Promising Pupils Help McIntosh Mend

Bob McIntosh
Published: March 3, 2024 11:34 am EST

When Bob McIntosh travelled to Delaware, Ohio this past September with his brother Doug to prepare for the Little Brown Jug, he was expecting just a one-night stay before making the trek back to his responsibilities in Ontario. After suffering an accident later that same evening, his stay in the Buckeye State was longer than he had hoped for.

Having been on the sidelines for a few months as he recovers from his injury, the Hall Of Fame conditioner provided Trot Insider an update on exactly what occurred on that September evening, how his recovery’s been going and a few thoughts on a sophomore trotting colt who turned some heads in his debut.

“All you can do is laugh about it, really,” McIntosh told John Rallis, writing for Trot Insider. “I had just finished using the washroom in my hotel room, and as I was walking out, I stubbed my toe pretty hard and did a complete 180. I fell to the floor and I knew right away, something was wrong.

“Luckily for me, my brother was in the room right next door to me, and thankfully, I had my cellphone on me. I contacted him immediately and he took me straight to the hospital.”

McIntosh sustained a hip injury, as well as a fractured femur. Twelve hours later, he went into surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware.

“They put a titanium rod in my femur and a couple of clamps,” said McIntosh. “It was not a simple surgery by any means, but the medical staff did an incredible job over there.”

While McIntosh was in surgery, Standardbred racing was already underway at the Delaware County Fairgrounds with the headliner being the $1 million Little Brown Jug. The Hall Of Fame conditioner had his sophomore pacing colt, Moment Is Here, participating in the prestigious event, but never got the chance to watch his elimination. He was pleasantly surprised when he got the news. 

“I was in surgery when Moment Is Here won his heat,” said McIntosh. “I woke up and I had texts and calls from my brother and partners about the result, and despite being a little bit dazed from the medication, I was relieved to hear that.

“I was coherent enough to watch the final in real time. I was ecstatic about drawing the rail, but there was constant pressure the whole way and things didn’t work out. It was a great effort, nevertheless, and a terrific race overall.”

While his pacing colt and his staff made their way back to Ontario, McIntosh was forced to stay in Ohio for 10 extra days, with the expectation of having to undergo rehab following his procedure.

“I tried to get back to a hospital in Ontario, but my family doctor was zero help,” noted McIntosh. “Christina Wilcox, who works for me three days a week, made arrangements with someone and got me into Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Winsdor. 

“It was very tough, because when you’re there, all you can think about is being back home. I went away overnight and ended up away from home for almost a month," added the trainer with a laugh. 

McIntosh’s trip to Delaware was his first overnight excursion in about five years. The incident was an illustration of just how challenging 2023 was as a whole, specifically away from the races.

“Since COVID and the passing of my wife, I never travelled anywhere overnight,” admitted McIntosh. “Sometimes you lose the desire to do certain things and go to certain places when you lose someone you love, but there was another person close to me who talked me into going to Delaware, and so I did.”

Dave Boyle, someone who has been a dear friend and partner of McIntosh’s for more than 30 years, recently passed away in January after a battle with cancer. In a conversation the two of them had prior to the Jug, Boyle urged his close friend to make the trip over.

“He wanted me to go,” recalled McIntosh. “I wasn’t really interested in going initially, but after speaking with Dave, I figured I had to. He wasn’t healthy enough to make the trip down, so I’m glad I made the trip, regardless of what happened. Losing Dave was a real tragedy for me, as I’m sure it was for many others. He was a great man.”

The one positive for McIntosh in 2023 was his homebred, Moment Is Here, who enjoyed a very strong sophomore campaign. After earning $205,862 as a freshman, the son of All Bets Off more than doubled his earnings in 2023, bankrolling $556,309. His biggest triumph came in the $300,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, which would end up being his final start for his conditioner. His achievements earned him O’Brien Award finalist honours, as well.

“He’s a really nice horse and an absolute pleasure to train,” said McIntosh. “Like many two-year-olds, he suffered many aches and pains, but at three, we did absolutely zero vet work on him and he was strong all throughout. There were a couple of races I felt he probably should’ve won, but things just didn’t work out. Everyone who sat behind him this year did a remarkable job.”

Moment Is Here was purchased for $285,000 USD by Mark Weaver via OnGait just days after closing out his provincial campaign. Despite the talent, McIntosh doesn’t keep too many horses these days when they enter their aged career. He’s mostly focused on the development of young talent.

“Horses like Moment Is Here, 15-20 years ago, I wouldn’t have sold. I had more of a staff who would travel to the States and I just don’t have that right now.

“When you see the colt that sold just before him [El Rey] fetch what he did, it made selling Moment Is Here a no brainer. He was available at the right time and we were very happy with what he sold for. U.S. dollars are no joke," laughed McIntosh. "That being said, the new ownership group is getting a heck of a racehorse, and they know that. He’s going to have a great career.”

McIntosh will continue his focus on young horses, as well as his breeding operation. On the training side, he has 25-30 in his care, but there was one three-year-old in particular who caught the eyes of many, including his trainer, in his career debut at Woodbine Mohawk Park late last month.

Convoy Hall, a son of Muscle Mass, was a $52,000 yearling purchase in Lexington. Unraced at the age of two, he made waves over at Woodbine Mohawk Park after a dominant win in 1:55.3 on Feb. 22. The ease in which he trotted a final quarter in :27.4 was what was the most impressive aspect of that performance.

“I don’t buy many horses from the sales given I have my own breeding operation, but my brother was going down to Lexington and he wanted to get something for us. When he went down there, he said he liked this colt a lot and when I saw the family, I said ‘go get him.’

“I trained his mother [Constance Hall] for Alan Leavitt and she made over $200,000 in her career. I also purchased two sisters of that same mare as well and they turned out to be quality racehorses as well, so I’ve had plenty of success with the family already.”

McIntosh liked the way that Convoy Hall was training ahead of his two-year-old campaign, but knew that his size would be too much of an issue so he decided to shut him down until 2024.

“At two, he started to grow like a weed and we decided to turn him out,” said McIntosh. “One thing’s for certain, I just can’t fight with mother nature!

“He’s grown and filled out nicely and I could not have been more impressed with what he did in his career debut. He trained real well but I did not expect what he showed towards the end of his mile. I was taken back by that final quarter at the end of it. I sat straight up in my chair, that’s for sure."

The sophomore trotting colt proved that his debut was no fluke, putting forth an even more dominant performance in his second lifetime start on Thursday, Feb. 29 at Mohawk by trotting away to a six-length score in 1:56.2 in a $17,000 event. Leaving from post four, Convoy Hall reached three-quarters in 1:29 with driver Sylvain Filion before trotting a final panel in :27.2. He couldn’t have looked more professional doing it.

This colt gives even more reason for McIntosh to be even more excited about 2024, but right now, his focus is on getting back to 100 per cent from a health standpoint.

“I have a couple of three-year-olds returning that I’m excited about after their two-year-old campaign,” said McIntosh. “Obviously, when you see what a horse like Convoy Hall does in his debut, it really adds to the excitement level. He’s paid into enough this season and let’s hope he can continue to build off that effort. Horses can fool you, but he looks pretty good.

“As for me, I am just hoping I can be back up to full speed after this injury. I know I’m getting older, but I don’t want to stop. I don’t feel old, but I’m forced to walk with a cane right now and I can’t wait to get rid of it," McIntosh laughed. "I’m a very hands-on guy, so having to watch and observe from the sidelines over the past few months was the toughest part for me, but I’m so thankful for the team I have around me. I couldn’t do it without them and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.”

Despite some hardships over the past few years, McIntosh is choosing to focus on the positives and is thankful for what he does for a living. It’s what keeps him going.

“I’ve had some bad luck with things that have gone on personally over the last few years, but I’ve been very lucky in that I love what I’m doing," shared McIntosh. “I look forward to closing my door every morning and going with the young ones everyday. There’s honestly nothing better than that.

“I’m just glad I’m able to climb into my office again — AKA my jog cart — because that is where my brain starts churning," quipped the conditioner. "I probably shouldn’t be back to jogging horses just yet, but in my mind, it’ll help me heal quicker."

(Standardbred Canada)



Get well soon Bob! Where are the world champions going to come from if you are not around?

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