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The Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable

By Marjorie Simmins

Nimbus Publishing, 2021, Non-fiction, ISBN 978-1-77108-932-6, 280 pages, paperback

Reviewed by Tania Millen

The world of Standardbred harness racing rarely hits the Canadian national news cycle but in 2007 and 2008, Somebeachsomewhere — a Canadian-bred, US-born pacer — changed that, and Standardbred racing has never been the same.

In SOMEBEACHSOMEWHERE: The Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable, Simmins tells the unlikely story of how “Beach” was purchased for a relatively low $40,000 by a Nova Scotian syndicate of six friends, spent two years pacing his way into racing history, and ultimately stood at stud in both North America and Australia — changing Standardbred racing lineage in the process.

Fast-moving and easy to read, this book starts off describing how the Schooner Stables syndicate came together, Beach’s early training days through a Nova Scotian winter, his two-year-old world-record-setting year, and how Canadian racing fans started holding “Beach Parties” every time the big bay colt raced.

Simmins extensively interviews Brent MacGrath, the spokesperson for Schooner Stables and Beach’s eventual trainer who says, “Starting out, we didn’t know what we had. We didn’t realize we had a world champion…. The first time he saw the starting gate he set a Canadian season record…”

Beach set a world record for earnings as a two-year-old pacer making $900,000, and was voted 2007 Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year in the USA even though he never raced in the USA that year.

As a three-year-old, Beach solidified his status as a horse of a lifetime and Simmins notes, “The focus on Beach at the start of his third-year campaign was unceasing. Magazines, newspapers, television, radio, and the internet all hummed with Beach stories and speculation about the year ahead.”

Simmins provides play-by-play stories of Beach’s races, the anguish of a bruised hoof, and how the gutsy colt was labeled “Canada’s Horse” by the media after winning $1.5 million at the richest race for three-year-old pacers in North America.

Simmins does a thorough job enlightening readers about the world of Standardbred racing, providing intriguing details and an insider view of Beach’s extraordinary life. She interviews his driver Paul MacDonell who is one of Canada’s best, track officials, Beach’s breeder, and — after his world record-breaking three-year-old year — follows his story to breeding studs in Australia and the USA, where he died unexpectedly in 2018.

It’s an astounding tale well told of an unlikely Canadian history-maker who captivated the world. Somebeach was some horse and many consider him the greatest pacer and Standardbred sire of all time.