Tom Rankin has achieved outstanding success in many facets of his life. As a Standardbred breeder and owner the native of Cape Breton has garnered many of harness racing’s top honours.
And, success has also been a large part of Rankin’s life outside racing. A professional engineer by education, Rankin founded and managed a construction company in 1978 and, in the intervening 40 years, Rankin Construction flourished.
According to Rankin success is wonderful but it’s the love of the horses that makes being in the industry worth all the work and expense. “The whole aspect of them, racing and breeding, is fascinating and inspiring,” Rankin explains. “But I’ve found, for myself that it’s just about loving the animal.”
Beyond harness racing, Tom is a generous donor to education and the arts. His own background as a poor farm boy from Cape Breton Island has made Rankin keenly conscious of the importance of education.” I don’t think I would be anywhere without education. I have a company with 500 employees. That’s nothing to do with me being great or wonderful. That’s all down to getting an education.”
Not one to take good fortune for granted, Rankin has always been eager to share his largess. The gates to his St. Catharines breeding farm are always open to fans and the general public alike.
Rankin likes to put his money where his mouth is. Some of his many philanthropic gifts to academic institutions include his alma mater, Saint Francis University, where the nursing school is called the ‘Beth and Tom Rankin Nursing Centre. Niagara College’s technology building is named the Rankin Technology Centre as thanks to another donation, and Brock University is soon to rename its main foyer in honour of the Rankin family.
Given this love of both education and standardbreds, when Rankin was offered the opportunity to sponsor this year’s Youth Literary Derby by program founder, Bill Galvin, he thought it was the perfect combination of both of his passions.
“The contest is a great for education in terms of encouraging literacy and the arts,” Rankin states. “Giving kids the chance to be creative and who knows, there might be a budding poet or writer.
As for the harness racing industry, Rankin thinks the Youth Literary Derby is an ideal way for introducing the sport to a wider audience.
“Anything that promotes the horses and the industry is great. The more that the horses are in the public eye the better.”
Rankin believes there is a latent interest in horses out there in the public. What is often lacking is the opportunity for people to access the sport beyond the racing surface and get to know the horses which are, after all, the heart of the industry.
“The more knowledge people have of the breed and the sport, the better and I think this contest is a great idea and a tremendous public relations opportunity.
“I mean it’s got the educational aspect to it and the industry aspect to it so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Eight-year-old Youth Literary Derby hopeful, Mandy Keagan of Fonthill, Ont., with two-week-old Chapter Seven colt and his dam, Keep The Spirit, with owner-breeder Tom Rankin at his 160-acre St. Catharines, Ont., Standardbred showplace.
"The response to the Youth Literary Derby has been positive, upbeat and province-wide" said Bill Galvin. "School boards, libraries, the arts communities, universities, standardbred breeders, industry associations horsepeople and writers groups have partnered with the program's organizers to promote the program throughout the province."
The Youth Literary Derby is a juried, horse-themed writing contest for Grades 5 through 8. It offers $2,000 in prize money and is designed to encourage writing and literacy skills. It reaches out to horse-loving youth with a literary flair and into the province's educational system. It challenges students' evaluations and perceptions of one of God's most beautiful creations and their abilities to capture in prose and verse their close up encounters with Standardbred foals.
Industry people have chipped in with their Derby impressions. "I love the idea of the Youth Literary Derby. This initiative will provide much needed exposure to, and an understanding of the horse racing and breeding industries in the province.
Hopefully students will visit a local farm and have the opportunity to interact with with one of the thousands of Standardbred mares and foals that reside in Ontario and experience the connection that made us all fall in love with the sport." Brian Tropea, general manager, Ontario Harness Horse association.
For full details on the Youth Literary Derby visit www.youthliteraryderby.ca. Entries must be submitted by midnight of June 15, 2018.