Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Talkin' Horses With Ian Black At Kinghaven Farms

On Tuesday, Amy and I made the quick drive up the 400 highway to visit Kinghaven Farms for an interview with trainer Ian Black. The feature story from this visit will appear in Down The Stretch, however, there were a few little stories not included in the feature I felt worthy of re-telling here at Triple Dead Heat.

Black has been involved in Canadian horse racing for more than 40 years. While working as a steeple chase jockey for a trainer in his native England, Black was offered a chance to come and work in Canada for Dinnie Burns and her sister Joan Addison. Dinnie Burns is the mother of local trainer Catherine Day-Phillips. “They were looking for someone to come out to Canada, so in 1964 I came out here to work for Catherine’s mother and her sister. I worked for them for three years,” stated Black. The very trainer Black was working for at the time went on to condition future Grand National winner Highland Wedding for Day-Phillips' grandparents.

Black's adventure in Canadian racing continued with a move to the burgeoning Stronach barn before making his move to Kinghaven in 1975.

(Click to enlarge photos, click the "Back" button to return to the blog.)

Check out the barn and indoor training track!


Kinghaven was a force to be reckoned with at Woodbine throughout the 1980s and 90s and Black, as farm manager, was a key part of the team.

Izvestia won the Queen's Plate before going on to complete the Triple Crown.


In 2005, Kinghaven scaled down operations and Black began a new career as a trainer. Black found success immediately and not just in regular races, Black would win the Queen's Plate in 2007 with Mike Fox and followed up on that success last year winning the Woodbine Mile with Rahy's Attorney.

Rahy's Attorney dusts Kip Deville and Ventura in the Woodbine Mile.


The following are a few excerpts from our question and answer that didn't make it into the paper.

A sunny day meant we could stand outside for the interview.


TDH: What jockeys do you like to work with? Do you think certain jockeys excel for you on turf or in certain situations and why?

IB: I don’t think anybody suits every horse. You try to fit the horse to the rider. Slade (Callaghan) is a very good rider and he’s patient and does a good job. We’ve had good luck with Slade and Emma-Jayne Wilson. Chantal (Sutherland) has rode a few. Corey Fraser rides a lot for me, works hard for me. I use a lot of different riders because the Patrick Husbands and Jimmy Mcaleneys are tied to big outfits a lot of the time, you probably lose them somewhere along the line. Someone like Slade or Corey will stay with you.

TDH: Joe and Ellen MacLellan's Ellie Boje Farm have entrusted you with some excellent horses. including Rahy's Attorney and Glitter Rox. What can you tell me about working with them?

IB: They had always sold their yearlings and then they decided to keep the two - Rahy’s Attorney and Glitter Rox. Bob Anderson, the breeder from St. Thomas, was a friend and mentioned my name to them. They called and said they had a couple two year-olds they’d like to bring me in July and i said, 'as long as i have stalls that would be fine.' I should have said, 'yeah give em to me now!'

Glitter Rox takes a liking to the camera. Amy's a bit shy.


TDH: What other horses might they surprise us with this year?

IB: They’ve got a three year old filly who is still a maiden called Flatt Out Lucky who is a half sister to Glitter Rox that placed a couple times and kind of disappointed me. We worked her on the grass and she looked really great so I’m looking forward to this year. We never got to run her on the grass last year is the bottom line, but she worked so well and i think she might be okay on the grass. We bought a little yearling at the sale last year and he’ll be running as a 2 year-old this year. He’s called Regal Ring, he's by Where’s The Ring. Trains fine, but early days yet.

Amy got over her shyness with this friendly mare.


TDH: You were able to go to Kyoto with Rahy's Attorney last year for the Mile Championship. Describe the action in Japan.

IB: It was incredible. Sixty thousand people at the track all giving the slow hand clap as they load into the gate, getting impatient. When i looked down from where we were sitting, we were fairly high up, they (the fans) had all come out on the apron. It was amazing. We were over at the barn the night before at six o'clock and there were people sleeping outside the gates to get in the next day.

TDH: I remember when the Woodbine grandstand was full every weekend. I miss the crowds.

IB: There's a picture in my office of Alywow winning the very first race run on the E.P. Taylor turf course taken from the infield and the grandstand was packed that day.

TDH: How did Rahy run in the Mile?
IB: We were beaten less than four lengths. As they went by, we could have been second, we could have been ninth. I couldn’t tell, there were that many horses across the track and out wide. He ran his race and he closed really well that day. He was close, then he lost a little ground on the turn for home and then closed again late. Galloping out and going up the hill he was in front but they don’t pay you for that!

The rousing finish of the 2008 Mile Championship


TDH: Any promising 2 year-olds? Mr. Bigliardi mentioned Madonnadellegrazie to me…

IB: She looks like a nice big filly. She just went to the track yesterday and she trained at the track this morning. She looked good. A nice big filly, I like her. All being well she’ll be on track July or August. She’s built like a two turn horse.

After posing for a few photos, a gracious Mr. Black said his goodbyes and Amy and I reluctantly returned to the city. There's something about being around the muck of the stables and actually touching the horses that reminds you of the flesh and blood part of this game. As a good friend said to me this morning, "It's not just images on a television screen. These are powerful animals of flight..." I couldn't agree with him more and I'm already looking forward to my next trip to the country.

Saying goodbye to the farm...

1 comment:

wendyu said...

Nice interview and what a beautiful farm to visit on a gorgeous day! You and Amy were very lucky indeed.

When I bought Jag, he was training at a farm with an indoor track as well. It was a bit wider than what you had in the photo but it's pretty cool. I suppose that's a necessity in the northern climates to be able to keep training.