By: Chris Lomon
Bermuda Blue Farm’s Dan and Heather Soares
never anticipated – not even for a moment – that they would ever join the ranks of horse racing ownership. But that’s precisely what happened.
It doesn’t matter where the couple, married 21 years, might find themselves – trackside, sales pavilion, backstretch, racetrack dining room, their family farm – the odds are 1-9 the topic of horses will come up in conversation.
“Whenever we talk to people, we tell them how much we love the sport and how exciting it is,” said Dan. “As a family, we just love the whole experience of horse racing.”
It’s an experience they had never considered until five years ago.
The couple had familiarity with horses when they were living in Dan’s native Bermuda, albeit through their two daughters’ experiences in show jumping.
“Our girls (Emily and Jesse) got into horse riding (show jumping) when we were in Bermuda,” recalled Dan. “An old colleague and friend of mine, who decided to get his son into it, got us interested in it for our girls, who ended up competing. That was in 2007. We had no previous relationship with horses before then.”
Six years later, the Soares family moved to Canada, Heather’s birthplace, to be closer to her parents.
Searching for a place to live, they eventually found a farm in Wainfleet, Ontario, a rural township in southern Niagara Region. The property features an indoor arena, an ideal spot for the girls to continue their association with show jumping.
“In 2013, I had an opportunity to retire – and Heather’s parents are getting on in years – so we decided to move to Canada to be closer to them,” noted Dan. “The gentleman we bought the farm from, Phil Bradley, had been racing horses at Fort Erie for years and had a horse named La Ninya he was racing for the last time before retiring her to the farm.
“Through Phil and his family – since we’ve remained friends – we were introduced to Fort Erie racing, just casually. Through him, we met his former trainer, Anthony (Tony) Adamo. We struck up a friendship with him and his wife.”
The friendship evolved to a point where Adamo felt comfortable posing a particular question to the Soares.
“Tony asked us if we wanted to train the retired horse and see where that went,” recalled Dan. “So, we talked about it and we decided to do it. That was 2015, our first year as a horse owner, with Anthony as our trainer.”
Not everything got out of the gate smoothly.
“Phil had also suggested we might want to go check out the Yearling Sale at Woodbine,” said Dan. “So we did. We ended up bidding on a horse (Silver Songstress).”
As Heather remembered, the filly of choice wasn’t exactly busting down the stall when they first saw her.
“It was me and our daughters that picked out the horse,” she said, laughing. “We picked the one that was lying down in its stall.”
Bermuda Blue Farm now had two horses to call its own. Each would have a decidedly different experience at the races.
“We decided to train the horse we bought, Silver Songstress, as well as the retired one,” said Dan. “In that first year, the horse, who was a two-year-old then, got injured in training, so we brought her back to the farm to take care of her. The once-retired horse, La Ninya, actually had a good year and won a couple of races.”
A daughter of Bold n’ Flashy, La Ninya was the one to deliver Bermuda Blue Farm a milestone moment, when the dark bay Ontario-bred won on June 9, 2015, at Fort Erie. It was also the first race for a horse wearing Bermuda Blue silks. “We ran
Twelve days later, Classic Ladedah made it two-for-two.
While success came quickly on the racetrack, the Soares’ hadn’t forgotten about Silver Songstress.
“My daughter, Jesse, re-trained her as a riding horse and we just sold her about a month ago to a girl that’s going to do eventing with her,” offered Dan. “We just wanted her to have a good life.”
Life has indeed been good for Bermuda Blue Farm, too.
After eight wins in 26 starts in 2015, the number of trips to the winner’s circle jumped to 17 last year.
The significant increase wasn’t the only reason to celebrate.
“In 2015, we had our first taste of horse ownership and what it felt to be part of racing,” said Dan. “And we loved it. Our friendship with the Adamos grew closer and we thought we should try to get involved even more. In the second year, we went to Woodbine in the fall and claimed some more horses. We owned a total of six in 2016 and we were leading owners (wins) at Fort Erie.”
This past racing season at Fort Erie yielded more highlights for Bermuda Blue Farm, specifically, 11 wins and $135,639 purse earnings, the latter number up from $125,115 in 2016.
Cool Cat Jazz was honoured as Fort Erie’s female claimer of the year. The five-year-old Ontario-bred won four of 10 starts in 2017.
“We enjoy the thrill of the racing, for sure,” said Dan. “The people have been so good to us. We enjoy the racing and we enjoy the people. The fact that we met a trainer who really knows his stuff and who always puts the horse first – we feel very fortunate.”
With the Fort Erie season in the books, they’re looking to increase their win total before the start of the 2018 campaign.
The Soares’, who have recently enjoyed success south of the border, notching a victory at Laurel Park, are seeking to add to their stable over the winter months and beyond.
“Our daughters are in university now and they are around less and less, but we have every intention of claiming more horses in the spring,” offered Dan. “We might claim some horses in the States and bring them back here to race. Obviously, that would be good for Ontario racing. Being part of the sport here – we just love it so much.”
It’s a conversation they’ll no doubt have with people they meet throughout the racing season.
“I would say find a trainer that you like and who puts the horse first above all else,” said Dan. “These animals are wonderful athletes. They become family. And just have fun. That’s what this sport is all about.”
Said Heather, “It really is all about having fun. And we certainly are.”