Snow and info abound at Northside Downs
By Shane Ryan
Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
It’s good advice to follow, especially if you don’t want to find yourself at the track in the middle of a snowstorm; however, my procrastination in writing this month’s column found me last Sunday morning venturing out in the midst of our biggest snowstorm of the season in search of the latest news from Northside Downs. Luckily for me horses don’t feed themselves or muck their own stalls; so, on my journey I found a few horsemen willing to share some information about the two-year-olds in training for the upcoming season.
Trainer-driver Warren MacKinnon (who I find personable even when he sports his Montreal Canadiens toque) stopped to talk shop about his stable, which this year includes 10 horses. He’s training six two-year-olds, one he co-owns with Jesse Pearson and the rest are spread out among four different owners including Arthur “Moose” Mercer, Gordie Wilkie, Tommy MacLennan and Albert Curran. He likes all the two-year-olds of course, but early on he’s highest on an Art Official colt, Makes Me Stupid, owned by Moose Mercer.
“He’s been going along well and has been on the track training a bit with Dave Ratchford’s Tara Artiste filly, who also looks really good.” Warren’s not the only one at the Downs who has commented on Ratchford’s filly, so she will also be another one to watch as the springtime approaches.
Warren tells me that he will be moving three in his stable over to Sydney to train at Tartan Downs this week, as he plans on bringing some aged horses back to the track that have been turned out for awhile. Despite the grandstand at Tartan Downs being demolished late last year, the track itself is still used for training by a number of horsemen who continue to stable horses there.
The snow and wind didn’t keep Sonny Rankin at home Sunday morning either. With the addition in the stable of a two-year-old half-sister to the stakes-winning Carol Alice, Sonny has two prepping for the upcoming season. His N Xample two-year-old filly is small in stature, but so is Carol Alice. And we all know what happened when that little chestnut went behind the gate in 2012. Sonny estimated that there are approximately 20 two-year-olds learning the ropes on the grounds currently, including those trained by Lee Collins, the Hawco Stable, Dave Ratchford, the Snow Stable, the Camilli Stable and Angus Mackenzie. (Please accept my apologies if I’ve missed anyone.) The storm on the weekend, however, gave them all a few days rest. (See my Gerry Snow Stable photo for proof!)
Despite the weather, winter training has been going well, and I am told that Wayne McGean’s maintenance work on the track is the main reason. Wayne is another horseman training some youngsters. I believe he has both a colt and a filly currently in his barn.
It was a brutally cold week outside, but inside my heart was warmed for a few moments this week in remembering the late Norm Fiander Sr., who passed away February 2. His son, Norm, and his wife, Shirley, both recounted how much Norm Sr. enjoyed the track, and how delighted he was, despite being in ill health, to be trackside for the winning photo when his son won with Andro Peanut last year.
“He told me to try a little bit harder that day,” Norm said. “And I almost got beat at the wire but we hung on.”
Shirley told me that when he was in the hospital last summer they were able to hook up the livestream of the Northside races and he was very happy to hear that we were thinking of him when we mentioned that he was watching online from his hospital bed. To know that it meant a lot to him means a lot to me, even though I never really knew Norm Sr. personally. You never know that when you do something for someone, even though it may be just a small gesture, that it may mean a lot to someone else. My condolences go to the Fiander family and Norm’s friends at the track. He was always there to help out horsemen when they needed him over the years.
There will be a Horseowner’s Association meeting coming in the next few weeks to decide on ratifying a new contract. I’ll give you the update of that meeting in the next issue.
Our annual Association Banquet is set for April 27 at the Horizon Achievement Centre in Sydney, at the same location as last year. Some recent race date changes have our season set to begin on May 11 and run through until October 26. The Atlantic Sires Stakes schedule includes the three-year-old colts on July 6, followed by the three-year-old fillies July 20, and the two-year-old colts and fillies together on September 21. And last, but not least, I have to go now and find 67 candles for one of my railbird informants, my dad Leo Ryan, who celebrates his birthday on February 12. Until next time, good luck and good shovelling!