Wednesday, April 24, 2024

From the saddle to the pen


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Chances are that Sir Wesley Winfield Hall, one of cricket’s greatest fast bowlers, advised his son, Sean: “if you don’t have a horse, ride a cow.”
It’s a philosophy whose message is straightforward: keep your options open, have something in your back pocket, you may need it.
That advice came in handy for Sir Wesley. For when his playing days in international cricket were over, he turned to coaching.
Next was elective politics, winning a parliamentary seat and rising to become a Cabinet Minister. Later, he was ordained as a religious minister.
Now Sean, who made his name as a professional horse racing jockey in Barbados, India, Australia and Canada, has taken the idea to heart.
After years of winning races on the track, he was forced to abandon his days in the saddle when he couldn’t maintain his weight in the 1980s.
It was then that he turned to exercising and training horses in Barbados before emigrating to Canada around 1988. He began training colts and mares. Later, he bred and owned horses as well. Now, he has another interest – composing lyrics and hearing some of them played on radio.
“I am not sure when I was first told if I don’t have a horse I should ride a cow, perhaps it was from my father. But I have lived by that principle all of my life, even before I became a jockey at age 14,” Sean told MIDWEEK SPORT.
“I have moved from one aspect of life to another while still keeping my interest in racing. Music is important to me and I am delving into it. At age 46 years, I am beginning a new career and it’s exciting.”
Actually, it took the fickle finger of fate to lead to the blossoming of his new career as a lyricist and it seems to be paying dividends.
Just the other day, hundreds of thousands of readers of the Toronto Star newspaper, Canada’s largest daily, were told about Sean’s latest adventure, a tale about how the Barbadian turned one setback after another into interesting opportunities.
They were told about his song Pyrite Mountain, recorded by Alex and Corey. It is now being played on Love FM 104.1.
A career-changing experience occurred in 2009 when he fell off a truck in Toronto while packing his bags and equipment for a visit to Barbados.
He suffered a broken shoulder and cracked vertebrae in his neck that required delicate surgery, fusion and considerable medication. 
The accident was quite a blow to a young man who trained a Gold Cup winner and whose horses won several stakes races in Canada.
“My doctor told me ‘Sean you can’t risk riding again. You should keep away from horses because if you suffer another injury it can leave you paralyzed’,” he said. “I was in considerable pain and it was then that I started to think about what to do next.
“I plan to continue in the racing industry but I can’t ride. That’s a reason why I am in Barbados and I am currently working with Jono Jones, a former highly successful jockey in Barbados and Canada on a racing idea, a business venture, designed to help young people at home who are interested in pursuing involvement in the racing business at home or outside of it. I have the full support of my father and sister.”
That brings us back to the tale of Pyrite Mountain, the song which is intricately interwoven in his racing career, the horse he once owned, trained and later sold before it began winning stakes races in Canada.
It was in a small stable of colts and mares he controlled but the financial pressure of the highly competitive business – the boarding bills, feed and other necessities – forced him to sell the horse for CAN$50 000 (Bds$93 472).
He also sold another horse, Bears Goal, for CAN$160 000 (Bds$299 111) as a yearling in 2010.
“Those sums may sound like a lot of money, but in the horse business, it’s not. It goes fast, for boarding, feed, vet bills, you name it.”
It was after he sold Pyrite Mountain that it went on to win races including Kingarvie Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto and the Wando Stakes this season, victories that pushed it late to the top of its class.
Incidentally, he gets a cheque from the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, when a horse he once owned is in the money and the funds he receives come as testimony to his success as a trainer or owner.
The success of Pyrite Mountain on the track led to the blossoming of Sean’s nascent musical writing career. He decided to document his experience with the horse in the song and the rest, as they say, is history.
So when you hear: “I’m betting on Pyrite, I’m going all in; I’m betting on Pyrite, I’m going all in” you would know its history and its creator.
“I have written many songs which are on YouTube,” Sean reported.


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