Feature Stories

The ultimate experience for any writer is to see their work in print. I've been fortunate to be published in Down The Stretch, The Saratogian, Bloodhorse.Com and TROT Magazine to name a few.

However, sometimes the stories you like the most are ones that simply do not lend themselves to the world of "proper" journalism. Over the past few years I've posted several items on this blog that I feel are worthy of a second look as being a bit more informative/interesting than the standard blog post listing a smidgen of current news in passing.

Of note, I've interviewed Steve Asmussen, Ian Black, Chantal Sutherland and Richard Migliore.

There's also quite a few pieces on the charitable work of Alex Brown, LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society and the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society.

There are even a few short stories and vignettes of racing fiction.

Cool features about Emma-Jayne Wilson adopting a horse; Julia Brimo recovering from injury; or the whereabouts of former Woodbine legends Benburb and Thornfield deserve a spot of prominence where readers can readily click and view. The thought of these pieces being buried in the Blogger archives was inspiration enough for me to launch this new section entitled Features.


Trainer Profile: Steven Chircop and the Rise of Omnisurface Star Kara's Orientation September 23, 2010
At the age of 26, Woodbine-based conditioner Steven Chircop sure has a wealth of racing experience.
“I started coming to the backstretch when I was nine and I got my first hot walker’s license when I was twelve. It’s been awhile, you know,” grinned Chircop as we chatted outside Barn 35 on the Woodbine backstretch.

Ex-NHL Goalie Curtis Joseph Hopes to Score in the $500K Woodbine Oaks June 10, 2010
Most athletes will tell you that consistency is the key to success.
The partnership of former NHL goalkeeper Curtis Joseph, agent Don Meehan and conditioner Sue Leslie represent a model of consistency with 25 wins and 89 top-three finishes from 196 career starts. The trio has set a high standard for themselves and going into Sunday’s Budweiser Woodbine Oaks, they are hoping their Moment of Majesty will raise the bar to another level.

The Ish on Carolyn Costigan, Twitter and the Training of Roan Inish May 27, 2010
Carolyn Costigan, conditioner of Woodbine Oaks contender Roan Inish, is a certified student of the training game.
As a graduate of the Darley Flying Start Program, Costigan travelled the world while learning the business under the tutelage of such well-regarded horsemen as Kiaran McLaughlin in New York, Lee Freedman in Australia and Mike de Kock in Dubai.

He Looked Like A Hank Williams Song: Big Fun With Jambalaya November 27, 2009
"He looked like a Hank Williams song," exclaimed Todd Phillips, when asked recently how the 2007 Arlington Million winner Jamablaya got his name.
This interview with trainer Catherine Day-Phillips and her husband Todd relives the purchase of the tough turfer who overcame the odds to win one of the biggest races in North America.

The Remarkable Climb of Bogue Chitto November 19, 2009
Bogue Chitto spent his two-year-old campaign on the sidelines due to tendon issues and the following season was sent to the barn of Woodbine trainer Ian Howard only to have the tendon issue resurface.
After a year-long layoff, Bogue Chitto finally made it to the post last November 7th finishing third while racing for a $37,500 tag at six furlongs.

Interview: A Chance Encounter With Steve Asmussen September 16, 2009
I had been a part of the media throng that chased the super filly and her connections across Saratoga just four days earlier following Rachel Alexandra's stunning win in the Woodward. It was refresing to catch the conditioner in a quiet moment.

Talkin' Horses With Ian Black At Kinghaven Farms March 18, 2009
Black on his trip to Japan with Rahy's Attorney:
"It was incredible. Sixty thousand people at the track all giving the slow hand clap as they load into the gate, getting impatient. When i looked down from where we were sitting, we were fairly high up, they (the fans) had all come out on the apron. It was amazing. We were over at the barn the night before at six o'clock and there were people sleeping outside the gates to get in the next day."

Turf Sprint Explained - Interview With The Mig At The Big A! November 24, 2008
If there was one race that perplexed handicappers at this year's Breeders' Cup, it was the sensational ride by Richard Migliore on 37-1 long shot Desert Code. Here was a horse that, on paper, needed the lead and would surely sprint himself out of contention against a high class field which included Fleeting Spirit, Diabolical and Get Funky. In this interview, The Mig explains the ride...


"Good Love To Everybody" - Woodbine Jockey Steps Up For LongRun September 12, 2010
“Eu adoro-te,” coos Woodbine’s leading rider Eurico Rosa da Silva as he stands nose-to-nose with ex-Woodbine racer Seven on Friday. The Brazilian-born jock’s face is the picture of happiness and as he feeds peppermints to one of two retired horses he sponsors on behalf of LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society he continues to whisper sweet nothings in his native tongue.

long, Snoopy: Remembering With Approval August 13, 2010
With Approval was known to the racing public as the “Cardiac Kid” due to his trademark thrilling finishes - including four victories in his three-year-old campaign by a head or less - but the galloping grey was known to those that knew him best as “Snoopy”.

“He was always a very inquisitive horse and he'd love to stare around all the time and that's how he got the nickname ‘Snoopy’,” recalled conditioner Roger Attfield.

The Hurricane Blows Out... July 30, 2010
Hurricane Higgins, so named for his free-flowing, knock-em-in and get on with it approach to the game was the celebrated 'People's Champion' of the sport. Where other snooker players agonized over shots, continually measuring and checking angles, Higgins would simply lean in, shoot and move. Higgins popularity grew snooker into one of the most televised sports in the United Kingdom. A sport where the participants would drink and smoke openly, and now, on reflection, the images of Higgins sipping a glass of Guinness and holding a cigarette and cue seem more aged than the nearly 30 years that have passed.

The PATHE to the Kentucky Derby April 27, 2010
The British Pathe archive claims to have 3,500 hours of video, accumulated between 1910 and 1970 by the company that used to provide all those cinema newsreels with the posh-sounding voice over. It's all free to view and there is a lot of horse racing in there, from famous races to 'atmosphere' shots at various tracks that show, startlingly, the vast numbers of people that used to turn up to watch. The commentary to a Grand National clip from the 1930s claims attendance of 250,000, more than three times the course's current capacity.

Perception Isn't Reality March 17, 2010

All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention. ~ Rudolf Arnheim
* * *
They say that history is told by the victors. The same does not hold true for horse racing. At least as it applies to handicapping.
Anyone who has ever wagered on a race and lost is guilty of imposing their own version of events into the facts.

Rachel Won't Bloom; TDH Yells at Cloud; and Getting Tweepy at the Off-Track March 14, 2010

Commentary on Rachel Alexandra's defeat to start her 2010 campaign as told via an exhillirating afternoon spent at the off-track to watch the following races:
* 530PM Tampa Bay Derby
* 6:15PM Rachel
*6:37PM Zenyatta
* 6:47 Rebel - Oaklawn
*7:39 San Felipe - Santa Anita

International Acclaim: The Race That Brings All The Stars to Woodbine January 27, 2010
The International is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious horse races in the world. At its inception in 1938, the race was contested on dirt at a distance of 1 1/6M with the honours going to Bunty Lawless who won the King's Plate in that same year.
By 1958 the race moved to the turf and has seen an unprecedented post parade of stars take the test. Secretariat's last race came against older horses at Woodbine in the Canadian International. "Big Red" did not disappoint coasting to victory by 6 1/2 lengths. This post examines the heroes of the Canadian International...

Julia Brimo: I'm Coming Back To Win December 29, 2009
On October 30th at Keeneland, Julia Brimo was aboard Golden Stride who clipped heels sending the jockey crashing to the ground. Brimo suffered an incomplete spinal injury that threatened to end her career. Just six weeks removed from the fall, and after undergoing neck surgery to fuse a broken vertebra, Brimo is walking and inspiring fellow inpatients at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre with her positive spirit and determination.

Two Flags For Frankel December 8, 2009
The racing world mourned the passing of a legend in November when Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel succumbed to a long battle with cancer. Frankel was just 68.
Despite his illness, Frankel was a force to be reckoned with at Woodbine racetrack this year.

A Horse By Any Other Name October 28, 2009
Have you ever wondered about the magic that goes into naming a thoroughbred? Over the years Woodbine racing fans have been entertained by majestic names such as Northern Dancer and Kennedy Road. However, the names I remember best stick out because they are clever, funny or just downright dirty.

Remembering Woodbine Legends Benburb and Thornfield October 19, 2009
In the heartland of Kentucky resides an expansive parcel of racing heaven known as Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement at Dream Chase Farms. It is a living, breathing tribute to horse racing where fans can interact with retired thoroughbred champions and experience the history of the Sport of Kings. Spread across 92 acres of lush, green grass are the paddocks of millionaires such as Sunshine Forever and most recently, Sovereign Award winning Woodbine heroes Benburb and Thornfield.

The Ballad of Emma-Jayne Wilson and Belle Gully September 29, 2009
When leading a horse from the paddock to the track, Emma-Jayne Wilson’s face is a picture of concentration. Few can match the intensity of the Bramalea-born jock. Belle Gully, an eight-year-old gelding of modest talents, recently benefitted from Wilson’s dogged determination when the jock tracked down her old friend in a $5K claiming race at Mountaineer.

How Rachel Alexandra Helped Me Break My Saratoga Maiden September 8, 2009
I broke my Saratoga maiden this weekend. At the end of a six-hour jaunt from Toronto, I arrived in the town of Saratoga Springs and was immediately overwhelmed by horse racing nirvana. Driving down Broadway, I witnessed Rachel Alexandra banners, citizens wearing horse racing paraphenalia and the Daily Racing Form was available on every street corner. Horse racing was featured on the cover of all the local papers and the hot destination in town was the racetrack. Finally, a culture that lives and breathes the Sport of Kings.

BritPop, Horse Racing and The Next Big Thing August 28, 2009
Am I the only one who finds parallels between music and horse racing? This musically inspired piece generated quite a few comments from the music fans of the racing world.

Horse Racing on the Radio and How I Miss the Hartford Whalers August 19, 2009
I too have fond memories of listening to the radio when I was a kid. Armed with nothing more than a cheap radio/tapedeck, I would delicately tune the dial listening for the sound-between-the-static where I might hear an out-of-town hockey game. As a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, I was often able to track down Habs games against the Hartford Whalers on the Whalers radio network.

A Song For Eight Belles July 17, 2009
Jessie Murphy In The Woods is a trifecta of New York City based musical talent that list Eight Belles, Big Brown and Native Dancer as influences on their Myspace page. With a sound best described as a mystical Neko Case, JMITW make beautiful folky noise under such titles as Eight Belles, When I Am A Horse Again and God Save Owen Wilson. With titles like that, there is obviously more than a bit of humour behind the well-crafted harmonies pitched forth by the classically trained trio.

Woodbine Star Wins The Kentucky Derby - Lessons in Hindsight May 3, 2009
On Friday while I was busy posting about the last Canadian horse to win the Kentucky Derby, another Canadian champion was preparing to stun the world by following in the footsteps of Sunny's Halo. Though not Canadian-bred, Mine That Bird won the Sovereign Award as Canada's top two-year-old last season on the strength of wins in the Swynford Stakes and Coronation Futurity at Woodbine for local trainer David Cotey - both races also won by Sunny's Halo.

A (James E.) Day In My Woodbine History March 12, 2009
Over the years I've watched numerous trainers stake their claim to Woodbine dominance including Mac Benson (Windfields Farms), Roger Attfield (Kinghaven Farms) and Gord Huntley with most any two year-old he saddled. As the 1990s approached, Woodbine was the stage for numerous memorable performances of horses trained for Sam-Son Farms by the brilliant James E. Day.

Love Is In The Air...Just Not At The OTB February 15, 2009
A Valentine's Day sojourn to the off-track with a bit of romance and a happy ending and the following combative quote from a regular, "Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay...they sure don't sound the same at all. But, what difference does it make, you've been losing every time I've seen you here!"

Why The Form Makes For Better Reading Than Grisham January 20, 2009
One of the great joys of life is picking up a brand new Daily Racing Form and trying to find a winner. The Form has that grimy, inky feeling that takes me back to when racetracks were dank monuments to the grift rather than the glitzy racinos they've become.

Blogalists, Journologs and The Invention of Masal Bugduv January 16, 2009
A humorous look at the credibility of journalists versus bloggers and a fictional soccer player who made the sports pages in England.

Ernie The Entertainer - Munick Wants To See You At The Track! December 23, 2008
Munick is a multi-tasker of infinite talents. His website features a combination of writing, photography, music and handicapping. It's the sort of website you add to your favourites list because it can surprise you with a laugh just as easily as it can open up a deluge of memories.

How Danny "Bear" Dion Got His Nickname - The Lighter Side of the Sovereigns December 15, 2008
He named his racing stable after himself as he is nicknamed “Bear,” a moniker he picked up in Quebec. “When I was lifting the big logs out in the bush, I'd growl like a bear. To this day nobody calls me Danny,” he said

They're At The Post - Where Are You? November 6, 2008
An ode to the days of full grandstands and racetrack characters.

Pressed, Gave (A)way. October 27, 2008
How to lose money wagering on the Breeders' Cup and then win it all back playing claimers at Mountaineer. A funny look at the life of a handicapper.

Hindsight is $20/$20/$20 October 2, 2008
Those of us who have spent a day at the races are familiar with the two very distinct types of gambler's remorse. This post takes a look at the lighter side of handicapping.

In The Beginning... July 8, 2008
The first ever post at Triple Dead Heat republished a story I wrote for a contest run by Woodbine Entertainment in honour of their 50th anniversary in 2006. My intention was simply to write something that would put the names of my dad and his friend Ted into print. The story did not end up a contest winner, however it was published on page three of the souvenir magazine and even garnered a mention in the editor's opening comments.

FOR THE HORSES - Stories about horse retirement, rescue and welfare

New Stride Looking For A Leg Up February 11, 2010

A crisis can tear a community apart, but with a little human spirit a crisis can also bring people together and make the community stronger.
The good people and horses of BC based New Stride Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation are in the midst of a crisis and calling on the equine community for support to help find homes for needy horses.

Exploring the Greatness and Goodness of Barbaro February 9, 2010

A discussion with Alex Brown regarding the progress of his upcoming novel about the ill-fated Barbaro. The post includes an exclusive excerpt from the soon-to-be-published piece and stories on Brown's travels to interview those surrounding the great Barbaro.

Charity Begins At The Racetrack October 21, 2009
Photos and video from Woodbine's annual United Way Day at the Races.

Nip/Tuck Actress Kelly Carlson Steps Up For LongRun July 31, 2009
Kelly Carlson who portrays the character Kimber Henry on the TV series Nip/Tuck. Carlson is a classic Hollywood beauty and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Minnesota native has a beautiful soul to match. The star has been spending a great deal of time in Toronto of late and has stepped up as a volunteer for the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.

Boule d'Or - A New Beginning for an Old Friend July 15, 2009
Great things can happen when a community comes together. Over the weekend, I was witness to an efficient, generous and well-intentioned quest carried forth by one horse rescuer, one bed-and-breakfast proprietor and one charitable horse owner for one lucky turfer by the name of Boule d'Or.

The Ubiquitous Alex Brown Speaks Out on Community and Horse Welfare June 25, 2009
Alex Brown is a busy guy. In the morning, Alex works horses for Steve Asmussen's Woodbine stable. Almost immediately after the morning session ends, Alex pops up on Twitter where he has become a bit of an expert with TwitPic. This past weekend, Alex provided TwitPic coverage of Queen's Plate Day and on Tueday he was Tweeting the price of horse meat at the Olex auction in Kitchener, Ontario.

Not A Prude Makes The Cover of TROT June 2, 2009
Late Monday night I received a Facebook message from OSAS VP Sarah Scott happily proclaiming that Not A Prude had made the cover of the June issue of TROT Magazine. While I was excited to have a story I'd written make the cover of a magazine, I was even more happy for Not A Prude as he's a horse deserving of the recognition.

Teaching An Old Horse New Tricks February 17, 2009
Discussing the re-training of Off the Track Thoroughbreds.

The Other Side Of The Story: Grooming A Dead Horse January 19, 2009
Examining a controversial article written by Paul W. Jackson entitled, Grooming A Dead Horse published in Michigan Farm News with a rebuttal from Alex Brown.

Second Thoughts - Boule d'Or Wins One For Long Run December 21, 2008
Reading the Form for Thursday's 6th race at Hollywood Park caused me quite the double-take. Smack dab in the middle of a $12.5K claimer was Boule d'Or - winner of the G2 San Luis Rey Handicap in March of this year at Santa Anita. Immediately, I started to wonder if maybe this copy of the DRF was put together in the wrong order - how could a graded winner drop so far so fast?

Permanent Winner's Circle: Horses With Homes December 8, 2008
Wendy Uzelac is the perfect example of a racing fan who cares. Her efforts to find a home for Top Bunk, demonstrate commitment to improving quality of life for race horses. However, what I found most impressive was the love she has for her two "boys" - Nannie's Rio and Jaguar Hope.

End Horse Slaughter: An Interview With Alex Brown October 21, 2008
Talking trackside with horse welfare advocate Alex Brown

SHORT STORIES (Racing Fiction)

Gave way, grudgingly November 16, 2009 (True Story)
Two heartbroken figures stood by the finish line at Woodbine, awash in tears, sobbing inconsolably. Their faces contorted with the anguish usually reserved for the loss of a loved one. And rightly so.
"They've put a claim in on our horse," came the explanation as the pair hugged each other in search of comfort.

Sunday Short: Not Half Right April 19, 2009
"It's already half past, and it won't last..."
A grim short story about the racetrack, drugs and murder.

Sunday Short: A Grand Don't Come For Free March 29, 2009
"It was supposed to be so easy..."
Lost love, lost wagering ticket and redemption found at the racetrack. Not so loosely based on the album by British rapper The Streets.

SHOPPING - Vintage Racing Treasures

Belmont Park Swarmed By Flying Machines November 18, 2009
Belmont Park swarmed by socialites, racing elite and a flying competition all covered through editions of Bit & Spur circa 1910.

Flea Market Finds: Greenwood Racetrack, Frank Merrill Jr And The Great Cam Fella October 1, 2009
This past weekend we checked out the Aberfoyle Antique Market and I dug up a slew of vintage horse racing memorabilia. My first find was a November 30, 1963 win photo from what I believe is Greenwood Racetrack. The winning horse is Wings of Flight who covered six furlongs in 1:12 with Paul Bohenko in the irons. Bohenko is one of the lucky few to have steered Northern Dancer. What drew me to the photo was winning trainer F.H Merrill Jr.

Friday Fun: Seattle Slew, Foolish Pleasure and the Real Reason Sandy Hawley Had Long Hair June 12, 2009
Another shopping adventure digs up some excellent Sports Illustrated finds including the Kentucky Derby special edition of Sports Illustrated featuring Foolish Pleasure. The inside caption reads, "Threading his way through a jumbled field, Foolish Pleasure won the 101st Derby."

Belmont Park History: Handicapping The 1946 Withers June 10, 2009
It is Saturday May 18th, 1946 and we're on our way to Belmont Park to enjoy a sporting afternoon courtesy of the Westchester Racing Association. Heading through the gates we pick up a program for a dime and silently thank WRA President George D. Widener for putting together a card featuring six special events including: The Aspinwall Handicap, The Stonewood, The Juvenile, The Stuyvesant Handicap, The Withers and The Oyster Bay Handicap.

Trainer Ian Black generously provided me with access to his barn to observe the training regimen and prep races for his colt Southdale. Over several weeks I observed the big horse become a favourite for the Queen's Plate only to suffer an injury during his second place finish in the Plate Trial. Though Southdale missed the big dance, the blog posts covering this classy fellow and his connections were the highlight of my 2009 season at Woodbine.

Path To The Queen's Plate - The Southdale Diaries May 9, 2009
While many racing fans only see the two minutes of action that occurs on the track, trainer Ian Black has graciously provided Triple Dead Heat with access to his barn as he conditions Southdale for North America's oldest thoroughbred graded stakes race.

Path To The Queen's Plate - Workout Day For Southdale May 14, 2009
There is a controlled chaos to the daily events of life on the backstretch. Pairs of 100lb people piloting 1200lb horses, each trying to move faster than the next pairing, makes for a lively atmosphere. I walked into this chaos at 7:45AM this morning and bumped into Ian Black as we both made our way towards his barn.

Path To The Queen's Plate: Team Southdale Rallying Around Rahy's Attorney May 25, 2009
For all the hard work that goes into conditioning a horse for the Queen's Plate, the most difficult task of late for trainer Ian Black has been finding a race for Southdale. The Woodbine calendar includes a 1 1/8M Allowance race for three year-olds that has carried over on consecutive days without filling.

Path To The Queen's Plate: Getting Equipped For The Plate Trial May 26, 2009
A workout day brings added excitement to the already bustling place of business that is Ian Black's barn. There is added urgency to the tasks at hand and expectations are high. Southdale's groom, Aline, was very busy on Monday morning putting the colt together for his upcoming five furlong workout.

Path To The Queen's Plate: The Two Turn Test May 31, 2009
As for the knock that Southdale only has two races under his belt, Bowen responded, "It hurts us a little bit but you have to remember that our goal is not to win the Plate Trial, our goal is to win the Queen's Plate. So, we're going to go into the Queen's Plate with three races under our belt, not two. The Plate has been won by maidens before and we're not a maiden. Hopefully we go in there on a two race win streak."

Path To The Queen's Plate: You Can Believe The Hype June 1, 2009
As it would turn out, the Plate Trial became an example of talent and conditioning over race experience as the two most lightly raced horses in the field put on a thrilling show for racing fans with a photo finish head-bob won by Eye of the Leopard.

Path To The Queen's Plate: End of the Road as Southdale Ruled Out With Shoulder Injury June 2, 2009
I am sad to report that Southdale, the focus of my Path To The Queen's Plate Diary, has suffered a suspected shoulder injury and will be out for the remainder of the summer.

Fans of Southdale take note: The strapping black colt is back in training as of January 2010 at Payson Park in Florida.