(Michael Burns Photo)
Campbellville, September 2, 2010 — For the second straight year, there appears to be a serious local contender heading into North America’s premier race for two-year-olds, the $1 million Metro Pace, which goes this Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack.
His name is Big Jim and if there was ever a case of a name perfectly suiting a horse, this just might be it.
The strapping son of Western Ideal – Bold Pink is named after his owner James Carr – a long-time owner from Hamilton, Ontario, who shares many of the attributes of his prized pupil.
“We’re both big, we both like to eat and we both like our rest,” says the affable Carr whose primary business is serving court documents in the Hamilton and Toronto area. “He definitely has a lot of charisma and is good with people.”
Carr wasn’t quite so enthusiastic just after he had purchased the colt for $35,000 at the 2009 Harrisburg Yearling Sale. Big Jim tore apart a stall they were housing him initially and then, following his arrival at the stable of trainer James ‘Friday’ Dean (himself a Hamilton native), spent three nights in a field after refusing to come in from a turn out.
However, he matured quickly and trained down beautifully for Dean who was a long-time assistant for Canadian training legend Stew Firlotte. In fact, Carr has had many horses with Firlotte over the years and only got back into ownership recently as a way to encourage Firlotte, who had suffered a stroke, to get back in touch with the sport and the animals he loved.
“Stew is the main reason I’m back here with this colt,” admitted Carr. “I lived near him in Florida and watched him wasting away and never leaving the house. Finally, I told him that we had to get back into racing. We bought a couple of horses and his wife Joanne and sons, Terry and Brad, looked after Big Jim all winter.
“‘Friday’ said he was the best two-year-old he had training down, so I just made sure that I staked him up and I tried to map out a schedule where I wouldn’t have to truck him. He’s eligible to the Breeders Crown which is the only race we’d have to truck him for if he’s still on track at that time.”
Carr takes pride in the fact that the colt is locally owned and he plans to keep it that way, already turning down several lucrative six-figure offers. His phone was ringing off the hook following Big Jim’s stakes record 1:51.1 win in the Dream Maker Final at Mohawk but things were surprisingly quiet following his equally impressive 1:51.1 score in his split of the Nassagaweya Stakes.
“I think people realize that the colt is not for sale,” he explained. “You only get a chance to get a horse like this once in a lifetime. I bought him as a yearling, I named him, I watched him train all winter all Florida.
“I’m fortunate that I have a good income in life and I don’t need to sell the horse. I’m going to keep him and have some fun with him and I really hope the public and young kids especially get behind him too.”
In fact, Carr is sending out an open invitation to any children in attendance this Saturday to come out and get their picture taken with Big Jim in the winner’s circle if the colt is fortunate enough to prevail in the lucrative final.
Big Jim will start from post four for driver Phil Hudon – a native of British Columbia – and has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favourite in the field of 10 which also includes another local hopeful named Prodigal Seelster who was the fastest elimination winner by virtue of his 1:50 clocking for driver Tim Tetrick.
Prodigal Seelster, who is based near Flamboro Downs in Flamborough, Ontario, captured the $300,000 Battle Of Waterloo earlier this year and starts just inside Big Jim from post three. He has been listed as the 3-1 second choice.