02/10/2014 11:06AM

The Grinch who stole Christmas?


The social media accounts of those involved in Standardbred racing blew up on Sunday night with the news that Sydney Seelster was claimed. For those in the dark (and to some extent, I was one of them), the mare is co-owned by Sydney Weaver, a remarkable 13-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy who has a passion for racing.

Watch her story for yourself. I can’t possibly do it better justice than this great piece: http://www.woodbineentertainment.com/woodbine/VideoPlayer.aspx?Id=2487591404001

On Christmas Day (2012) she was given the present of Sydney Seelster by current co-owner Cesar Kowalski. Sydney and her newfound friend Sydney Seelster formed a fast bond that has grown deep over the last year-plus. But after winning four of her previous five races, the horse was claimed on Sunday (2/9) for $6,250 by Guy Gagnon.

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Almost instantly, fans of both Sydneys—human and equine—began a campaign via Facebook and Twitter to get the horse back. Most were outraged, some were dumbfounded and others just wanted to do anything to help. While I understand all three reactions, it was truly unfair to Gagnon that few people bothered to give him the benefit of the doubt. I know plenty of horsemen that don't even know who won the Hambletonian last year, no less heard about Sydney's amazing story. 

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the harness racing community can band together to right a wrong. With the amount of support we see for anyone in need, it amazes me how the problems that do exist in the sport have lingered for so long. I guess misfortune is the only thing that brings people together.

In the end it appears that the Sydney saga will have a happy ending. From what can be gathered on Facebook, Gagnon claims to have had no knowledge of Sydney’s story and has asked that the former connections claim the horse back on Wednesday at Flamboro for $9,375, with Gagnon returning the difference afterwards.

Perhaps the same result would have occurred over time 15 or 20 years ago, but this story is more proof of the power of social media. Anything is possible when people have a voice and social media provides a loud megaphone.

What matters most is that the 6-year-old mare and her namesake will be reunited and continue a connection that has truly blossomed. All will be right in the harness world again for at least one special young lady.