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August Horse Person of the Month: Marge Szigeti

September 8, 2023

For Marge Szigeti, home truly is where the horses are.

There was never any doubt, really, as to where the native of Ridgeway, Ontario, would eventually end up at some point in her life.

Raised on a farm in the southwestern part of the province, Szigeti figured it was only a question of when she would make her way to a racetrack backstretch.

The answer came nearly 50 years ago.

“I’ve always loved horses,” started Szigeti, who was gifted two ponies by her parents when she was six.  “Ridgeway, which is considered Fort Erie now, had a big tie to the horses, so working at the racetrack was my summer job throughout high school. I started out with [trainer] Buddy Carter. I worked at the track for two years and went back to school.  I missed it when I wasn’t there because I loved the atmosphere and being around the horses.”

She kept those same feelings after she started working for the Coca-Cola company.

After working Monday to Friday at her full-time job, Szigeti was back on familiar ground, namely, the backstretch, where she would groom the horses on weekends.

It’s something she did faithfully over the 37 years she was employed at Coca-Cola.

When Szigeti retired, she gave herself the only gift she wanted: more time with the horses.

Marge Szigeti
Marge Szigeti

“My vacation times were always spent at the track,” she recalled with a laugh. “In 2017, I left the company and I decided to give myself a retirement job. And I love it.”

Szigeti, who worked in the Woodbine barn of veteran conditioner John Charalambous, started working for trainer Ted Holder last year.

Currently, she looks after, in her words, “five and a half horses.”

“The half comes in the form of the big horse in Ted’s barn, Kaukokaipuu,” she said of the handsome grey colt who recently contested the 164th running of The King’s Plate. “Ted gave the horse to myself and another groom, Eric, because he wanted to reward us both. That’s just one more reason why I come into the barn with a smile on my face every day. I don’t get up at three in the morning for any old job. Recently, we’ve been short on help, so it means coming in seven days a week a lot of the time. But I don’t complain. Why would I?”

Early mornings, late nights, hot or cold, rain or shine, the Woodbine backstretch is everywhere Szigeti wants to be.

After all, it’s where the horses are.

“Just taking caring of them is a big joy for me. You develop such a wonderful connection with all of them.”

And sometimes, you get to be part of Canada’s most famous horse race.

In 1980, Szigeti, working for Carter at the time, watched as Someolio Man finished second to Driving Home in the 1980 edition of the Plate.

Forty-four years later, she did the same with Kaukokaipuu.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be part of a day like that. You feel a lot of pride seeing a horse you are associated with go into that starting gate.”

Whether they contest the biggest races on the calendar, are lower-level claimers or ones who haven’t made their first start, Szigeti takes care of every horse she grooms with the same affection and dedication.

What makes this current group special?

“They’re wonderful. There are two I’d like to take home with me as riding horses and then there’s one, Hobby Class, who I just want to take home as a mascot. She came in so tiny. I didn’t tie her up when I was doing the stalls. She would just follow me around the stall when I was cleaning it. I call her “My Little Puppy Dog” or “Precious.” She’s just such a sweetheart. She’s always happy.”

Just like the groom who takes care of her and four and a half others in the stable.

“Marge is a caring person who dearly loves her horses,” shared Holder. “She is definitely deserving of this honour.”

Marge Szigeti
Marge Szigeti


Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms 

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