Day At The Track

Larry & Marilyn Hall: two of the best!

09:54 PM 16 Jul 2009 NZST
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Larry and Marilyn Hall & Sauble Jackson
Larry and Marilyn Hall & Sauble Jackson
Robet Leatham photo

Sauble Hill Farms. Ever hear of it? I didn't think so. It's a picturesque property nestled along the mighty Saugeen River in the Municipality of Chatsworth, in Grey County, in Mid-Western Ontario, Canada.

Merely a major league ball players toss to second base, from Keady Ontario, population 200, except for Tuesdays, from mid May till the end of September, where as many as 10,000 people will invade the tiny little hamlet, in search of fresh fruit and vegetables at the Keady Market and Livestock Exchange, where anything from a fastball sized alley or shooters marble to a handcrafted Taiwanese carrying basket, made from wild grasses grown and weaved in the wet Tiatung Country, to a 1500 pound Black Angus steer Bruce County bred and raised ready for slaughter can be purchased at the movement of a hand or the nod of a head or the opening of ones wallet.

A place where the word barter or ones ability to negotiate or haggle, separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. 

Off to the west of Sauble Hill Farms, splashes the shoreline of Lake Huron. One of the five Great Lakes that surround this mighty province of ours, them being, the largest source of fresh water in the entire world, naturally, is a drawing card for anyone nowadays, with the ever present urban sprawl, ever pushing the boundaries of our major cities, where our sports beloved racetracks do business and our Mega Corporations create the hustle and bustle of the mainstream lifestyle, that we as a population are so becoming used to, while at the same time crave that little adventure, that outing into the countryside mid-week which keeps most of us grounded and in touch with or provinces heritage, culture and natural beauty. 

Right in the middle of this fresh air, cool clear water and none existent pollution, sits Sauble Hill Farms a treasure like land to bask in the sunshine and just relax and enjoy life and let a cool breeze take you away.

Sauble Hill Farms, belongs to the Hall family, namely Larry and Marilyn. Larry's family has owned the property for over 160 years, well beyond a century and a half and as expected it has seen many a transformation over that time period but I can't imagine one being as rustic or tranquil or as useful as the way it's laid out right now.

Oh don't get me wrong. It's not some modern giant of a training center or breeding establishment that has been recently erected because of the influx of slots cash into the racing atmosphere here in Ontario.

No this place, this farm, this one man training center is more like a horseman's hunt camp, where things that were once used for one thing or another have either been replaced or retooled to meet the needs of the 60 yr old trainer and his tele-theater owning wife, Marilyn and their 5 broodmares and their six horses in training which sometimes swells to ten come the fall of the year when their yearlings are brought in or are purchased at sales from across the continent.

"My grandfather's father, cleared this land a hundred and sixty years ago, I grew up here. " Larry proudly mentions. "It was strictly a beef operation for a long time but we've changed the bank barn over into broodmare stalls and we don't bother as much with the cattle, although we still raise our own beef to sell at the tele-theater in Tara, in at Sulky Sam's. We like to let our customers know they are eating the good stuff when they sit down to a prim-rib steak dinner and it's paid off too.

People like that sort of thing nowadays, the consumer is more aware of what they're consuming and want a pristine product on the plate, antibiotic and hormone free, grown on corn, barley and hay."

Two houses grace the frontage of the property, one a red bricked story and a half, older dwelling, set amongst enormous maple sugar trees and beautiful perennial flower beds, the other a new bungalow with all the modern comforts of home, the grounds a work in progress but well on the way to spectacular, with paved driveways leading to both.

A 16' high, steel structured driving shed 60 x 100 feet, with a free flow air system, has been converted into a six stall barn with an indoor hooking area of 20 x 35, an office, wash rack, feed room, hay and straw storage area with tones of room for everything, the self dependant trainer needs to survive out in the wilds of Grey-Bruce in mid Dec. when the north east winds pick up off the Great Lakes and starts to howl and blow down upon you with the cold arctic air form the north.

That, along with a refurbished bank barn and a half mile stone dust training track with a 25 foot surface can be viewed from the road as you drive past.

"We built a new house 5 yrs ago and we rent out the farms original farm house. Granma (Marilyn) wanted one (a new house), it's just the right size for the two of us old fogies about 1200 square feet. You have to keep going forward in life. Time waits on no one." The OHHA district 9 Director said with a smile.

"Look at my old horse Sauble Jackson, he's been a great horse his whole life and know one wants him now. I could put him in for 5000 and win every time, literally steal the purse money and no one will take him. Cheap claimers are a thing of the past in Ontario." Surprisingly this seems to be the situation as far as Sauble Jackson is concerned.

The homebred bay son of Northern Luck off Halls homebred mare Sauble Evelyn by Devons Prince, bounded onto the racing seen back in June of 2003 quickly ringing up $119,742. in his first 52 days of racing, taking a speed mark of 1.55 his third lifetime start for then trainer Duane Marfisi.

"Uncle Jack." as he is affectionately referred to around the Hall stable, " Should have made another 150 thousand dollars that year. I had him sharp, ready for the Battle of Waterloo and he got sick and then after we got him right, he got sick again in the fall, just as the big stakes down at Mohawk where starting, so we quit with him." Hall digressed. " Man the phone was ringing off the hook after we baby raced him at Mohawk.

"That's how he ended up in the Marfisi stable, an offer was made to purchase him with Duane training, being part of the deal so we sent him down there for Dewey to race. Then he didn't vet out, so the deal was off and we just left him there for Duane to race him. I'll tell ya, you'll have to go a long way to get a better trainer than Duane Marfisi. The man is as professional and efficient as they come. The guy really has his finger on the pulse of the stakes racing seen here in Canada and the US. Great guy, great trainer."

Sauble Jackson would have 3 more starts as a two year old picking up another second place finish in an OSS race at Mohawk pacing in 1:55.4 collecting $8,189 for the effort. But as we so often see happen with a red hot two year old, Sauble Jackson's three year old season was nothing to brag about, although he did take a speed mark of 1:52 over Sarnia's Hiawatha Downs in the Clearwater Stakes, for new connections Otis Hall and at the time rookie driver Jody Jamieson, he would only see 12 starts over his entire 3 yr old season with meager earnings of $39,291 deposited in the bank.

Over the course of the next 3 years Sauble Jackson would slug it out in the preferred ranks and upper end condition races across the B circuit tracks here in Ontario eventually ending up in a claimer at Woodstock Raceway by July 10/07 where he was entered in a optional 20,000. claimer where he jogged to the winners circle for driver Trevor Henry and trainer Otis Hall in a snappy 1:56.4.

It seems the stroke of brilliants was a mere flash in the pan because Sauble Jackson would end the year in for a $13,000. claming ticket, finishing a beaten 7th by 23 lengths.

After a much needed rest Uncle Jack came back to race the following May, 18 /08 in a 9000 claimer at Georgian Downs and would flounder around making little if any money at all until he was dropped in for the rock bottom price of 5000 dollars by Larry at his hometown track in Hanover Ontario, Hanover Raceway.

"It hurt me to do it. But you've got to race them where they'll do. If someone wants him, step up to the plate boys." Hall stated emphatically.

Sauble Jackson would relish with the class relief finishing second and then returning 2 weeks later to air in 2:00 over the half mile oval before going on to rack up another 14 wins in the same class over the next 13 months with a winter vacation schedule, fit for a king, that lasted from Dec, 08 to April, 09.

auble Jackson has become the hometown hero and when he's into race local people, his fans, Joe Q Public come to Hanover to watch the home town horse kick some butt. They all know Larry and Marilyn Hall.

Larry a respected local business operator for 30 years and Marilyn a Hydro worker for the Ontario Government at Bruce Nuclear in Tiverton, Ontario, for the past 25 years, have managed to reinvent themselves, stepping into their silver years in life, the one, a full time horse trainer and part time OHHA Director, the other a restaurant and tele-theater owner, operator, in Tara, Ontario where she calls Sulky Sam's her home most evenings.

Both Larry and Marilyn work tirelessly, trying to make Standardbred horse racing in Ontario a better and more enjoyable and accessible product.

This fun loving, aging couple are two of the industries hardest working advocates for the spot. One looking after the associates he represents in District 9 as Director for the Ontario Harness Horse Association, while his better half brings the Ontario racing product to the fore front of our local community in her nostalgically decorated tele-theater, Sulky Sam's.

Definitely two Of Harness Racings Best people.

@
Robert LEATHAM

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