Driver Doug McNair was just an 18-year-old wide-eyed pup with 37 career wins to his credit when in August of 2008 he found himself in the Battle of Waterloo winner’s circle standing beside his father and grandmother.
“First drive in it and I end up winning it,” Doug said at the time, shaking his head in disbelief in front of packed house at Grand River Raceway. “It was awesome... It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know what to think.
Little wonder that McNair counts Trail Boss, the pacer that delivered him to that $300,000 victory, as the horse that changed his life. The homebred was trained by McNair’s father, Gregg, who owned the Ontario Sired son of Apaches Fame out of Lavish Gem with his mother, Gwendolyn.
“There’s nobody else better to win with than those two,” Doug said grinning, just minutes after pumping his whip skyward as he came to the wire.
It was the first of three Battle of Waterloo victories for the Guelph, ON-based father-and-son team.
Flash forward seven years, some 2,300 wins and about $32 million, and Doug said Trail Boss proved he had the talent to drive stakes horses.
“I look back even now watch the odd race that he was in. It’s just amazing how good he was that day he won that race,” Doug said. “If he had not come along and I wouldn’t have won that race that early I don’t think I would be where I am today. That just jump-started my career and after that I started getting between five and 10 drives a night a Grand River.”
Sadly, Trail Boss had to be euthanized less than a year later after coming down with a serious illness veterinarians couldn’t beat.
Though Doug McNair said Trail Boss’ death “was kind of tough,” the horse will forever live on in Doug McNair’s mind as the one that put him on the path to glory.
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