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There’s something about the inside of a barn that’s good for the inside of a man.

The View

Winston Churchill’s famous saying that “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man” stands true,

but as long as the people you’re inside of a barn with are the right people, it’s my experience, both long ago and again more recently, that the title of this column stands true as well.

Have you ever just sat in a barn in a social setting, simply bantering, and often laughing with friends, while horses softly munch hay in the background? For your sake I hope that your answer is “Yes,” and if it isn’t, then I hope you get to experience it soon.

Barn parties - usually in the backstretch at Mohawk or Greenwood - are probably the best parties I’ve ever attended in my life. Rain days, although we didn’t have many, were often the most enjoyable days at work - especially if someone happened to have a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey in their office.

Alcohol isn’t mandatory however, and neither is food, if you’re looking to experience a fantastic time hanging out inside of a barn one day. The key ingredients to me are simply a few horses, some good (real) people, and lots of laughs.

It had been about two years since I had the pleasure of a nice ‘barn day’ but after Desperate Man won the North America Cup I decided to head to Arthur, Ontario, with my photographer-son, to the farm of John and Kathy Cecchin in search of the perfect photo for the cover of this issue of TROT. It’s my strong opinion that we found that perfect picture, but lucky for us we also found a lot more.

Before driving up that morning I knew Trevor Henry fairly well, and his wife Shannon a little too; I had known John Cecchin for many years but basically just to say “hi.” I knew Kathy Cecchin only to see her and I had never met neither Paul nor Nikki Davies. My son, photographer, and traveling companion, Justin, knew none of the above.

It took about all of 30 seconds for us to be made to feel right at home. These people had been hounded by media for days since Desperate Man’s fairytale victory in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup, but when we walked into the barn it felt like we instantly belonged… and it wasn’t because we brought coffee either, because when the coffee was spotted we were told that it was “getting very close to switch-over time” (that moment in the days following a $500,000 victory when coffee cups mysteriously turn into cans of beer). Those cans of beer by the way, did magically appear not long after.

We had been told many times that this group of horsepeople were “the nicest you’ll ever meet,” and anyone, ourselves included, that knew the back-story about this horse or had been on social media in the hours and days following the race was quite aware that this was a popular victory throughout Canada and beyond.

Their kindness and the strong feelings of joy easily felt for these people was confirmed quickly, but what else did we learn about them while we were there, that made us love them even more?

• John Cecchin said, when asked how many yearlings he may buy after the big win, “That front field of ours needs tiling… my yearling this fall might just be tiling that field.”

• Kathy Cecchin was terrified that the piece done on them by CTV News would end up on the Standardbred Canada website and begged me to see that didn’t happen (most people that I hear from are angry if they don’t get put up on our website after big wins).

• Trevor Henry actually snuck out on Kathy the morning previous when the CTV News cameras showed up - he doesn’t care much for the limelight either.

• Shannon Henry actually snuck out a bit early on this day saying to me later that “It’s their moment more than mine and I wanted them to enjoy it.”

• Paul and Nikki Davies said their first thought of what to do with the purse money might include a trip to the Gold Cup & Saucer next summer - young people not buying a fancy car or electronics, but instead a trip to a horse race.

• Shannon and Kathy did have “a beer or two” at 8:30am while doing stalls the morning after the race, and when those ran out Kathy got a ride to the Beer Store, and went inside and bought more in her pajamas.

I could go on-and-on but I think the point is clear - this is a feelgood story that most of us love, and the reason that most of us still dream the dream. If you can’t be happy for this group I don’t think you could be happy for anyone.

So “Thank you” to all of Desperate Man’s connections for your hospitality, and for the great barn day. We’d like to come back soon but when I told John we’d be back for sure the next time they win the North America Cup he replied, “That will never happen again… when he’s done [Desperate Man] we’re done.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we’ll be back anyway.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]

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