Veteran Ontario pacer The Masters (pictured, courtesy Iron Horse Photo) passed away recently in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack. He was only 13, recently retired from racing, and he was a family pet of Stephanie Horner (pictured). He raced 263 times and compiled a 46-32-27 win, place show record in his long career. He made over $500,000.
I was in the paddock at Western Fair Raceway about a year ago. One of our horses was in and The Masters was in an adjacent stall. He had just finished his race and was getting a bath. I chatted with Stephanie, telling her how much I liked the old timer. She beamed at having him, and felt she was fortunate. She spoke about how he would never see a claimer, how she was riding him, and how he would have a long life at home when he faced mandatory retirement. In a day and age where horses are all too often treated like a commodity, I was happy there were people like her in the business. I wished them success, petted The Masters on the nose and moved on.
I never want to see any horse pass young, but to see this one leave too early is triply saddening to me. The Masters was a horse who truly represented harness racing, and his owners did what all good owners do, or should do. They were not rewarded for that compassion, and that makes me sad. To the Horners and co-owner Ray Webb, please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend.