Light the Lamp and jockey Luis Contreras winning on the Woodbine Tapeta on December 3, 2023. Don MacRae not only trains the 5-year-old gelding, but he is also part owner. (Michael Burns Photo)
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications
TORONTO, On. – Each week, in the lead-up to Opening Day (April 22) of the 2023 Woodbine Thoroughbred season, the Woodbine Communications department will spotlight Woodbine-based horses and horse people ahead of the new season.
From horses on the King’s Plate trail, to Woodbine trainers and jockeys sharing their views on 2022 and the upcoming campaign, to some of the stars to keep tabs on 2023, the Woodbine Winter (now Spring!) Watch will cover key players, horses and horse people, at Canada’s Showplace of Racing.
In this week’s report, trainer Don MacRae looks back on his 2022 Woodbine season and looks ahead to the 2023 Woodbine campaign.
Inside Track: Don MacRae
- 563 career wins
- 10 career stakes wins
- Top horses include Acting Naughty, Bent Attorney, Civil Code, Avoman, Puntrooskie, Marcian, Piper’s Legacy, Sailor’s Thought
- Won 23 races in 2022, the most victories MacRae posted since he recorded the same number in 2011. His $695,960 (US) in purse earnings last year was MacRae’s highest total since 2010. Light the Lamp, Blazing Sky, Big Bad Luzziann, and Solar all won multiple races in 2022
The 2022 campaign
“It was just a solid year throughout. I think we spotted horses properly. Losing Avoman [through a claim] in the spring hurt, but seeing him win the Steady Growth Stakes, I was happy for [trainer] John Charalambous. We did develop a nice horse in Avoman, so it was good to see him do well. Other than that, I thought we had a bang-up year. One of my partners called me up and said we need to get aggressive in claiming horses, and once we did that, it lit a fire under us and we were able to have success.”
The more, the merrier
“It was a good feeling, having multiple horses win multiple races. When you look up and down your barn, you want to get at least one win for most of the horses you have in those stalls. We had a pretty successful year with that. I think we claimed 12 horses and 11 of them came back to win a race. Some of them were on the rise, some of them were on the drop, but it was a good feeling to see them do well.”
“You never really know when it is going to be a good year. You can start off strong and tail off, or vice-versa. The one thing you strive for is consistency. And no matter how hard you work, you need to have luck on your side. I think when you’re going bad, you don’t switch too many things up. You keep doing what you trust in, and things will eventually come around. If you stay aggressive, you can be successful. When you’re running scared, it’s when you start losing.”
“My one partner, Michael Lay, he has some goals for us every year, which are nice to work towards. I don’t really set particular personal goals for the barn each year. But about three quarters of the way through last year, we were coming alive, and the push was to stay in the top 10 of the standings, and get 23 wins at Woodbine, which would be the most I’ve ever had at Woodbine. And we were able to do that. It’s something the whole team should be proud of, and it really does take an entire team to achieve success.”
“My number one thing, my outlet, has been hockey. During the summertime, I don’t play as much, but during the winter I play a lot. But these days, regardless of how the day goes at the racetrack, win or lose, when I get home and see my wife and daughter, the stress goes away immediately. We bought a new house and I’m very grateful we were able to do that. A lot of the time, we don’t take a moment to be thankful for what we have. As I get older, I’m learning to appreciate those things a lot more.”
Jock Talk: Slade Jones
- 61 career wins
- 1 stakes victory (in eight starts)
- Recorded first stakes triumph with A Touch of Red in South Ocean Stakes. First win came with Arra Go Wan on June 2, 2022
- Finished seventh in the Woodbine rider standings in wins (60) and 12th in purse earnings ($1,919,309, US)
- Named a finalist for the 2022 Sovereign Award as Canada’s leading apprentice rider
“Winning my first stakes race, which I did for [Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer] Sid Attard, was a big one, very special for me. She’s really a nice filly. So, that stakes win stands out as a big highlight from my first year of riding. Getting the chance to ride some for [trainer] Kevin Attard was nice too. I won some races for him, which was a great opportunity for me. I also won three races in one day on three occasions. There was one day where I won all of the Inner Turf races, which was probably my favourite day.”
“The E.P. Taylor Turf Course is a beautiful track. I love it. When you are out there, it seems like you have all the time in the world to make your move. When you are going down the backside, it’s a chance to tuck in and wait for your moment. I just really enjoy riding on it. If you have the horse, it’s so easy to get out and get your position. When you turn for home, you have the chance to get your horse in stride and get them moving.”
“When we were in the Grenadines, we were fishing our handlines and we caught some big barracuda. I also do a lot of spearfishing, and I enjoy doing that, especially back home in Barbados. You see lots of sharks and eels, a lot of everything, really. I haven’t seen whales and dolphins yet, but a lot of big sharks. They aren’t bad. They just leave you alone.”
Father knows best
“My dad [former rider Jono Jones] has given me a lot of very helpful advice. He told me, ‘It’s not about how many races you win, it’s when you win them.’ My dad, one the best things he shared with me is that during a race, I should try to slow everything down in my mind, to relax, to be completely calm, so that I can make the right decisions. And that helped me a lot. When I was winning a lot of races, it was when I was mentally at my best, thinking clearly when I was out there. He also taught me to speak less and let my riding do the talking. I love to watch videos of my dad riding. He was very smart out there. My dad had really good timing and the ability to position horses well, and time those runs really well too.”
“This year, I want to win more stakes races and some of the more high-profile ones, to get the chance to be in those big races. The King’s Plate, I would love to win that, or at least get the opportunity to ride that race. I hope this year that I can have a safe season, win some nice stakes races, and be in the top five in the standings.”
2022 Race Rewind:
Watch jockey Slade Jones win the $100,000 South Ocean Stakes with A Touch of Red on October 14, 2022.