The horse that stepped off the trailer at the foster farm was very much the same one Joanne Colville had seen, up-close, over a distinguished 144-race career.
It took less time than a standardbred opening quarter mile for Colville, who has served as Events Coordinator and Board Member with the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society (OSAS) for several years, to realize that Easy Lover Hanover hadn’t changed a bit from his racing days.
“He is an absolute sweetheart,” said Colville, of the handsome eight-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere, who was retired from racing in August. “He’s an in-your-pocket kind of guy, very willing to please. You saw that right away. He has an amazing personality and demeanor, the kind of horse that is very special.”
The longtime horsewoman would certainly know.
Colville has been an outrider at Woodbine Entertainment racetracks for years, affording her a front-row seat to watch hundreds of horses compete over the course of each racing season.
She quicky recalled Easy Lover Hanover, the pacer who originally sold for $100,000 as Hip No. 248 at the 2014 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, before coming to owner Brad Grant and Hall of Fame trainer Ben Wallace two years later.
“Brad had bought him originally as a nice overnight horse and he far exceeded any of their expectations,” said Colville. “He was always quiet and mannerly any time I did see him. And he still is to this day. He likes his work, he likes to go about his work, and he’s a true gentleman.”
Founded in 1996 to assist in the adoption and relocation of retired and non-racing Standardbred horses within Ontario, OSAS is funded through fundraising, contributions from racetracks, horse industry organizations and private donations.
Easy Lover Hanover is one of hundreds of horses the initiative has helped.
“He found a home with a lady who is a previous OSAS adopter, Northumbria Equine,” said Colville, of the farm in Port Hope, Ontario. “He’s pampered, he’s loving life and that’s what he deserves. Everything fell into place for him. Ben and Brad are very happy. The lady that looked after him is very happy to get all of the updates on how he’s doing.”
Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, Easy Lover Hanover, originally trained by Tony Alagna, came to Wallace and Grant through the 2016 Tattersalls January Mixed Sale. The sale was held not long after the barn fire that saw 43 horses perish at Classy Lane Training Centre.
Wallace’s stable star at the time was the Grant-owned Apprentice Hanover, another son of Somebeachsomewhere, who had accumulated over $1 million in earnings.
Grant, hopeful that an unproven Easy Lover Hanover could provide both he and Wallace with a hard-knocking horse to work with, paid $70,000 for the bay.
If he was looking to make a good first impression on his new connections, Easy Lover Hanover most certainly did.
He delivered Grant and Wallace with a six-race win streak in 2016. Later that year, he made five straight trips to the winner’s circle, which landed him in the Hap Hansen Progress Pace at Dover Downs. After finishing second in his elimination, he took all the spoils in the $314,600 final, in what would be his highest-profile stakes triumph.
In all, Easy Lover Hanover would win 51 races, along with 87 top-three finishes, from 144 starts. His bankroll stands at $1,162, 473.
Colville, whose High Stakes Farm breeds, sells and races trotters and pacers, as well as boarding horses for numerous clients, is grateful that OSAS played an integral role in Easy Lover Hanover’s post-racing life.
“It’s a feather in your cap when people like Brad and Ben support the program. They’ve both been longtime supporters of OSAS. This time, we were able to help them out, by giving a home to a horse that’s very dear to both of them.”
She’s also appreciative of the widespread efforts of the horse racing community throughout the past 18 months.
Despite the worldwide pandemic wreaking havoc on the Ontario horse racing industry, the importance of recognizing the efforts of OSAS never waned.
“I was worried heading into COVID,” offered Colville, who served as Chair of Standardbred Canada for several years and is also on the board of the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA). “No racing means no funding or very little funding. But the industry has rallied around us, and they have been absolutely wonderful, very generous. Our golf tournament was sold out, probably 10 days after we posted that we were holding it. It was heartwarming to see.
“The industry, as a whole, has been phenomenal. We have a board that is second to none. They are versed in all aspects of the industry. Jim Evans, our President, has been involved in racing for years, and is very passionate about what we do. We have two Hall of Famers (Bill O’Donnell and Ian Fleming), Heather MacKay does a great job with our press releases and in organizing our recent 25th anniversary events, and Kelly Spencer brings great marketing expertise. Everyone at OSAS works hard and cares deeply about the horses.”
It’s something Colville was reminded of when she finally had the chance to meet the horse that she had marveled at on the racetrack for so many years.
After the first pat, she knew Easy Lover Hanover was destined for the good life.
“He puts a big smile on your face the moment you meet him. He’s a horse that gave so much when he raced and he’s still very much that giving horse. It’s a feelgood story and hopefully we’ve got some more.”
Chris Lomon for Woodbine Communications