(Chris Christoforou (right) recently teamed up with trainer Blake Macintosh to win his first Battle of Waterloo. But the driver said that victory wouldn't have been possible without a trotter named Earl - Dave Landry photo)
by Dave Briggs
Chris Christoforou was just a 19-year-old young buck with fewer than 100 driving starts to his credit when a godsend of a horse arrived and changed his life. That horse was a homebred trotting stallion named Earl trained and owned by Christoforou’s father, Charalambos.
“I had just started driving when he started racing,” Chris said. “He took me all over the place to different tracks and big races when I was young and not used to it — and I got used to it.
“He took me to the Elitlopp. That was unbelievable. I think I was 20 and in the Elitlopp. It was quite a thrill, absolutely, to see that event.”
A son of Canadian Hall of Fame stallion Balanced Image out of Linfields Gem, Earl, who was also owned by Irving Storfer’s Banjo Farms, earned just shy of $1 million in North America racing from 1991 to 1994 where the trotter posted a record of 35-6-9 in 69 starts.
“He was like driving a pacer. He was so easy to drive and I needed that then. If he was hard to drive at 19 in those big races it would have been difficult for me,” Chris said. “I always said he was like a sewing machine. You just stepped on the pedal and he would just take right off. That’s how he was. You could start him up and shut him down with two fingers. It didn’t matter. He never got hot. He was just class. He was just a class horse with a soft mouth and high speed.”
Earl, a three-time O’Brien Award winner (1992, 1993, 1994) as Canada’s top male trotter of that era, was also a Maple Leaf Trot (1994) and Breeders Crown (1993) champ. Chris said Earl was never better than on Crown night at Mohawk.
“He was big that night. He raced huge,” Chris said. “Another race he raced huge, because he wasn’t at his best then, was when he won the Maple Leaf Trot. He was placed first. He was second, but placed first in the Maple Leaf Trot. He wasn’t good, but just to get beaten a head in that race to Pine Chip, he did race well that night. I didn’t drive him, actually. I was hurt that night. Roger Mayotte drove him. I had a broken wrist. But he raced big that night.”
Most importantly, Earl set Chris on a path to become one of Canada’s greatest drivers. In the 25 years since the trotter came along, Chris has won more than 6,200 races, earned more than $105 million and been named Canada’s driver of the year four times (1992, 2002, 2003 and 2014).
Asked whether his Little Brown Jug winner Astreos might also be in the running for life-changing status, Chris quickly dismissed that notion. “It was definitely Earl. He will always be my favourite, for sure.”
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