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Four Horsemen On 'Virtual Tack Room'

Published: May 23, 2020 10:40 pm ET

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The Saturday evening (May 23) episode of the Virtual Tack Room featured a well-known group of Maritime participants: Darren Crowe, Mike McGuigan, Kurt Hughes and Dave Kelly.

The ‘Virtual Tack Room’ is a web series that was created to keep the harness racing community connected while racing across North America took a hiatus due to COVID-19. Lee Drake, Peter MacPhee, and Kent Oakes host the web series along with race historian Jerry McCabe.

Long-time horseman Darren Crowe was first to be interviewed on the ‘Virtual Tack Room’ and discussed how he has been coping with the pandemic.

“We’re doing alright, we’re getting through things, it was a bit of a rough go but everything seems to have settled down and we’re moving forward.”

Crowe then revisited his first career drive and first career win.

“I’ll always remember my first career drive because it was a bit of disaster -- I never made it through the post parade. The mare stumbled and fell right in front of the grandstand. I was nervous and it was really embarrassing. I wanted to hang the lines up then but I kept at it and things progressed. I actually got my first win with that same horse that fell down in post parade about three weeks later.”

Next to enter the spotlight was Kurt Hughes, co-host of Red Shores in house show. Hughes discussed how he has kept busy during the dark days of racing.

“Things have been going well here, we’re staying home as much as possible and we have been doing the homeschool gig. Teachers don’t get paid nearly enough,” Hughes laughed.

Hughes then discussed how he originally got involved into the harness racing business.

“My story began much like many others in the business -- by following in my father's footsteps. I was about 12 years old and my dad had a really nice colt that I would help paddock and go to the races with. A few years later my brother Jason took over the stable and he loved free help so he would track me down from wherever I was and I would help him out at the races.”

Mike McGuigan, who was busy earlier in the afternoon during the first set of Red Shores qualifiers, discussed a stable star of his -- Gettin Messi, a multiple stakes winning trotting gelding by Armbro Barrister.

“Jamie Whelan called me one day and asked me about a couple horses named Gettin Messi and Setting Day. I called a good friend of mine, Corey MacPherson, who was associated with Gettin Messi as a two-year-old and he told me that he really liked the horse. So I took the two horses and trained them both down.

“Messi trained down well but he didn’t train like a world beater by any means. He was a bit of a goofy horse, he had good manners but it didn't seem like he liked his work on the track too much. In his first start for us he made a break, but he came back and beat a nice colt that Marc Campbell was training and at that time I thought he would go on to be an okay horse but I didn’t think he was going to be the horse that he ended up being. He was a very special animal.”

Gettin Messi earned over $30,000 racing across the Maritime provinces winning the Island Breeders Crown, Island Breeders, Lady Slipper and multiple divisions of the Atlantic Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts. McGuigan was aboard Gettin Messi for all his three-year-old victories.

Future Star Award winner at the 2019 O'Briens, Dave Kelly was the final guest on the Virtual Tack Room. Kelly discussed how his stable has managed since racing has been shut down in Alberta.

“It’s been tough, our schedule hasn't changed too much, our two-year-olds are still on the same routine, we gave our racehorses a bit of a rest. The toughest part of this whole thing is that it feels like the movie Groundhog Day,” Kelly laughed. “At least now racing is going to start back up soon so we have something to work towards, but before we it just seemed like we were just going around and around in circles. It’s hard to manage your barn without racing.”

Kelly then revisited one of the most defining moments in his career, the night Kelly took home the Future Star Award.

“Just to get nominated for anything to do with the O’Brien Awards is beyond words. My owners even came with me to the awards -- win or lose we were going to have a great time. To get recognized for an honour like this was just fantastic. Hopefully we can build on this achievement, and when someone asked me what might be the next goal my reply was ‘well hopefully we can be back here again someday.’”

The episode of the Virtual Tack Room is produced by Universum Media and was sponsored by Stow It All Charlottetown and Fredericton and is available for viewing below.

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