Easter With Three Of The Best

Published: April 12, 2020 07:25 pm EDT

An All-Star cast of Mark MacDonald, Dave Miller and Blake MacIntosh were featured on Sunday evening’s (April 12) episode of COSA TV. While the trio may be competitors on the track, they have remained good friends off the track throughout the years. All boast resumes which include titles such as the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Little Brown Jug and Breeders Crown victories between them.

The interview was hosted by Greg Blanchard and was produced by CUJO Entertainment. Blanchard discussed how the trio of horsemen are all keeping busy while racing continues to be suspended across North America as well as revisited memorable moments of their careers.

The ‘Buckeye,’ David Miller, who is quarantined in the sunny state of Florida, has been able to find a way to stay occupied during this time.

“I go to work every day, I have some horses, I go to the farm and do mine and help other people. I put in a full day every day,” Miller laughed.

Trainer Blake MacIntosh, who operates successful stables on both sides of the border, has had to make particular changes to his program as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve turned out the aged horses that were racing. I haven’t been able to get down to New York lately but we have 10 three-year-olds that are in training. We are still going with the babies, there are 43 and we are just going to continue going forward with them - that’s all we can do. We had to lay off one rider here [Ontario] and we had to lay off one groom down in the states. I didn’t want to but we had to.”

Prince Edward Island native Mark MacDonald, who recently has rebounded from a shoulder surgery, has felt the effects of the pandemic in a more direct way than others being located in the hotbed of the virus around Yonkers Raceway.

“I know people who have died [from COVID-19] but at this point, I think we all know someone who has died from this. Carmine Fusco who died - I drove a horse for him on my last night of racing at Yonkers. It’s going to be weird not seeing him around. It’s crazy because I was exposed to it and that exposed my whole family to it, it’s scary stuff. This virus seems to hit others harder than some, we had symptoms for a few days and the baby was sick for almost eight days. We are all okay now, but it takes its toll on you. It’s very hard on your body and really fatigues you for a good few weeks after your symptoms are gone.”

On a more positive note for MacDonald, Blanchard took MacDonald on a trip down memory lane to the day he and American Ideal set a world record at The Red Mile in 1:47.4.

“This was a day that I remember quite fondly. Going into the race I was really confident that he was set up for a very big mile. Ron Pierce made sure we went fast enough, he baited me into things I think telling me to go ahead going into the first turn but that was my rookie mistake - that was my first time driving at the Red Mile. People warned me not to rush into the first turn and to be careful stepping them out of there because the second quarter is kind of downhill. When we got to the quarter and it popped up in 25.4 I said to myself ‘Well I hope it's not too downhill or we’re going to get there in about .51 if it is.’ He was just that kind of horse that once he got started up he was hard to settle him back down, you just had to let him do his thing. I had him all started up but every time I had him relaxed a bit I could hear Ronnie in behind me giving his old ‘hiya’ and away we would go again,” laughed MacDonald. I think Ronnie did more driving on that horse than I did that day. I was just hoping he wouldn't stop. It was fun, it was a great day.

“He was scary fast and he was a really good horse. If you could actually catch a helmet with him and just draft for a way he could really make some speed. He was a lot of fun to drive.”

MacIntosh, who has a lasting relationship with both MacDonald and Miller, recalled early days of racing at Windsor Raceway with MacDonald. “He could actually get out of bed in the morning back then,” laughed MacIntosh. As for his relationship with Miller, MacIntosh describes the work relationship as “I needed a driver one night and there was this old guy there at the track waiting around to drive so I asked him to drive my horse." Blake joked. "He is a good driver, there’s not too many better than him.”

Now with a Little Brown Jug and a Meadowlands Pace to his credit, MacIntosh revisited a victory that perhaps helped him make the jump to Grand Circuit racing - the 2016 Battle Of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ont. where MacIntosh sent out Sports Column, a heavy favourite going into the race.

“I think we were the favourite the year before in the Battle Of The Belles [two-year-old fillies] and got beat and there were two or three other times where I made the final of those races and just never had any luck. It was always the race that escaped me. It was probably because Mark MacDonald was driving them I’m guessing," said MacIntosh with a grin.

“We went into the race with Sports Column with the rail and it just worked out perfectly. Chris Christoforou gave him a perfect drive and things just worked out for him. Everyone always asks me who my favourite horse is and they all expect me to say Courtly Choice. Don’t get me wrong I love Court but Sports Column is my favourite horse that I’ve ever had - he's all class, and just a nice horse to be around, he never does anything wrong. He’s also the first horse I ever got to race in the North America Cup. I just love that horse, he will never leave my barn.

Dave Miller, who is second all-time behind the legendary John Campbell in lifetime earnings, might find it difficult to choose just a handful of memorable moments throughout his lavish career, but if pressed to do so, he may say that Always B Miki may ‘b’ the best one of all the great ones he has sat behind.

“You never know where they are going to come from or who they are, when you see them for the first time you never know that some of them will turn out as good as they do. But Miki was a special horse from day one. He was probably the strongest horse I have ever seen. He had some problems at two and started off his three-year-old season kind of the same way but as soon as he got lined up - it was lights out. He was a tough horse for anyone to beat. He was a big horse, when I stood beside him I could not see over his withers. I actually had to raise my arm to touch his withers for that matter. He just was a monster of an animal.”

The trio of horsemen answered questions from fans and shed some light on horses they are looking forward to when the 2020 racing season gets going again, the all-star cast also enjoyed reminiscing on memorable moments throughout their careers. The feature can be viewed below.

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