By: Chris Lomon for Woodbine.com
TORONTO, June 26, 2018 – With the recent OLG sponsorship of the iconic Canadian Triple Crown, it’s only fitting to recall the magnificent Wando, the last thoroughbred to sweep all three stakes events.
It was August of 2003 when the striking chestnut bred and owned by Gus Schickedanz wowed the racing world and made front-page news across the country after a hard-earned triumph in the Breeders’ Stakes, third and final jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown series.
A multiple stakes champion as a juvenile, Wando, trained by Mike Keogh, took the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine by nine lengths over stablemate Mobil, the Prince of Wales over a muddy Fort Erie strip by four lengths and the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Stakes on Woodbine’s famed E.P. Taylor Turf Course by 1 1/2 lengths.
The last race standing his way of entering the history books would be the son of Langfuhr’s toughest test.
In the Breeders’, jockey Patrick Husbands and Wando had to contend with a three-horse Sam-Son Farm entry of Shoal Water, Colorful Judgement and Parasail. But the pair found a way to outduel their rivals to net the coveted Crown.
For the thousands packed into the Woodbine grandstand, the hundreds more lined up along the rail, and those tuning on television that day on August 9, it was indeed Wando-mania as the colt, sent off as the 1-2 favourite, crossed the wire to deafening cheers.
For the man who campaigned the people’s champion, it was a three-race run he’ll never forget.
“I was just talking to my wife, Lou, the other night,” started Keogh, who has more than 300 career wins.“I brought it up. I said, ‘Do you realize it was 15 years ago?’ It really doesn’t seem that long ago.”
Whether it’s thumbing through numerous photos of Wando’s remarkable 2003 campaign or watching replays of the Triple Crown races, Keogh never tires of reliving the memories and moments from the horse’s magical three-year-old season.
“I do watch the races quite a lot,” he said. “I have one of those Smart TV’s at home, so I put YouTube on it and watch the races. Actually, I was watching them about a week ago.”
So, it never gets old for Keogh?
“No it doesn’t,” he said with a grin. “It was a great day seeing him win the Breeders’ and the Triple Crown.”
It was also deeply gratifying for Keogh to have the support of the Canadian horse racing world tracking Wando’s every move throughout the three races.
If he didn’t know how passionate the fans were about his star attraction in the days leading up to the Breeders’, he certainly had it put into perspective moments before the gate opened.
“It was kind of neat when they loaded him into the gate for the race and (Hall of Fame track announcer) Dan Loiselle said something like, ‘Here’s the favourite and the crowd loves him,’ and everyone started cheering. I thought it was really good for horse racing. A lot of people came out to watch it.”
In 23 starts, Wando won 11 races, along with two seconds and a pair of thirds, along with $2,563,038 in purse earnings. After his racing career, he first stood at stud at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, along with his sire, Langfuhr, but was relocated to Schickedanz’s Schonberg Farm in Nobleton, Ont.
Wando died at Schonberg on January 22, 2014 at the age of 14. That same year, he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
It’s a fitting place, Keogh will tell you, for a horse that was fit for a Crown.
“I always remember just how well the horse looked,” he offered. “He was – I don’t really know the word for it – just right all the time.”
This year’s journey towards possible Triple Crown glory begins on June 30 at Woodbine, with the 159th running of the Queen’s Plate (www.queensplate.com).
Since the Canadian Triple Crown was established in 1959, there have been seven winners:
1959 – New Providence
1963 – Canebora
1989 – With Approval
1990 – Izvestia
1991 – Dance Smartly
1993 – Peteski
2003 – Wando