It is a cool morning in early March, and veteran trainer Steve Owens is in his office, located in barn 15 on the Woodbine backstretch. Owens has been training horses at the Etobicoke oval for three decades, but his level of anticipation for the upcoming season is as high as ever.
“You’re always gung-ho to get in. The last week on the farm, before training starts at Woodbine you can’t sleep,” said Owens. “I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and it never changes. I’m always anticipating getting the horses back into a routine and hoping that it will be a good year.”
At this time on the racing calendar, with the full season ahead, it is all about imagining what is possible, either for returning standouts, or horses looking for a breakout campaign.
A returning star in the Owens barn with an exciting season ahead is multiple stakes winner Poulin in O T.
The three-year-old son of Reload is a family owned homebred, with Owens’ wife Beverly Lewis-Owens, and daughter Emma Lewis-Owens partnered in the star colt.
“When I say I have a family operation, I mean my wife and daughter are involved in the racing side,” said a smiling Owens. “Steve Owens is the grunt worker. I do the 3:30 mornings and the afternoon feeds, and get the animals to where they are. My wife and daughter run a company outside of racing, which helps us cover some of the expenses on the farm, and buy horses.”
Poulin in O T earned over $280,000 in his freshman campaign, posting a mark of 4-1-0 from six starts.
He won the $150,000 Victoria against open company and picked up a pair of wins in the Bull Page and Frost King against Ontario Sired competitors. He was nominated for a Sovereign Award as Champion Two-Year-Old Male for his efforts and was an Ontario Sired Reward of Excellence recipient.
The chestnut gelding shipped in with Owens on March 1, following two and a half months of rest and relaxation at Owens’ Kleinberg, Ont., farm. At the moment, Poulin in O T is content in his stall, after taking laps around the shed row earlier this morning.
“He had a mellow winter, stall rest, turnouts, and small paddocks,” said Owens. “Now he’s been going around the shed row for week, practicing muscle memory, and remembering the saddle. It’s like anything else, you lay around for three months and you’re going to need some time to get to top form.”
Slow and steady is Owens guiding philosophy this time of year.
“We are seven days in and haven’t left the shed row yet. We have just been getting our legs under us,” said Owens. “The employees are getting their legs under them, and so are the horses and riders.”
As for what’s planned for Poulin in O T this year, that is to be determined. Will he chase the glory of the King’s Plate, and try to emulate the level of success his namesake, and Canadian women’s Olympic hockey hero, Marie-Philip Poulin experienced?
“He’s Ontario Sired, and should be very competitive in that category, but of course there is always the temptation to put him on a King’s Plate trail,” said Owens. “We will manage him, and see how it goes. Look at what is in the condition book, and the stakes schedule and put a campaign together that is best suited for him. He is a good horse, and if I manage him properly, he could be a very serious horse in Canada.”