Working in the horse racing industry for the last 41 years, it’s safe to say that Karl Lagerborg is a well-known face and presence at Woodbine Racetrack.
He’s also not afraid to share his thoughts on what he loves about the sport.
“Everything. Simply everything. I love horse racing. I love the industry we are in. I love the people that we work with and the people in the industry. Every day it’s amazing. You get up in the morning, you come to work and just love it,” said Lagerborg who currently works as the senior manager of racing operations at Woodbine.
Born in Chile, Lagerborg came to Canada at the age of five with his family and was raised in the Rexdale, ON area. He said his love for racing stems from both his parents.
“My father came to work on the racetrack with my mom — he was an assistant trainer for Glenn Magnusson for years — and that’s how I got interested. I used to come all the time in the summer and the weekends and by the time I was 11 I was grooming horses,” said Lagerborg who began working at the track during his high school years.
As the saying goes, one thing leads to another and Lagerborg’s summer grooming stints then turned into taking a job with John Tammaro at Kinghaven Farms.
In 1986, he began working for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield.
“I was lucky enough to groom some really nice horses for him. Obviously, Market Control that won the Queen’s Plate (1987) was one of my all time favourites. It was amazing walking across (the track) and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew were there.”
After four years in Attfield’s barn, Lagerborg went to work for Pat Collins and Danny Vella at Knob Hill Stables for a couple of years. He then decided to take a year off and travel to the States and ended up working a little for Steve Stavro at his farm in Kentucky. After travelling some more that same year, he ended up working at Payson Park during the winter.
In 1994, Lagerborg joined the team of Hall of Fame trainer Macdonald ‘Mac’ Benson. Lagerborg stayed with Benson for 10 years — nine as an assistant.
Wanting to transition to another a role within the sport, Lagerborg consulted with Benson about his future ambitions.
“We talked a lot about what was the next step. I was never going to be a trainer. Training was not something that I wanted to do, but it really interested me to work for Woodbine. I wanted a career where I was in the industry. You know, a lot of people tease me because Arravale came after me, but I had applied for a job with Woodbine.”
Lagerborg’s next step would lead him to the stall office, where he assumed the role of authorization administrator; getting all the paperwork and data entry ready for the stall office. From there, he transitioned to the position of assistant stall man and then went on to become the manager of stabling area operations.
Stable management is not a light task, especially given that Woodbine’s backstretch is home to approximately 1,800 to 1,900 horses during the racing season.
Additionally, Lagerborg oversaw the international barn which houses shippers from across the pond for big stakes races such as the Pattison International, the Northern Dancer and the Woodbine Mile.
From the moment shippers touch down at Pearson International, Lagerborg and stakes manager Julie Bell are there to greet the horses, the trainers and the travelling lads who accompany their four-legged athletes. He also worked with Bell, John Whitson and Steve Lym running the international barn that has been home to horses such as Trade Storm who captured the Woodbine Mile for trainer David Simcock back in 2014 and Simcock’s other graded stakes winner Sheikhzayedroad, who romped home victorious in the 2014 Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf stakes. More recently, the likes of 2018 Pattison International winner Desert Encounter and runner-up Thundering Blue have made the international barn their personal horse air bnb for the duration of their Toronto excursion.
“John (Whitson) before he retired taught me the way he liked that barn run. There were just certain things — like the way that you handled all your clientele,” said Lagerborg.
One such client is Leanne Masterson, who has brought multiple stakes winners to Woodbine over 20 years.
“(She’s) a dear friend and you make these lifelong friendships. This winter we got a message from Leanne that she’s invited Julie Bell and myself to her wedding. You think of those things and it just sums up your experience with the international barn. Every year you meet people and you become lifelong friends.”
After working in the stall office for 15 years, Lagerborg assumed a new position as the senior manager of racing operations at the start of the 2019 racing season.
Continually climbing the ranks within the industry and meeting new people within the local scene as well as the international, Lagerborg has many racing stories to share.
“I think the best story is that you make lifelong friendships,” he said.