Bud Sinclair relishing his racing revival

The veteran trainer that once conditioned top Ontario Sires Stakes horses nearly gave up the horse game last summer. Now he’s caring for some 20 horses with the help of young sons Quinn and Brody.

by Sandra Snyder

Last summer, Bud Sinclair wondered whether his time as a full-time horse trainer was coming to an end. He was getting more calls to build decks and sheds than he was to take on new horses to train.

“Last summer, we were down a lot. (My wife) Lindsey was working at Cavalier, with equestrian products. I built some decks, built a couple sheds for people, did some fencing and we redid our whole house,” said Sinclair. “I was looking into maybe just doing minimal horses and going full-time myself doing handyman work, because I had a lot of work. Horses are always number one, but it was one of those things where you lose some good owners and it was, do you keep going or no?”

Sinclair learned the business alongside his grandfather, Harold “Bud” Eyre, and when he hung out his own shingle two decades ago he focussed on developing young horses for the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program for owners such as his grandfather and Dr. Norman Amos, who co-owned the great Odies Fame.

“My parents have pictures of me when I was months old in the winner’s circle and once I was old enough, same as my kids ages now, he had horses up in Clinton, so I’d go up on the weekends, or in the summertime I’d spend weeks at their place and train horses. Then, as soon as I was old enough, he quit and then I trained for him and then picked up some good owners,” said Sinclair of his introduction to the business. “I had Doc Amos and we had a lot of really nice horses together — Witness To Fame, Diamonds Any Size and Underground King, a lot of good horses — and grandpa always had some horses with me, and we had some other owners and had a lot of success. When Doc passed away (in 2000), we had two or three guys that were really good owners that passed away in two years, and then it was sort of a rebuild.”

Bud and Lindsey bred a few of the mares they had co-owned with Amos and raced the resulting offspring, but in the last decade, their participation on the provincial stakes circuit dwindled down to a handful of starts each year.

Things started to pick up a bit last fall when four of the couple’s homebreds made their debut and looked like they would make capable racehorses. This spring, they added a few more horses to their care when John Lamers sold his farm in Ingersoll and asked the Sinclairs to board two mares and their foals, including the $2.5 million winner Dreamfair Eternal, and a couple of yearlings. While Lindsey continues to work at Cavalier Equestrian in their hometown of Stratford, ON, Sinclair has turned down most of the building work he has been offered this summer.

“I had about three or four jobs that I turned down this year. Between broodmares and foals and yearlings and racehorses, by the end of next month we’re going to have 21 horses again, so we’re sort of full, which is good,” said the trainer. “We want to expand the horse side again, it’s just doing it the right way, having young horses with talent. I like the young horses, just prepping them to become something; we’ve always done good with that, so that’s the idea.”

One of the things that allowed the Sinclairs to take on additional horses this spring was the school closures caused by COVID-19. Freed from their classrooms, sons Quinn, 13, and Brody, 11, were at the barn every day.

“The amount of work they do is crazy. They do all the stalls every morning, and dump water buckets, and set feed, and bathe all the horses, and harness, and they’re jogging some themselves and arguing over who the best horse is,” said Sinclair with a chuckle. “They’re making lots of money because they get money every week and then they get a percentage of Quinsfriskywhiskey for what he makes, so it’s just a matter of them keeping it. Quinn doesn’t spend his money and Brody buys absolutely everything.

“They do as much as most adults do with the horses, they just don’t get to go to the races and watch now, which sucks, but hopefully we’re not too far off them going again. They’ve been going to Clinton, they just go up to the blue barn there and watch. It sort of sucked because (Quinsfriskywhiskey) won the last two and you can hear them screaming, but they can’t go get their picture taken.”

Quinsfriskywhiskey, a Shadow Play colt out of Witness To Fame’s daughter Gramps Girly, got his first lifetime win on June 14 at Clinton with a 1:59.2 effort and followed up with a 2:00.4 victory on June 21. The colt’s nursery mates Witnessintheshadow (Shadow Play–Witness To Fame), Steely Dawn (Badlands Hanover–Panama Seelster) and Chili N Toast (Angus Hall–Paradox Image) have not yet found the winner’s circle, but Sinclair says they have all shown flashes of ability.

“The one day (June 6) we had four in Hanover, all homebreds that run together their whole life. It was a pretty noisy place,” said Sinclair. “We’re in Clinton and Hanover, not Mohawk, but it’s a starting point. Even the ones that are finishing fourth and fifth, they’re racing well for post positions, they’re doing their job and learning to be racehorses and it looks like there’s some potential down the road with them.”

Potential down the road is Sinclair’s overriding goal. He has always preferred to start horses at the smaller ovals like Clinton and Hanover, believing that teaching a horse to win is more important than competing for large purses.

“It’s not really about the money, it’s about teaching them to be horses, to make money down the road, and the owners I have are really good that way. They’re not making big money racing in Clinton and Hanover, but if we teach them right the money will come, where if you go the wrong way too fast too soon, you don’t ever get it,” Sinclair said. “My owners, they want to have a horse they can watch race and enjoy, not just a flash in the pan. So that’s what we sort of focus on, keep them healthy and sound, keep the vet bills down and not hurt them, so they can have that future ahead of them.”

If the 12 horses Sinclair currently has in training continue to make progress and school starts back up again in September, he may even find himself in need of some outside help, something he could not envision when he was swinging a hammer last summer and pondering his future in the business. This year has been full of ups and downs for people from all industries, but one thing that has become clear to Sinclair is that he would like to offer his sons the same ability to pursue their passion for harness racing as his grandfather gave him.

“In the last eight years it’s been a big change between going from having top Sires Stakes horses to ordinary horses, to rebuilding, to contemplating getting out, to just having a couple horses, to back busy with the horses again,” the horseman said. “I have the construction stuff to fall back on if it doesn’t work again, but the kids love the horses so much, that’s the thing. They’re animal lovers, with the horses, cats, dogs, they want to buy goats, they want to buy ducks, everything, they’re crazy with the animals, so I’d rather do the horses just because they love it so much.”