By Jennifer Morrison
Jim Bruce has been enamored with racehorses and racing since he was 16-years-old and went to the racetrack with his brother Warren.
“I always thought that one day, if the opportunity ever came up, I could get a racehorse,” said Bruce. “I had met (Hall of Fame jockey) Sandy Hawley and other big names of the sport. I kind of had the bug.”
The opportunity for ownership came several decades later in the summer of 2017 when Jim’s son Graeme met Woodbine trainer Don MacRae at a men’s league hockey game at Canlan Ice Rink, just a few furlongs from the track.
“I did my homework on horse ownership and asked Don if he was interested in a couple of new partners,” said Graeme. “The rest is history.”
MacRae suggested a handsome grey named Arthur’s Pass as their first acquisition. The trio put a claim slip in for the horse in a race late last August, won a six-way shake for him, and three weeks later watched the gelding win the Grey Handicap.
“We just looked at each other and said ‘Oh ya!’ said Graeme. “Now we have six horses.”
Jim tried to describe the feeling of watching Arthur’s Pass win his first race for father and son.
“It was such a rush. I actually had a hard time breathing… it’s just the adrenaline rush is unbelievable.”
In the 13 months since that incredible first win, the pair has won with Souper Fly Over, another gelding they share ownership in with MacRae, and have placings with the filly Biondetti’s Choice.
A few weeks ago they teamed up with MacRae and owners Michael Lay and Michael Loughrey to purchase the $125,000 sales topper at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Ontario yearling sale, a filly by top Canadian sire Old Forester.
“Getting into horseracing and learning all about it has been amazing,” said Graeme, who had been to watch racing a few times through corporate functions.
The Bruce’s own La Huerta Imports in North Bay, 11-17 Food Service and the Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Since they work in vegetable and fruit importing, there is never any shortage of carrots for the horses.
“The food terminal business is actually very similar in structure to racing,” said Graeme. “Everybody knows everybody, we compete, but we also hope that everyone is successful to a degree.”
Some prominent names from the food business that have also raced horses include the late Steve Stavro of Knob Hill Stables, and Carmen Pitoscia.
While they have had immediate success as new owners of a racehorse, Jim and Graeme appreciate the wild ride that horse racing can present.
“It’s something we want to have fun with but understand that hobbies cost money; golfing costs money, buying cars costs money and owning a horse costs money,” said Graeme.
“We enjoy seeing our horses race and we’re sponges right now, listening to everything we can to lean about the game. It’s important to hook yourself up with the right person. For us, Don was that person.”
They also have a love for the horse too, something they share with their wives.
“I can go back to the barn at Woodbine and feed the horses carrots and mints,” said Jim, who drives three hours from his home in North Bay every time one of his horse races. “I can be all wound up and then walk into the barn. It’s a stress reliever. I enjoy being around the animals.”
Graeme works closer to Woodbine in the Toronto area and already says they have a bond with their horses.
“You want them to recognize you when you go to the barn. But it all depends on their personality. And each horse has a different one.”
Father and son enthusiastically recommend buying a racehorse to anyone.
“We have three horses with Don, two with Don and the Mikes and one of our own,” said Jim. “With partnerships you can collectively spend a bit more on a horse or have shares in a few horses so that you get to see your horses race frequently. It’s fun and we love it.”