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Flamboro's Founding Families Reunited

Published: December 12, 2015 1:35 pm ET

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After first partnering in the horse racing industry some 40 years ago, the names of Grant and Juravinski are back together again...yet, for the first time.

The story starts in the 1970s as Charles Juravinski was one of the individuals trying to get a new racetrack off the ground just outside Hamilton, Ont.

"When we were trying to get Flamboro Downs together -- and of course getting shareholders involved in the thing -- everybody told us that we out of our mind, we'd never make it fly, the only people that could operate a business in racing would be the Ontario Jockey Club. People were really, really, negative in their attitude.

"We knew what we were least thought what were doing because we had put together our business plan. It was comprehensive, we were satisfied with our business plan. It was approved by one of the accounting firms at that time who had insight into the business, and they thought that the business would fly."

Someone mentioned John's name to Ray Connell, one of Flamboro's initial shareholders, as a person that might be interested in joining the ownership group. Juravinski told Trot Insider that, at the time, he was only tangentially aware of John Grant and his entrepreneurial ways.

"I never had heard of John other than any time I was driving down the highway I'd see these big, massive trucks, dark blue that hauled cement, with J.B. Grant [on the side]," said Juravinski. "I had occasion to meet him, and when I looked into his grey-blue eyes and saw him puffing on his cigarette, I recognized a man who is deeply in thought. I thought he was a straight shooter. Though he was a man of very few words, he listened."

Juravinski recalled the day Grant agreed to join the ownership group. It was at Grant's farm, complete with consultants -- a lawyer and an accountant, who performed the due diligence on his behalf.

"We were down to the eleventh hour as far as John making a decision. Regrettably for him, I think his wallet must have dropped on his leg because when I saw him he had a broken leg," recalled Juravinski. "His consultants, though they had perused and obviously were satisfied with the business plan, were putting me through the ringer. I had answered all of their questions, etc., and I had become somewhat irritated. I looked at John and 'I said Mr. Grant, you better take your two boys into the next room and read them the Facts of Life, because I'm just about out of here'.

"He looked at me, again the grey-blue eyes, the puff on the cigarette, he said 'I think you're right.' So he got off the couch, took his crutches, they walked into the next room. And it didn't take 30 seconds...they came right back in, he looked at me and stuck out his hand. "It's a deal."

Track owner Ray Connell addresses the opening night crowd at Flamboro. Just to his left are two other principle figures at the track Charlie Juravinski (with hat) and John Grant.

Coming on board with Flamboro Downs proved to be a wise venture for Grant as the Hamilton-area racetrack was extremely well received once it opened in April 1975. Within that first year of opening, Juravinski first became familiar with John Grant's son, Brad.

"I know Brad and I chuckle about this now in retrospect because he was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kid of 20 or so, driving a nice Corvette. As far as he was concerned at the time, he was the son of one of the major shareholders in the operation. I guess he thought everybody knew him, but our security in the backstretch didn't. What basically happened, and Brad recalls this to me because I'm really fuzzy on the details, but I got a telephone call from security as 'how do I handle whoever this guy is, Brad Grant?' and I said 'what's the problem?' and I could only recall that [Brad] was giving them hard lines, don't you know who I am or whatever the case may be for someone of that age at his father's place. So I said 'fine, I'm coming over.' And Brad recounts to me that I read him his pedigree," said Juravinski with a chuckle. "And he laughs about it now...40 years later and it hasn't been too long ago now that Brad reminded me that was one of the best things that ever happened to him in his life."

Years later John Grant sold his stake in Flamboro Downs due to health concerns, something Juravinski didn't want him to do.

"I'm pleased to say that he was gentleman enough that if anybody ever asked him, he said that the best deal he ever made in his life was the deal he made with Juravinski when he sold him Flamboro Downs," noted the Hall of Famer. "He came in not with control and trusted me implicitly. And I really respected that. He put up his money and had respect for his money even though he didn't have control of the business. John took a chance, he was rewarded tenfold, and I appreciated his input."

After John Grant and his wife Kay passed, the heir to the throne was son Brad -- who Juravinski considers a chip off the old block.

"He has the business acumen in the operation he's running, and I think he has more courage that a lot of people in the industry. He puts his money where his mouth is, he still invests in a business that everybody says is not going to last and is going downhill, he loves the game and he's not afraid to take a shot.

"Thank God for people like him that are certainly helping keep the industry alive and enhancing the harness racing industry."

With Brad Grant among the top owners on the WEG circuit for wins and money, he's certainly picked up where his father -- owner of top horses the likes of Bettors Delight and Armbro Luxury -- left off.

"I've known Charlie since Flamboro Downs started up. The night it opened I was helping in the race office as a kid," Grant told Trot Insider. "We've always stayed in touch, he and my dad had a great relationship."

"I bumped into Brad along the line, it wasn't that long ago," recalled Juravinski. "He said 'you know, you and my father had a successful operation, how about getting involved with me on a horse?' and I said to him 'it never occurred to me, I wouldn't mind.' Quite frankly, at my station of life and my age, I'm not interested in the future," referring to partnering on a yearling. "I said 'I don't mind owning a horse and having a little bit of fun' because it gives me something to do watching the race at night on the Internet."

Not long after, the 2015 Harrisburg Mixed Sale came around. Grant had entered pacing colt American Rock into the mixed portion of the sale.

"Apparently he had a price in mind he wanted to receive. The horse was 'run up to' $40,000 U.S.," said Juravinski, recounting the details in retrospect. "One the Sunday after the sale, I got a call from Richard Moreau. Richard said 'Brad Grant asked me to call you because we brought a horse back from Harrisburg. He wouldn't let him go, and he's wondering whether you want to buy 50 percent of him. I said 'what's the horse's name?' and he told me the horse's name was American Rock. I said to Moreau 'do you think we could change the name to French Canadian Rock?' and Moreau laughed and said 'too late!'"

Moreau told him how much half the horse would cost, and Juravinski immediately accepted the offer sight unseen. The names of Grant & Juravinski were reunited.

Juravinski gave Grant one condition. When running Flamboro, Juravinski was the corresponding officer and kept the elder Grant apprised of the operation. This time, Charlie asked Brad to be the MCO. The rest, as they say, is history.

"The funny part is, at one time, both of us were right out of it. I was out of horse racing for years and I think Charles was out of it after he sold the racetrack for a number of years also," said Grant. "It just came up in conversation one day, shooting the breeze and we jokingly talked about having to get one together sometime. And it all came together. We weren't looking for the next Wiggle It Jiggleit, we were just talking about a racehorse."

In three starts for Grant & Juravinski, American Rock has one win and one second place finish. The off-the-board placing Juravinski chalks up to bad racing luck. He's back in on Saturday (Dec. 12) at Woodbine with a step up in class and is assessed the 7-2 third choice on the morning line.

"Absolutely, we're going to have fun with it," said Grant, being realistic on the side of expectations. "We're just hoping to have a 'Saturday night special'."

The mutual fondness is evident in hearing Grant and Juravinski discuss this new partnership some 40 years in the making.

"I do get a warm feeling in being involved with Brad Grant, the son of John Grant, for whom I have the utmost regard. And I sincerely hope, because he's got to be in Heaven or Horse Heaven at least, I'm sure that he's puffing on a cigarette and he's got an Internet up there and he's watching for American Rock."

"I joked to him, 'down the road, who knows? Maybe there will be another racehorse or another racetrack.' For me, to be connected to a guy like Charlie, it just brings back a ton of memories and in my books it's an honour to be associated with a guy like him," stated Grant. "He and my Dad had a great relationship, both successful guys in their own right.

"What's that old saying? It all starts with one."

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