Queen’s Plate hopeful Dun Drum has brought Joan Addison and Ian Black together again 50 years after they teamed up to win the Prince of Wales Trophy.
The tiny snapshots are faded, but the memories are bright. The images are of a 20-something Black putting the tack on a horse named Golden Storm and riding him to the post for steeplechase races that were held in the Toronto area more than 50 years ago.
In one photo, Black and Golden Storm and owner Addison are being presented with the Prince of Wales Trophy, a notable race at the Toronto North York Hunt Club.
Those were fun and fleeting times early in the career of Black, who went on to manage some of the biggest thoroughbred stables in Canada before turning to training in 2005. Addison had her own riding horses but the extent of her involvement in racing was limited for decades.
Imagine then how remarkable it was to see Black and Addison celebrating a stakes victory together half a century later when Dun Drum took the Kingarvie Stakes in the fall of 2018.
Not only did Dun Drum carry the same burgundy and gold silks to victory as did Golden Storm, but this year the 3-year-old is working his way towards a possible start in the biggest Canadian race of them all, the Queen’s Plate.
“The fact that we still have this connection with a horse, it’s pretty amazing,” said Black. “It’s come full circle.”
Addison remembers well her father Charles F.W. Burns’ love for horses and racing, a passion that passed on to her and her sister Janet (‘Dinny’).
“When my dad went to serve in World War II, I told him to bring me back a pony,” Addison said, laughing. “I was only six or seven. Remember, they used horses as vehicles back then.”
Burns, who founded a major Toronto brokerage house, became an active player in Ontario horse racing beginning in the 1950s. He had become friends with E.P. Taylor, the master of Windfields Farm, who had a vision to rebuild horse racing in the province and construct a new racetrack, Woodbine.
“Owning a racehorse back then was prestigious,” said Addison. “Dad had close friends who won the Queen’s Plate and that whetted his appetite.”
Burns’ firm, Burns Bros. and Denton Ltd. played an important role in the revitalization of Ontario racing when the Ontario Jockey Club under Taylor issued stock to finance the purchase of other tracks, the construction of the “new” Woodbine and the reconstruction of “Old Woodbine.”
Burns and his wife, Janet Mary, purchased their Kingfield Farm in 1945 and filled it with horses of all types. He had thoroughbred flat races, but one of his favourite horse sports was steeplechasing and the Grand National, one of the most famous horse races in England, was the race he wanted to win.
“He met Thomas McCoy, the head of the American steeplechase organization at the time and they decided to get a couple of horses together. It was trainer Tony Balding in England who bought them Highland Wedding for $3,000 from a blacksmith.”
In his third attempt at the Grand National, Highland Wedding won the famous race.
Addison eventually got her pony and grew up working with young horses she would sell. She also dove into a family tradition of foxhunting.
“I grew up in an era when women didn’t really work,” said Addison. “You might have been a teacher or secretary. I trained myself to be a nurse, but mostly horses were our way of life.”
It was just a couple of years before Highland Wedding’s big victory that trainer Balding approached one of his new ‘lads’, Ian Black, and asked if he wanted to go to work in Canada for Burns and his family who were looking for a good hand for their hunters, polo ponies and steeplechasers.
Black, born in Berkshire, England and from a family of hunt riders, was just three years into his job at Balding’s yard, jumped at the chance.
“Without even thinking I said yes,” said Black. “That was in May and by July I was in Canada. I remember getting off the airplane in Toronto it was 110 degrees and here is this Englishman wearing shirt, tie and jacket. It was hot.”
Black had a three-year contract with the Burns family and rode steeplechase races at the Royal York Hunt Club, Woodbine and Fort Erie. Golden Storm was a horse on which he won many races, including the Prince of Wales Trophy, for Addison and her husband John.
When steeplechase racing ended in Ontario, and Black’s tenure with the Burns family came to a close, the friends went their own directions. Black met his wife Janet after just a few months in Canada, Dinny trained the thoroughbreds of her parents’ Kingfield Farms and Joan did not pursue racing at the time while she raised a family.
Black went on to manage thoroughbred farms for Frank Stronach and Bud and David Willmot. It was for the Willmot’s Kinghaven Farrms where Black developed legendary racing stars such as With Approval and Izvestia, both Canadian Triple Crown winners.
In 2005, at the urging of Willmot, he took out his trainer’s license and yet another super career was started. In just two years he trained Mike Fox to a Queen’s Plate victory.
Dinny sent out the family’s Pax Nobiscum to win the Ohio Derby in 1983, a major accomplishment in what was still a male-dominated sport. Sadly, Dinny passed away later that year from cancer. Her daughter, Catherine, would soon continue the legacy of Kingfield Farms.
Addison got back into racing in the early 1990s, breeding a horse or two each year and dabbling in syndicates.
In 2008, Addison and Black teamed up again.
“We had only been keeping in touch maybe once a year,” said Black. “But then she asked me to train her filly Lea’s Moon and it went from there.”
Lea’s Moon was produced from Vintage Red, a mare that Addison obtained from Catherine who now owned and trained a large stable with her husband, Todd Phillips.
Vintage Red’s first foal for Addison was the $290,000 earner Red Raffles, a son of Ontario sire Bold ‘n Flashy. Lea’s Moon was stakes placed before she was bred and her first foal Drumcliff, now retired, won $120,000 on the track.
Addison sent Lea’s Moon to Red Raffles’ sire Bold ‘n Flashy only months before the stallion died of old age at John Carey’s farm in Shelburne.
The resulting foal was Dun Drum, whom Addison named after a top jumping horse owned by the legendary showjumper Tommy Wade.
Addison tried to sell the colt at auction but when the bidding did not get to her $19,000 reserve, she bought him back.
“I had quite a few horses then, including a whole bunch of retired ones on the farm,” said Addison, who still lives on what is now 700-acres of Kingfield Farms, where Catherine and family live.
Addison sold one third of the colt to friends John Stapleton and his wife Barbara Brown and then gave the other third to Black and his wife Janet.
Dun Drum had plenty of steady training as a 2-year-old in 2018 and ‘never missed a beat” said Black.
In only his second career race, Dun Drum won by more than six lengths under Emma-Jayne Wilson (who rode Mike Fox for Black). He picked up a third in the Frost King Stakes before he charged up the rail in the stretch run to win the Kingarvie Stakes on Dec. 1.
Now, half a century after posing for win pictures in steeplechase races, Addison and Black are winning again, along with friends and family. And if Dun Drum continues to improve there might even be a trip to the Plate in June.
“It really would be exciting for all of us,” said Addison. “It’s like my father always said, ‘If you don’t reach for the sky you’re never going to get there.’”