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MacPhee, Racing Return To CDP

Published: June 1, 2020 8:13 pm ET

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If you are a sports fan, chances are COVID-19 has had you itching and scratching for professional sports to return. There's also a good chance that you’ve had to resort to other forms of television for entertainment. There's probably a higher chance that you’ve watched the Netflix and ESPN documentary miniseries The Last Dance, a series that revolves around the career of the great Michael Jordan.

The correlation between harness racing and Michael Jordan’s Netflix series might be hard to find immediately, but there is a certain Jordan quote that may hold particular meaning to a certain someone in harness racing.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

These are words that may become the mantra of Brodie MacPhee, as his name returns to the list of drivers appearing on the overnight entry sheet at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino at the Charlottetown Driving Park for the first time since 2014.

A native of Prince Edward Island, MacPhee has always known his family to own racehorses. “I have a lot of family around the racetrack,” MacPhee recently told Trot Insider. “My father, Brian, has been slowly pulling back from racing the last couple of years. He has a couple of horses with my sister, Ambyr; a couple of trotters and an aged horse that I’m not sure is going to make it back to the races this year. But they have a couple of trotters that they’re fooling around with a little bit. My sister helps a local trainer here quite a bit, Trevor Hicken. My grandfather still owns a racehorse --for as long as I can remember he’s owned racehorses -- he still has a racehorse with Adam Merner...a nice, little aged mare that races fairly competitively around here.”

Family Photo: Brodie MacPhee (right) with (starting at left) sister Ambyr, grandfather Alex, cousin Sophie MacPhee, father Brian and cousin Drew Dalziel

It’s that importance of family values that helped push MacPhee to start the process to reinstate his driver's license, and perhaps MacPhee making his return to the driver's seat is also partly credited to the timeless saying in harness racing, when it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood, as being a fan could no longer suffice for the now 34-year-old.

“I see my family a lot more around the racetrack. I see them at least two to three nights a week when I am racing and maybe two to three nights a month when I’m not, so family has a lot to do with it. But, I also missed being in contact with drivers and trainers -- I’m a bit of a social butterfly. Over the years, my girlfriend and I remained avid fans, we would watch the races online but even so, a lot of our friends are involved in horse racing and I get to be around them more often too when I’m racing so there are a lot of factors like that, that pulled me back in.”

In 2013, MacPhee put up career numbers by piloting 115 winners to victory lane while earning $258,429 in purses while maintaining a .300 average throughout the year -- numbers that are quite impressive for the Maritime ranks.

With his career on an upward trajectory, it's hard to imagine how anyone could walk away from their dream job. So what exactly happened in August of 2014 that made MacPhee walk away from the industry he had come to know and love throughout his life?

Brodie MacPhee (centre) with the late Brian Andrew (left) at Red Shores Charlottetown

“2013 was a great year for me. 2014... there was some turmoil. You know, I’m a very passionate person and there were just a lot of things in my life at that time that needed to be sorted out. There were things I needed to figure out personally and my mother was sick. She actually passed away last year and I’ve been able to deal with that. I think me leaving horse racing was a blessing in disguise, backing away from the industry really straightened a lot of what was going on out for me. Over the last six years I was able to grow up a little bit and just get to a different place.”

“If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

MacPhee was able to do just that. By walking away from harness racing and hanging up his colours, MacPhee was able to find a new career path that has blessed him with new opportunities, financial stability and appreciation for the sport in which he was once so heavily involved.

“After I left the industry, I was able to secure a full-time job that sends me around the world. I’ve been to South Korea, Norway, Gulf of Mexico and a lot of places in between. I have a great job and I’m [in] a better place mentally and financially than I was at that point in my life.

“I’m an electrical technician in the marine industry, we build control panels for offshore drilling ships [for] a local business here. My job has me here today and gone tomorrow, very much here today and gone tomorrow.”

That dynamic schedule is a lifestyle choice that MacPhee has had to adjust to versus being involved in the harness racing industry where it can sometimes seem like you are forever going around in circles, not only literally but figuratively as well.

“Everybody thinks how glorious it is to have a job that takes you around the world, and don't get me wrong, it is. It’s great to see other parts of the world, especially on the company’s dime. But the travelling, it weighs on me. As I said it’s a great job, but when it comes down to it it’s very taxing...physically and mentally, it can be draining.”

On the same note of finding a way to deal with your obstacles, securing a full-time job hasn't been the only way MacPhee has kept busy while on his harness racing hiatus.

“My partner Sarah and I have invested in some real estate. We do student rentals in the wintertime which are usually nine-month student rentals and then the other three months tourism takes over. My girlfriend Sarah -- she’s my rock. She never kicks up a fuss whatsoever when I call her in the middle of the afternoon and tell her ‘I’m going to Norway tomorrow and probably going to spend a month or six weeks there.’ She looks after the properties when I’m gone and deals with tenants and travelers coming to stay at our home for a week or two weeks at a time. She is an absolute angel.”

While it seems like MacPhee has done an excellent job of keeping his plate full and balanced, he also finds enjoyment in refereeing youth hockey in P.E.I.

“I referee a ton of hockey in the wintertime and I absolutely love it. I referee all levels of minor hockey. It’s actually the same place and same association I played in horribly when I was younger. It’s great, it’s paid exercise and it keeps me a little better fit.”

MacPhee’s refereeing gig has also helped him see harness racing through a more well-focused lens.

“Being able to sit on the other side of the table and interact with players and parents...[I have] a newfound respect for officials, I guess. No matter what call you make, there’s always someone that’s angry, someone that’s upset. It’s a newfound respect I have for officials who put the time in.”

Brodie MacPhee walks Ramblinglily back to the winner's circle after winning the Maritimer Stake at Exhibition Park Raceway in 2013

In life, change is constant. Sometimes things change for the better and sometimes for the worse. It’s all about how we adapt to these changes and how these changes shape how we live our lives. For Brodie MacPhee, change in his life could have gone many ways. He chose the path of letting changes around him change his life for the better. And it’s that clearer state of mind he’s in today that has him prepped and primed to be back in the driver's seat after some qualifying refreshers over the past few weeks.

“My first qualifiers back went well. As far as preparation goes, trying to fit into a couple of old suits was a little nerve-wracking. I had actually given some away but the two I kept still fit, so that was a plus. Leading up to Friday when the list was posted, the emotions were there for sure. But Friday evening and Saturday morning, [I was] very, very excited to get back into the bike.

“It was very uncomfortable for my hips and back -- I felt like an old man when I got on my last one. I was able to actually drive a very nice filly of Ronnie Matheson’s (Thebossisagirl). Ronnie just listed me again too so I’m really appreciative of all those people after six years that listed me on the first day. I’m hoping to gather more drives going forward and hopefully earn the respect back of the local guys around here. [It] probably will take some time, but I’m good friends with most of them. Marc Campbell was great, he reached out a couple times telling me he can’t wait for me to be back and he’s been the top guy here for 10 years. It’s been very humbling.”

Given the resumption of harness racing on June 4 while still holding a full-time job with international travel, MacPhee can't say how prominently harness racing will play a role in his life going forward. The fact remains, however, that it will now play an active role.

“Going forward I don’t know how much I can commit. Like I said my job has me here today and gone tomorrow I’m just going to go week by week. If I’m here, great, I’ll drive as many as I can. I’ve explained the situation to a lot of people and they seem OK with it. As far as goals go I don’t really know if I have any other than being excited to get back and drive and hopefully we can get fans back.”

MacPhee won't be seeking any sponsorships with Nike or Gatorade like Michael Jordan did in his career, but it's clear that he's more than looking forward to being back doing something he loves.

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