Campbellville, ON --- When it comes to being involved in big races, small-time Maritime trainer/owner Wayne Whebby knows exactly what it feels like.
The 71-year-old veteran conditioner has raced in the Pepsi North America Cup, Breeders Crown, Adios and Governor's Cup to name a few, but on Saturday he’ll have his first taste of Metro Pace pie. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia resident will send out Play It Again Sam from post nine in this year’s C$683,000 edition.
“It’s a terrific feeling, but we’ll have our work cut out for us,” Whebby said. “We’re very fortunate to be in it, but there are a lot of other nice colts in there, too.”
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|Play It Again Sam has won seven times in eight lifetime starts, with earnings of $53,847.|
Play It Again Sam was a $25,000 yearling purchase from last year’s Standardbred Horse Sale. He was a horse that was on Whebby’s radar at the auction.
“I looked at him and really liked him,” he said. “He was very late in the sale (hip 706), which was good and bad. The price might be lower, but if I didn’t get him, I might be stuck with nothing.”
Whebby wasn’t looking for a partner at the time, but that soon changed.
The youngster also caught co-owner Ron McLellan’s eye (R G McGroup Ltd). He was in pursuit of any offspring sired by Shadow Play, of whom he also owns a piece.
“Ron and I have been friends for years and we also came across another horse by Shadow Play named Im Drinkin Doubles. Im Drinkin Doubles was earlier in the sale and we got him for $32,000 and we were fortunate enough to get Play It Again Sam for $25,000. That’s how Ron and I became partners.”
Whebby then shipped his two new purchases home to Truro, Nova Scotia to begin their early lessons.
“Emmons MacKay broke them and got them going and did an absolute terrific job,” Whebby said. “I’d come in and train with him a few days a week and oversee things, but he deserves the credit.”
When Play It Again Sam was training down, Whebby never got overly confident in his youngster.
“I’ve been down this road before and sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “He did everything right and we knew the speed was there, but you never know what can happen once they line up behind the gate.”
When both horses were near qualifying, Whebby called upon his son, Marc.
“Marc did most of the fine-tuning on both of them,” said the veteran horseman. “He put the finishing touches on them and raced them in Truro. I like it that way because Marc gives terrific feedback and makes sure everything is the way it should be. He’s also a terrific blacksmith and overall good horseman.
“We have a system that we use between Emmons, Marc and I and it’s been successful, so we’re not going to change.”
So far this season, Play It Again Sam has sparked the attention of his owners with a 7-0-1 record from eight starts and $53,847 this season.
“We brought him along accordingly and he raced very well in Truro, but again, racing in Truro and racing at Mohawk are two different leagues. He’s progressed very well and shows that he has the speed to belong.”
Whebby then shipped Play It Again Sam west to Ontario to the barn of trainer Dr. Ian Moore, another Maritmer.
Moore had two entries in this year’s Metro, but Moore’s other entry, Arthur Blue Chip, has been scratched due to sickness, therefore Play It Again Sam will look to be crowned this year’s champion for the Maritime connections.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Metro Pace, the richest event for 2-year-olds in North America, Whebby remains optimistic about Play It Again Sam.
“I think it’s a very evenly matched group of colts this year,” Whebby said. “There’s not a particular standout yet and a lot will depend on racing luck and who benefits from the best trip. I sure hope that’s us.
“Between Ron, his wife, Gail, Marc and Emmons and I, we’re having a lot of fun this season,” Whebby continued.
David Miller will be at the helm from post nine in race seven on Saturday evening.