Trainor the Trainer Nabs Mark Ford for Awards Show by 35HFP4XV


									      Trainor the Trainer Nabs Mark Ford for Awards Show?



                                  Hal Hennessey

  It’s not official yet, but my sources tell me that popular PEI horseman Darren Trainor
has pulled off quite a coup. Word is that he has secured the services of top US trainer
Mark Ford, as the guest speaker for the annual Prince Edward Island Standardbred Horse
Owners Association awards banquet. It’s scheduled for April 14 and no doubt, once
Ford’s presence is confirmed, a sell-out is guaranteed. I’m told a substantial bribe is
involved that features lobster. It’s certainly not surprising that Trainor would be able to
convince the one time USTA Trainer of the Year to attend. They have been friends and
business associates going back to the days when the Mike MacDonald Stable was racing
at the NY/NJ tracks. Ford since then has gone on to fame and fortune, as the trainer of
equine stars like Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip, Whosurboy, Turnpike Token,
Stonebridge Kisses, On The Attack and the double-gaited world champion Six Day War.
He’s the winner of over $50 million dollars in purses and usually has in training a stable
of fifty horses or more, with a staff of 20. He also operates the Mark Ford Training
Center, a $7 million dollar state-of-the-art facility in Middleton NY, that houses some
200 plus race horses. And trust me on this, if you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a
visit. Mark Ford’s presence at the PEISHOA affair will be quite a feather in its cap and
for PEI Harness Racing in general. Kudos to Trainor the Trainer for making it happen.
   I’ve been wanting to write a piece about PEI’s Matinee Race Track program all winter.
Space doesn’t always allow me to give them the coverage they deserve, yet I believe they
are vital to Island racing and it’s long history as the Kentucky of Canada. Matinee racing
is after all where it often begins. BTW for more on the history, I suggest you visit Hughie
Graham at the Montague Museum. It’s well worth your time to view his collection on the
subject. Now about the Matinee Program; successive provincial governments, have been
very supportive of the tracks at Alberton, Pinette, O’Leary, Tyne Valley and Kensington.
This has resulted in not only assistance for participants, but also for facility improvements
in those communities. As well, in what began as a one year federal/provincial Matinee
Racetracks Development Project, has now continued with the help of the Prince Edward
Island Harness Racing Industry Association. A few years ago Susan Whelan was hired to
guide the initial project and she continues to direct affairs on a part-time basis. Sue, a now
retired long-time employee of Standardbred Canada, has brought experience and stability
to an ever expanding & improving Matinee program. One that is unique in Canada. Some
of it’s features include; the Challenge Series races staged at the tracks through the
summer, culminating in the Championship Finals hosted by ‘Summerside Raceway’ in
September. There’s the great program run by Lynda MacSwain with the 4 H Clubs on
PEI. It allows them to take a colt from a breeder and prep it for sale and have a portion of
the proceeds donated to their club. As well, a co-operative project with the Maritime
Provinces Harness Racing Commission and Standardbred Canada, helps budding drivers
to obtain points for their licenses at the matinee tracks. This is a real boon to the younger
folks, who have a difficult time getting enough qualifying drives at the pari-mutual
venues. A number of our current stars have come from the Matinee tracks and no doubt
more are on the horizon. Susan also inaugurated the popular harness racing summer
camps on her watch and began the Owner For A Day program, now operated by Lee
Drake out of the ‘Charlottetown Driving Park. The most important aspect though is ‘the
back to the roots’ appeal of fun racing in rural communities and it’s attraction to fans and
participants of all ages. It provides an up close and personal experience of the sport,
allows older horses who are able, to continue racing and makes an important contribution
to the ‘greening’ of PEI. The matinee tracks are also a great tourist attraction as visitors,
along with the local folks, love the non-professional aspect of the show and the no
betting, no whipping, no pressure, low-key pleasures of amateur harness racing.

GC&S winning trainer Dean Nixon drives Coors Life to the win at Pinette Raceway.

  As I said, I think the Matinee Tracks Program is tremendously important to PEI’s
coming generation of fans and horsemen/women and as well as to our history and
traditions. For example, let me tell you a bit about the Noyes Family and Coors Life.
Coors is no world beater, but he’s a warhorse that Jay, Mary Jean and their children have
owned for about 5 years. He’s 11 now, but still brings it to the track everyday. The
Noyes not only race the old fellow at Charlottetown and Summerside, but also at the
matinee tracks. In fact, elsewhere on this page you’ll see 2011 Gold Cup & Saucer
winning trainer Dean Nixon driving Coors Life at Pinette. The horse is a fan favourite on
PEI, although he may never win an award. The folks love him, having watched him race
all over the Island. He and his owners exemplify what’s so great about the Matinee
Tracks Program. It’s family and fan-friendly, easy-going, fun and it draws in participants
from every level of the Harness Racing world. What could be better than that? So do
yourself a favour and make sure you take in some Matinee racing this year.
One final note; Sue Whelan tells me the Matinee Track Program is always on a limited
budget. Perhaps you can help via some advertising on their website For further info email Sue at, or call her at 902-894-6511.
Horses for Courses:
  Last week began with Vernon Bridge’s Sean MacSwain getting a win with Skippy in
2:00.3 at Western Fair. Robert Shepherd drove. Also at the London track, Dave Dowling
had a win with First Rate Shark in 1:57.3. Dave O’Brien owns and trains for himself and
partner Anne O’Keefe. I also noticed Jonathan MacKinnon has old Copperfield G racing
well. James MacDonald has driven him in a couple of starts and had a win last week at
Flamboro. The mile was in 1:59.1. It was the same time as well for the Bill Andrew
owned Charming Guy. He won again for the second week in a row. So did Wally
Hennessey at Pompano with his latest acquisition Eye Witness Account. She led the field
to the wire in 1:53.3 at the Florida track. And Ian Smith had a nice one Saturday night at
the Meadowlands. His Heart Of Rocknroll was a winner in 1:50.2.
  And finally best wishes for a speedy recovery to Gary Poulton. ‘Scribes’ had an
operation recently on that foot that’s been bothering him so long. Hopefully this time it
all works out and he’s back to being 100% very soon.

To top