Best Honey Hanover Concludes Impactful Career

Best Honey Hanover
Published: December 27, 2023 11:35 am EST

Rideau Carleton track record holder Best Honey Hanover was recently recognized in a special retirement ceremony at the Ottawa oval after providing her connections with memories to last a lifetime.

Among her dozen wins this year was a track record performance for aged pacing mares when Best Honey Hanover posted a 1:51.3 winning mile on July 20 at Rideau Carleton Raceway in rein to Pascal Berube. The eight-year-old Art Major-Best Chance Hanna mare, who boasts a lifetime mark of 1:51.1 taken at The Meadowlands, concluded her career with 52 wins, 19 seconds and 22 thirds while banking $321,122 from 158 starts.

Best Honey Hanover holds a special place in the hearts of the Cassell family. She started her career on the New York fair circuit and competed at Eastern U.S. racetracks before venturing north of the border last year, where she was claimed for $18,750 at Woodbine Mohawk Park by Keith Cassell in February 2022. The mare has since remained in the care of Cassell's granddaughter, trainer Macy Cassell-Smyth. 

Best Honey Hanover and Weston Cassell-Smyth

"'Best Honey' means a lot to me, often beyond words," Cassell-Smyth told Trot Insider. "I’m grateful and humbled to be a part of her life. It felt like a true partnership between us; I took care of her and she always made sure to take care of me.

"Beyond her and I, she did a lot for my son Weston. He’s eight years old. The bond they share is really neat. She’s so smart, he can do anything with her. Most times he would be the one loading her in the trailer to go race! It’s important to have a horse spark a child’s interest in our industry. Watching his responsibility, husbandry and love of the horse and sport makes us very proud."

Best Honey Hanover enjoyed hunting down her competition and flourished in the care of the Cassells, earning 19 wins in a span of a year of half.

"We set goals for 'Honey' this summer. 'Honey' was NCRHHA’s May Horse of the Month at Rideau," noted Cassell-Smyth in reference to a memorable month in which the mare earned three consecutive wins and a close second-place finish. "That also got Weston Groom of the Month!" 

The track record performance was, of course, a major highlight in her career.

"I knew she was capable of a track record so that was definitely a goal," said the Metcalfe, Ont. horsewoman. "And to reach 50 lifetime victories." 

Best Honey Hanover reached the 50-win milestone on Aug. 31 amid a four-race win streak at the capital oval.

'Queen Honey,' as she is more fondly referred to in the Cassell stable, has provided her connections with lasting memories, both on and off the track.

"Meeting her in the winner's circle, she seemed to meet me with pride," recalled Cassell-Smyth. "She was so proud to win. She knew it. Setting the track record was definitely my favourite memory though. Once she got rolling, she didn’t stop. 

"Off the track, it’s the quiet moments. Watching her walk around the farm, finding the perfect piece of lawn to munch on. Knowing she’s happy and relaxed. She is such a deserving horse. 

"The day my husband Drew pulled her shoes, there were some tears. I gave her a hug and she stood there peaceful. It felt like she knew it was the conclusion to her racing career."

Cassell-Smyth has reported that her family plans on breeding Best Honey Hanover in early 2024. 

"She’s still at home on the family farm, first stall. Lately, 'Honey' has been hanging out on the farm free-ranging, taking my son for rides and getting pampered by him." 

Best Honey Hanover, who last raced in late September, was honoured with a retirement ceremony during Rideau's season finale on Dec. 17. The mare and her connections were also featured in an interview with track announcer John MacMillan, available below.

Have something to say about this? Log in or create an account to post a comment.