06/06/2016 10:10AM

Blogger Wong gains fame covering Woodbine

Courtesy of Will Wong
Blogger Will Wong with A Pic by Mrwill

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Toronto celebrity blogger Will Wong has always dreamed of owning his own racehorse. While at the moment it’s not feasible for him to be involved in ownership, having a horse named after him is the next-best thing.

A Pic by Mrwill, a 2-year-old filly from the John Ross barn, debuted with a fifth-place finish in an Ontario-sired maiden special weight race last Saturday at Woodbine. Even though she didn’t win her first start, Wong has high hopes for the future.

“I’m proud of her regardless,” said Wong, 39. “She didn’t win, but she came back safe and healthy, so I’m happy. She’s a wonderful filly. I couldn’t ask for more than that, being attached to the sport like this for the first time.”

The name came about after Wong attended last September’s Canadian Premier Yearling Sale with Ross and the trainer's partner, Cathy Wong (no relation to the blogger). Will Wong pointed out several yearlings, including A Pic by Mrwill. Ross liked the filly too and purchased her for $7,000. Ross said it didn’t take long to come up with the name.

“It was almost immediately when we went home,” Ross 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. This is a good name with a story to it.”

Wong is a passionate horse-racing fan who has had a positive influence on the sport and the Woodbine community with his blog, mrwillwong.com. Wong’s love of horse racing dates back to his childhood. His parents immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong shortly before he was born and began bringing him to the track when he was 3.

“Horse racing is a huge part of the culture there,” Wong said. “It was one of those things where once I was old enough for them to bring me out, my whole family would come to the track. We would drive all the way from Oshawa, so it was a bit of a trek.”

Those family gatherings at Woodbine continue to this day. Wong said attending university made it tough for him to make it to the track on a regular basis for a time, but his passion for the sport was rekindled in 2011 when Inglorious won the Queen’s Plate.

“I was obsessed with her,” Wong said. “A lot of my favorite horses are fillies. To see a filly win [the Queen’s Plate] that year, that was a story that definitely helped awaken my interest in the sport. I met up with [Woodbine media relations manager Keith McCalmont] one day, and we watched her train. Then he brought me on the backstretch, and I got to meet her. That was super cool. I thought this is where I’m meant to be.”

Wong has been a regular at the track since then, taking thousands of pictures of the horses and their handlers and posting them on social media. Wong even handled Woodbine’s social-media accounts for a time. The pictures have been well received by the Woodbine community, and Wong has developed a number of close relationships as a result.

“I didn’t expect how welcoming the community is,” Wong said. “I just came out taking photos, and they appreciate it so much. Unless you’re winning, no one is coming around to take your photo in this sport, but I post it on Facebook, and people find it and tag themselves. I think social media has definitely helped bring the sport together.”

Pictures are Wong’s signature when he posts on his blog, which he started in 2009. Wong keeps tabs on celebrities visiting Toronto and tries to snap as many photos with them as he can.

“One of my friends is a publicist with a top film studio, and she said to me, ‘You know, Will, you’ve been doing selfies before selfies was a thing,’ ” Wong said. “It all stems around the Toronto International Film Festival because I’m a huge film lover. I’m passionate about the film industry as much as I am about horses.”

As one would expect, Wong is A Pic by Mrwill’s biggest fan. He said he stops by the barn at least once a week to visit, equipped with carrots, mints, and baked goods for the barn help. Wong takes plenty of photos of his namesake on those visits but is hopeful for many photos on the track as well.

“I have no doubt she’s in great hands with John,” he said. “I have an inkling that she’s very talented, and she’s going to develop into a great filly.”