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Music Director Passes

Published: November 28, 2021 1:32 pm ET

Last Comment: November 30, 2021 7:41 am ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

After a long and successful career on the racetrack and a post-retirement promise kept by his former caretaker, Standardbred pacer Music Director passed away peacefully at his forever home in Milton, Ont. on November 15, at the age of 32.

A son of Falcon Seelster out of the Big Towner mare Rowina Rowina, Music Director concluded his racing career two decades ago with a record reading 73-50-39 from 334 starts, a mark of 1:51.1 taken at The Meadowlands and $925,996 in earnings.

Music Director was a Free-For-Aller on the Woodbine circuit in the 1990s when he was trained by Joe Stutzman and later enjoyed success stateside in the barn of Mickey Burke, among others.

Among his racing highlights was a dramatic victory in the 1994 Toronto Pacing Series final, overcoming a post 10 start to prevail by a half-length in 1:53.2 for the 36-1 upset with Paul MacDonell in the racebike. He missed by just a nose the following year to stablemate Ball And Chain.

While he was one of those popular 'Saturday night special' horses, Music Director’s presence extended far beyond the lights of the racetrack. He was a horse that had a profound impact on the life of his former caretaker Sarah Scott, forming a bond for life when they met in 1993 and ultimately shaping her career path in the harness racing industry.

As a young teenager, Scott learned the ropes of grooming and caring for horses with the gentle giant while working in the Stutzman stable.

“He was such a nice, calm-natured horse,” recalled Scott. “Being a child, he was one they found I was comfortable with and would be a good teacher for me. He was trustworthy and so consistent, and even in his later years, I had my niece on his back and even when a fly would land on him, he wouldn't move because he didn't want to unsettle her. This horse was so in tune with people. It was incredible. I'll be honest with you, I've worked with a lot of horses over my career, of all kinds, and to this day, there's not a horse that I would trust completely 100 per cent except for him. He just captured my heart.”

Scott has fond memories from his racing days including when he gifted her a birthday win one year and later in his career when she told her parents a New Year’s Eve fib that she was going to a party to ring in the new millennium but instead drove to Raceway Park in Toledo, Ohio to paddock Music Director for trainer Bob Zubkoff.

When Music Director left the Stutzman stable in 1996, Scott followed the pacer throughout the rest of his career to make sure he would find his way back to her.

In a world without the instant connection social media provides today and when cellphones were a luxury, Scott would constantly pull up race chart printouts at racetracks to find out how Music Director was doing, where he was located and who trained him. Just a kid from Canada barely old enough to drive at the time, she called the trainers of all the barns he passed through in his later racing career.

“I always said to them, if anything ever happens to this horse, he has a home for life with me,” said Scott. “It was one horse early that I made the commitment on that I would never let him have a bad day.”

That’s a promise Scott kept, providing a safe, loving and stable home for Music Director with lush paddocks at a private farm in Milton, Ont. for 20 years when he was retired from racing.

It was in 2001 when Music Director was reunited with Scott.

“I was always talking about this horse and how much I loved him and Vinnie Fusco Jr., who passed away last year of COVID, said to me out of the blue one day, ‘Let's go get your horse, Miss Sarah.’ And he put up the full claiming price. I gave him $4,000 that I had [from win bonuses from grooming Del Miller and Hambletonian Oaks champion Syrinx Hanover] and he put up the rest of the money.”

The late Jim Raymer, Chris Marino and Mark Ford provided further assistance with travel arrangements for Music Director as he was shipped from The Meadows to New Jersey into Scott’s care and was retired shortly after, ultimately making his way to his forever home in Canada.

“I just had so much respect for the animal, you know, racing week in and week out at all these tracks and going through so many grooms and so many trainers. If any horse was entitled to proper care in retirement, it was him,” said the former caretaker, who continues to own racehorses and is now North American Regional Manager at Nortev / Flexineb and creator of SLS Equine, designing custom day-to-day equipment for horses. “It was a commitment that I made and some days it wore on me financially, but it was a commitment that I would never, never change. I mean, I would go without before he did.”

With time, Music Director transitioned into retirement after the routine of racing and thrived at his new home where he remained active and well-cared, even getting a huge 30th birthday bash with treats and visits from Scott’s family and friends, including Stutzman and previous owner Vince Albanese, his wife Olive and son David.

Sadly, the day she feared came last week when Scott had to make the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her beloved companion. Scott would like to thank Dr. Liz Shiland, Travis Forbes and Riley McGilloway for their assistance with Music Director.

“If it wasn't for Music Director, I wouldn't be in the industry,” said Scott, who has been a strong advocate for responsible horse ownership and equine welfare. “I always put my best foot forward, I try to bring as much positivity to the industry as possible whether it be through taking care of the horses, making sure they're rehomed, making sure trainers have different products that they need to make the horses feel better, even their equipment, and then Caretaker Appreciation Day that I helped form. I believe good brings good, and I think this horse brought the best out of me.”

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to Scott and the connections of Music Director.

November 30, 2021 - 7:41 amI bought Music Director at

Garth Gordon SAID...

I bought Music Director at the Lexington sale for $16,000. He didn’t make it to the races at two because he had bad knees. When I got him qualified and started racing him at three I didn’t think he was going to stay sound because of his knees so I sold him at the first chance I had. “Boy Was I Wrong”. When he was winning races and working his way up through the condition races I said well when he gets to the F.F.A. He won’t win that race because I have a good horse in there by the name of Soft Light he won’t beat him. Well I was wrong again. Not only did he win the F.F.A. When he met up with Soft Light he won many more. Music Director earned his &925,996 the hard way racing mostly in over nights. I tip my hat to you Sarah Scott for taking care of this great Warrior to the end. R.I.P. Music Director.

November 29, 2021 - 1:04 pmHorse was all class, same as

Tim Bates SAID...

Horse was all class, same as the groom!

November 28, 2021 - 9:20 pmSo glad he had a wonderful

debbie bird SAID...

So glad he had a wonderful retirement. Garth Gordon picked him out for us and our partners Sandy Hill and Cyril Hayes as a yearling at the Lexington Sale. He was a gentle horse. We’re happy he lived a good long life. RIP Buddy.

November 28, 2021 - 8:41 pmCONGRATS on keeping your

CONGRATS on keeping your commitment to your faithful horse, and my hat is off to you for all you have done for the sort we all love. BIG BIG HUGS.

November 28, 2021 - 4:27 pmRIP to this wonderful boy

RIP to this wonderful boy <3

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