Over the course of his 47-race career, Courtly Choice proved to be an emotional roller coaster for an admittedly emotional guy. Trainer Blake MacIntosh paid the fare, took the ride, and lived to tell the story. Now, MacIntosh has discussed the career of the 1:47.1 pacer that banked $1.4 million in purses.
“As a two-year-old we thought he’d be a really nice horse,” MacIntosh recently told COSA TV. “The first time we qualified him he qualified great. Training down he was always a little lazy. Mike Pennington trained him most of the time for me, because Mike gets a little more out of the lazy ones than me. Mike was a big reason that the horse made as much as he did. I give credit to the people that work for me – the ones that take care of [the horses].
“Once [Courtly Choice] got behind the gate he bravened up a little more. As a two-year-old he was a little fumbly-gaited and was not as good-gaited as he was as a three-year-old. He really improved a lot from two to three, but we could see that training back.”
“He had set a track record as a two-year-old and had won some minor stakes. We paid him into all the major stakes as a three-year-old because of his breeding – because he was [Betterthancheddar’s] brother and Ashlees Big Guy’s brother – and we never gave up on him in that way. But as a three-year-old training back, he was just a totally different horse. He had lost the laziness and wanted to do it more.
“I remember James (driver James MacDonald) came out and trained him one day, and he told everyone in the drivers’ room that Blake had a three-year-old coming back that was training great, and everybody just said ‘Ah, when he gets to the races he’ll just be the same lazy horse,’ but he wasn’t. He just turned out to be a dream horse for me – something that I’ll probably never achieve again, but I was very happy with him.”
September 20, 2018 proved to be a landmark day in MacIntosh’s career. Courtly Choice didn’t spare any drama while winning the Little Brown Jug. He rebounded from a break behind the gate in the opening heat to ultimately win the coveted stakes.
“It was the biggest day of my life,” MacIntosh explained. “We had won the [Meadowlands Pace] earlier in the year – and don’t get me wrong, the Pace was unbelievable and was a big high – but to win the Jug was just like ‘Oh my god, we just won the Little Brown Jug.’ Everyone being there was so much fun. It was great.”
Expectations were clearly in place for Courtly Choice’s four-year-old campaign, but MacIntosh has said that his team just couldn’t get him right all season long. MacIntosh said that “it was an up and down season” and that his team just “couldn’t get his blood right.” Courtly Choice didn’t advance to the final of the Confederation Cup for MacIntosh, which he has said really stung. “He had some health issues last year and we couldn’t get him straightened out the whole year,” said MacIntosh, who added, “it was just a weird year for him.”
Given as though things didn’t go according to plan in the Confederation Cup, MacIntosh later set his focus on another local stakes event, the Canadian Pacing Derby, which proved to be another magical victory for the challenging horse.
“Going to the [Canadian Pacing Derby] I thought we had a good shot. Then, going down the backside, James had him out of the position [and I was upset]. I thought ‘we’re not going to get a cheque.’ At the top of the lane, [James] flipped him off cover and he was gone.”
“To win a big race at home is special…. For [James and I] to win it, and after [driver David Miller] picked off for McWicked, it was a relief. We could breathe because we expected [Courtly Choice] to be a top horse that year.”
MacIntosh offered an update on Courtly Choice, who was retired from racing this past fall is currently finding success in the breeding shed at Winbak Farm of New York.
“Now he’s at stud and his numbers have been very good since we removed the (undescended) testicle. He’s breeding this year and has a book of about 80 mares. Hopefully he keeps going forward and becomes a good sire.”