Jul 25, 2009


The exploits of trainer Wesley Ward at Royal Ascot sparked still another trip down memory lane. Two decades earlier my good friend Pat Collins had sent a Canadian filly named Zadracarta to try her luck in the Group I Prix de L’abbaye which is contested on the Arc card at Longchamp.

It took some doing but Pat eventually convinced owner Steve Stavro to mix it up with the Paris swells. 

I had a lot of confidence in Pat so I fished out a Canadian double sawbuck and asked him to put it on the nose. News did not travel quite so quickly in those days so it took 48 hours to discover that Zadracarta had led every step of the way until the last stride of the five furlong sprint. AT 66-TO-1!!

Pat was one of those unique characters that populate the world’s racing grounds and keep them lively. He left his native Ireland an orphan and arrived in Toronto with the literal shirt off his back. He was soon hired as an exercise rider but turns out he was stretching the truth a bit about that.

Next stop was the racing office and he somehow rose to the top job there in record time. A short stint as a bloodstock agent began just when a major recession slowed trade to a halt.

Pat was not the type to give up easily. He became a trainer and hooked up with Toronto grocery baron Stavro. Stavro was no dullard himself. He migrated to Canada from his native Macedonia and became the classic entrepreneur success, graduating from selling fruit on the street to ownership of the biggest food store chain in Ontario.

He was obsessed with Alexander The Great, a fellow Macedonian, and named many of his horses with a Macedonian theme. Zadracarta was an ancient Persian city conquered by Alexander.

Bold Ruckus sired Zadracarta and was dam sire of Ward’s Jealous Again who captured the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. Florida breeder Harold Plumley acquired Zadracarta from the Stavro estate. Coincidentally, he also bred Jealous Again from another Bold Ruckus mare named Chi Sa.

The first time I attended the Toronto yearling sale I was trying to buy one by Bold Ruckus. The first dozen or so I looked at were all back at the knee, a point which I raised with the consignor who also stood the stallion.

“You wouldn’t want one that wasn’t,” said he. From that moment on I relaxed and bought a number of very successful runners and broodmares from the tribe of Bold Ruckus.

My friendship with Pat dated back into the late l970s when he phoned me in Vancouver from Toronto just to tell me how much he liked a column I had written in Daily Racing Form. I had never heard of the guy but I made it a point to look him up in 1985 when I was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to work the Rothman’s International (Gr. 1) at Woodbine, won by Southjet for Dogwood Stable and trainer Angel Penna Sr.

He was a boon companion until the tragic auto accident which claimed Pat’s life while he was in winter quarters at Payson Park in Florida almost 20 years ago.