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Please just let it be once

The View

All relationships have highs and lows, ups and downs, good days and bad. Some relationships last through tough times, while others come to an end over them.

My relationship with the North America Cup has been a fantastic one - in fact, I’ve been lucky enough to have been there live at 36 of the 37 editions of Canada’s richest Standardbred race, even when ‘special measures’ needed to be taken.

In 1987 my girlfriend’s brother was getting married, and I wasn’t just expected to be at the wedding, I HAD to be there. But Jate Lobell was putting his undefeated streak on the line at Greenwood that night in Cup IV, so I did what any sensible person would do - when we got to the banquet hall I scouted out all exits, and I found one that didn’t have me passing by the head table. So at approximately 8:30pm, after I had eaten of course, I escaped through the kitchen. My Uncle Sonny had a reserved seat for me outside, right by the wire, and it was that night when I witnessed the greatest stretch drive I’ve ever seen in-person, when Jate Lobell and Frugal Gourmet battled nose-and-nose for at least the last 200 metres. I made it back to the wedding long before last call, and although the relationship with my girlfriend would eventually end (a few years later, and not that night) my relationship with the N.A. Cup was stronger than ever.

In 2000 there was another bloody wedding that tried to get in the way! This one only involved one of my partner’s work friends (I barely knew them), and again, my partner was very understanding - so when I walked out this time (after dinner of course) I didn’t even have to go through the kitchen, but used the front door. This was the Gallo Blue Chip year, and my very good friend Chris Christoforou was in with a shot with Astreos, so attending this one was a no-brainer. Plus, my four-year-old son was at Woodbine with my parents, and someone had to make the sacrifice and drive in there to pick him up. Chris and Astreos finished a game fourth under a slight rain, and the N.A. Cup and I remained in good standing.

I’ve raced on North America Cup night (never in a stakes race), I’ve cheered on and celebrated with friends who have won it, and I’ve clapped and been happy for many strangers that have done the same. I watched with goosebumps as Paul MacDonell let Canada’s horse walk down the Mohawk homestretch, past his frenzied fans, on his way to the winners circle, and swore that The Beach actually stopped and bowed to us.

There’s no doubt that the great history of the North America Cup has left a mark on my life.

On Saturday, August 29, 2020, I was lucky enough to attend my 36th North America Cup in person. Instead of 10,000 people in June it was approximately 100 people in August. Our friends at Woodbine Entertainment did a fantastic job of putting it on with class, under impossible circumstances. The handle was even a record $5.6 million! But as the gate picked-up speed with ten of North America’s finest three-year-old pacers on it, I didn’t feel the usual adrenaline. Instead it was an eerie silence. It was almost like being at qualifiers - except it was dark out.

I really hope this was a one-off, and that in June of 2021 we’re back to the old N.A. Cup that we’re accustomed to. But COVID-19 doesn’t have a good relationship with the race, and it doesn’t care to. There’s no promise that next year will be any different. So please, whether you’re ‘right’ or ‘left’, Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, young or old, concerned or not - just wear your damn mask. Social distance. Stay home when you can, and stay out of other people’s space. We all want our lives back, and I want my race back.

As for the one edition that I wasn’t at? My old owner and good friend Gerry Haggerty let his daughter get married on N.A. Cup night in 2004 - in Kingston! I would’ve had to sneak out well before dinner to make it to that one, so we had the bartender put it on and watched Mantacular win on TV.

By the way, all three of those marriages ended in divorce long ago, so what’s the moral of the story? Don’t get married on N.A. Cup night, there’s a big race on that’s more important.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]

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