Richard ‘Dick’ Bonnycastle bred and raced dozens of top horses under his Harlequin Ranches banner in the nearly 50 years he was involved in Canadian and international horse racing. But one of his most famous achievements in racing occurred just last year when a top filly he bred in his home province of Manitoba, Gold Strike, produced a Kentucky Derby (G1) winner. Rich Strike, the longshot winner of the 2022 Derby, is the sixth foal from Gold Strike, a daughter of Smart Strike who won the Woodbine Oaks for Bonnycastle in 2005.

Bonnycastle passed away at his home in Calgary, Alberta on March 7 after a lengthy illness. He was 88.

Probably best known for taking over the successful Harlequin Enterprises from his father and moving it to Toronto where it became a pillar in book publishing, particularly romance novels, Bonnycastle also came from a long line of horsepeople.

His great-great-great-grandfather, Darcy Boulton, was Canada’s first racing steward. Bonnycastle was one of the founding members of the board of stewards for the Jockey Club of Canada and was its chairman for many years.

One of Bonnycastle’s first racehorses was the champion Nice Dancer, who won the 1972 Manitoba Derby, Breeders’ Stakes and Col. R.S. McLaughlin as a three-year-old. A son of Northern Dancer, Nice Dancer was co-owned by Tom Morton.

In 1978, Bonnycastle won the Classic 1,000 Guineas Stakes with the British-bred Enstone Spark, who swished her tail on her way to victory in the three-year-old classic race for fillies. Bonnycastle was also a partner in Mr Combustible, who won the 2001 Chester Vase and Geoffrey Freer Stakes and California stakes winner Yankee Bravo.

But it was Gold Strike, who was named Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in Canada in 2005, who supplied Bonnycastle with his biggest moments in racing. The tough filly began her career in Manitoba with trainer Blair Miller before she was sent to trainer Reade Baker in Ontario. Following a win in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes, Gold Strike easily won the Oaks and then finished a strong third in the Queen’s Plate. She was later sold at auction for $230,000.

Other major stakes winners for Bonnycastle included Callwood Dancer (Ire), Spice Route, Vestry Lady, and Llanarmon. His longtime bloodstock agent, manager, and friend Tony Goswell was instrumental in Bonnycastle winning some 200 races, solely or with partners such as Park Stud, Roger Attfield and Bill Werner.

Stakes winner First Empire, winner of the 2021 Soaring Free Stakes, is the only current racehorse for Harlequin. The colt, bred by Saintsbury Farm, is in training in Florida with Mark Casse.

Dick Bonnycastle (at far left) at the 2004 Sovereign Awards – Cindy Dulay photo