By: Chris Lomon
On a brisk November morning, the winds whipping out of the north gusting up to 30 kilometres an hour and feeling like minus-15 Celsius, Tyler Borth
is thinking of a certain number. And it has nothing to do with the weather.
“I haven’t stepped outside yet, but it looks cold,” said the 25-year-old harness driver from his apartment in London, Ontario. “I guess I’ll find out soon enough. But the cold, it doesn’t bother me. I just love to be out there doing what I love.”
It could be a career year for the young horseman, one that sees Borth just three wins away from 100 on the campaign. He’s been close to that mark before, one shy of it, in fact, three years ago.
No need to ask if he’s given any thought to hitting the century mark.
“The year I won my award, I won 99 races and I wanted to get that 100th
,” said Borth, in referencing his O’Brien Award Future Star acknowledgment. “I have thought about it. I definitely want to. It would be pretty cool to say you got to 100 in a year. It would be a big deal to me.”
Just six years into his driving career and seven as a trainer, Borth has become a big deal in the southwestern Ontario standardbred scene.
After a 47-win rookie campaign in the sulky in 2012, the native of Ingersoll, Ontario, a 30-minute drive east of London and home to his father’s farm, flirted with 100-win seasons in 2014 (99) and 2015 (90).
Courtesy of Dresden Raceway
He’s also become a triple threat, adding the owner tag to his horse racing resume. Currently, he co-owns 10 horses, eight in training and one broodmare.
It’s a busy life for Borth, on and off the racetrack, but rewarding just the same.
“I like doing all three – driving, training and owning horses,” he offered. “I enjoy driving, but when you have a stable of your own, making sure you get the harnesses ready, preparing all the things outside of the times when you’re in the bike, it’s a lot of work. But when it pays off after all the time you put in, it’s definitely a good feeling.
“My mom’s boyfriend is Marty Hossack, who’ll see you listed as an owner on a lot of my horses,” continued Borth, who trained 17 winners in 2014. “He’s a very good owner. There’s no questions asked. He’s about the best kind of owner you could have in this business. I own some 50/50 with him and the rest I own with my dad.”
William Borth, who won 954 career races as a driver and has 719 wins and counting as a trainer, remains a strong influence, an ardent supporter and go-to source for advice.
The first horse Tyler owned was a mare named Lucrative Lady. He and his father bought her as a three-year-old for $1,400 and she went on to earn over $55,000.
When Tyler endured a prolonged slump after his Future Star Award recognition, he turned to his father for support.
“I went through a tough phase after I won my O’Brien,” said the younger Borth. ”Obviously, when you win something like that, you understand you did something people took notice of. After that, I’d say longer than year, it was as though you couldn’t do anything right. You try and change things, you start to doubt yourself – but you just have to find a way to ride it out and do what you know best. You have to have faith that it will come around. My dad and others have told me, ‘Enjoy the good times and ride out the bad ones.’ In this sport, that’s the only way to go about it.”
It’s something he was reminded of a week ago.
“There really are ups and downs,” he said. “I recently raced one of my own horses at Flamboro and won, but we got tossed and didn’t end up getting the win. So, you’re pretty upset it happened and it feels horrible. The next day, I’m back at Western Fair and racing two more of my own – a two-year-old I bought as a yearling and one my dad and I raised. Both of them won. Then, you’re on a huge high. That’s the sport.”
A sport that keeps the young reinsman on the go, on the road and on his toes.
“Before, I lived on my dad’s farm because that’s where all my horses are,” noted Tyler. “I’d get up around 8:30, grab a coffee and eat some breakfast, then by that time the horses would be turned out. I’d take care of them the whole day. It’s a little different now. I’ve had a girlfriend for two years and she lived in Windsor, so we were doing the long-distance thing. But she’s here in London now and we have an apartment together, close to the racetrack (Western Fair)
Tyler and his girlfriend Jenna Prier
“On race days, you pretty much work until you go to the races,” he continued. “On days off, I try to hang out with my buddies. You’re pretty busy, so it’s nice to have that time just to relax.”
Still, Borth relishes any chance to be around the horses and on the racetrack, even when it’s less-than-ideal conditions.
Spoiler alert: it’s not a dip in the mercury that causes him to bristle.
“I don’t mind the cold,” noted Borth, who has posted a career-best 19 training wins this year. “I’m not a really big fan of the mud. If you’ve won a couple of races and you’re pretty pumped up, you don’t really feel the cold. If you didn’t win any, then it’s a different story.”
Fortunately for Borth, there have been plenty of happy endings.
He’s looking for a few more moments to celebrate before the year comes to a close.
“I don’t like to overthink it when I’m driving,” said Borth. “It usually won’t go as you planned. You just have to trust your instincts. Win or lose, there’s always a next race. I just enjoy it all. I could probably go through a long list of reasons why.”
One hundred would certainly seem like an appropriate number.
Main photo: Courtesy of The Raceway at the Western Fair District