Maggie Northcott says she ‘came out of the womb’ loving horses, so it is no surprise she has parlayed that love to breeding, training and selling prized classic Morgan horses.
And now Northcott and her husband, Doug, have entered the exciting and challenging world of Thoroughbred racing and breeding with the arrival of Canadian champion and millionaire Dynamic Sky to their Alberta farm.
The impressive-looking stallion stands his first year at the Northcott’s WorkWize farm in Acme, Alberta following three seasons at Shannondoe Farm in St. Thomas, Ontario. The son of successful American stallion Sky Mesa is being leased by the Northcotts who are excited to see the stallions first crop of two-year-olds race this year.
“He is an awesome individual so when we heard about his availability, we jumped at it,” said Maggie. “We are hoping others will also take advantage of him being here.”
The Northcotts, who are both 57, only recently entered the Thoroughbred industry, starting their first horse in 2018. The couple, whose main source of income is the cattle business they have had for two decades, in addition to Maggie’s Morgan horse business, have a solid track record and figure to make Dynamic Sky a star in Alberta.
Pinning down the Northcotts for a lengthy conversation about their foray into Thoroughbred racing and breeding is tricky, since both are out from dawn to dusk tending to horses and cattle. Once you get Maggie on the phone, however, you can hear the passion and excitement, plus her boisterous laugh, when she talks Thoroughbreds.
“I watched Secretariat win in the Triple Crown, in real time,” said Maggie, who studied and graduated as an animal health technician. “I still have all the newspaper clippings about him in a binder an inch thick.”
The WorkWize business name was first attached to Maggie’s Australian Cattle Dog breeding business before she moved into the world of the Morgan horse some 25 years ago. Her Morgans are raised and trained in both Western and English disciplines and she trains and rides the hunter-jumper prospects in classes before marketing them.
On the cattle side, Maggie and Doug buy, sell and finish their own cattle at a nearby feedlot. Maggie is also hired to ride through the pens of some 3,000 cattle on the feedlot to check for any sick animals.
The Thoroughbred bug, said Maggie, came from Doug, who was never involved with horses, but more of “the gambling type.”
“We both loved racing and he felt confident about us getting into it because I have had horses, bred and raised horses, since I was a teenager.”
Hay for Horses
They have a great story to tell about how they came about owning their first racehorse in 2018. “Well, I traded her for hay,” said Maggie, laughing. “We had been selling hay to an Alberta owner and breeder, Ron St. Louis, for several years but sadly, he passed away. His wife was left with all these mares and horses, so Doug negotiated a deal to trade her some hay for a few of the horses.”
They raced their few horses in 2018 and earlier this winter at Turf Paradise in Arizona. The focus, however, has been breeding to race and the Northcotts have been working hard on educating themselves on Thoroughbred breeding. They have six mares they plan to breed to Dynamic Sky. “We ran some claiming horses but what we have learned is, if you want to get a horse above that level, you either have to spend the bucks to buy it or breed it,” said Maggie.
The Dynamic Sky deal came about through Shannondoe’s Arika Everatt-Meeuse, who stands Society’s Chairman and Conquest Curlinate in Ontario.
Dynamic Sky raced for owner John Oxley and was trained by Mark Casse and as Maggie notes, he has everything a breeder could want in stallion: pedigree, precociousness and he’s a pretty nice guy, too.
“He is very easy to deal with,” said Maggie. “He comes from Shannondoe and he was handled predominantly by women there who do great jobs with stallions.”
On the track, Dynamic Sky, a son of the stakes winning Distorted Humor mare Murani, was a fast learner. He won his maiden in the Simcoe Stakes at Woodbine and placed second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland as a juvenile.
He was on the Queen’s Plate trail in 2013 after winning the Pasco Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He won the Plate Trial before finishing third in the Plate itself to front-runner Midnight Aria.
At four, Dynamic Sky found grass and won the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct and placed in big events such as the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International, Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes and Grade 2 Nijinsky stakes. He was voted Canada’s Champion Male Turf Horse for 2014 at the Sovereign awards.
As a five-year-old, Dynamic Sky placed in three graded stakes races on turf. He retired with earnings of over $1.1 million and won or placed in 18 of 34 starts from 6 1/2 furlongs to 2 miles.
Steep Learning Curve
There are about 17 Thoroughbreds at WorkWize, including a handful of broodmares, three of which are expected to have foals this spring.
The Northcotts also have a few horses in training with Cory Rumsey at Turf Paradise, but since that track and most tracks including nearby Century Mile are shut down because of the devastating spread of the COVID-19 virus, racing has been put on hold.
“We bought yearlings in 2018 and they are three-year-olds now. I don’t run my two-year-olds anyway, so we won’t have a lot of racing this year.”
There is a new acquisition that the Northcotts are dearly hoping to see race in 2020 before he joins Dynamic Sky at stud in 2021.
Tour de Force, originally a $1.35 million yearling purchase by Tiznow and now graded stakes-placed, is with Rumsey at Turf Paradise. The couple obtained the horse through bloodstock agent Mike Recio.
Maggie, who does most of the horse work herself, admits they have gone through a steep learning curve when it comes to broodmares and breeding Thoroughbreds, but she puts a lot of work into letting her young horses grow up without pushing them.
“I work with the babies a lot; I let them run around, snoop around and I am not worried if they get a little scratch here and there. I want them to run, be a horse, grow their bodies, I’m very much like that and we are fortunate that we have space to do that.”
For the near future, Maggie and Doug want to focus on breeding horses to race themselves while curating a plan to attract interest in their star stallion.
It’s a good bet that this hard-working couple will make a name for themselves in racing and breeding in western Canada in the years to come.