02/10/2014 12:06PM

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.


gus stewart More than 1 year ago
Its a 6000 horse im sure the the new trainer and owner are understanding about the situation. But the fair game deal if you put the horse in a claiming race !!!! Unless this horse it unbeatable in 6000 claimers then lets give this young girl the joy of keeping this horse. Go claim another 8000 dollar claimer and drop it for 6000 and win a race that way. It too little to gain for a minimal profit. Im sure we can all remember in our youth the connection with had with certain horses that we didnt own!
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
Gagnon did nothing wrong. If the previous owners want the horse back, it's easy enough to approach the new owner with an explanation and a buy-back offer (which Gagnon would be under no obligation to accept, of course). The nasty insults that have been flung his way are shameful. Now it looks like he'll let them have the horse back, but I think a lot of people owe him apologies.
scootbabe More than 1 year ago
If you didnt want the horse to be claimed, dont enter the horse in a claiming race??? Im sorry the girl has cerebal palsy, but the horse was fair game to be claimed. Im sure plenty of people have taken the chance for a horse to run in a claiming race and then the horse gets claimed and they are heartbroken. But thats the risk you take. Sad Story for the girl, but use the money from the wins the horse had along with the claiming money and claim it back in the next race.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Am I a terrible person if I agree?
Jack H More than 1 year ago
100% agree. If you want to give a horse to a person who will become emotionally attached give a horse that fits conditions. I have mouths to feed, college educations to pay for etc. So I should be forced to race against a horse that is jammed down in conditions and never claim the horse? Once again I am not a heartless person and love the back story. But a claiming race is a calming race no hard feelings.
Wee3Minis More than 1 year ago
What do you mean jammed down in conditions. They were racing her at her competitive level and had already upped her claiming level for the next race.