The skepticism was audible at times, as Somebeachsomewhere, the legendary harness racing horse from Truro, was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, Nov. 2.
As owner and trainer Brent MacGrath did the customary back and forth with hall CEO and induction ceremony master of ceremonies Bruce Rainnie, I could hear the doubt; not so much in words, more so in sounds. Especially as Brent answered Rainnie’s question about whether Beach, as he was affectionately known, understood he didn’t win for the first, and what turned out to be only time, that July 2008 night in New Jersey.
“The next morning he was a little pouty, like athletes can be,” Brent said, with the word ‘athletes’ garnering a few ‘ha’s’ and ‘hm’s’ from the large crowd gathered at the Halifax Convention Centre.
“The next morning I called the guy who was feeding him because I wanted to know if he was looking for his breakfast or not and his first words were; ‘I didn’t know if he was going to eat the feed or me’ … so that was a good sign,” Brent said, continuing his answer.
“He wanted to get back at it, straighten things out, make the record right and it wasn’t really very close after that,” he added, alluding to Beach’s 10 wins to conclude his three-year-old season and racing career.
At this point, I should acknowledge a personal bias as having a family connection to the great horse, with Brent being my brother-in-law and my sister Rhonda also playing a large role in the Beach’s career and life.
I have had the conversations with Brent, on more than one occasion, about how the best horses separate themselves from the pack much like human athletes do; more drive, desire, confidence and an unquenchable thirst for all that goes with winning; the attention, the accolades … a sense of pride.
I witnessed the latter during the one Beach race I was able to come east for, from my then home in Salmon Arm, B.C. At a packed 2008 North America Cup, at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville, Ontario, Beach dominated the field. He won going-away and as he paraded back in front of the grandstand, with the capacity crowd wildly cheering him and driver Paul MacDonell, there was an undeniable sense of accomplishment in Beach’s movements.
Whether Brent was able to convince those folks in the convention centre crowd of the horse’s self-awareness as an athlete, who knows? And even if he did, there still might be some wondering about a horse joining a hall which, up to this point, had only been occupied by humans.
Rainnie called the induction “historic” and noted Beach joins race horse Northern Dancer and show-jumping horse Big Ben on the short list of equine members in Canadian sport halls of fame.
“Our job as a hall of fame is to tell the story of sport in Nova Scotia,” a passage in the ceremony program, quoting Rainnie, reads.
“And any great story is driven by great characters. Somebeachsomewhere is one of those characters. He is an essential part of the sport narrative in the province.”
“I feel he is one of the great equine athletes is not the greatest, and if there was going to be a horse admitted, it should have been him,” Brent said, acknowledging there was probably some “push-back” with Beach’s selection to the hall.
“I get that,” he said. “But there is no question who the athlete was on those Saturday nights he raced.”
No question indeed.