She may just be 15, but Gracie Mae Barr has always had a thing for the horses. The teenager from Thamesford, Ont. grew up watching her parents, Scott and Bethany, work in the harness racing industry.
“There is no chance that I wasn’t going to be into the horses,” Barr has stated. “My parents are into harness racing – my dad trained full time and my mom works the London Selected Yearling Sale. The day I was born (March 8, 2005), my dad raced two horses, Coyote Sam and Future Honey, at Western Fair Raceway and they both won! For me, I think it’s just meant to be.”
Though it’s been a lifetime of horses for Gracie Mae, it’s only been over the last few seasons that she’s been attending the races in London.
“My first actual memory of The Raceway was when my dad took me in to see a ‘mini pony race.’ We went to watch and cheer on our friend, Travis Moore, who was racing his pony, Wally,” she said. “And now I enjoy watching and cheering on many who race in London. Sue McNeight and the Horner Stable, Lorne House, Paul Chapman, Brent Belore, the Reibelings, and there’s lots more. Pretty much anyone than can get me to the track on race days, I’ll cheer them on, too.”
So seeing as though she is relatively new to the backstretch, Gracie Mae was asked if there was a horsewoman that she has noticed and now looks up to on race nights.
“It’s Teesha Symes – no question,” Gracie Mae said. “From watching her, I can tell she’s a hard worker and I can see that she cares a lot for her horses, too. She’s always smiling, so she must love what she does, and her horses always look great when they walk into the race paddock – everything just looks so professional.”
Barr’s favourite racehorse this meet in London has been Hidden Potential – a former top-class pacer who found his form with the ‘seniors pace’ events.
“He’s a really nice horse to be around, except in the winner’s circle,” Barr noted. “He has knocked me over in there, but other than that – as long as he has his chew chain and carrots – he’s a happy boy.”
Another ‘Raceway’ favourite for Barr this racing season would be her victory with Family First. “He was my first win, paddocking by myself, for trainer John Pentland,” she said. “John is a family friend that we’ve known for years. I started going to his barn with my dad on the weekends, and now, with school shut down, I’ve been busy working at his stable. My parents are okay with it as long as my grades don’t suffer.”
And in her spare time, Gracie Mae – like so many others in the business – has a retired racehorse to ride. “His racing name was Nospeednofeed, but I call him ‘Buddy.’ My dad used to race his mother, Tenacious Dream.”
Another connection for Barr and Pentland has been the impressive filly Lauras Love. The duo share ownership on the lightly-raced daughter of Betterthancheddar.
“She didn’t race as a two-year-old because she was a little on the immature side and John wanted to take things slow with her,” Gracie Mae explained. “That way she could maybe have a strong three-year-old season, and so far she has.”
Indeed she has.
Lauras Love went onto debut at Woodbine Mohawk Park on January 23, 2020. She finished sixth at the Campbellville, Ont. oval, but her strong :26.3 final quarter indicated that she may be good to go next time out. And, just one week later, she definitely was.
“When she won that night, as she crossed the finish line, there may have been a few tears; not only because it was my first win as an owner, but because it was our first win together. I’ll also never forget Ken Middleton giving me the shout-out in the winner’s circle. It was just a real special night!”
Lauras Love and her connections smile for the camera after her January 23, 2020 victory at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Now a winner of four of her five career starts, Lauras Love gets some downtime to freshen up as Ontario and the rest of North America awaits the return of harness racing.
“I’m just beyond proud of what she has accomplished,” Barr said. “I knew last year that she had some talent, but I had no idea she would go out and win four in a row. She’s the first horse that I’ve officially owned and there’s no other horse I’d rather own than her. She’s super goofy, with a lot of personality, but she’s just meant for me.”
Lauras Love, pictured victorious at the wire on January 23, 2020 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
And the future plans for Lauras Love? Is there any chance that she’ll be seen at The Raceway going forward?
“I’m not sure where else she’ll race other than at Woodbine Mohawk Park,” Barr reported. “It’s completely up to her trainer to decide. And I’ll trust that he’ll do what’s best for her – he’s been right so far!”
(Shannon ‘Sugar’ Doyle for The Raceway at Western Fair District)