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Talented Trio On 'Virtual Tack Room'

Published: May 16, 2020 10:45 pm ET

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The Saturday evening (May 16) episode of the ‘Virtual Tack Room’ featured a trio of talented horsemen from the Maritimes -- James MacDonald, Adam Merner and Gerard Smith.

Hosted by founders Lee Drake, Kent Oakes and Peter MacPhee while being joined by racing historian Jerry McCabe, the ‘Virtual Tack Room’ entertained viewers with reminiscing of fond racing memories as well as insightful questions from the hosts while the countdown to the return of racing in PEI is underway.

First to enter the spotlight was longtime race secretary Gerard Smith. Smith discussed how he has managed to stay busy while quarantining on the island and also discussed how he originally got involved in the harness racing industry.

“My wife says she's never seen me so often, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing,” laughed Smith. The longtime harness racing participant, who plays a crucial role around many Maritime racetracks, then discussed with viewers how he became introduced to the industry. “It’s an interesting story, I grew up about 13 miles from the racetrack, we always had horses around the farm but never did we have any racehorses. Around 1964 or '65 when I decided to go to Summerside to play hockey, my coach informed me that there was a teaching position at Summerside Intermediate School so I applied and I got interviewed between the first and second period of a hockey game,” Smith laughed as he recalled the story.

“I got the job, and the first guy I met when I got to the school was a custodian by the name of Lester Chappell and it wasn’t long after meeting Lester that he had me out cleaning stalls and jogging horses -- doing the whole nine yards and that was how I got interested in the business, we can blame Lester for that,” said the Hall of Famer who now nears 50 years of working behind the scenes of the industry.

Next up to bat was driver James MacDonald, who captured the World Driving Championship in PEI in 2017. MacDonald reflected on the lifetime achievement and what it felt like to win the coveted title in his home province.

“To finish the WDC in PEI -- you couldn’t ask for a better finish to a story than that. Everywhere I went there were people cheering everywhere. I’ve never heard people cheer for one person the way they were for me, people everywhere were decked out in red and white clothing. I knew that I had a big lead on the rest of the competition and I knew how special it would be to win the competition at home but the attention that I received was just mind-boggling. Most nights at Mohawk I’m probably getting heckled more than I am getting cheered on so to be able to interact with all the fans was very special. It didn’t matter who they had their money down on, it seemed like in the back of their hearts they were all rooting me to win. There were people I went to school with that I hadn’t seen in years, my friends, my family, it was just really special.”

Finally, Maritime driver Adam Merner was in the spotlight to discuss memorable moments throughout his career as well as how he has been able to stay busy during the pandemic.

Merner reflected on a particular horse in his career that he holds near and dear, Beaus Cowboy.

“Beau was really special to me. I remember when I first started working for Ronnie Gass and when I started Beau was one of the horses I often trained. He had his quirks, at two and three he was a little fiery, at three I was lucky enough to drive him. A lot of people don’t know this but Walter Cheverie drove him a couple times and said to us ‘you should open this horse up’ so they put an open bridle on and I questioned them for it because anytime I jogged him in an open bridle at home I ended up in the centre field more times than I did on the track but whatever it was it clicked with him and when I got to drive him, he was just peaking and I got to have a lot of fun with him.”

Merner then continued to reflect on a particular person who also helped define his young career.

“I looked up to my mother and father the most, my mom loved every horse that came into the barn -- the good, the bad and the ugly. It didn't matter what they were, she took care of them all the same and taught me a lot of what I know today.”

The episode of the ‘Virtual Tack Room’ which is produced by Universum Media and presented by MacRae Backhoe & Trucking & MacRae Racing stable is available for viewing below.


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