Horses are the center of Dr. Ian Moore’s life
interview by Howie Trainor
With a wide variety of interests, you certainly could say Dr. Ian Moore is a Renaissance man. He is an owner, trainer, driver and breeder; he has also driven the starting gate and been a track veterinarian, blacksmith and administrator.
Licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Florida, Prince Edward Island and Ontario, Dr. Moore, 67, also owns and pilots his own plane. He has a sports background in volleyball, baseball, softball and ice hockey, and still plays the latter two. He drove pro stock cars and was the founding president of an American Hockey League team. Dr. Moore was also featured in a segment of a television documentary series on veterinarians called “Island Vets.”
The 50-year veteran of harness racing has captured 11 O’Brien Awards, including one for horsemanship. He’s won many major North American races, including the Little Brown Jug.
Former Standardbred Canada Chairman Kent Oakes, of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI), says Dr. Moore’s achievements rank him in the top tier of a long list of successful horse people produced in the province.
“He always had a high standard on the presentation of his horses on the track and he and his partners annually had a top-class horse in the Maritime circuit,” said Oakes. “He was a respected member of our veterinary community and volunteered as president of the Charlottetown Driving Park and PEI Standardbred Horse Owners Association.
“Since relocating to Ontario, he and Nancy (his wife) have been strong ambassadors for PEI, especially Old Home Week and the Gold Cup and Saucer.”
Dr. Moore has been nominated in the trainer category for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Although that category was not selected in 2021, his nomination will be considered in the future. He was nominated by Brent MacGrath, who also hails from the Canadian Maritimes and is best known as the trainer and co-owner of the great Somebeachsomewhere.
Ron McLellan of Bathurst, New Brunswick, a horse owner and McDonald’s restaurant franchise owner, has known Dr. Moore for many years. McLellan and his wife, Gail, cleverly race their horses under the name of the RG McGroup, with Dr. Moore and Serge Savard of St. Bruno, Quebec, their partners. Savard is a former star in the National Hockey League.
“I can’t think of anyone better as a trainer, especially with a stable of about 15-20 horses,” said Ron McLellan. “He’s a hands-on trainer and a perfectionist.”
So how did horses come into Ian Moore’s life? With phone calls and emails, he shares his life story.
HB: How and when did your racing career begin?
Dr. Moore: I was introduced to horses at Summerside (Prince Edward Island) in 1970 by Lester Chappell, my school janitor. I hung around the track that year, then worked for George Sobey and for Ron MacArthur. Ron sent me to work with Cecil Champion at The Meadows.
I was born in Sheffield, England, and came to Canada at age four. I remember coming over on the Cunard liner Sylvania. We ran into a big storm about halfway across the Atlantic. Everybody was seasick but me. But when we landed in Montreal, I was running all over the dock and threw up. My father was an obstetrician/gynecologist and chief of the staff for 35 years at Prince County Hospital in Summerside.
HB: Did you race horses while going to school?
Dr. Moore: Horses financed my way through 10 years of college for both my wife, Nancy, and me. I always had one to three horses, with Saunders Glory in 1979-’80 being the best, making $70,000. I went to Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) before leaving to work on the Ontario Jockey Club circuit with Dr. Russ Furness. I returned to the NSAC, followed by two years at the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Animal Science; then to Ontario Veterinary College at Guelph, graduating in 1982.
I did a mixed practice, concentrating on equine, on PEI for one year, then two years with the Barrie Equine Clinic in Ontario. I established the Island Equine Clinic in Winsloe, PEI, until the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) bought me out. I founded an ambulatory equine practice for AVC and was there teaching students for several years.
HB: When did you start focusing on young horses?
Dr. Moore: Young horses started in 2003 with Astronomical at the Atlantic Classic Sale on PEI and have steadily grown to where now the bulk of my stable each year is yearlings. I moved to Ontario in 2010 from Florida as that’s where we needed to race, always stabling within one-half hour of Mohawk.
HB: How tough was racing in the U.S. with the border closed?
Dr. Moore: It was a difficult year to race cross-border and, thanks to my network of many friends stateside, we did achieve a lot of success with the few horses we sent down. (Century Farroh, Tattoo Artist and Lady Arthur campaigned in the U.S. Dr. Moore won four of Canada’s O’Brien Awards in 2020: Century Farroh was Older Pacing Horse and Horse of the Year, Lawless Shadow was 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year and Tattoo Artist was 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year.)
HB: You’ve been winter training at Southern Oaks in Florida for quite a few years now. Are there advantages for the horses, or just humans?
Dr. Moore: I usually don’t say much about 2-year-olds training down, other than if they have a great attitude and a good gait; it’s basically going to come down to how fast they are genetically bred to go. Babies can be trained in most any climate as long as they are managed properly—not too fast too soon, or too far too often.
Southern training does offer some benefits, especially no caulks on shoes and usually all good weather, which is one reason to still take your time and be careful training young horses. What is lost in southern trucking costs back and forth is gained in less shoeing bills, which is quite beneficial for young horses. Having said that, both Shadow Play and Somebeachsomewhere were trained up north.
HB: You don’t just have a pilot’s license, you fly, and from track to track. When did the flying bug hit?
Dr. Moore: I had flown all over the Maritimes in the early ’90s with Jim Whittey, an American from Florida, who owns and usually operates the Cable Head Airpark on PEI during the summers. I worked all day, then raced at night all over the region. I’ve wanted to be a pilot since those days, but never had the time or money required to do so. I started training in 2017 and received my U.S. private pilot’s license the next year. That same year, I got my Canadian license, along with night and sea plane ratings. I am doing instrument training now.
Nowadays I never drive anywhere. I fly! I have flown myself and Sylvain Filion, Dave Miller, (and son) Tyler to tracks like Pompano, Northfield, Hoosier Park, Rideau, Western Fair, Georgian, Hanover, Hiawatha and others, as well as to Seelster Farms, Winbak, Century Farm, Tara Hills and other breeding farms to view yearlings in the fall. I never get tired because I’m always home early. I absolutely love a reason to fly. There’s nothing better in the world for me than to get up in the air on a beautiful day. Whatever happened during the day is long gone as I glide over the clouds, all my troubles well below me.
I love the radio calls to Air Traffic Control and have now developed a network of pilot friends, just as I have with stock car racing, horse racing and veterinary medicine. In November 2018, I purchased a brand new Tecnam P2008, two-seat composite plane.
HB: You race in Ontario, winter in Florida, so do you still have family/Maritime connections?
Dr. Moore: Nancy has been involved as well as daughters Chelsey and Lindsay. Tyler drives. Tyler and I are the only father-son combination to have driven Gold Cup and Saucer winners (Ian with RG McGroup Ltd.’s The Papermaker and Tyler with Eighteen, owned by Ian, RG McGroup Ltd. and Serge Savard).
Nancy was a groom during Shadow Play’s amazing 2008 season as were my daughters. Neldie MacDonald (son of all-time Canadian female race-winning driver Clare MacDonald of Nova Scotia) groomed on Jug Day. At the end of the season, it was Teesha Symes of Nova Scotia. Trainer-driver Dale Spence of PEI and his fiancé MacKenzie MacInnis assisted me this winter.
I’ve gotten lots of horses from the Maritime owners over the years. There’s been a lot of support and I appreciate it. (Those horses include State Treasurer, Century Farroh and Rockin In Heaven, among others.)
HB: What about your partnership with Ron McLellan and Serge Savard?
Dr. Moore: Ron and I have been friends for about 40 years. I used to travel to Montreal to do vet work on The Papermaker in the 1980s. I had several horses for Ron to race during Old Home Week, but never a partnership until Astronomical. I bought him for $10,000 at the Atlantic Classic in Charlottetown and had no money to pay for him! I had one partner and asked Ron. He said, “Oh. You paid too much.” I replied, “Well, are you in or out? I gotta know!” We’ve partnered on many since then.
Ron did the leg work on Shadow Play at Harrisburg as I had gone home. He and I liked the breeding and we both seem to love good-looking black colts, and, of course, the price was right. Back then, we did not spend lots on purchases. In 2008, we bought Malicious and Wellthereyougo for $45,000 each, the most we had ever spent.
I remember Ron calling me that Wednesday afternoon from Harrisburg—he sold very late—saying we got (Shadow Play) for $16,000 and saying, “See if you can find another partner.” (Dr. Moore knew that Savard, who was operating a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise in Charlottetown, was interested in a partnership on a horse. Savard said he’d take one-quarter of him for $4,000.)
Shadow Play arrived at our PEI training center the next morning. I’d spent all my yearling money already on four others. Nancy and I stood there looking at him in the stall. After me saying, “I can’t afford him,” Nancy said, “Well, you will hate not to buy a piece of him and have him turn out to be the best one of that year.”
So, I made a deal with Ron and Serge to pay off my 25 percent share with training bills write-offs for a while. What an investment it turned out to be! Over the past decade or so, Ron and I have made a good team for buying yearlings. He is very astute on pedigrees while I favor myself on conformations and individuals. Serge is always in agreement with whatever Ron and I decide and doesn’t ask for anything special.
HB: What are all-time memorable moments?
Dr. Moore: The Jug tops my bucket list followed by our two wins in the Gold Cup and Saucer and the recent Breeders Crown with Century Farroh and State Treasurer’s Canadian Pacing Derby win. As a 16-year-old working for Cecil Champion at The Meadows, I watched from the top of the hill when Albatross won the Adios. I said to myself, “Boy, it would be nice to win that race someday.” (Shadow Play won, albeit at Pocono, the year The Meadows was closed due to casino construction.)
Setting track records at Delaware and Pocono and winning the Adios and the Jug were certainly moments to remember. Shadow Play would try his heart out for me, and he had a great chemistry with Dave Miller (his regular driver). He’s shown the most loyalty of any driver I’ve ever had and has become a great friend.
HB: What about Shadow Play’s life after racing?
Dr. Moore: There were some intermittent problems with his damaged foot again at age four. Lindsay and I noticed that he had popped an abscess again on the U.S. Pacing Derby day despite little or no obvious lameness. Shadow Play went out and destroyed the field in his lifetime best of 1:47.4.
In Lexington in October, after he had probably his worst race ever, I had a 5 a.m. flight back to Ontario and went to the barn at 4 a.m., took Shadow out of the stall and said quietly to him, “It’s all over, buddy; no more racing.” I cried all the way to the Bluegrass Airport. What a ride he had given all of us—Ron, Serge, and me and all our families. And he is still giving today as a stallion.
After syndication by Blue Chip Farm—Ron, Serge and I still retain 50 percent—Winbak later bought 50 percent of Blue Chip’s share, which is why he stands in Ontario. Winbak and Blue Chip manage his stallion career. An arrangement was also made with Alabar Farm in New Zealand to do the double stallion duty. Many people have gone bankrupt trying to prove a stallion, but in our case it has been nothing but a winner.
HB: Will this be another busy season?
Dr. Moore: I had 20 horses—a nice manageable number for me—at the Southern Oaks Training Center: four 3-year-olds, plus Tattoo Artist and Century Farroh and 14 two-year-olds.
Besides the North America Cup, Lawless Shadow is in multiple U.S. stakes, including the Jug and Meadowlands Pace; Century Farroh and Tattoo Artist are in multiple U.S. and Canadian stakes; Lady Arthur is in Ohio stakes and Mohawk; Alumni Seelster and Andra Day are in Ontario stakes. HB
Howie Trainor is a freelance writer living in New Brunswick. To comment on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.