Tim Twaddle collected career training win 1,000 on Friday, Dec. 1 at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows when Spitfire Oversees won the seventh race.
One-thousand wins is an impressive milestone for any trainer, yet it may be even more meaningful for Twaddle, 61, who was forced by injury to abandon his career as one of harness racing’s elite drivers.
“I made the comment once after winning the Metro Pace [with Shipps Saint in 1991] that, 'I will never train horses. When it’s time for me to give up driving, I’ll just say good night,'” recalled Twaddle. “I was quoted as saying that. It just goes to show that the best way for us to make God laugh is to make plans.”
Twaddle grew up in St. Catharines, Ont., a stone’s throw from the now defunct Garden City Raceway. As a treat, his mother would drive young Tim to an access road that overlooked the track. From there, they’d watch a few races before Tim’s bedtime.
“Most kids were getting stories read to them,” he said. “I was getting the Daily Double."
Twaddle’s sister Cindy, who worked as a messenger bettor at the track, introduced him to trainer Bill Carroll, who hired him to clean stalls and buckets and, eventually, as a driver. That launched a career studded with highlights.
He won the 1993 Jugette with Towners Image and took the 1994 Breeders Crown Three-Year-Old Filly Pace with Hardie Hanover, who would be named Canada’s divisional champion that year. Twaddle amassed 1,946 driving wins; his combined training/driving purses exceed $23 million.
But it was in 1985 that the chain of misfortune began. On Dec. 5, he went down in a Flamboro Downs race mishap that shattered his hip. If ever a cloud had a silver lining, it was that one.
“In surgery, they discovered I had a leaky aorta valve that they had to replace years later. That accident saved my life.”
Recovered from that setback, Twaddle found it hard to get enough quality assignments despite his stellar record.
“It was tough to get catch drives,” he said. “I don’t think anybody thought I was healthy enough or would ever be the same.”
After a few stops elsewhere, Twaddle moved his tack to The Meadows, where a 2006 spill administered the coup de grace to his driving career.
“I broke my hand and suffered nerve damage that never really healed properly,” he said. “I never know when my hand will go numb. I needed to break into the game again.”
From the start, Twaddle enjoyed training success at The Meadows, yet his numbers have skyrocketed in recent years. That outstanding performance has been fuelled in part by two factors. The first is the heavy involvement of Twaddle’s wife Sophia, a former caretaker and trainer who is both whirlwind and a model of efficiency.
“We have a great staff and she keeps everybody moving,” said her husband. “Thanks to her, I’ve learned to delegate more.”
The other factor is Twaddle’s association with Anthony MacDonald, who has sent many horses from his TheStable.ca fractional ownership groups to Twaddle. Fittingly, MacDonald piloted Spitfire Oversees to Friday’s milestone victory.
“It’s been a wonderful relationship,” said Twaddle. “He’s brought us an influx of power. I was always struggling to get into the Top 10, but now I’m able to post those numbers. I used to have nine or 10 horses. Now I have 30 at the track all the time.”
Among those horses is the star of the stable, Fourever Boy (Sweet Lou-Macharoundtheclock, 1:48.2f), whom Twaddle owns with Micki Rae Stables. The four-year-old marked himself as a national-caliber pacer last year by finishing second in the Little Brown Jug and winning Pennsylvania’s championship. He’s banked $1,002,845 in his career.
All in all, Twaddle says training horses may be more demanding than driving them.
“It’s tough to get one win, so getting 1,000 wins is a horse of a different colour,” he said. “That’s why I’m so impressed with the numbers Ronnie Burke puts up. I’m also very careful not to open my mouth and criticize my drivers because I know how tough it is out there.”
Even more strenuous is the emotional ride on the training roller coaster.
“I’m a lot more nervous watching my horses race than I was driving them. It’s nerve wracking,” said Twaddle. “It’s like watching someone dance with my wife.”
Liteningonthebeach Sharp In Meadows Debut
A newcomer to The Meadows, Liteningonthebeach showed he’ll be a horse to reckon with as he shot the sloppy Lightning Lane to capture Friday’s feature, a $15,900 conditioned pace.
Act Fast commanded the early fractions but couldn’t relax because of the menacing first-over bid of Fourever Boy. The pocket-sitting Liteningonthebeach took advantage of the protracted duel and knifed inside for Aaron Merriman, prevailing in 1:52.3. The determined Fourever Boy was second, 1-1/2 lengths back, with Rocks Shining Star third.
Bill Bercury trains the winner, a three-year-old Downbytheseaside-Peanutbettor Shake gelding who now has won 12 of 24 lifetime starts and $210,910, for Renee Bercury.
Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and trainer Ron Burke teamed for three wins on the 13-race card.
Live harness racing at The Meadows resumes on Wednesday when the program features a pair of carryovers: $2,734.47 in the Pick 5 and $694.83 in the Early Pentafecta (race four). First post is 12:45 p.m.
(With files from Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)