“This is what I tell everybody who is a horse fan or outside of the horse world: we’re like a training camp for guys like Lebron James and the top athletes that are going into the NBA season, except it’s for the racing season at Woodbine or Saratoga or wherever they may go. Our job is to get the horses in condition for their coaches.”
You can hear the excitement in Evan Sandhu’s voice as he talks about the family business, Amplify Stables. Last year, the Sandhu family purchased Ballycroy farm in Loretto, Ontario, and began their journey into the world of Thoroughbred training and racing.
“We were lucky enough that this property was up for sale; it’s perfect because there is no point raising horses and living in the city because you are never going to get to connect with them. So, we were super lucky that this came about,” said Sandhu.
Sandhu received his business degree from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University. Instead of following the a more conventional path, he ventured into something closer to home, and to the heart.
“I thought I was going to go into investment banking, but we have a small trucking company, a family business. My dad and brother were working on that and I said, ‘it seems more exciting than just going out to work for some big bank.’ That’s where I got into that non-traditional route of going to work for the family business. Amplify Stables is kind of a similar deal,” Sandhu noted.
He has always been interested in horse racing. “I was always keen on it. We didn’t own horses before this. We are just normal folks who enjoyed the odd stroll to Woodbine or just watching it on TV. Obviously, when the Derby is on every year, I watched it.”
The Sandhu family might be new to the racing scene, but their love of horses stems from their cultural roots and deep-seated respect for equine athletes. “We are from Northern India; horses have been a big part of our culture and religion,” said Sandhu.
Amplify Stables offers clients various services including breaking, training, and boarding horses. Additionally, they also do layups, surgery recovery, and foal out broodmares. The farm features a six-furlong dirt training track and starting gate which provides an excellent foundation for preparing young horses for their arrival at the racetrack.
The Sandhu family brought on a seasoned horseman to oversee their horses and manage Amplify Stables. “Terry Brooker is our trainer. He is the farm manager, and he’s done a great job,” said Sandhu. “He stepped into some pretty big shoes that were left empty by Steve Kemp, who owned the farm before – they ran it as Ballycroy Training Centre. We had a chance to meet Terry a couple of times before we closed the deal. He is training all the horses on the farm, including our own,” Sandhu.
Brooker is a very accomplished exercise-rider-turned-horse-trainer. In the irons, he’s helped condition racehorses leading up to and during their racing careers. Of course, there are a few standouts.
“I was the exercise rider for Big Red Mike, who won the Queen’s Plate in 2010. In 2013, it was a horse by the name of Midnight Aria, and then one of my favourite horses I’ve ridden for Nick and Martha Gonzalez was Silent Poet. I rode Silent Poet for his two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old career. He is a fantastic animal,” said Brooker, who has also trained thoroughbreds for over 20 years.
Brooker is a well-respected figure in the horse racing community, and his abilities can be vouched for by some of the top trainers at Woodbine, including Kevin Attard.
“A client of mine sends his horses to Terry to break as yearlings and start early preparations for the two-year-olds, and it’s worked out really well for us,” said Attard. “The horses Terry sends to Woodbine are very straightforward and can breeze three furlongs right off the farm. It’s really nice to see the horses that well-educated so there is no wasting time, as can be the case at other places. His horses always come off the van ready to go.”
As a farm manager, Brooker oversees many moving parts. “I manage all the clientele. Ninety-nine percent of it comes from Woodbine, Brooker explains. “My daily duties are to oversee the breaking of horses and the welfare and boarding of horses. I have a staff of four on a regular basis and more if necessary if we get busier. Riders come from Woodbine to break and ride the horses in the late mornings or early afternoons.”
He is also pleased to have the use of the six-furlong dirt track. “It’s a great base for them. It’s a good depth, it’s not too deep, but they get a lot out of it. Young horses need a lot of miles on them, and that’s what we get to put into them here,” said Brooker.
Amplify Stables already has plenty of four-legged residents on its 100 acres. “Overall, in winter we can have up to 75 or 80 horses; right now we have about 55, which is our range in the summer. Once Woodbine shuts its doors in the winter, it gets super busy,” said Sandhu. “We own five horses of our own – four of them are racehorses and one is a pleasure horse.”
Regarding long-term goals for Amplify Stables, Sandhu commented, “It comes down to two main goals. One, I want a farm where people can send their horses and have them in tip-top shape without breaking the bank,” said Sandhu.
Sandhu’s second goal is more sentimental, reflecting his South Asian heritage. “I want to bring our community into the horse racing aspect of it because our people love the horses, but nobody knows the path to get there.” Personally his ambition is to be the first South Asian – “kind of an outsider” – to have an entry in the King’s Plate or Triple Crown. But for now, “I have a couple of horses at Woodbine right now that are breezing and getting ready for September.”
In the meantime, the Sandhu family will continue to run their state-of-the-art training camp for future equine stars.