A Horse With A Special Fan Club
Published: May 16, 2015 9:02 am ET
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“I’m his biggest fan and I don’t even own him anymore! I’ll be racing my horse on Sunday, but I know the post time and I will find a TV and be watching from New York.”
All Bets Off has played a major role in Mike Sinclair’s life over the last four years. What would become a touching story started with the cancellation of the Slots-at-Racetracks Program. With changes to the Ontario horse racing industry imminent, Sinclair looked to the future with intentions of expanding his stable beyond claimers.
“The year I bought (All Bets Off), that was my first year buying babies. We had a small stable and I sat down with my wife Rosie and told her it was time to diversify. I went off to Harrisburg and he was the first horse I bought.”
Sinclair purchased the son of Bettors Delight for what now seems like an absolute bargain: $7,000. He immediately called home to Rosie to tell her about the new member joining their barn.
“I told her on the phone that I bought him for $7,000 and she went, ‘What?! You spent seven thousand dollars?!’ but what did she think I’d be spending down there?”
Later on, Sinclair returned to the sale ring to purchase a horse named Shut The Front Door. It reminded him of Rosie who rarely cursed and often used the phrase. A $40,000 purchase, Rosie’s reaction was very different.
“I wondered how she would react to the price, but she just said ‘I really like the name’. Then she jogged Shut The Front Door and she kicked and Rosie didn’t like the horse much anymore!”
Rosie and Mike were dedicated members of the industry for many years. It was a sad day in April when she passed away after battling with cancer for some time. Those who knew her often spoke of her generosity, positivity and ability to light up the backstretch with her smile. For her, All Bets Off was more than just a racehorse.
“When I sold him (to Ron Burke), she asked me why. We were a ‘Mom and Pop’ operation and they gave us what we wanted and more. That was why we got into racing colts.
“That horse helped her a lot last year. There were times where she was down and out and he would bring her back up. I’d call her and tell her to go to the computer and watch when he was racing," continued Sinclair. “She was always so thrilled to see him and watch him on the track. It really did a lot for her.”
Sold in the midst of a successful freshman campaign, Burke offered the pair the opportunity to retain a share in the colt until the end of his three-year-old season: a season that included wins in the Art Rooney, Millstein and Messenger (all half-mile races, for the record) with more than $900,000 in earnings.
Leaving from post five in his elimination, All Bets Off refused to take back into the pocket and instead charged his way to the top for Yannick Gingras. He refused to relinquish the lead, opening up a lead of three and a half lengths by the time he hit the wire. His dominating performance in the elimination also wrote his name into the record books, establishing a new track record for aged pacers in 1:50.4.
Though Sinclair may no longer be involved as an owner, his enthusiasm for the horse is infectious.
“I wasn’t surprised, not at all. When Ronny bought this horse, they bought a half-mile track horse. I’ve told everyone this, he’s a half mile track horse with big track speed. I have no doubt that he’ll pace even faster next week.”
Though Gingras drove All Bets Off to victory in his elimination, he will be in the bike with Burke’s other trainee, Limelight Beach. Regular partner Matt Kakaley will be reunited with the colt in the final.
“I have the utmost confidence that Matt Kakaley knows that horse inside out. The five hole is perfect for him and they get along great," stated Sinclair. "Matt is a very underrated driver and I’m glad he’s driving the colt. Ronny does the training but he’s Matt’s horse. He’s great at managing him out on the track.”
Sinclair will not be able to be trackside for the return of the Confederation Cup as he will be racing Nobettorplacetobe at Tioga Downs in New York Sire Stakes action. Another son of Bettors Delight, Sinclair joked that he could be Burke’s next up and comer.
“When my wife passed away, one of the owners Frank (Baldachino) was the first person to call me. All Bets Off has given us an incredible experience.”
(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Hannah Beckett)