Savard Still Exemplifies Excellence

2023 O'Brien Awards - Serge Savard

Serge Savard knows a thing or two about what it takes to win. The NHL Hall of Famer and eight-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadiens has a résumé to back up that statement. But in his case, that acumen has extended into the world of harness racing as well.

Savard's longest connection with harness racing comes with the late Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer John Ferguson, his teammate on the ice.

"I've been following the races since I was 17, 18 years old and when I [was playing] with the Montreal Canadiens, I became very close with John Ferguson. Then, I got even closer to the horses with John. You know how much John loved horses. I even owned a couple horses with John at times. Every time we had a chance on the road, we were at the racetrack with John."

Savard furthered his involvement in harness racing after joining a partnership with 2023 O'Brien Award Trainer of the Year finalist Dr. Ian Moore

"I used to own a junior hockey team in Montreal and we moved it to Charlottetown, the P.E.I. Rocket at the time, and my son was running it," explained Savard. "Before we got there, Ian was president of the club, which was the American Hockey League farm club of the Ottawa Senators. John Ferguson on the management team in Ottawa, and he hired Ian as the President of the club and when we moved our junior franchise in Charlottetown, Ian still owned a box for the games.

"My son was running the team, and I used to have horses, but I was out of it for six, seven, eight years when I was the manager in Montreal and racing is so popular in Charlottetown so I told Junior, 'tell Doc that I'd love to be partner with a young horse, a colt whatever,'" continued Savard. "So I wait a year before he called me and one day he calls me and says, 'I have one. We paid $16,000, do you want 25 per cent?' I said 'Yes.' That horse ended up to be Shadow Play. We paid $4,000. Horse made $1.6 million and we syndicated him for $2.4 [million]."

Success with Moore did not subside with Shadow Play as the partnership has had numerous top performers since, including 2023 Ontario Sires Stakes two-year-old champion Storm Shadow, a Bettors Delight colt out of the Shadow Play mare, Fade, one of the talented performers for Moore in 2023 that helped provide the P.E.I. native one of his best years in the business with 51 wins (second best total) and more than $3.1 million in earnings (a career high).

"Not only is he a good trainer, he's a vet," said Savard. "There's a lot of things [that can happen] to a horse. Because of him being a vet, because of his knowledge, sometimes you prevent a lot of bad stuff. That's really a plus to have a trainer / vet like him. I think it's a big, big, big plus.

"I think it's such a big advantage; you don't have to wait a week or a few days to find out what is wrong with your horse. You can find out right away...That's a huge advantage for us. Not only is it an advantage, he became a friend and I am a close friend of [Shadow Play co-owner] Ron McLellan as well. It's a great mix," he added.

Savard and Moore continue in their harness racing partnership to this day.

"Right now I have a three-year-old, Storm Shadow, and two young colts that we bought -- two Shadow Play colts. Of course, I still own part of Shadow Play, Arthur Blue Chip and Lawless Shadow. "

Savard has maintained a good friendship and harness racing partnership with Tony Infilise as well, most well known for his role in the resuscitation of harness racing in Quebec and in his role in the Quebec Jockey Club. 

"Tony and I, we were part of the group that started the races again in Quebec. We formed a committee and we bought [Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres]. We bought it under the name of the horsemen, but we signed personally at the bank to buy it. Tony was president of the group. Great person. I love this guy, just a great person He deserves everything he gets...We have a racetrack in Quebec right now, mainly because of Tony.

"He ran that group. A few people from that group wanted to go in a different direction, but Tony was a very strong leader amongst that group and I was very impressed with him. We stayed friends ever since."

Savard and Infilise partnered on former O'Brien Award winner and millionaire pacing mare Percy Bluechip, a daughter of Shadow Play conditioned for the majority of her two- and three-year-old seasons by, you guessed it, Dr. Ian Moore.

"We were partners once with a horse, but he buys a lot on his own. He wanted to have a piece of a horse with us and one of them was Percy Bluechip, so it was pretty good," said Savard.

"We've been lucky, you know. We've got great horses and probably, to me, maybe the best trainer. So that's the way it went. He'll be the Trainer of the Year this year for sure."

Savard will not be able to make it to Charlottetown on this occasion, but he will be cheering on his friends remotely when the O'Brien Awards ceremonies get underway on Feb. 3.

(Standardbred Canada; photos courtesy New Image Media and Jessica Hallett)

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