Sydney Seelster Claim Update

Published: February 10, 2014 06:34 pm EST

On Sunday, harness racing's social media world exploded with outrage when Sydney Weaver's prized Standardbred Sydney Seelster was claimed at Flamboro Downs.

The brown lass had been racing well in 2014 having won three of her four starts heading into Sunday’s race and had yet to miss the board in all of her races.

It was learned after Sunday’s race that Sydney Seelster had been claimed by trainer Guy Gagnon. The resident of Gatineau, Que. is off to a strong start in 2014, as his stable has sent out 12 starters and has recorded five wins and four seconds, good for $12,865 in purse earnings and an impressive .601 UTR.

The pride and joy of former ‘I Love Canadian Harness Racing’ fan club’s ambassador, Weaver was heartbroken with the news of her prized horse being claimed. Sydney Seelster and Weaver made headlines in 2012 when the mare was bought for Weaver so she could pursue her dream to become the trainer of a standardbred.

Gagnon told Trot Insider that he did not know of the story of Weaver and her mare and upon hearing about the young owner, agreed to allow the horse to be claimed back.

"I never heard of her story before; I'm not on Facebook, I'm not on Twitter, I'm not a 'computer guy' and I didn't know the story before last night."

The father of two kids and a hockey coach for young boys, Gagnon clearly meant no harm in claiming the pacing mare from the young fan and felt bad for the situation. He merely saw a horse in for a claiming tag that he thought would race well at Rideau Carleton Raceway after recently having a horse claimed from his barn.

After the races, fans of harness racing were irate with the situation and posted numerous messages on Facebook and Twitter -- much like Gagnon, without knowing the entire situation.

With a plan now in place to allow Weaver to get Sydney Seelster back, Gagnon added that he would like to meet Weaver one day and hopes that the same predicament doesn't happen again, fearing that someone else will come along and simply see a horse in for a claiming price.



Gary Blackburn 100% correct. Where is the outrage. It has never existed from the beginning. Sydney is lucky she is young and can afford to still participate. I can no longer do the 7 days a week and will only be in the game if I can look after my own horses so I am now out. By the way I cried after every one that got claimed and there were a lot of them.

Quelle histoire complètement montée en épingle. Guy Gagnon a réclamé un cheval à 500 kilomètres de chez lui sans en connaitre l'historique sauf ses statistiques. Un cheval inscrit dans une épreuve à réclamer et dont l'autorisation de réclame avait été signée en bonne et due forme. Connaissant Guy, il ne blague pas lorsqu'il avance qu'il ne savait pas à qui appartenait le coursier qu'il s'apprêtait à réclamer. Après avoir constaté le cirque médiatique autour de cette histoire, Guy a vite pris les moyens pour que le cheval retourne à son ancienne propriétaire sans lui occasionner de frais supplémentaires. Il est où le problème alors.

Guy Gagnon fait campagne dans l'Outaouais depuis belle lurette, il est un exemple pour les jeunes, il est un bon père de famille et il s'implque dans la communauté, surtout comme coach au hockey. Conducteur d'appoint émérite et très en demande, il excelle aussi comme entraîneur et il laisse sa marque partout où il passe. Son dossier parle par lui-même.

Keep up the good work Guy !

André Audette

The circus that surrounded all this was one that Barnam and Bailey would have been proud of. In the day and age where every person, as stated by our Constitution should be treated as equals was thrown out the door. No preferential treatment of people with disabilities, race or otherwise has any place in this industry.

Wheres the uproar today that the slots are still open at all the tracks and there is no revenue sharing with horsepeople?

Wheres the uproar today that tracks like Kawartha, Dresden, Sudbury and Hiawatha have ceased racing operations?

Wheres the uproar today that WEG has only 3 racing days a week?

Wheres the uproar today that Georgian Downs has only 29 race days this year?

Wheres the uproar that Flamboro is going to be closed for 6 months soon?

Wheres the uproar today that Rideau Carleton was left out of the Racing Alliance even though they are a huge part of racing in Ontario?

Wheres the uproar today that track ownerships are still making tons of money from the slots and industry participants are falling like flies?

Wheres the uproar today that breeding farms are going out of business?

Well maybe some of you people should feel sorry for me, after many top trainers failed to get a horse qualified, the owner asked me to try her, (he liked the way I handle trotters)and I told him that if these trainers could not get her to go, may chances were slim.I took her and after working all winter on her, I finally qualified her at Rideau. After winning a few cheap races, I brought her to Blue Bonnets,their I entered her in a claiming race and won so I put her up in class and won again,I put her up again and won, and she was claimed. The next race the man that claimed her put her up a notch and asked my owner to claim her back but he told me he had got all is money back that she had cost him over the years ( was 7 or 8) at the time, well she won again that night and went on to beat the Invitation class and that is where she stayed until she broke down, this is in 1976-1977, she won close to 80,000.That claim took the bread out of the mouths of my children, but I did not cry about it, that is claiming.

Mr. Don Patrick has it absolutely correct. How many of us to pay the bills had to risk losing horses by the claiming route. I can't recall anyone feeling sorry for me or anyone else when this happened. Are we supposed to have a new class in racing where some people can enter for the claiming price they like but the horse can't be claimed by fiat regulation or public scorn and ridicule or worse??

At the risk of being politically incorrect; Is it fair that the young lady and her associates can race a horse in the same class, keep on winning and not risk being claimed due to the fact that she has a disability? People with disabilities wish to be treated just like everyone else, correct? Let's not discriminate against her by not claiming her horse.

In reply to by billd

Another reason for harness racings lack of fans !

How is it possible to not have heard of this girls story, it was posted on the SC news feed, she has been interviewed during the old monday night sports broadcasts on national TV, she attends many live racing events throughout the year, I myself have seen her in attendance on cold windy nights at mohawk raceway hovering along the rail and near the winners circle.
I am a 43 yr old life long fan and was fortunate enough to own a few horses along the way . I have been to the races near everywhere starting as a child from Saratoga Springs, Old home week, Dresden, Orangeville to the Meadowlands, Pocono, Delaware and recently twice to Lexington in the fall, which is awesome !!!
I follow the news, entries and results and I do not currently own a horse and I wonder what is wrong with you people (for not following the stories in your sport)!

You all wonder what the problem with racing is, well look in the mirror, it is YOU!

And yes you cannot race in claiming events and not expect to eventually be claimed.

In reply to by james gillam

Mr gilliam...

im on this site daily. I could give a hoot about 80% of the personal interest stories. I dont care about favorite moments or first memory or who won the $2500 feature at Batavia Downs. You cant expect even die hards to know all stories.

We need more Guy's.

Admittedly, I was one of the people disturbed by Sydney's story, without having all of the facts. I know all too well how social media can distort a story.

My father is one of the classiest men in this business, retired last year after 50 years as a Trainer, Driver and Owner.

I lost my favorite horse 3x in the course of a year. My father kept claiming him back for ME, and lost quite a bit of money in all the claiming transactions. Finally I had to let the horse go. I cried for months. Three years later we had one horse left in the barn - a $4k claimer turned $20k claimer by my father. He was claimed and we were left with nothing. Time to start all over. Again.

These things happens every single night and the only verified details of each individuals 'Story’ that we are ALL equally privy to is what is in the race program.

It is a hard pill to swallow, but this is now the nature of this business. Yes, horseracing is a sport, but it is also a business and a livelihood for many.

If we are going to unite to support and make this exception for Sydney (which I am happy to see), we need to unite, fight and support each other a heck of a lot more as well.

i feel for the girl, but claim is a claim, you have to sign authorization, with all the rules... glad she got it back but might want to take out of claimer

I was one of the people who defended Guy Gagnon on Twitter. I don't know him personally but if you look at the horses he races, this one fits and it was an astute claim.

In May this horse was competitive in the 8 claimers. Then dropped to 6 claimers immediately after the new connections took over. She was competitive but after a while her trainer dropped her to 5 claimers where she has raced her last 10 starts. She won 5 of those and was never worse than 4th. I believe that she is a legitimate 8 claimer.

When I read the attacks on Mr Gagnon yesterday from people who didn't bother to research the situation I felt I had to defend the gentleman involved. I have seen other nice comments about him and I can see he is the same good hard working horseman like so many of you are.

I don't know Sydney Weaver either except from the SC stories. I like her story and hope she can always work around horses if that's what she chooses. I hope her and Sydney Seelster grow older together and both enjoy good health.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

I know it seems unreal not to have known about Sydney especially after reading about her story that night her horse was claimed.
I heard about this from a cyber friend who is totally hooked up on FB and Twitter unlike some of us.
Trust me Guy Gagnon is not a cyberstar. He has recently owned a smart phone and is only learning now how to text!!!!! I myself was ashamed to admit I knew nothing about who this girl was. There are some people who just take it day by day, do their work and get the gossip on the run from word to mouth and keep on going.
Toronto area is a close knit community of horsemen and as a Quebecer racing up there last fall found the people very connected. It is a totally other world than here.
Social networking has its place but to literally trash someone over it worldwide was unacceptable. Guy Gagnon is a well respected horseman here and I'm sure many of you don't know about him as he didn't know about Sydney.
Returning this horse to Sydney was unquestioned by Guy...I'm glad this is over and hopefully Sydney will believe that this was not personal.

Guy Gagnon, you are a true gentleman....
Social media not a fan! Quick judgement is the wrong path...

The soul of harness racing and humankind is based upon care and compassion for the other person. Sydneys's story is an inspiration for ALL of us to remember how fragile life and horse racing can be. For everyone who supports our heroes we commend them for their desire to "do the right thing." Sometimes events such as Sydney Seelster's claim can UNITE ALL together for a common purpose, which in this situation is the beloved restoration with our faith in the standardbred community including the Gagnon family, after learning about Sydney's story.
Assuming everything goes as planned let us again remind ourselves that we need to stay together, sometimes sacrificing our personal desires for common goals ....

Let us cheer together when Sydney Seelster races and perhaps for years to come with foals inspiring us all ...

Unbelievable that an accomplished horseman should be subject to such nonsense. Perhaps the horse should have been racing in condition races as opposed to claimers.Pretty sad that this mans wife felt the need to publicly defend her husbands integrity when he did absolutely nothing wrong.

guy gagnon your are a very class act to leave the horse there to be claimed four the same price.

How do you think Cesar aquired the horse? He claimed it. Cesar Kowalski has been in the business for many years, and knows the claiming game. If he really wanted to hold on to the horse, he would have moved it up in class after winning 3 of 4 starts, or better yet, raced in condition races.

Losing horses is part of being in the business. It's a lesson that has to be learned by all aspiring owners, and trainers.

I did not think for one minute that Guy was aware of the love story between the two Sydneys. Happy things worked out. Guy is a family man and a friend. Sad that this story got that far.

The rise of social media has made it very easy for anyone to trash the reputation of someone else. Unsupported accusations and unfounded comments were made about Guy Gagnon which has left a sour taste in my mouth. I am utterly amazed how quickly people are able to judge a person they barely know or better yet have never met. There was never a doubt in Guy`s mind that he would not be returning the horse. Guy is and has been for the past 20 years a successful horseman, a wonderful role model for our two kids and a loving and supportive husband but most of all an amazing human being. I would sincerely like to thank everyone who has tried to defend my family’s name and I am truly thankful for all the good people that are in our lives. Many friends have called to show their support and it has been greatly appreciated.

Being a friend of Guy for many years I can tell you that he's very honest and genuine for saying he didn't know about it ! As the article mention he's doing what's right by leaving the horse here to race instead of taking it back to Ottawa where he's based. Very nice of you Buddy!

Very Classy indeed! I wish Guy was the one who claimed my beloved Muddy Dave when I was 18. He was in a claimer because he was a good horse, not a great horse. Claiming Races have there place but it's hard to understand when your a horse crazy girl and you walk back to the barn with only a race bike and harness. I personally slept and wept in his stall for a few days.
So while business may be business, in this business there are still a few big is cool, but this gesture was beautiful.
Lynda Bourgon Rojas

Its a heart-warming story, but if a horse is in a claimer ... the 'risk' or 'hope' is that they get claimed. Sydney is wishful about becoming a trainer, and whether as an owner or trainer, the loss of one's first (and deeply beloved) horse is a painful lesson that tests the mettle and commitment of us all.

No harm intended on Guy's part. Don't think too many people around this area knew about Sydney's story and the horse, having known Guy since he moved in this area I never had any doubt that he must have felt very bad about all of this and no hesitation to have the mare return to its owner.

Felicitations Guy, j'espere que les langues sale qui ont eu les nerfs de faire toute sortes de commentaire negatif a ton sujet seront assez homme pour s'en excuser

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Until you know the story about the claimed horse don't make judgement. The horse is eligible in a claimer, so be it.

Very classy of Guy! We all know if they have a price they are open to claim. That being said this is an instance where we consider the generosity of our industry! Sending the horse back to this young lady is nothing but CLASS! Well done Guy!

Chuck Ibey