On a visit to Carol Mott’s The Mott’s Equestrian Centre in Puslinch, Ontario early in 2022, David Muscat was only expecting to watch his wife Ann and two young children ride their horses. Not long after that trip to the riding stable, however, the family found themselves part-owners of their first racehorse.
“I had seen Carol’s racehorse, Royal City Reign, at her stable and she was beautiful and prancing around the paddock,” said David, a financial advisor for an automotive group. “I made an off-hand remark about maybe one day owning a racehorse. Carol set us up with Royal City Reign’s trainer Renée Kierans and her partner Ben Wallace. They offered us a share in one of their horses and we jumped at the opportunity.”
Only three months later, that horse, the Ontario-bred gelding Lobby Bar won his first career race by five lengths in a $59,345 maiden race. The Muscat family were hooked and now their stable has grown by one more horse ‒ they own a share in a newly turned two-year-old trained by Kierans, as they excitedly await the 2023 racing season.
“We are enjoying the entire experience,” said Ann. “We love watching them train in the morning at the track. We love to watch them grow and learn and then bringing out friends and family to the track.”
Ann Muscat, who is originally from Guelph, rode horses briefly as a child but it wasn’t until five years ago, when her son Evan, 5 at the time, announced one day he wanted to learn to ride horses. “I loved it, I was so excited. I told him, I was going with him.”
Not long after, daughter Lucy joined in. The kids share asWelsh Cob to ride in lessons while Ann purchased an unraced Thoroughbred, a Few Too Many, as her riding horse.
David, who hails from Toronto, admits he has been more of a city slicker but the family moved from Toronto to a 100-acre farm in Halton Hills a few years ago. David remembers his childhood days when a trip to the track was a regular occurrence.
“My Dad used to take me to watch harness racing,” said David. “It was our trip out together. I remember it well; the paper betting slips on the floor, the programs and guys with cigars.”
A day at the racetrack in Ontario is much different today with free admission and parking, a selection of restaurants and dining rooms and clean, state of the art facilities. The Muscats had a lot of fun discovering that in 2022.
Renée, a former amateur jockey, racing television host and longtime owner and trainer along with Wallace, a Hall of Fame Standardbred trainer, purchased Lobby Bar for $20,000 at the 2020 CTHS Ontario yearling sale. They bought him with longtime partners Mileo and Jean Monte of Harness Horsepower.
‘Ben picked him out,” she said. “He thought he would be a good one for me to take my time with.”
The son of Ontario stallion Society’s Chairman from the mare Purely Elegant did not race at 2 but had been in training and he was getting prepared for 2022 when Renée met the Muscats while riding at Mott’s stable and also trains Royal City Reign for Carol.
“The excitement they had buying into Lobby Bar was palpable,” said Renée. “They wanted to learn the game and understood the ups and downs of it. The kids loved coming out to the barn and getting to know Lobby Bar.”
When Lobby Bar stormed to his big debut win on May 28, the Muscats excitement reached new heights.
“I almost missed the race,” laughed Ann. “I was downtown, one of the kids had computer coding, and we had to run through the parking lot to the grandstand. We got there with just a few minutes to the race. It was a whirlwind.”
Lobby Bar went on to finish a closing fourth in his second race when trying the grass for the first time before he had two unplaced efforts. It turned out the gelding had a minor injury on one of his legs that Renée detected and he was put away for the year.
“These horses, they are athletes and we ask so much of them,” said Ann. “We were lucky it wasn’t a serious injury and it could be fixed.”
In late August, 2022, the Muscats didn’t hesitate when Renée and Ben asked them if they wanted to buy another horse, a yearling colt they bought with another Hall of Fame Standardbred trainer, Jack Darling. The colt, a son of Souper Speedy, was a $35,000 purchase and there are eight partners in total.
“Having partners is a great way to get started, I love it,” said David. “You share the expenses and share in the fun. It is invaluable to have someone guide you through it too. Renée is great at explaining everything, she encourages us, helps the kids develop a relationship with the horse. It’s the little things that make it a great way to spend time with family and friends.”
And when co-workers and friends show interest in the fact they own a racehorse, they are quick to tell them it is not as expensive as many may think.
“There is a perception that if someone is a racehorse owner, they have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said David. “That’s not the case at all. It’s expensive, but if you are someone who travels, or sails or enjoys fine dining, buying into a racehorse should not be a barrier.”
Ann is hoping to have more opportunities to bring a dozen or more friends and family to the track when the Woodbine season gets underway in late April. “It’s a great excuse to call people, enjoy a few hours at the track, have a meal and watch the horse races. It is a very unique experience.”