Story by Chris Lomon
“As long as the horses are running, everything will be fine.”
The voice that greets you on the phone has an unmistakable Irish lilt, a pleasant, gentle tone belonging to a man who has weathered the highs and lows of Ontario horse racing with an unwavering smile and quiet determination for nearly 45 years.
Not much, if anything, has the power to diminish Richard Moylan’s passion for horse racing. Not a worldwide pandemic, not the snowfall that blanketed his Ontario farm in early November, and certainly not the constant challenges associated with being a Thoroughbred breeder.
Living on his 100-acre farm located on Mono-Adjala Townline, a little less than an hour’s drive northwest of Woodbine Racetrack, the 69-year-old has seen the sport of horse racing in Ontario through a lens unlike many others.
Emigrating from Ireland to Canada in 1976, his affinity for horses and horse racing had already been well established. He also knew where his fascination for pedigrees and breeding would eventually lead him.
“I wouldn’t do anything else,” said Moylan. “Breeding horses, it’s been something I wanted to do since I was 10-years-old. I just love the breeding side of racing. I enjoy getting the yearlings, which I always sell, ready for the sale each year. Every day, I watch them running around the farm… they bring me so much joy.”
Just like clockwork, Moylan is out of bed well before the sun rises. He grabs a coffee and a quick bite to eat, then heads out to walk with the young horses.
It’s something he does seven days a week, rain or shine.
“The weather, it doesn’t matter to me. Every morning, I see those horses and I feel great. They’re waiting for me every morning. I walk them an hour every day. You get to see them come into the world, you get to see them stand for the first time, you get to see them develop all the way through, and then I hand walk them into the sale – it’s just a very happy feeling. I will tell you that I would go hungry before the horses will. They mean everything to me.”
When it’s time to send the yearlings to the major yearly sales in Toronto, it’s not the end of Moylan’s connection with them.
He faithfully follows each one’s journey from the training track to the starting gate, eager to see their progression from prospect to polished professional.
Not all of them pan out, but others certainly have.
Kingsport (main photo, by Michael Burns
) is one of those success stories.
Bred by Moylan, the dark bay son of Milwaukee Brew carved out an impressive career, one that yielded 13 wins, seven seconds and three thirds from 33 starts, along with over $1 million in purse earnings for owners Goldmart Farms and Royal Laser Racing.
His triumphs included a trio of Sir Barton Stakes titles, and a win in the 2018 Shepperton Stakes. The latter ended an 11-race win streak by Canada’s reigning Horse of the Year, Pink Lloyd.
The fan favourite ended his on-track life with three consecutive wins – all stakes – capped off by top prize in the 2019 Elgin Stakes.
Moylan saw every start Kingsport made.
“It’s just a great, great feeling. Whether you’re a big breeder or a small breeder, it definitely puts a smile on your face and it keeps you going. That’s what I love about this industry. You never know what you’re going to come up with.”
There have been other Moylan-bred stars over the years, including Kingsport’s half-brother, Royal Laser, also owned by Goldmart Farms and Royal Laser Racing.
Royal Laser - Michael Burns photo
A five-year-old gelded son of Giant Gizmo, the chestnut gelding is a multiple stakes placed performer. He was recently second in the Overskate Stakes on October 31.
There is also Ennis the Menace, a three-year-old son of high-profile Canadian sire Frac Daddy, owned by Gus Vlahos.
Ennis the Menace (4) Michael Burns photo
Moylan’s voice is full of pride when he speaks of his horses.
“That means so much to me when you see the happiness of the people who bought the horses you bred,” said Moylan, who co-owns, along with trainer Sarah Ritchie, three-year-old multiple stakes placed filly November Fog. “You’ll keep that with you forever. I can tell you I love the horses and horse racing as much as I ever have. There have been tough times for everyone, including the breeders, over the past decade. But you still see that love of the game. People in the industry are passionate about what they do and work hard to see it be successful.”
Thankfully, noted Moylan, breeders across the province have a helping hand in achieving their goals.
Through ownership and breeder incentives offered by Ontario Racing (OR), Moylan has received $45,000 in Breeders Award bonuses in 2020 from the Thoroughbred Improvement Program (TIP).
In February, OR announced its $5.89 million TIP Breeders Awards package for 2020-21, including a new Ontario Sired Reward of Excellence program.
The TIP Breeders Awards program delivers rewards to the breeders of top performing Ontario-bred horses at both Woodbine and Fort Erie. The distribution is based on first, second and third-place finishes in most classes, including Grade 1 Open Stakes such as the Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
“I think the Breeders Awards are amazing,” said Moylan. “It helps all the breeders out. I know it helps me. Those awards pay for a lot of hay and straw. I think it’s a great idea. They [OR] are doing a great job with it. I really, really agree with what they are doing 100 percent. They’re doing a great job with the racing too.”
Although COVID-19 restrictions have meant Moylan can’t see the races live at Woodbine, he still hasn’t missed a race this year.
“If I can watch the races at home, that’s okay with me. Of course I’d like to be there, but you have to do the right thing. I don’t miss one race from Woodbine. There’s nothing like racing at Woodbine. I watch the Irish and English racing in the morning. But when Woodbine comes on… I just love it. The E.P. Taylor Turf Course, it’s beautiful, probably the nicest one in the world.”
While he isn’t afforded the chance to talk shop at the rail with other horsepeople or to watch one of the horses he bred burst out of the gate, Moylan has managed to feel right at home throughout the 2020 racing season.
“I see my horses every day and they keep me young. I watch them and I always say to myself, ‘As long as the horses are running, everything will be fine.’ And they still are.”
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