The quartet of Ontario-bred yearlings Canuck Racing Club purchased at last week’s Canadian Premier Yearling Sale are the same age as the club itself which has burst onto Ontario’s racing scene in the past 12 months, building an impressive stable and making up for what it lacks in service time with a deep conviction to achieve its own lofty goals.
The brainchild of three childhood friends who grew up in Montreal, QC, Canuck Racing Club is run by Donato Lanni, Mark Halloran, and Rob van Blokland who are now based in Kentucky, Ottawa, and Montreal, respectively.
Lanni is one of North America’s leading bloodstock agents, having bought champions such as Arrogate and Authentic. Halloran and van Blokland have been partners in their business advisory and leadership development firm for two decades leveraging backgrounds in HR, networking, marketing, and communications.
“We’ve known each other for forty-plus years,” said Halloran. “We wanted this club to make its mark on Canadian horse racing while transforming the sport of Kings and Queens into the sport of friends.”
The friendship shared by the three managing partners is emblematic of the spirit they want Canuck Racing Club members to feel as they engage in their horse ownership journey.
“It’s easy to get a group of people together, pool some money, and buy a horse,” said van Blokland. “The way we approached this is much more than just ownership. It’s a 24-7 club experience connecting member-owners to racing’s rich history and brilliant horsepeople, their process and strategies, and a whole lot of fun.”
“We wanted this club to make its mark on Canadian horse racing while transforming the sport of Kings and Queens into the sport of friends.”
The seed that grew into Canuck Racing Club was planted during the years Halloran managed several ‘one horse at a time’ syndicates for thoroughbreds that Lanni bought to race with friends in Canada.
Ontario-bred gelding Clayton was the most successful of those horses. He was on the 2020 Triple Crown Trail, finishing third in the Queen’s Plate, second in the Prince of Wales Stakes, and fifth in the Breeders Stakes.
There had always been talk about doing something more, and coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time was right for a venture that promised unique and unforgettable experiences, and van Blokland was brought on to help with the club’s marketing and communications.
“It all starts with Donato,” said Halloran. “He’s the best in the business at what he does, but he’s a sentimentalist at heart. Like us, he’s proudly Canadian and he wants to build something great here together.”
In 2022, Canuck Racing Club dove headfirst into the game. Responsible for all Thoroughbred-related decisions, Lanni purchased eight yearlings for the club in Ontario and Kentucky, including four at the 2022 Canadian Premier Yearling Sale.
Cementing the club’s commitment to racing in Canada, all eight of the yearlings they purchased were Ontario-breds and the club has already tasted victory with its freshman group.
Souper Speedy filly Vandoo gave the club its first victory with a win over the boys in a maiden affair on July 29 at Woodbine Racetrack, and War Painter has hit the board twice in two maiden special weight attempts.
Canuck Racing Club also bought into EnjoytheSilent, a Silent Name (JPN) gelding who ran a game sixth in the King’s Plate, despite starting from the far outside post position in the 17-horse field.
While on-track success is the ultimate goal, Canuck Racing Club’s approach to communicating every step of a Thoroughbred’s journey has provided members with memorable experiences before their horses even make the races.
“Spending the day backside at our trainer Kevin Attard’s stable and at the training track was even better than the races,” shared club member Carter Wilkie. “Hearing Kevin and Donato talk about how the horses are maturing and where they plan to race them next and why gives you a whole deeper appreciation for the sport and these athletes.”
Those backstretch visits are part of an overall package that members consider a form of experiential investing. Another example is the club’s visit to the 2023 Canadian Premier Yearling Sale where club members rode shotgun with Lanni as he inspected yearlings, spoke with breeders, and ultimately bid on horses.
“There is such a wealth of knowledge in our crew,” said van Blokland. “The beauty of hanging with pros like Donato, Kevin, and Dave Anderson is that you get the insiders to give you their tremendous insight first-hand.”
Canuck Racing Club signed for four yearlings, including forming a partnership with Terra Racing Stables on Hip 113. Reflecting their commitment to excellence, the Souper Speedy filly out of Ghostzapper mare Kin’s Ghost was one of just four horses to hammer for $100,000 or more.
“We have elite vets and an awesome trainer supporting the best bloodstock agent in the game who is also your fellow co-owner,” said Halloran. “It’s hard for others to access that. And while we provide it all within a fun atmosphere, let’s be clear, we’re here to win.”
One year into their story, Canuck Racing Club has already achieved some of their short-term goals such as winning races, infusing energy into the game, and creating a club culture that appeals to industry veterans and first-timers alike.
But they’re just getting started. The club’s red and white silks are here to stay, and as more members join and their horses continue to move forward, Canuck Racing Club wants to establish itself as a major player in Ontario’s racing industry.
“At the end of the day, it’s our owners who really make all of this possible,” added Halloran. “So, while we’re building our business and club on the talent and work ethic of a really solid team, it’s being done with a members-first mindset. Along the way, we’re hoping to cultivate a new generation of horsepeople who grow to love this sport and appreciate the remarkable contributions that Canada’s legendary Thoroughbreds, owners, and breeders have made to global racing.”