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Christmas memories.

The View

When you tell someone that you’re a lifelong Standardbred horseperson, they really have no idea what that truly entails. Usually, if the conversation continues, at some point you’ll say to them, “It’s not really a job, but more of a way of life.” Still, these words will hardly impress on them, the depth of that statement.

This was never more evident to me, then when I recently took the time to think about Christmas, and what it means to me - the memories. A lot of them, not surprisingly, include a heavy dose of horse.

STAFF CHRISTMAS PARTY: Something that is tradition for many - a time to eat and drink with your co-workers, usually put on by the company you work for. To me, the most memorable of these took place in the shedrow of my good buddy, Joey MacIsaac, years ago in the Mohawk backstretch. Every year, usually on a Wednesday afternoon in December, Joey would host his annual Christmas Barn Party. This basically meant that when you got your work done, by 1 or 2pm if possible, you’d head over there to eat and drink in his shedrow, with the horses, all afternoon. Oh, if those barn walls could talk! Usually by 8 or 9pm, when the horses had had enough of us, a few survivors would land at the Mohawk Inn, just in case the celebrations weren’t quite finished.

CHRISTMAS MORNING: Once I became a father, and Santa started coming back to my house after a long hiatus, it became very important to get to the barn quite early, to get the horses tended to, and get home again before my son was out of bed. This was never more challenging then the two years I had a mare, First Dawn, that liked to tie up. She HAD to jog every day, and Christmas was no different. When I think of specific Christmas morning memories, jogging First Dawn on the back track at Mohawk, in the pitch black, at 4:30am, quickly comes to my mind.

STOCKING STUFFERS: In my house, a favourite stocking stuffer for my parents and I at least, was our Boxing Day program. The Boxing Day card at Greenwood, and later Woodbine, was one of the most highly anticipated of the year, and as soon as the gifts were opened, the handicapping would begin.

BOXING DAY TRADITION: Get up early. Jog the horses and get them put away. Turkey sandwiches in the car on the way to Greenwood for the 1pm card, usually with close to 10,000 people in the grandstand. Eventually one year, when my very own Chris Seelster upset a top group of high-end conditioned pacers in front of a big crowd on the Boxing Day card at Woodbine, to me, it was like winning the North America Cup.

EXTENDED FAMILY: When I raise my glass on Christmas Day, to toast my son, my sister, my parents, my brother and sister-in-laws, and my nieces and nephews, I’ll also be toasting my racetrack family - and a family it is. It’s large and widespread, and we don’t always see each other a lot. In fact, many of us have never even met in person. But we’re joined by the passion we all have for the Standardbred race horse, and a family we are. So cheers to you all! Just don’t expect a gift.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]

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