by Garnet Barnsdale
Harness racing’s war horses were in the news all week and the accomplishments of these soon-to-be-retired veterans kept social media buzzing.
The fun started at The Raceway at Western Fair in London, ON on Tuesday (Dec. 7) in the weekly “Seniors Pace”, a race for 14-year-olds that is also open to 11-year-olds and up who meet specified conditions. This edition of the Seniors Pace featured three 14-year-olds all competing in their last month of racing, and two of them flashed home down the outside in the lane to photo for the win.
At the wire, it was Lawmen Reign, who got up for owner/trainer/driver Ross Battin over Ciona Bromach for the 1:59.4 score. Thirteen-year-old Stonebridge Scout was along late to round out the veterans Trifecta. Lawmen Reign won for the 39th time in 330 starts in a career that began at The Raceway in February of 2010 with a nondescript fourth-place finish in a maiden race. Never once racing for a claiming tag, the son of Rambaran out of the Run The Table mare Tiger Reigns has finished in the money 136 times – quite often at the highest class on the B tracks – and he has earned more than $276,000 for Battin, who recently recorded his 5,000th win in a driving career that has spanned more than 40 years.
Ciona Bromach is no stranger to the B tracks, either. Bred, owned, and trained for his entire racing career by Debbie Obrienmoran, and he has compiled 21 wins and 54 other placings in his 327 starts, good for a shade more than $240,000 in earnings.
Obrienmoran said that she appreciates the opportunity to race Ciona Bromach in the races written specifically for senior horses. “I think they are fantastic,” she said. Obrienmoran said that she is glad that The Raceway cards the Senior races on Tuesdays because she works at Mohawk Park which is a dark day later in the year. “Ciona is a bit of a goofball, and he hasn’t been raced or even paddocked by anyone other than me, nor will he be” she explained of her need to be there in race nights. She added that she thinks the Senior races are a great promotion to encourage people to keep racing older horses. “It’s a little easier on them than racing them against younger horses.
Obrienmoran says she plans on making Ciona Bromach into a riding horse, or possibly a parade marshall horse, but not before he competes for one final time in the Seniors Pace on New Years Eve which falls on a Friday. “I got the night off at Mohawk Park,” the conditioner smiled.
Tony Elliot, who is in his initial year as raceway manager of the half-mile oval, said that The Raceway at Western Fair followed in the footsteps of another B track carding the Seniors races. “The Clinton Race Office introduced the idea of the Seniors Pace in the last couple years,” he said. “The goal of the class was to provide an opportunity each week for 14-year-olds to race as they would retire on December 31st. It is a fantastic way to showcase the classy older horses that race at our track and the class is very competitive each week.”
Elliot said he thinks the races are popular. “I think it’s been very well received overall. Horsemen are happy with the opportunity to have a class to race their 14-year-olds in each week and add some money to their card before they retire,” he said. “Bettors and fans seem to really enjoy the Seniors Paces and show their strong support through the betting windows.”
Flash forward one night and head to western Canada where 15-year-old Best Dream Seeker was beating his juniors in a $4,500 claiming pace at Fraser Downs, leading all the way and winning by a head in 1:58.2. Horses are typically required to retire at the end of their 15-year-old season in B.C. unless they have special permission to race beyond that milestone. Horses as old as 16 have won as recently as three years ago as chronicled by yours truly in this piece for HRU (full story here).
Best Dream Seeker – a Cambest gelding out of the Western Hanover mare Dream Seeker – won for the 46th time in a distinguished career spanning 466 races. He took a mark of 1:51.4 in a division of the Bluegrass stakes at Lexington at 2 in his seventh start in August of 2008, a time when a 1:51 and change mile paced by a rookie was huge. He has grinded out $499,880 in earnings. You’d have to think this warhorse, who compiled a record of 9-8-7 from 41 starts for earnings just shy of $27,000 in 2020, will be raced at least once more to reach the $500K earnings milestone.
Completing a stellar week for senior horses was another 14-year-old who has been a win machine in 2021. Dream Out Loud N, a Bettors Delight gelding out of the In The Pocket mare Nothingbutadreamer, was tallying his sixth straight win by wiring a group of $10,000 claiming foes in a sharp 1:52.2 mile. That was Dream Out Loud’s 18th win in 2021 which tied him for the most wins in North America. The millionaire also has taken eight 2nds and one 3rd while adding more than $74,000 to his bankroll for owners Tina A Porfilio and Marcus J Marashian of Pennsylvania. He has compiled an outstanding record of 68-60-43 from 294 starts.
All of these terrific older horses give us old guys renewed hope.