of almost $2.6 million. The $6 million horse, Foiled Again was voted Canada’s Older Pacing Horse of The Year. Foiled Again didn’t show any signs of slowing down in his nine-year-old season, as he won 11 of his 29 starts, including three Levy divisions, the Ben Franklin elimination and final, as well as the Breeders Crown elimination and final for his third straight million-dollar campaign. He entered the year within reach of the all-time earnings record for pacers, and he managed to obliterate that mark by adding $1.4 million to his bank account while visiting 11 different racetracks along the way. He closed the season by sweeping the elimination and final of the TVG Free For All Pace at the Meadowlands. Riveting Rosie was the winner in the two-year-old filly trotting category. Riveting Rosie closed out her rookie campaign with six wins in eight starts and earnings of $468,613. Her major victories included the Peaceful Way Final, her Ontario Stakes Super Final and a division of the Champlain Stakes. In the Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt division, it was Father Patrick who took the O’Brien trophy. He topped the earnings chart in his division and was flawless in 10 stakes starts with his only blemish coming in an early season two-year-old race where he was beaten by just a head. Father Patrick amassed $752,395 in earnings with major wins in the Breeders Crown, Peter Haughton Memorial, William Wellwood Memorial Trot, Champlain Stakes and Bluegrass Series. Flanagan Memory was voted Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year after a productive season which saw him win seven of 11 races and $408,798 in earnings. He clocked a season’s best 1:53 effort in winning his Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final at Mohawk. He also scored victories in the Goodtimes and several OSS events. Maven was voted Canada’s Older Trotting Mare of The Year. Since winning the 2012 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack, Maven has been one of the most consistent trotters in North America. She added wins in the Miss Versatility Trotting Series, an elimination and final of the Armbro Flight, and the Allerage. She showed just how good she was by claiming a second Breeders Crown title. At season’s end Maven had won 10 of 14 races, and added $513,485 to her bankroll. For the second consecutive year, Mister Herbie captured the title as Canada’s Older Trotting Horse of The Year. Although Mister Herbie only won one race in 2013, he was a strong contender in many of the major stakes and scored six runner-up finishes in stakes competition, including the Maple Leaf Trot, Allerage, John Cashman Memorial and Breeders Crown, finishing the season with $492,067 in purses. Seelster Farms, of Lucan, Ont. was honoured as the Armstrong Breeder of The Year. In 2013, Seelster-bred horses scored 248 wins and $2.1 million in earnings. In the Future Star category, the winner of this first-time award was trainer/driver Travis Cullen. The 21-year-old Alberta-based horseman closed out Alberta Downs' 2013 meet with five wins on the final card of the meet while securing both the Lacombe track's driving and training titles. Amidst a career-best year, the Edmonton horseman concluded the Alberta meet with a chart-topping 64 training victories and 86 driving wins. The complete list of winners follows. 2013 O’BRIEN AWARD WINNERS PACERS Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer - Precocious Beauty owned by James L Avritt Sr., Lebanon, KY Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer - Arthur Blue Chip owned by Dr. Ian Moore, Guelph, ON – R G McGroup Ltd., Bathurst, NB – Serge Savard, Saint-Bruno, QC Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer - I Luv The Nitelife owned by Richard P. Young, Boca Raton- Joanne Young, Coconut Creek, FL Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer - Vegas Vacation owned by West Wins Stable, Cambridge- Adriano Sorella, Milton – Anthony B Beaton, Waterdown – Phyllis M Saunders, Hamilton, ON Older Pacing Mare - Anndrovette owned by Bamond Racing LLC, Brick – Joseph Davino, Clarksburg, NJ Older Pacing Horse - Foiled Again owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown – Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA – JJK Stables LLC, Fort Lauderdale, FL TROTTERS Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter - Riveting Rosie owned by Parkhill Stud Farm, Peterborough – Don Allensen, Wyoming – J And T Stable Newmarket – John F Hayes, Sharon, ON Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter - Father Patrick owned by Father Patrick Stable, East Windsor, NJ Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter - Bee A Magician owned by Melvin Hartman, Ottawa, ON – Herb Liverman, Miami Beach – David H McDuffee, Delray Beach, FL Three-Year-Old Colt Trotter - Flanagan Memory owned by Liette Flanagan, Repentigny-Rene Dion, Saint-Lazare, QC Older Trotting Mare - Maven owned by William J. Donovan, Ft Lauderdale, FL Older Trotting Horse - Mister Herbie owned by Jeffrey R Gillis, Hillsburgh – Mac T Nichol, Burlington, ON- Gerald T Stay, Buffalo, NY PEOPLE AWARDS O’Brien Award of Horsemanship Kelly Hoerdt, Beaumont, AB Armstrong Breeder of The Year Seelster Farms, Lucan, ON Driver of The Year Sylvain Filion, Milton, ON Trainer of The Year Richard Moreau, Puslinch, ON Future Star Award Travis Cullen, Edmonton, AB STANDARDBRED CANADA MEDIA EXCELLENCE AWARDS The Media Excellence Awards program, established by Standardbred Canada in 2008, is aimed at honouring exceptional work that covers Canadian harness racing in a manner that is extraordinary and of broad national appeal. Outstanding Written Work Paul Delean ’Reaching Improbable Heights’ 'Reaching Improbable Heights', written by Paul Delean, was published in the December, 2012 issue of Trot Magazine. It tells the story of trotter Intimidate’s incredible journey from obscurity to harness racing’s biggest stage and the ride of a lifetime that two smalltime owners from Quebec are still pinching themselves over. Outstanding Broadcast Woodbine Entertainment Group North America Cup HD Broadcast Woodbine Entertainment Group’s North America Cup broadcast aired across Canada on The Score television network on Saturday, June 26, 2013. The one-hour special of the $1-million North America Cup was the first live high definition broadcast of a standardbred race in Canada. The show featured live race coverage of the main event, a feature on Marvin Katz (co-owner of eventual winner Captaintreacherous) and a profile of a very special racing fan – Sydney Weaver. The broadcast was a production of WEG’s broadcast department, produced by Rob Platts and directed by Kris Platts. Outstanding Photography Clive Cohen Clive Cohen captured the sunset behind trainer Rene Dion warming up Ocean Mist Beauty on September 19, 2013 at Mohawk Racetrack. The image was published on WEG’s Facebook page later that night. Reprinted with permission by www.standardbredcanada.ca
2013 was a dynamic year for super horse Captaintreacherous and his trainer Tony Alagna, winning 13 out of 16 races and bagging over $2,000,000 in purse money. It was truly an unbelievable season that saw the 3 year old son of Somebeachsomewhere travel throughout the continent, winning at Mohawk Racetrack in Canada and at Balmoral Park, Pocono Downs, The Red Mile, Hoosier Park, Tioga Downs and The Meadowlands in the USA. After a well deserved break, the 4-year-old Captaintreacherous returned home to Tony Alagna’s farm at the end of January, in anticipation of a great 2014 season. Will Captaintreacherous, driven by Tim Tetrick, win another $2,000,000 in 2014? That’s tough to predict, but even if Captaintreacherous won half that amount, it would be still be an unbelievable achievement which rarely happens. Captaintreacherous is the Lebron James of horse racing, all they do is win. Trainer Tony Alagna, (Anthony P. Alagna is his full name), has been working with horses his entire life. Tony would help his family after school, on weekends and during the summer when he wasn’t in school. Ever since Tony can remember, his dream was to run his own stable and have a fleet of world class horses. With the wonderful success of 2013, it’s interesting how some in the industry welcome him as a new comer when he’s been here all along. Tony views that opinion as odd and explains, “People view you as you’re an overnight sensation when you’ve been in the business your whole life. My parents trained horses when I was a kid, my mom still trains in Chicago.” “Sometimes people are surprised of the success I’ve had in the last four years on my own…. It’s hasn’t been a four year plan, it’s been a lifetime of work and goals to get to this part.” says Tony. “I like to tell people I’m the oldest new comer around.” Prior to running his own operation, Tony trained horses for other stables for 16 years, including working for Irv Miller and Fox Valley Standardbreds. “It’s been a lifetime of being around the horses and learning to get to the stage I am at now.” Tony admits. When it comes to a horse’s personality, they’re just like humans, each one is unique. Tony says “They’re like kids, each one has their own learning curve”. As to what it was like when Captaintreacherous joined Alagna Stables and how his learning curve was, Tony said “…he’s really an easy horse who makes us look good.” “He’s very schedule orientated” Tony says. “During the racing season he doesn’t get any days off, we jog him every day. He’s very simple, when he’s done he is ready for lunch. For what he likes to do, he is very ritual like. He is what the doctor ordered, as far as we are concerned, being the first great son of Somebeachsomewhere.” Once Tony and the ownership group saw his pedigree, it was love at first sight. “We only looked at the horse because it was the pedigree we loved. Secondly, when we saw the horse, he was the complete package…. He’s a great individual and a great athlete.” Tony says. Once they brought him back to the farm and turned him out Tony admits “…he had a presence about him. It was something special from the get-go. Whenever he stopped, he would look at you. Like he was looking for you and you weren’t looking for him. There is just a special presence with a great horse. We spent a lot of money, with the hope of, if he showed up the possibilities would be endless and we are blessed it turned out that way.” With a well deserved vacation over, it’s time to get back to the fun of racing. For 2014, Captaintreacherous will not be ready to race until June and as for any races Tony and the ownership are looking to enter Captaintreacherous, it is too soon to say. Tony points out what they’re going to do and states, “Like we did last year, we are going to pick and choose our spots. We haven’t marked down any dates; we want to try (and) win major stake races and continue to add to his already strong resume.” Captaintreacherous came back to Alagna stables “much bigger and stronger.” according to Tony. “He really filled out and he’s more mature…. We had to let out his harness, it’s much bigger than last year’s. He’s a very entertaining horse, that’s one of the reasons why we did the stall camera. I told everybody that this horse is very entertaining during the day…. He’s so playful it’s a lot of fun for people to watch. I know some people who cannot believe his antics throughout the day.” As to who can challenge Captaintreacherous this season, there are a few Tony thinks can have a breakout year which should make this year quite intriguing. Tony notes, “There are a lot of great horses coming back this year. Foiled Again is coming back and (trainer) Ron Burke has some great horses coming back, there’s Sweet Lou…. There is plenty of competition, we hope our horse is going to continue to do the work he’s done and do us proud.” Tony is proud of Captaintreacherous and hopes to one day guide the sons and daughters of Captaintreacherous to the same level of success. There is still a lot of racing to do, but Tony being one for charting things out, has already given some thought as to which mares he would like to breed with Captaintreacherous. “My long term goal with this horse is, someday train Captaintreacherous’ sons and daughters out of fillies I have in the barn right now. I don’t feel like we are setting up ourselves for having 2 or 3 years of success, rather hoping we set up ourselves for 10 years of success. We bought fillies last year and bought fillies this year, with Captaintreacherous in mind as the stallion. American Ideal and Western Ideal fillies, we think, will compliment Captaintreacherous with him being from Somebeachsomewhere.” Getting to know Tony was great. Tony considers his entire home to be his man cave! He has everything spread out so it’s all accessible at any time for convenience. Since Tony travels extensively throughout the racing season, his form of unwinding is coming home to relax. He does enjoy going to New York City to watch a show, but other than that Tony considers himself very low key. For fans, Tony wants to help promote the sport and deliver top class entertainment. Tony asserts, “It’s our responsibility as trainers, owners and drivers to do our part to keep the positive flow going. We need to make ourselves more accessible to the fans, I think we need to bring down all the stereo types we have within the industry. There are so many things we need to try do to bring the fans back to the track because there’s more competition… we need to make it family orientated, where it’s a fun night out and not just about gambling.” It’s thanks to people like Tony Alagna, Tim Tetrick, Mike Hamilton and Scott Zeron that fans can continue to enjoy great experiences at the races. by Roderick Balgobin for the Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: @ScSupernova