Alexander Patykewich’s held different roles on the backside since 1968, and even though he’s had jobs away from the racetrack, the lure of horses has always won out.
“You’ve got to do what you like,” said Patykewich. “If you don’t do what you like, you shouldn’t be doing it. I used to run the concessions for Harold Ballad at Maple Leaf Gardens. I worked there for 26 years. I opened up a courier company. I had the courier company for 18 years and I still had horses at the same time. You just get fed up with doing something else. I’ve always liked the horse racing business and that’s why I’ve gotten back into it full-time.”
Patykewich’s first racing gig was in mutuels at Woodbine Racetrack in 1966. He moved to the backstretch in 1967 as a hot walker before going off on his own as a trainer after he bought his first horse one year later. In between, he managed to maintain a small stable while also working away from the racetrack. In 2000, Patykewich finally decided to move into racing full-time and sold his courier company, one he noted was doing more than $1 million a year in business.
Patykewich has always kept a small stable throughout the years, even following his move to training full-time. Tending to a small stable allows him to remain hands-on with his training operation.
“I try to stay frugal with the horses,” he said. “If I have five or six, I’m happy. It keeps me busy. I do the walking and the rubbing and the grooming. I used to get on them myself, but I don’t do that anymore.”
Each year since 2013, Patykewich has managed to record earnings above the $200,000 mark, and that run of recent success began at the 2012 Canadian Premier Yearling Sale at Woodbine where he bought Skylander Girl for $3,500, now with career earnings over $700,000. Skylander Girl won the My Dear Stakes in her debut, and has gone on to record multiple stakes wins, including a graded stakes score in the Grade 3 Hendrie in 2015. Following her win in the My Dear in 2013, Patykewich received several offers for Skylander Girl.
“She’s such a nice filly,” he said. “I was offered big money for Skylander Girl as a 2-year old and I turned it down.”
Skylander Girl started as Patykewich’s only horse in 2013, but he quickly added to his stable through the claim box following her win. He’s continued to build his stable through claiming and the Canadian Premier Yearling Sale.
Some of the money the horse has made will go towards schooling for Patykewich’s grandchildren.
Another successful Patykewich buy at the yearling sale was King and His Court, a $3,000 purchase in September 2015. Patykewich wound up selling King and His Court privately to trainer Mark Casse and owners Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable following the Grade 3 Grey Stakes in October 2016.
King and His Court went on to win the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes, and was named Canada’s champion two-year old male. He ran seventh behind Holy Helena in the 2017 Queen’s Plate and has career earnings over $325,000.
For a trainer with a small operation like Patykewich, a private sale of a stakes-calibre horse can help sustain the business, and provide an opportunity to acquire new stock. When it comes to deciding which young horses with promise to sell and which horses to keep, Patykewich noted every case is different.
“It all depends,” he said. “With King and His Court, I gelded him. At least with Skylander Girl, she’s a broodmare. I can breed her, I can sell her as a broodmare. When you like a horse, they just stay with you, that’s all. I can do anything I want with Skylander Girl. I’ve never asked her to do anything. She does it all by herself. All her works, she’s never pushed in a work. All those works she does them by herself and the rider just sits on her. You never have to ask her.”
Skylander Girl has only added to her value this season with two wins from three starts, including her fourth-career added money victory in the Zadracarta Stakes on the Woodbine turf. Patykewich attempted to sell Skylander Girl at last year’s Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale following an ankle injury suffered after her start in the Grade 3 Hendrie.
This year, Patykewich is hopeful Skylander Girl can remain healthy to make a few more starts before returning to Keeneland in November.
“Last year, I got to run her twice,” Patykewich said. “I could have kept her going, but she was so good to me, I said I wasn’t going to hurt her. I laid her up for the year and I put her in the Keeneland sale. I put a $200,000 reserve and it went up to $190,000, so I bought her back. I’ve just been taking it easy with her this year. I’m hoping I can hold her together to break the $1 million mark so she’ll be worth a little bit more money.”
Patykewich started the Woodbine season with six horses, but after losing a couple to injury and a couple to the claim box, he’s now down to three. With Skylander Girl performing at the top of her game, 2017 is shaping up to be one of Patykewich’s best seasons yet.
Through racing on July 2, he’s won 10 of his first 22 starts, and has already surpassed his pre-season goal of winning eight races. Patykewich has already made a new goal following his early success, and is also on the lookout for new horses to claim in the near future to add to his stable.
“I said I was going to win eight races and now I’m at 10,” he said. “When I was at seven, I said I was going for 12 and when I hit the 12, I’m going to go for 15. I just hope it keeps going the way it’s going.”