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The Horse That Changed My Life | Gina Gay

It would be hard to find many other horses who won races at Woodbine, Fort Erie, Greenwood and Picov Downs

(RALPH PEARSON photo by New Image Media)

Trivia question: Who was the first Quarter Horse to win a race at Woodbine?

Yes, there were a couple of Quarter Horse races run at Woodbine racetrack in the early 1970s when the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario Inc., under then-president Ralph Pearson, showcased the fast and exciting breed at tracks throughout southern Ontario.

In fact, it was Pearson’s mare Gina Gay who won that historical race at Woodbine on June 16, 1973, blowing away her rivals in the Ontario Quarter Horse Association Invitational at 440 yards.

“She was a top mare for three or four years,” said Pearson, who continues to race a successful stable at Ajax Downs and is a director of the QROOI.

To say Gina Gay, a grey daughter of Easy Reb foaled in 1970, was a top runner may be a bit of an understatement. With victories at Picov Downs, Fort Erie and Greenwood, as well as Woodbine, it would be hard to find another racehorse who won races at all four Ontario tracks.

Purchased by Pearson from Gerry Armstrong, the first president of the QROOI, Gina Gay began her career at Picov Downs in 1972, just three years after the track opened. At the time, Quarter Horse racing at Picov was newly recognized by the American Quarter Horse Association and pari-mutuel wagering had just been introduced.

Before her big win at Woodbine, Gina Gay won the Ontario Invitational at Fort Erie in her first start of her 3-year-old season and later reeled off seven straight wins that year. She won another Ontario Invitational event, this time at Greenwood, as part of the series that Pearson helped create.

Through September, 1975, Gina Gay simply dominated in Ontario winning other big events such as the Alex Picov Memorial Championship in 1974. She retired with a superb record of 23 wins in 51 starts and 18 seconds or thirds.

Pearson has owned and trained dozens of good runners since his fleet grey mare but Gina Gay is certainly one of his most special.

And as horse racing celebrates the 250th year of the first recorded horse race in Canada in 2017, she is also one of the treasured, early stars of Quarter Horse racing in this province.

“Back then, Quarter Horse racing was a whole bunch of people who loved to race their horses,” said Pearson. “No one got paid any money for jobs [at Picov] for grooming the track or taking the photo finish; it was simply, Quarter Horse racing.”

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