By Jennifer Morrison for woodbine.com
TORONTO, November 1 – Three days before the 24th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, taking place this year at Del Mar racetrack in San Diego, John Fielding is driving down the Pacific Coast for the first time.
“I have never been out here before,” said Fielding, who pulled onto the side of the road in Malibu to take a phone interview. “We just went to the ‘Red House’, one of the homes of Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead house in San Francisco.”
The big destination, however, is Del Mar, where Fielding will cheer on two Breeders’ Cup starters he bred with friend Fred Hertrich III that compete on Friday, the first of the two-day extravaganza.
Rushing Fall, owned by e Five racing is the morning line favourite for the $1,000,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf (Grade 1) at 7 to 2, the first Cup race of the afternoon and race six on the card.
Two races later, Catholic Boy, a 12 to 1 chance for owner Robert LaPenta, will compete in the Juvenile Turf for the colts.
“It’s pretty special to have two horses in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Fielding, whose love for horse racing has centred on mostly Standardbreds for three decades. “The odds are so stacked against you getting a horse to this point.”
Fielding, a former minor league hockey player who has a variety of businesses in Toronto and is on the board of directors at Woodbine, rode the streetcar to Greenwood racetrack as a young person.
In the late 1990s, he met Hertrich “sitting on a bale of hay at Mohawk Raceway.”
Together the two have bred dozens of top Standardbreds and Fielding himself has won some 20 Breeders Crown races. In 2015, he realized a lifelong dream when his colt Pinkman won the prestigious Hambletonian.
The pair have a knack with Thoroughbred breeding too. One of the first horses they bred was 2004 European Champion Shamardal, a brilliant 2-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway.
Fielding (R) with star trotter Pinkman… (New Image Media)
Fielding was also part owner of the 2016 Woodbine Oaks winner, Neshama, along with David Anderson, Mitch Kursner and trainer Catherine Day Phillips.
Fielding has become more involved with Thoroughbreds through Hertrich in recent years and is looking to further expand his Thoroughbred business. Rushing Fall and Catholic Boy are the first horses co-bred by Fielding to compete in the Breeders’ Cup.
“Rushing Fall is one of the favourites, she is trained by Chad Brown,” said Fielding about the undefeated 2-year-old filly by More Than Ready from their mare Autumnal, by Forestry. And Catholic Boy (also an undefeated son of More Than Ready), I think he has a good chance too.”
Interestingly, Day Phillips will also be represented in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf with the Ontario bred Dixie Moon, owned by Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, who are neighbours of Fielding in Toronto.
Rushing Fall drew post position 11 in the 14-horse field for the Juvenile Filly Turf. Dixie Moon, listed at 20 to 1. will be right beside that one in post 12.
“If Rushing Fall can’t win the race, I sure hope Dixie Moon can get it done,” said Fielding.
Fielding and Hertrich have some 100 broodmares in Kentucky. “Fred does most of the work with bloodstock manager Robert Tribbett. I am mostly a partner and a friend.”
Hertrich, recently named to the board of the Breeders’ Cup, owns the 400-acre Watercress Farm in Paris, Ky.
While most of the Fielding and Hertrich horses are Kentucky foaled, Fielding, who owns shares in horses with David Anderson and Phillips, has plans that involve his home province.
“I plan to get more involved in Thoroughbreds going forward, and do more breeding and racing in Ontario.”
First things first, however, Fielding is meeting up with Hertrich, Anderson (who is the breeder of Juvenile Fillies starter Wonder Gadot) at Del Mar for what will be a memorable day of racing.