If you make it out to Woodbine Racetrack on weekends, there’s a good chance you’ll see Will Wong snapping photos of the equine athletes in the paddock.
The Toronto-based celebrity blogger has had a lifetime passion for horse racing, which began with family trips to Woodbine as a child with his parents and three brothers. Wong’s parents are originally from Hong Kong, where the sport of horse racing is deeply ingrained into the culture.
“It’s a huge thing there,” Wong said. “We don’t always agree on everything in our household, but horse racing is one thing that’s always bonded us. Me and my brothers, we love it. It’s our thing.”
Wong has also had a lifetime passion for taking photos, and one photo he took of a Canadian Triple Crown winner has stuck with him throughout his life.
“I have this picture I took when I came here as a kid of Dance Smartly when she won the Triple Crown,” he said. “It was on one of these little toy cameras, but I always kept that and held on to that. It’s kind of cool to go from that when I was a kid to what technology is now. You can take as many photos as you want, and you don’t have to worry about developing. I always wish Facebook was a thing when I was a kid.”
Photos, and selfies in particular, have become Wong’s signature, both at the track and on his celebrity blog mrwillwong.com. Whether it’s a movie star or a talented racehorse, Wong frequently posts his photos on social media. Wong said he initially began taking photos at the track for himself, but quickly began to share them with the many owners, trainers, and grooms he’s met while taking photos of their horses.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together,” he said. “All of this work goes into preparing these horses to get them looking optimal. It was more meant for me, but in a way it’s connected with grooms, trainers, owners, and everyone who’s online. I’m really just shocked and touched by how many people have been affected by these photos. I want to keep doing it. I love it.”
If you needed more proof that photos are Wong’s signature, you can find it in 3-year old filly A Pic by Mrwill. The filly was purchased by trainer John Ross and his partner Cathy Wong out of the 2015 Canadian Premier Yearling Sale, and Ross said it didn’t take long for the name to come about.
“It was almost immediately when we went home from the sale,” he said. “Cathy said, ‘Will picked out that filly. He liked her too.’ All of the sudden, that’s the name. A Pic by Mrwill. It’s a cool name.”
Wong is a frequent visitor to the Ross barn, and often brings along friends and family to visit the filly, who is nicknamed ‘Princess.’ Wong said he had closely followed horses from the Ross barn well before they met in person.
“I would have never believed there was a day that John Ross would name a horse after me,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of many of the horses he’s trained. Lexie Lou was one of my favourites of all time.”
A Pic by Mrwill has come close to getting her own picture taken in the winner’s circle, finishing second in her second start of 2017 at Woodbine. Wong said he was hopeful the filly would break her maiden soon, but he is proud of her regardless.
“She’s hopefully coming to a win soon,” Wong said. “I’m rooting for her as a fan and the person that she’s named after. I’ve dreamed of owning my own horse one day but this is a good taste of it.”