His grandfather, Angus MacPherson, was a passionate horseman and trainer. His family also had a great affinity for thoroughbreds. Although he shared the same love for the sport, Craig MacPherson was somewhat hesitant, at least initially, when the topic turned to his calling in life.
“I was only one when my grandfather passed away, but I knew he really enjoyed training and being around the horses,” recalled MacPherson. “My family enjoyed it, too. I remember us all going to the racetrack and having a great time. I also remember talking to my dad, trying to figure out if I wanted to make a living being part of the sport.”
The conversation between father and son was a relatively brief one. But it was also a talk that put the younger MacPherson on the right track, so to speak.
“I asked my dad what I should do when it came to horse racing. He said to me, “Go give it a shot. You’ll either love it or be done with it.”
It turned out to be the former.
MacPherson, who took out his trainer’s license in 1982, has fared well over his nearly 35 years at Hastings Racecourse. Heading into the 2014 meet (it starts April 27), he has 379 wins, along with just over $5 million in career earnings.
Last year, he was top trainer at the Vancouver oval, sending out 34 winners, four more than Troy Taylor and Dino Condilenios.
MacPherson also fashioned a gaudy 63 per cent in the top-three finishes category.
They are big numbers from a man who is anything but a big talker.
“You always hope to do well, to see your horses develop,” said MacPherson. “But, it’s pretty hard to plan in this game when it comes to your goals. There are so many variables. For us, it’s about simply doing as good as we can.”
Watching one of his charges cross the wire first is a scene that, “never gets old.”
“Obviously, I love the horses and I love the action of the sport,” said MacPherson, who won the 2008 edition of the Grade 3 Ballerina Stakes with Against the Sky (a lifetime winner of 12 races from 33 starts) and the 2012 running of the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby with Second City (who has four wins from 14 starts). “I really enjoy developing young horses. I started out with a small stable and now I have 31 in my barn. For me, it’s always a great thrill to see your horse go out and win.”
Even more so if it happens to be in a high-profile race.
“I suppose I’m like any other trainer,” said MacPherson. “I would like to win the B.C. Derby and win the Queen’s Plate. Obviously, there are ups and downs in the business, but watching your horses progress and compete is a great feeling. You enjoy being around them.”
As for that heart-to-heart chat with his dad, it happens to be, at least in this instance, that father really does know best.
“Every year, we just go out and work hard to try and have good results,” said MacPherson. “I’m glad I listened and gave training a shot. It’s worked out well.”