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I Think I Was Wrong

The View

It’s March 7, 2004 and I’m celebrating with my family and our owners in the Woodbine winner’s circle after Pronovais, a gorgeous, black, four-year-old daughter of Make A Deal, bred by owner Gerry Haggerty and developed by yours truly, just completed a sweep of the Ontario Girls Pacing Series by taking the $54,000 final from PP #9 - for driver Randy Waples.

I also have mud on my face.

The week before, as we carried on in the winner’s circle following her second straight divisional victory, Randy promised me, my seven-year-old son Justin, and his mom Patti, that ‘when’ we won the final in a week’s time, he was going to plant a big kiss on me for the picture. The ever-boisterous Waples stayed true to his word (see photo).

Leaving the winner’s circle however, as the festivities carried on towards the paddock - winning a race this size for a small stable, with a horse I had developed was a big deal - Waples’ mood turned somber. As I lauded him for his drive he disagreed. “She was awesome again Fish… I drove her bad. I had her first-up all three weeks. She races good that way but I’d love to get her a good trip at least once. If she ever sat on a helmet until the head of the stretch, this mare would go a scary mile. You and her won this race - not me”

Note: This was 17 years ago, so the quote above is what was said, but it might not be word-for-word.

I now also recall telling him that he was his own biggest critic, often his own worst enemy, and that he shouldn’t be so hard on himself all of the time. Looking back now, I think I was wrong.

At that point in Randy’s career he was definitely a top guy - those were still the ‘Chris & Randy years’ when he and our pal Chris Christoforou were the top two guns around the WEG circuit. He had already won two O’Brien Awards as Canada’s leading driver (1998 & 2001) but looking back now, he was nowhere near the hall of fame yet.

Admittedly a ‘late-bloomer’ who in 1994, at age 29, was working for free for Fred Hoffman, just to pay his share of the bills on a mare he owned part of, Waples was a 1,000/1 shot to reach the hall at that point.

Even as a ‘top gun’ in 2004, with the two O’Brien Awards under his belt, he was far from a cinch to reach the hall. Looking back now, following that win with Pronovais, Randy would go on to capture approximately 2,700 more races (out of 6,640 in total) and another $75 million in purses (from a rough total of $131 million).

In 2004 there had been no Maple Leaf Trots or Breeders Crown with San Pail, no Thinking Out Loud N.A. Cup, no Breeders Crown and Horse Of The Year with Dreamfair Eternal, and no September 5, 2015 at Mohawk - a night where Randy earned an incredible $950,830 in purses.

No, maybe ‘being so hard on himself’ was exactly what got Waples into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall Of Fame.

In fact, the more that I think about it the more I believe that in this day-and-age, when it seems like many people out there would rather just have things handed to them rather than to work hard to accomplish something, maybe more people need to be hard on themself à la Randy Waples.

When I interviewed Randy for his hall of fame feature in this very issue (see page 36) he told me that after he learned of his up-coming induction he barely slept for the next two nights. He admitted that after a lot of the big wins with San Pail, or following that memorable night in September 2015, mentioned above, that he barely slept for the next two nights. The adrenaline that runs through this man’s body seems to come in much higher doses than it does in mine, or most people I’ve met, and as high as those highs take him, the lows seem to take him just as far in the other direction.

While we spoke about his wonderful career and stories continued to come up in regard to how hard he was on himself - whether it was letting down his dad, or driving horses poorly, or not being as good as other people that he thinks should be in the hall - I reminded him that he WAS now in the hall, and that he really needed to stop being so hard on himself!

Randy laughed and said, “You know you told me that before - to stop being so hard on myself.” Then he reminded me of our conversation as we left the Woodbine winner’s circle with Pronovais back in 2004.

You know what Randy? In hindsight I’m glad that you didn’t listen to me back in 2004, because if you did, maybe we wouldn’t be celebrating your hall of fame induction today. Everyone responds to a different sort of prodding that inspires them to excel - you found yours and it’s obviously helped carry you to the pinnacle of your profession. Congratulations my friend!

Now, even though your driving days aren’t yet finished, will you please stop being so hard on yourself all the time!

Dan Fisher
[email protected]


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