He hadn’t reached his 10th birthday yet, but a young Mike Taphorn was riveted to the television set as two legendary thoroughbred rivals fought to the wire in an epic edition of the Preakness Stakes nearly 30 years ago.
There wasn’t much, if anything, that could have torn the nine-year-old kid away from the drama that was unfolding before his eyes on May 20, 1989.
As Sunday Silence and Easy Goer went hoof-to-hoof in the 114th running of the Preakness, Taphorn watched intently as one of the most compelling editions of the U.S. Triple Crown played out.
Fast-forward to the present and Sunday Silence’s nose triumph remains a major memory for the thoroughbred trainer.
“I’ve been a racing fan since watching my first race on TV,” said Taphorn. “I remember Sunday Silence and Easy Goer going head-to-head down the lane in the Preakness. I never forgot that race.”
Taphorn has always had an affinity for horses, thoroughbred or otherwise, long before he made a name for himself on the Western Canada racing scene.
“I’ve always been a horse person,” he said. “I used to show horses when I was younger and then I got into pony chuckwagon racing. I decided I wanted to have a thoroughbred, so I bought one. I learned more about thoroughbred racing by being an owner, and two years later, I decided to become a trainer.”
It’s proven to be an excellent career choice.
A multiple stakes winning trainer, Taphorn, based out of Marquis Downs, has 74 career wins, including campaigning three Saskatchewan HPBA Horse of the Year honourees, most recently, Daughter’s Pride, in 2015.
Last year, Uniter won the two-year-old Sales Stake in September at Marquis.
“The best part of my job is working with the horses and being around them,” said Taphorn, who is also a director with the HPBA. “I really enjoy learning new things every day. There are always things you can improve, and there is a constant challenge to better your stable. I also like the early mornings in the backstretch, drinking coffee and hearing stories from the old boys.”
What makes for a picture-perfect night at the races?
“When the horses run well and come back sound,” said Taphorn. “It’s great to see a big crowd supporting our meet. I love having happy clients enjoying the winner’s circle and getting win photos. Getting a few win photos here and there always makes for a good night.”
Taphorn’s year-round commitment to his craft leaves little time for off-track pursuits.
In fact, it could be argued that his solitary hobby is anything horses.
“My passion is racing, so my hobby is my job,” offered Taphorn. “I’m also a farrier, so between training and shoeing during the summer, I don’t have time for much else. I like watching sports and hanging out with my friends. In the fall, I spend a lot of time researching new horses to buy for my clients for the following year.”