There are three breeds of racehorses in Ontario and very different industries each its own set of dedicated owners, breeders and trainers.
Kim Mark, however, is involved in all three having collected, through various fateful events, a Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred and Standardbred mare as the first three horses she has owned.
Three breeds, one vision indeed.
The 54-year-old from Simcoe, Ontario not only has the three broodmare “gifts” but each have offspring at racetracks around the province.
“I started out strictly a horseback riding person. I wanted to be a jockey when I was a kid," laughed Mark. “But I now have these three mares party because my daughter, who is now 30 years-old, thought I needed them.”
A mother of three with a 100-acre farm in Walsh ON, not far from the shores of Lake Erie, Mark landed in the racing world in 2008 soon after attending a Carson’s horse auction in Listowel, ON.
“We were looking for riding horses for my daughters. My oldest daughter wanted this Quarter Horse mare, Easy Gettin Reckless, a 4-year-old who had won at Ajax Downs for George Egerton but was no longer racing.”
Mark bought the mare for $800 and formed a plan to breed Easy Gettin Reckless to a well-bred Quarter Horse stallion. She purchased a breeding right to a Texas stallion through an on-line charity, twice, but both times the mare failed to get in foal.
“I think I spent $10,000 trying to get her foal, I had given up.”
When her vet Dr. Bill Cook suggested she try breeding the mare to a Thoroughbred stallion at Openwood Farm, owned by mutual friend Susan Rasmussen, Mark agreed. Atlas Shrugs, a multiple stakes winner as a 3-year old at Woodbine proved to be a perfect mate for ‘Reckless’ and the mare got in foal immediately.
(Photo below - "This is how we raise your foals," said Kim Mark, whose daughters cuddle up to Aprils Daisy Dance, now getting ready to race at Woodbine)
After producing a very large colt, now a 6-year-old and living at Mark’s farm, the mare was bred again to Atlas Shrugs and produced the much more precocious Georgies May Kitty. Now a 4-year-old, Georgies May Kitty, who is listed as an appendix Quarter Horse as she is by a Thoroughbred stallion, has been second twice at Ajax Downs and she finished a good fifth in her 2017 opener on May 21.
Not long after she plucked ‘Reckless’ out of the horse auction, Mark was alerted to a mare offered for free on a website, a Thoroughbred named Dancing Dahlia. The two-time Woodbine winner who had earned $70,000 recently had knee surgery but her owner could not afford to keep her.
At the urging of her oldest daughter Brittany, Mark took the mare and bred her to Atlas Shrugs as well. That foal, now at Woodbine with trainer Jennifer Shafer, is Aprils Daisy Dance, who is working in fast times as she prepares for her first race.
Then came Nina Seelster, a Standardbred and the youngest of Mark's three mares. Nina was left in a will to one of Mark's daughter's friends. They tried to find the mare a home but no one was interested.
"It was my husband Troy who finally told us, 'just go pick her up". When we did, well, here was this huge, 17 hands high horse."
It turned out the mare had some rich pedigree lines so Mark bred her to $1.8 million dollar earner Whosurboy, a stallion at Mac Lilley's farm in Dutton.
Mea Lilley Mark was born in 2011 and while she had had some serious health issues as a youngster, she recovered and is now a 13-time winner at Woodbine and Mohawk, with over $157,000 in earnings.
Nina Seelster's second foal, On the Minute Mark, by Rambaran, is also a winner on the Ontario circuit.
In less than 10 years, Kim Mark’s horse population has gone from none to nine, giving her plenty of work to do on her farm and lots of visits to Woodbine, Mohawk and Ajax Downs.
She has worked in a factory, raised three children and had her own food service business but now her time is taken up but her eclectic group of racehorses.
“I think I have been pretty lucky,” she said. “I started al this as a know-not about racing but somebody must be looking out for me. My three mares, they are gifts I have been given.”
Those one-time homeless horses would probably be thinking the same thing.
(Photo below, and above right, KIm Mark with her giant Standardbred mare Nina Seelster and On the Minute Mark, now racing at Mohawk)