If you’re going to live, leave a legacy.
Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.
– Maya Angelou
If it were possible to interview Glen Todd one more time, I would have asked him what kind of mark he wanted to leave on Canada’s horse racing industry.
While I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Todd several times, our final correspondence was not about his legacy, but rather the state of funding for Hasting Park’s 2021 racing season. I also subscribed to Todd’s informative Derby Bar and Grill newsletter, but that still falls short of having a concrete conversation about what he thought cemented his name in this industry.
On March 27, 2022, John Glendon Todd died at age 75. A lifelong horseman, Todd is what many consider to be a legacy leader, an icon, and even a titan on the racing scene out west. Involved in the sport for nearly six decades, Todd has worn the hat of an owner, a trainer and a breeder. He’s worn each of those hats pretty well and tried a few more on to keep B.C’s horse racing industry afloat.
Many know that Todd’s parents, Jack and Eileen, met at Hastings racecourse in 1939. It was a small but pivotal moment that somehow set the ball rolling in Todd’s lifelong attachment to the sport and his contribution to it. There’s also a well-worn road of stories written about the North American Thoroughbred Horse Company (NATHC), which Todd owned and operated. Moreover, his success with horses such as Taylor’s Said, Commander, He’s The Reason, Five Star General have graced various news pages over the years.
While it’s an honour to be inducted into one Hall of Fame, Todd’s name can be found in five. He’s inducted into the B.C. Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, but outside of horse racing, he also made waves and contributions to other sports, such as softball. You will find his name in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, Softball BC Hall of Fame, the Softball Canada Hall of Fame, and the World Baseball Hall of Fame. Todd’s legacy lives through the lens and perspective of various friends and family who speak to his character and unwavering commitment to the horse racing industry.
Huge Advocate For BC Racing
Drew Forster, who manages the OTB at Todd’s restaurant, the Derby Bar and Grill in South Surrey, candidly remembers Todd trying to help out B.C. racing.
“He really carried it on his back,” Forster said. “His office was right here in the restaurant and he would be going over the stakes schedule and the purse structure constantly. He would be doing a lot of pro bono work if you will, for Hastings to really try and keep it going and donating money to it and getting his staff to fix stuff or trying to help with the live feed. There were a million things; he just had his hands on everything, trying to orchestrate the best he could for the track here.”
Forster has worked in various roles in the racing industry, but knew Todd for many years due to close family ties. His aunt, Marilyn Taylor, was married to trainer Troy Taylor, who was a big part of Todd’s life.
“Troy was Glen’s long-time trainer, and Troy was stabled at the barn below my father (Dave Forster) for years. So, I knew Troy my whole life growing up,” Forster said. “In the early 2000s, when Glen became more involved in the races, I just kind of got to know him through Troy and being at the track every day.”
Asked about Todd’s character, Forster is forthright about his friend.
“He was great. He was not easy, but he was great. Very fair, very honest, and a very hard-working guy that expected that out of everybody else. I’ve worked with him for the last 15, 16 years. He was very immersed in horse racing, and he had other successful businesses — namely a customs brokerage — but all he wanted to do was play with the horses. He loved the people in racing.”
Todd was also the president and chief executive officer of Pacific Customs Brokers (PCB) and ABC Customs Brokers (ABC). Again, just another ‘hat’ that Todd wore while working away on his horse racing endeavours.
Forster also spoke to the vital role Todd played in Mario Gutierrez’s life, helping the jockey find his footing on the North American racing scene. In 2006, Gutierrez began riding at Hastings. Six years later, Gutierrez landed himself in one of the most prized winner’s circles of all.
“Mario winning the Derby was obviously really emotional for all of us. [Todd] was like a father to Mario. They were so close. Mario lived with him. Glen was a man of means and Troy would live there and Mario would live there. They were kind of a like this rat pack kind of team that was winning everything, and then for Mario to win the Kentucky Derby was very emotional for [Todd],” said Forster, who represented Gutierrez a year prior to the jockey capturing both the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes aboard I’ll Have Another.
Mario Gutierrez’s Second Father
A quick call over to Del Mar in California finds jockey Mario Gutierrez on the other line. The quiet tone of his voice is underlined by a subtle warmth when asked about Todd. “Well, what he did in terms of my career was amazing, but what was more important to me is he became my second father. I left home from Mexico when I was still young, and he took me under his wing, and eventually, we ended up living together, and like I said, I ended up loving him like my second dad,” said Gutierrez.
In early March, a few weeks before Todd died, a Derby Bar and Grill newsletter arrived in my inbox. Within the newsletter, there was a section titled ‘MARIO WATCH’ with a photo of Gutierrez smiling from cheek to cheek. The section listed the jock’s upcoming mounts at that time and included a link to the jockey’s Equibase profile. A small section, but also a gentle reminder of Todd’s pride in Gutierrez’s continued success and journey in racing.
Ian Jewell, who worked as an assistant trainer for NATHC, also fondly remembers Todd’s impact on his career.
“One of my favourite moments is when we had a meeting at the end of the year, say 2015-2016, and he asked me to go to Portland (Meadows). It was the first time I was going to branch out with horses. He was going to give me a string of seven horses, and he said, ‘You go to Portland, this is your job, these are your horses, and there is your winter.’ That was probably one of my favourite peaks because it was the trust he put me in to do that,” Jewell said.
Peaks and valleys, highs and lows, it’s in the fine print of what you sign up for when you enter the racing game. Yet, Jewell is clearly able to recall a precious moment where Todd stood in the sun and enjoyed some of the peaks this game does have to offer. “The best day ever was in 2019 when Five Star General won the [Grade 3 British Columbia] Derby and he won the Oaks with Amazonian, and then the horse I personally looked after, He’s The Reason [won the S.W. Randall Plate Handicap]. Winning three stakes in that one day – I don’t think it can be a day that you can ever top. Those are probably my two highlights in my career with Glen.”
Todd’s Generosity Helped Fund the Purse Account
While people could attest to knowing of Todd, only a handful of people can speak wholeheartedly about his character. David Milburn is one such person.
“A first class, trustworthy, honest individual with an excellent acumen for business and all things financial,” Milburn said. “Great insight. And someone who, when he says he is going to do something, he does it. He does it to the best of his ability and accomplishes the task at hand.”
Milburn is the president of B.C’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association (HBPA) and knew Todd for three decades.
“I’ve known him as a participant in the industry for probably 30 years but got to know him really well from 2010 onwards when he became the thoroughbred representative on the horse industry management committee. He was president of the HBPA B.C. I had extensive political dealings with him but then also got to know him personally.”
For some people, horse racing is a hobby, and for others, it is a business. While Todd was in the business of horse racing, Milburn could speak to the selfless nature of his friend when it came down to his contributions to the sport. “He never took any of the incentive programs that were eligible to everyone. On incentive programs that he could have participated in, he probably left close to $400,000 on the table, maybe more. That’s just a rough estimate. We have various programs — broodmare and yearling purchase programs, wintering program which range from $3,000 – $5,500 a year for qualifying horses. We had a fresh horse program, where we would pay for horses that have run in other jurisdictions; we would pay a sum of money and it varied from $4,000 to $10,000 over the years. So, just a rough estimate based on the number of horses he had each year, and roughly knowing what he would have been eligible for, I would put the number around $400,000 that he left on the table and of course, that money then flowed directly into the purse account. So, everyone over that span of time, was able to run for that extra time as opposed to it being depleted,” said Milburn.
Now, it’s one thing to leave money on the table, and it’s another to also put up a loan to keep racing going. In July 2021, Todd offered a $1 million interest-free loan to the racing industry. The loan was to assist with purse money and to ensure races would run until Aug. 31.
It was a generous offer and not something just anyone could do, but the gesture spoke to how far Todd went to keep the lights on and the horses running.
Interestingly, as Todd’s long-time friend Ole Nielsen notes, the loan was never used.
“It turns out our government came up with a million and a half for thoroughbreds and a million and a half for standardbreds to extend our meet last year,” Nielsen said. “Glen didn’t actually have to fund any of his guarantee. His agreeing to fund it was huge because that allowed us to add another month on to our racing. As it turns out, at the end of the day, the government finally decided to give us a grant. Our provincial government decided to dish out a little bit to help people who were hard hit by COVID and we qualified. The million and a half put us over the top, and at the end of the day, we didn’t need Glen’s commitment.”
Launching BC TOBA
Nielsen has been a part of the B.C. horse racing landscape since the ‘70s, as both an owner and breeder. His name has been synonymous with his former breeding operation, Canmor Farms. His friendship with Todd spanned a better part of five decades. When asked about Todd’s character, Nielsen’s immediate response is: “Oh boy, that’s difficult.” However, within a few seconds, the words flow freely.
“His heart has always been in the thoroughbred business and all of his decisions are made best for the overall business. When he was appointed to the horse racing management committee we have out here, he always made decisions in the best interests of the industry and never in his own interests, which is often so prevalent in the thoroughbred business.”
Like Todd, Nielsen has also worn several hats in the racing industry. But, looking back to his days as a breeder, the seasoned horseman stumbles upon a significant moment in time with his friend Glen Todd.
“In 2010, I went to Glen and told him that we had never bred less than a 100 mares at Canmor Farms from 1976 to 2009. I went to Glen and said, ‘Glen, we only bred 80 mares this year. I think we are going to be in trouble for horses in about five years.’ As a result of that we decided to set up BC TOBA – a new society representing thoroughbred owners and breeders. With him on the management committee and me on TOBA, we kind of worked alongside one another for 12 years. Together, with the HBPA and the breeders, we were instrumental in running or assisting Great Canadian in running races,” said Nielsen.
While Great Canadian is the track operator, there are several organizations and bodies that are involved in the process of getting races to go. Todd was a part of the B.C. horse racing management committee. Nielsen has assumed a position in Todd’s place. “When Glen passed away in the spring, I was actually appointed to the management committee to take his place. We are carrying on and working with TOBA, the HBPA, CTHS to have our input into the conduct of racing with Great Canadian [which operates Hasting’s Park].”
Running races not only requires horse stock, it also requires the owners, people willing to spend money to be in the game. But, again, as Milburn said, Todd understood various elements of the game and tried to make investments where he saw fit.
“He was one of the originators of the Hastings Racing Club,” Milburn said. “That is a group that has up to 300 members, and for a cost of I believe of $300 now they would have a fractional interest of a horse. Horses were purchased by the industry and then leased to the racing club on a yearly basis and the racing club would run those horses. One of them, Square Dancer, in the start of the racing club, he was B.C.’s Horse of the Year (2015) and won multiple stakes. He was a great acquisition. Out of the racing club, where the vast majority have never been involved in horse racing, we’ve had over 75 individuals at last count cross over and become owners, either in whole or in partnership. It’s tremendous that some individuals have multiple horses, and it started out in the racing club as one of the fractional 300 members owning from 2 to 4 horses each year. So it’s been a tremendous success, and we’ve got Glen to thank for that.”
The Hastings Racing Club is just another accomplishment that speaks to Todd’s uncanny ability to breathe life into the industry.
Family Was Todd’s Greatest Legacy
At this point, you’re probably thinking it would be easier to list Todd’s accomplishments, but that wouldn’t do justice to defining his true legacy.
Instead, a conversation with Shelley Todd, one of Glen’s daughters, provides insight into his most significant accomplishment and an overall sense of who he was.
“My father, 100 per cent, his biggest accomplishment was his family. He wanted his family involved in his passions whether it was business or horses. He wanted his family to carry on his legacy. And I will do my best to do that how he wanted,” Shelley said. “He instilled a lot of things in me, and he is a mentor to many people. People who I talk to in the industry; he was a mentor to them all. He was in the game for a very long time. He was definitely a great teacher. He was loyal and kind. He always had two families. His biological family and his racing family, and he felt that anyone who took care of any of his horses was his family also. He took great pride in his staff who took care of his horses, and he treated them as family as well.”
Shelley and her sister Dana grew up going to the racetrack and watching their horses run. Over the last 30 years, Shelley has learned the ins and outs of the business and found herself immersed and very interested in the breeding element of the game.
“About 10 years ago, my father started asking me to come to Keeneland with him and uncle Troy to do the Keeneland sales, where they would purchase a lot of our yearlings. And from coming out to the sale, it kind of got the bug or the itch in me. It was like, ‘This is really cool.’ Of course, when you come to Keeneland it’s one of the best sales in the world. It’s amazing, the horses are beautiful. I said to my dad, ‘One, day I would love to live here. We should buy a farm here some day.’ He said, ‘Wouldn’t that be awesome.’”
That dream came to fruition in January 2020 when Glen purchased a farm known as Todd Manor in Midway, KY. “Our first year we had about a dozen mares here and yearlings, and then we foaled out some babies. And then last year, we had 15 babies and 23 mares here,” said Shelley.
While Shelley currently manages and operates the farm, she will be assuming ownership of Todd Manor on Jan. 1, 2023. On top of that purchase, she outlines a few goals for the future of her business. “First of all, to build a really good client base. To have horses that leave this farm and have a great start to their racing career. My big goal is to instill loyalty, honesty, integrity in the clients and the future to bring owners into racing. With that, I’m going to be doing more digital sales here from the farm,” she said.
Speaking of digital sales, it’s important to note that all of Todd’s racehorse and breeding stock were sold in two dispersal sales. Within the first digital dispersal, one of the sales toppers included Five Star General, who sold for $110,000 to Kenny Alhadeff (Elttaes stable). In September, Amazonian, a broodmare prospect, went for a staggering $420,000 to KatieRich Farms. Remember, back in 2019, the Malibu Moon mare won the 2019 British Columbia Oaks for the North American Thoroughbred Racing company (NATHC), which is no longer operational.
It’s interesting to note that two broodmares, Caged Mistress and Seven Feathers, did not part ways with the Todd family. “I did keep a couple of mares; that he [Dad] would have been so upset if I didn’t keep his two favourites. I wish I could have kept more, but unfortunately that did not work out,” said Shelley. Caged Mistress is in foal to American Freedom, while Seven Feathers is in foal to Mo Town.
Shelley said the future will revolve around whether she wants to race the horses or sell them.
“But I have a lot of owners here from Seattle to Florida, from all over the place, and who have really supported me over the past couple of years. So, to rebuild and build on that business, it’s up to clients as to what they want to do with their horses, not me.”
On the breeding side of things, there continues to be a cross-border element to her business.
“We definitely have some great people from Ontario who’ve bought our mares who are actually fantastic. They even send pictures daily. So, they will be bringing their mares back here to breed and then ship them back to Ontario,” said Shelley, who mentions that someone from Ontario bought Zensational Beauty through the September digital dispersal sale.
She said breeding stock has also gone to the west coast as well. “I did have one of our mares go to Vancouver and she is going to foal out there and brought back here to do the same thing.”
Everything in the horse racing business takes time, especially when it comes to the breeding side of things. Yet, there’s already some success to talk about, as Shelley posted on her Twitter feed with a win photo of Call Me Fast at Keeneland. The 3-year-old gelding is Kentucky bred out of their mare Caged Mistress. The victory marked their first win at Keeneland.
Again, legacies are living things, and Todd’s legacy is still unfolding under the thoughtful eye of his daughter at Todd Manor.
The words and memories of close friends and family have provided a clear landscape of what Todd meant to others and what they saw as his most essential endeavours during his career. But, as Shelley duly noted, family was his biggest accomplishment.
Todd wore countless hats and held many honours, but at the core of his legacy he left a mark on people’s hearts. Drew Forster clearly sums up that ‘mark’ when he tells me in passing: “There’s a million memories, and Glen was like the father of us all in a way.”