Peaceful Way: The mare, the stake, the legend

Catching up overseas with the owner of the Hall of Fame trotting mare as the stakes race in her honor is set for Saturday.

by Melissa Keith

On Feb. 27, 2001, a future world champion was foaled in a very Canadian setting. Peaceful Way (4, 1:51.4m; $2,746,240) was “born outside on a pile of snow, unattended,” said breeder Angie Stiller of Arva, ON, in a 2013 interview. “Otherwise she had a great start. Mom was a great mom.”

In August of 2003, the petite daughter of Angus Hall–Royal Bait debuted at the track now known as Woodbine Mohawk Park. In back-to-back qualifiers which would come to define her career, she was headstrong and off-stride on Aug. 8, fast and perfect Aug. 19. Fittingly, Woodbine Mohawk Park’s 2022 Peaceful Way Stakes eliminations are Aug. 20, the final on Aug. 27. The race is the first Canadian Grand Circuit stop of the season for 2-year-old filly trotters. Originally named the Oakville Stakes, it was held at Woodbine Racetrack from 1994-98, relocating to Mohawk in 1999 and renamed in 2008.

Peaceful Way’s maiden victory came in a Sept. 9, 2003 Oakville division for trainer David Tingley and driver Chris Christoforou. It started an eight-race, all-stakes win streak that only ended in her Breeders Crown elimination at The Meadowlands, when the high-speed filly self-destructed. Her Canadian resume still guaranteed Peaceful Way the divisional O’Brien Award.

She came into her own at The Meadowlands in July 2004, a going-away winner for catch driver John Campbell in her Del Miller Memorial elim and final. After prevailing by a head in her Hambletonian Oaks elimination, Peaceful Way jumped it off in the big race, ending up eighth-placed-10th as the beaten favorite. She found redemption at Rideau Carleton Raceway in the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold afterwards, followed by five more Ontario stakes wins and a Breeders Crown elim victory at Woodbine Racetrack. A break in the Breeders Crown final cost her the race, but not a second consecutive O’Brien Award. She had gone undefeated in her Ontario Sires Stakes career.

At age 4, Peaceful Way was teamed up with Trevor Ritchie. On May 24, 2005, the mare won a Mohawk qualifier by over 18 open lengths, a harbinger of the campaign ahead. Together, Ritchie and Peaceful Way won all but one start, the Maple Leaf Trot, in which she broke stride. They captured the Armbro Flight elim and final; Classic Series Distaff elim and final at The Meadowlands; Breeders Crown Open Mare Trot at Mohawk; Allerage Farms Open Mare Trot at The Red Mile; and the American National Open Trot at Balmoral Park, her first win in mixed company. She was voted 2005 Dan Patch and O’Brien Older Trotting Mare of the Year.

Her 2006 comeback did not go exactly as hoped, with a sixth-place finish in her first start of the year, a June 19 Mohawk preferred. But she and Ritchie rebounded with repeat victories in the Armbro Flight elim and final, followed by the Perretti Farms’ Matchmaker distaff free-for-all at The Meadowlands. She avenged her 2005 Maple Leaf Trot defeat in the 2006 edition, opening up by over three lengths in a 1:53.3s home-track tour de force. Peaceful Way would repeat as Dan Patch and O’Brien Older Trotting Mare of the Year.

What was left for the world champion to accomplish? She went winless, aside from qualifiers, in an abbreviated 2007 campaign. A broodmare career beckoned. Her firstborn, Noble Peace Prize (3, 1:57.3f; $75,411), was an embryo transfer filly by Kadabra. As Stiller noted in 2013, ET was used because “it was late in the season and we didn’t want her to have late foals, given her size.”

Coincidentally, the dam of Noble Peace Prize would be exported to the home country of the Nobel Peace Prize a few years later.

Svein Seljord of Slattum, Norway is Peaceful Way’s current owner.

“In August 2013, I received The Black Book from the Standardbred Horse Sales Company… Hip 1361 was Peaceful Way,” he told HRU. “Even in Norway, she was a famous horse. I had seen her videos from racing, and have friends that traveled around in the USA, Canada, just to see her running. My daughter Ingvild, her friend Tina Dale Brauti, and I decided to go to Harrisburg and try to buy her.

“When in Harrisburg we looked over Peaceful Way. My daughter is a veterinarian, and found her perfect-looking and in good shape. On November 8th, 2013 we bought her for $110,000 [US]. We also bought her weanling Forever Peace for $30,000 [US] and took them to Norway, where we live on a farm 20 minutes outside Oslo.”

Peaceful Way’s first Norwegian-born offspring was foaled March 14, 2014, under circumstances reminiscent of her own birth. Seljord’s farm is located at the 60th parallel north. “The winter of 2014, there was much snow and ice, and Peaceful Way was running around with her foal,” he recalled. Credit Winner colt Royal Winner (1:58.1f; $589,261 NOK) would survive and thrive, but Seljord opted to move the pair. “We decided that we could not keep such horses in Norway because of the climate, and as soon as the foal was big enough, we put them on our horse truck and drove them down to Stud Laser… a breeding farm in Fyn, Denmark, 56 degrees north, close to the German border. Here, the horses have perfect facilities and green grass 12 months a year, and the stud is close enough so we can visit her often.”

As on the racetrack, the Canadian and US Hall of Fame mare likes to maintain distance between herself and the rest of the field. “She does not accept all mares, therefore the manager of Laser, Bo Seisbøll, arranges special mares to go with her,” said Seljord. “Peaceful Way is a very special horse. We were told that she was angry and hard to handle, that she had to go alone with her foals…That was not true. First week maybe, but as soon as we got to know her, she behaved perfect.”

This year marks a turning point in the life of the 20-year-old broodmare. Her 2022 foal, an unnamed filly by Maharajah, will be her last.

“She will now retire from breeding, although she is still looking good and in good condition,” said her owner. “Peaceful Way deserves that and will hopefully live many years. She has served us very well and given us 10 horses, all of them perfect-standing, good-looking and fast-running. All her offspring are strongly marked by her… They all have high speed, big hearts and lungs, and love to compete.”

Peaceful Way’s 11 offspring of racing age have won a combined 74 races. Two had careers prematurely ended by accidents.

Before injury, her 2013 Muscle Hill colt Forever Peace (1:54.2; 256,544 NOK) set a Norwegian record for the 2,100-meter distance in his third start at age three. Now standing at Denmark’s Stud Laser, Forever Peace is his dam’s only stallion son. ”We all have great expectations,” said Seljord.

Success continues with two full sisters to Forever Peace.

“One week ago [Aug. 6], Nancy Lou [1:58.1; 359,000 NOK] won the first of the three biggest races for mares and earned $30,000 [US]. Thankful [1:50.4f; 2,604,894 NOK] was 2020 Norwegian champion and still has the Norwegian record for mares at 2,100 meters…the normal distance in Norway.” Peaceful Way’s 2016 Credit Winner filly Lady Ann (1:55.2; 1,811,677 NOK) won the country’s top race for mares in 2019, earning $70,000 (US).

In 2020, Peaceful Way was designated a Norwegian “Elite Mare” for her outstanding production record. “Her legacy in harness racing is extremely strong,” Seljord told HRU. “I still can’t understand why the owners sold her, back in 2013. But thank you very much!”

The legacy continues this Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park.