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Darryl Kaplan's Blog


Farewell: Signs From Hervé

Published: June 30, 2017 8:14 pm ET

Last Comment: July 3, 2017 9:18 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

As Brandon Filion stood bravely in front of a crowd of mourners at Paroisse de L'Ange Gardien in Gatineau, his words resonated from wall-to-wall.

Brandon, the son of Hervé Filion, spoke of his dad as a "man's man" who put his family, and the standardbred horse racing industry, first. A person who would travel across the country on his own dime if it meant helping out the sport and the business of horse racing. He was a man who personified the will to win, and the understanding that every loss was a learning experience to enable you to do better next time. Hervé, he said, believed in luck, but we all know that the legendary horseman made his own luck.

Brandon took us back to the sixth race on Monday at Monticello Raceway. It was the first, and only race he has competed in since losing his father last week. Brandon used the whip that day that Hervé had used in his final career race on Legends Day, 2013, at Clinton Raceway.

It was tough to stay composed as Brandon recounted the 1:58 mile that he and his pacing mare, Little Miss Marie, went that day, and the remarkable stretch move she made to capture the race by a nose. You see, Brandon and Little Miss Marie weren't alone on that half mile track that day. As he told the story of hearing his dad's advice through the race, and the firm knowledge that Hervé was there with him, those in the room flashed back to their own memories of Hervé in the bike, first at the wire, and smiling in the winner's circle.

I never had the privilege of meeting Hervé Filion, but I did have the privilege of watching him race. I never shook the hand of the winningest driver in Canadian horse racing history, but I was touched by his accomplishments, his flair, and the stories of his never ending desire to help the industry grow.

So, perhaps it leaves me to wonder as well about what Hervé is saying to us right now as he looks down, on the eve of the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in this country.

I am here in Quebec today as a writer paying tribute to the long and rich tradition of Canadian horse racing. And while the journal entry I wrote previous to coming here was titled "What are the chances," I wasn't in the area for 30 minutes before I was once again touched by a sign that felt too clear to be a coincidence.

As I looked at the clock in my car on the way to Gatineau, I realized that I was a few hours early for the funeral. So I made a quick detour over to Rideau Carleton Raceway. It being the morning of a dark day at the track, I wasn't sure what I was looking for. Perhaps I could catch an artist's rendering of the new Hard Rock renovations that will be coming in the future, I thought. Maybe something else will catch my eye as I hadn't been to the track in a few years.

As I arrived at the racetrack and made my way to the track apron, I looked out. Through a hazy fog, I saw a man standing on top of the tote board. I looked at him for a moment as he leaned down to pick something up. I found it odd that the toteboard was fully lit up, odds still brightly illuminated from the last race of the evening previous.

I soon realized what the man on the toteboard was doing.

He picked up the Quebec provincial flag, and held it on an angle. From my view, he didn't fumble with the flag much, or do much to it. He simply picked it up and held it there, it was frankly a scene that shook me a little. I stood there, watching him for a minute or two. Here I was, at 9:48 in the morning, at a racetrack in our nation's capital. Nobody in the world knows that I will be here. It's hours before the service for Hervé Filion, on the eve of the 250th Anniversary of Canada's first ever horse race, which of course, took place in Quebec - and an unidentified man is standing atop the centre of the fully lit Rideau Carleton toteboard, holding the Quebec provincial flag at half mast.

A horse, seemingly from out of nowhere, jogs by. The man on the toteboard lifts the Quebec flag high into the air and holds it there - straight and high, for probably 10 seconds. Soon after, he turns and places the flag into location, and walks away.

You may or may not believe that everything happens for a reason. And I may or may not believe that the great Hervé Filion decided to send a message to a Canadian harness racing writer whom he had never met.

What I know for absolute certain is that there are things in this world we will never fully understand. And on this first day of my trip to explore the earliest days of horse racing in Canada, I will allow myself to answer my question from earlier.

What are the chances this all is a coincidence?

Pretty slim.

To read TROT editor Darryl Kaplan's first blog entry on his "On The Road: Horse Racing 250" journey, click on the following link:

Part 1: June 30, 2017: What are the chances?

July 3, 2017 - 9:18 pmHonoring a friend sharing my

Jim Brown SAID...

Honoring a friend sharing my Canada day at the races. The first race post time was about to begin in 15 minutes and I made my way up to the announcer's booth. I asked Mr. Patterson (the announcer) for a request. I asked him if he could please make an announcement for Hervé and if we could have a moment of silence for him. He said yes that would be great and that he would do it right after the Canadian national anthem. I left the announcer's booth and headed down to the bottom of the grand stands. I looked over the race entries Saturday night, I did not make it past the first race, let alone the first horse. I told my wife I was going to bet the one horse for Hervé. I wagered a two dollar win ticket on the one horse for Hervé. As the field turned for home the one was three lengths behind with driver Greg Dustin. At this point, I said quietly to myself, "Hervé, Greg's gonna need a little help here". Greg swung three wide and got up to win the race by a head. I went out to the winner's circle for a picture and I stood beside driver Greg Dustin. I said "Greg I wagered a two dollar win ticket for Hervé". I said I believe he was in the bike with you coming for home. This ticket I left uncashed. I too believe things happen for a reason or for reasons I can't explain the one horse in the first race was called CameDownFromHeaven.

June 30, 2017 - 10:36 pmOpening the official

Jim Brown SAID...

Opening the official Standardbred Canada website at 10:10pm and the first post I see is about Hervé's funeral. This saddened me very much and hit home; Hervé was leaving us. Range of emotions for a race fan: I left the television program watching John Campbell's last race at the Meadowlands where he had won and watching the celebration at the winners circle, very happy moment for me, turn to the computer to see if there was any news on his last night about the Meadowlands and then I saw this post. I know in my heart that Hervé wouldn't want me to be sad and to carry on as a race fan. So tomorrow on July 1st at the Dresden raceway, in my way of paying tribute to Hervé, I will wear my 'I love Canadian Racing' hat for the first time. In my heart I will always remember the words you said to me Hervé on October 7th, 2012 at the Rideau Carleton Racetrack: "A friend of racing is a friend of mine." I'd like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Hervé Filion.

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