The subject here is Woody.

Ask just about anyone that hangs around Fraser Downs racetrack and they will know who Woody is.

It’s Woody for short. His full moniker is Woodmere Windrop and he is a 12-year-old standardbred racehorse (he actually turned 13 on Jan. 1) whose career just came to an end.

Woodmere Windrop was retired recently by owners Marian and Bill Young after he had been racing from their barn for seven years. Racing for that length of time is not that common, never mind with the same owner and trainer (Bill, who turns 80 on April 17).

“It’s the longest we ever had a horse,” said Marian with strong emotions. (The Youngs have raced horses in B.C. for years, back to the racing days decades ago in Ladner.)

And Marian admitted he was among, if not, her favorite.

“He is such a nice horse to be around,” she added. “When I took kids around for (backstretch) tours), I would always take out Woody. Sometimes they even got on his back. He was always so good with them.”

Woody was easy to remember for his style on the track too. He had 59 wins in his career through 305 starts.

“He always tried hard,” Marian said. “He was fun to watch too when he made his late move (it was determined early that Woody was not a leaver).

“He loved to race. When he was out with an injury (he had a hoof problem for some time) we sometimes had to tranquilize him on race days. He wanted to get out on the track and race.”

Bill is even more emotional when it comes to Woodmere Windrop. When asked how Woody was in his stall and in the cross ties – or how he was to train – Bill’s answer was the same. “Perfect.”

Woodmere Windrop’s story is interesting from the start. Those in the Canadian harness racing game will probably recognize the name Woodmere. It is the name of the well-known breeding farm of Wallace Wood in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Woody was born there on April 16, 1994, a son of the top sire Drop Off and the appropriately named dam Stylish Winner.

He raced throughout the Maritimes (five tracks: Charlottetown, Summerside, Truro, Saint John and Fredericton) for his two-and three-year-old campaigns. He was driven each and every time (35 starts) by top Maritime reinsman Gilles Barrieau and competed in some stakes races but tough luck took its toll.

As a two-year-old he won six races (including the first of his career on Aug. 26, 1996) in a row, including some Atlantic sires stakes events and also an elimination for a $50,000 purse event. In the final Woody drew the outside eight, and did make it to the lead, but the 58.4 first half did him in and he missed the money.

He made his last start in the Maritimes on Nov. 9, 1997 and his first in B.C. less than a month later, on Dec. 7.

He had been purchased by Nigel Holmes for trainer Dave Hudon.

“I paid $22,000 for Woody to Jean Beliveau in Ontario,” Holmes said. “I talked to him about getting a horse or two and he said his brother Louis in the Maritimes had a couple to sell. One was Woody and the other Daytona Fern.”

Woodmere Windrop was with Hudon/Holmes through 1998 but was claimed for $12,500 by Bill Young on Jan. 17, 1999. He won five times for Hudon, the last three before the claim.

“When Woody first got here he had to race fairly high because of the money on his card and he could not win at that level,” Holmes explained. “We turned him out for awhile and he came back a better horse.”

Then came the claim.

“I was sour at first (at the Youngs),” Holmes continued with a smile, “but I got to know them and it became a joke. But I’ll get them back one day.”

Woody had plenty of milestones with the Youngs (they did lose him a couple of times on claims late in 2004 but got him back quickly, once on a claim and once a purchase).

Woodmere Windrop won 41 races for the Youngs, including setting his life mark of 1:54.1 on June 5, 1999 at Cal-Expo in Sacramento, Calif.

From Nov. 11, 2000 to Jan. 14, 2001 he had five wins and two seconds in nine starts, all with driver Jeff Stone in races with $10,000 purses at Fraser Downs.

He captured his 50th career victory on March 19, 2005 and his last win came Aug. 5, 2006. In total he had 39 seconds and 39 thirds to go with his 59 victories.

He made $276,670 in his career while never winning a race with a purse of more than $10,000.

Downs’ drivers Jim Marino and Scott Knight – among the 21 different drivers Woody had behind him in races over the years – remember him fondly.

“Woody won me a driver’s title.” Marino explained. “Bill Davis and I were battling and I remember this one race at Sandown. We were neck and neck for the last half (Woody on the outside). We beat them by a nose (records says a neck). Woody wouldn’t quit.”

“Woody was so easy to drive,” Knight added. “ He would drive himself and the whip, or anything, didn’t seem to matter, he would just go. He had an unbelievable move on the backstretch.”

Even in retirement Woody has made a quick impression. He went to Greener Pastures, the B.C.- based society that will take standardbred horses when they end their racing career. Greener Pastures takes the horse(s) for a short time to ease them from the rigors of the races and then tries to find a good home where they can become riding horses, pets, or whatever.

The day after he arrived at Greener Pastures he was already under saddle and receiving rave reviews.

Jackie Tingey, one of the women assisting GP’s director Diana Ball as she worked with Woody, fell in love with him. After a short time, she asked Diana if she could keep Woody. When Ball clarified that Jackie was indeed serious Woody was headed to new friendly hands.

He deserves it. In addition to being a winner on the track Woody is just a nice horse.


-Canadian Sportsman magazine