Overachiever Emmetts Buddy keeps rolling at Woodbine Mohawk Park

The talented Manitoba-bred is proof that good horses can come from anywhere and everyone has a chance.

by Brett Sturman

Picking up close to where he left off last year, the now 5-year-old gelding Emmetts Buddy kicked off this season in April with two wins from three starts in the Woodbine Mohawk Park preferred — one of which came at first asking since December in a time of 1:50.

Emmetts Buddy became a well-known commodity on the Woodbine Mohawk Park circuit last year, and his feel-good story that saw him come from nowhere and ascend through the track’s entire class ladder went so far as to see him recognized as an O’Brien finalist for Older Pacing Horse. His journey, which began in Manitoba, is next to Ontario geographically, but is much farther apart as a harness racing powerhouse.

En route to winning 12 times last year including four of those at the preferred level, Emmetts Buddy became the fastest Manitoba-sired horse ever in 1:50.2, and of course is the only one to have paced a mile in under 1:50, with a career mark that now stands at 1:49.

Emmetts Buddy is a homebred by veteran horseman Arthur Rey out of St Claude, MB, who also owns and previously trained the horse. Named for one of Rey’s grandsons, I don’t know if Emmetts Buddy is a result of happenstance or genius — maybe somewhere in between — but he’s unquestionably the product of Rey’s doing.

Sired by In The Irons, Emmetts Buddy is one of the few horses ever produced by the stallion who was owned by Rey. In the small number that the stallion produced for Rey, Emmetts Buddy is obviously the fastest, but there were a couple others that went in 1:55 in a small window between what looks to be the years 2018-20, with three including Emmetts Buddy actively still racing.

“Unfortunately, In The Irons died shortly after we had him,” said Rey. “I found him dead in the pasture one morning. We were very sad and disappointed when that happened. We only had him for a couple of years, and apparently, he was quite the racehorse himself.”

Indeed, In The Irons was just that. An Ontario star himself in the mid-2000s, he ended up with career earnings over $500,000 and raced into 2016.

On the dam’s side, Emmetts Buddy is out of the Shark Gesture mare Logicallyinclined, a horse that Rey bought as a yearling for $4,000 and campaigned back in 2010. Logicallyinclined has had success as a producer and is also a half-sister to Physicallyinclined, an Ontario Sires Stakes performer with earnings of over $660,000 and a mark of 1:49 taken as a 3-year-old. So, the breeding on Emmetts Buddy isn’t as obscure as maybe one would think.

Emmetts Buddy didn’t first qualify until July of his 3-year-old year, but as Rey explains it, that is customary where he comes from.

“As a 2-year-old, I don’t usually do much with them,” said Rey. “I train them down a little bit but I don’t do much because of the climate and our long winters. So, I usually just train them down a little as 2-year-olds and then I will pick them back up as a 3-year-old.”

It was then that Rey first saw real potential in Emmetts Buddy. After beginning his career three-for-three while racing at the rural Miami Fair track, a month later Emmetts Buddy won the province’s signature event, the Manitoba Great Western stake.

“In that race, he somehow got parked until just about the three-quarter pole when he finally took the lead and kept it, and won the race,” said Rey. “So, I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is something a bit special.’ But at the same time, he was having issues as a 3-year-old and trouble on the turns and had to have the vet treat him, and of course all we have here are half-mile tracks. Even at the bigger track [Woodbine Mohawk Park] when we first had him there his first few starts if I can recall, he broke two different times leaving into that first turn.”

In September of his 3-year-old season Emmetts Buddy was sent to the barn of Michael Kwietniowski, where he has remained and flourished since. But around the same time that he was shipped there, Rey, remarkably looking back at it now, had Emmetts Buddy up for sale.

“I had him listed on onGait,” said Rey. “I was asking $20,000 USD but I didn’t get one bite, which now is lucky.”

From there, the rest is history. Trained by Kwietniowski and driven almost exclusively by the emerging Tyler Borth since last July, Emmetts Buddy has continued to mow them down at every level in his off-the-pace preference, many of which have come in dramatic fashion.

Said Rey, “Michael [Kwietniowski] says that he always gives everything he’s got and he’s certainly a good closer, which is probably why he’s so thrilling to watch. And I really like the way that Tyler drives him. As soon as he picked him up you could see that he got along really well with him.”

In the months ahead, Rey notes that Emmetts Buddy isn’t currently staked for anything, so they’ll take it as it comes. If anything comes up that he fits, they would race him in it. To date, Emmetts Buddy hasn’t been able to figure out the legitimate free-for-all horse Taurasi, but he’s been close.

Rey continues to race horses from across the talent spectrum, which includes a recent $10,000 claim of the mare Betchuloveme out of Woodbine Mohawk Park, that Rey intends to race at The Loop, a recently opened venue at Red River Exhibition Park in Winnipeg.

The success of Emmetts Buddy is a success not only for Rey, but for harness racing.

“In a way, what I really like about Emmetts Buddy is where he comes from,” said Rey. “Our sport really is for everybody, where really everybody has a chance at it. We saw that with Desperate Man as well. We don’t have to spend $200,000 for a yearling. Any one you’ve got can happen to be a good horse.”