By Chris Lomon / @ChrisLomon
There won’t be a sign saying so, but when the 2020 Quarter Horse season gets out of the gates at Ajax Downs, the competition might want to beware of the ‘Big Dog.’
Carol and Dave McIntyre’s Big Dog Racing certainly had a season to remember in 2019.
Not only did the operation win a career-best 15 races (from just 59 starts) at the Ajax meet, but Carol, who trains the stable’s horses, also stamped herself as one of the province’s top Quarter Horse conditioners.
A big year, however, isn’t accompanied by big talk.
“Hopefully, we keep going up,” said Carol.
That doesn’t seem like much of a longshot for a stable that launched in 2011, a rookie year that yielded a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds from 11 starts.
Winning four races the following season, Big Dog Racing has 41 career victories and 114 top-three finishes from 253 starts as it readies for Ajax Downs’ 51st
season of live racing.
“We changed up a lot of things this year,” started Carol. “Don Reid, who doesn’t train horses any more, is a really close friend of ours. Basically, I just asked him for advice and picked his brain on a lot of things, including what he did to be successful. I put a lot of that into our program.”
McIntyre is no doubt a good listener.
After winning seven races – then a career high – in 2018, Big Dog Racing more than doubled that number last year.
Posting six victories in 2017, in her first year as a licensed trainer, McIntyre now has 28 lifetime victories on her stat sheet.
“I think the horses were much better going into the season, too,” she offered. “I had them ready to go right from the start and we got some wins early on.”
When did McIntyre know it would be a successful 2019?
“Going into it, I knew that it was going to be a good year. We had some nice horses the year before… for one reason or another it didn’t go as we had planned. We knew we had some good horses and there were some nice races for them. With changing up the training program, I was pretty excited about getting them back to the track. I thought we’d have a better year, which we did.”
With opening day at Ajax Downs set for May 10, McIntyre is hoping to eclipse both the owner and trainer numbers from last year.
She knows it won’t be easy.
“I don’t necessarily set goals. When I started training, if I got one win, I was going to be ecstatic. We got six the first year. I never know what to expect, but I feel good heading into this year. We’ve got about 10 or 12 horses going in. And we have a lot of maidens that we just didn’t push last year. So, we have a bunch of maidens and there are always races for them. I’m feeling good, though. I’m hoping to do even better in 2020, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”
Realistic and optimistic?
“That would be it,” McIntyre said with a laugh.
Photo by John Watkins
The McIntyres, who purchased their first racehorse nearly 10 years ago after a discussion with friend and horseman Greg Watson, have had a few standout stars over the years.
Aptly named Into Fast certainly comes to mind.
The Ontario bred filly is a daughter of Heza Fast Man from Into Cash, by Louisiana Slew. Into Fast’s dam’s grandsire was Thoroughbred star Seattle Slew, winner of the 1977 U.S. Triple Crown.
After only two starts as a two-year-old, Into Fast was sidelined for the season after incurring a pastern injury.
But the bay was back in a big way in her three-year-old debut.
After 10 months away from the races, she was second in a Speed Index Trial race contested at 330 yards, recording a 98 speed index for her efforts. She promptly won the Speed Index final in her next start.
Into Fast went on to notch seven more victories over the next two seasons, including the final of an Ontario-bred Derby in the fall of 2007, along with two stakes trials in 2008.
Fashioning a record of 5-2-1 from 10 starts, she was named 2007 High-Point Three-Year-old and High-Point Three-year-Old Filly, going on to take High-Point Older Mare honours the following season.
Into Fast retired with eight career wins, five seconds and two thirds in 20 starts, accompanied by $97,518 in purse earnings.
By the time the filly was retired, the McIntyres had purchased 50 acres of land in Hampton, ON, about a 20-minute drive from Ajax Downs.
A house and barn went up, and soon after, Big Dog Racing was born.
Dave and Carol McIntyre - Photo by Laurie Overton
Into Fast is still part of the team, having produced foals for the McIntyres, including a three-year-old son of Streakin Six Cartel.
“We have a colt – who is now a gelding – that is by her,” noted Carol, of Ontario-sired Get On the Bus Gus. “We didn’t push him as a two-year-old in 2019, but he’s a big, nice horse. I’m really excited about him. I think he’s going to do really well.”
McIntyre’s optimism isn’t solely reserved for her own participants.
She liked plenty of what she saw at Ajax Downs last year, including big crowds and lots of atmosphere.
“Jennifer (Morrison) and the racetrack did a great job of promoting the sport. There was a lot more advertising this year, and I heard it on the radio so many times. There was always some kind of theme at the racetrack, whether it was Family Day or Craft Beer Day. It seemed as though there were a lot more people. It was really great to see. It’s nice when you come over to the stands and see them full.”
Fans will certainly take notice of McIntyre whenever she has a horse racing.
The best advice: don’t stand too close to her.
“You don’t want to be anywhere near me,” she said. “At least 10 feet would be good. When I see my babies in the gate, I almost feel sick to my stomach because I’m so nervous. But in a way, it’s the greatest feeling. I scream so loud and I lose my voice. Then, I do it all over again.”
McIntyre would like to see others, specifically, new owners, doing the same thing.
“It’s a great sport. It’s fun. There are ups and downs, but I just love it. I love the horses and I love the thrill of seeing the horses competing.”