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Mark Horner: The 'Joy' of Winning

By: Chris Lomon

With nearly 850 career wins to his name, Mark Horner understands what it takes to be successful in the standardbred world. He also knows a little bit of ‘Luck’ can go a long way.
 
Just ahead of The Raceway at the Western Fair District’s 2017-18 live racing meet, set to begin on October 3, the horseman who counts 837 training wins spoke humbly of his lofty lifetime win total and glowingly of a fleet-footed filly that has racked up 13 wins on the campaign.
 
“Obviously, it’s something to be proud of,” said Horner, who calls St Marys, ON home. “To have over 800 wins – under the age of 50 – is a nice accomplishment. But, it’s not just me. I’ve got great family support and that goes a long way to the end result. Really, it’s what we are all in it for, to strive to win every time we send out a horse.”
 
It also helps boost the win column numbers when you have a horse like The Joy Luck Club.


 
This season, the daughter of Camluck and Oh The Joy has made 13 trips to the winner’s circle in 20 starts for earnings of $189,657.
 
Horner shares ownership of filly with R A W Equine Inc. of Burlington and Gregg McNair. In four Gold Series starts, she boasts two wins, one sixth and one seventh for a point tally of 105 and second spot in the division standings.
 
The top 10 point-earners will compete in the $225,000 Super Final at Mohawk on October 14.
 
“We really focused on preparing her for a lifetime of racing,” said Horner, of the bay that went 0-for-10 in her two-year-old campaign. “It was about doing the right thing and ensuring she developed in the right way. People speak of the fact she didn’t win in 10 starts, but we loved her at two.”
 
It’s precisely what Horner told standardbred legend Bill O’Donnell when the latter visited his farm last April.
 
“I remember Bill and I going out to see her one day,” recalled Horner. “I turned to him and said, ‘She’s one of the best I’ve ever trained.’ I absolutely meant it. She had some bad luck that first year on the racetrack – bad post positions and no racing luck a few times – but we had a plan in place and we believed things would pan out. And happily, they have.”
 
They have, indeed.
 
A lifetime earner of $201,277, The Joy Luck Club is riding a four-race win streak, including a score in the Kin Pace Final at Clinton Raceway on July 9.
 
Her first victory came at a place Horner has fared well at over the years.
 
This February, on a snowy night at Western Fair, The Joy Luck Club, sent off as the 7-5 favourite, dashed away from her rivals en route to a maiden-breaking 5 ¾-length triumph timed in 2:01.2.
 
Seven of her career wins have come at the London half-mile track.
 
“It’s a great place to teach young ones how to win,” offered Horner. “The Joy Luck Club, I really think competing there built her confidence.”
 
Horner will look to add to some more Western Fair wins to his racing résumé.
 
“First off, the management team really work hard to promote racing,” he said. “They treat the horsemen very well. If you have a reasonable request, they will do their best to accommodate you. They are also constantly working to improve the facility and that’s something you appreciate.
 
“And when you look at the handle in recent years, you see that handicappers like to wager on the half-mile tracks,” continued Horner. “It’s just a very fan-friendly track. It’s 40 minutes away from where I live and I always enjoy making the trip to race there. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good luck there.”
 
No pun intended.
 
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The weekly Western Fair Fall schedule showcases racing every Monday and Tuesday starting at 6:15 p.m. Friday nights begin at 7:05 p.m.
 
Grand opening festivities are slated for Friday, October 6. Some of the events planned include $1 programs, ‘Wanna Drive,’ a seminar for potential new horse owners, a Bouncy Pony media celebrity race and prize giveaways.
 
Other notable October events include the Forest City Preview on Friday, October 13, in conjunction with the new London Selected Yearling Sale that same weekend, and the annual Harness The Hope night on Friday, October 27.
 
The early Pick-3 each day will now be guaranteed at $2,500. The daily wagering offering includes a pair of $5,000 guaranteed Pick-4 pools and a pair of Super Hi-5 wagers.
 
Visit www.westernfairdistrict.com/raceway for more details.

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