Wednesday, 22 May 2024 18:09

Breaking the Second-Place Streak: Trainer Colleen O’Hagan’s Long-Awaited Victory with Mob Boss

Mob Boss and N'Rico Prescod in the stretch run on May 17th at Century Mile Mob Boss and N'Rico Prescod in the stretch run on May 17th at Century Mile Coady Photo/Ryan Haynes

Thoroughbred trainer Colleen O’Hagan had a bad case of seconditis until Mob Boss won last Friday on another cold evening at Century Mile.

Going into that race O’Hagan had a record of 37 starts. No wins. Thirteen seconds. Almost all narrow decisions. Noses. Necks. Heads.

“I was sick of finishing second,” said O’Hagan, an easy-going, seldom-getting-upset trainer. “It was frustrating.”

Then Mob Boss finally broke through.

After finishing, where else, second in his previous start at Century Mile, Mob Boss, who had been racing at Golden Gate Fields, California over the winter, triumphed impressively with a gritty effort that saw him headed before resurging down the stretch to win by two lengths.

“Mob Boss ran good. I thought he would,” said O’Hagan.

But then on Saturday O’Hagan ran Church Harbor. Second, of course.

Sunday, she lost a real tearjerker, when - after breaking from the outside 9 post - Isle of Skye – a five-year-old grey - opened a long lead and appeared home until getting caught in the very last stride to lose by a nose.

“Tell me about it,” said O’Hagan, who, up until then, had no wins but three seconds at Century Mile. “I was there. I know.”

Wrong Spot, another O’Hagan starter, charged hard down the lane. But he too finished second on May 10. That followed another second at Golden Gate.

Oops was also second – by half a length – on May 4.

It’s ridiculous.

Just about everyone knows Mount Everest is the tallest mountain. But what mountain is second?

It’s K2 but who got that one right?

That’s what happens when you finish second. Nobody remembers.

It’s weird but it’s almost easier dealing with a bronze medal than a silver one.

O’Hagan is Alydar to Affirmed. Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali.

She’s 2015’s Super Bowl Seattle Seahawks electing not to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch from the goal line only to be intercepted the Patriots Malcolm Butler.

It’s never easy finishing second. It doesn’t matter if it’s horse racing, school, work and all sports.

Finishing second sucks. Ask the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or just about every golfer who finished second to Tiger Woods when he was at the top of his game turning his opponents into butter on a hot day.

Almost always right there. Close but no cigar.

But O’Hagan has managed it very well.

“Better second than last,” she said succinctly.

“I never get too excited,” said O’Hagan, 36, who is one of half a dozen young female trainers that are doing well in Alberta thoroughbred racing: Madison Zielke; Alivia Kettleson; Kimberlea Calhoun and Tamara Baker to name just a few.

“I’m an easy-going person. It is what it is.”

Finishing second so often can wear on you. But what it shows is that when O’Hagan sends out a horse you better watch out. You just know they are going to be tough.

“I never get too excited. I know how these things go.

“I didn’t have a lot of expectations going to California. And I’ve been running most of my horses against better company. Everyone is looking to claim horses right now. And, if they do get claimed that’s horse racing. It’s whatever. I don’t get upset if a horse gets claimed. They’re all for sale for a price.

“I want to see how they go and where they fit,” said O’Hagan, whose career history is very solid sending out 82 winners from 508 starts. With 73 seconds of course.

O’Hagan, who is from Saskatoon, got her start with horses when she was very young – first with hunter-jumpers when she was 10.

“I was a typical horse-crazy girl. I was hooked after the first horse I got on.

“I got hurt quite a few times.

“One day I was teaching at a barn that had racehorses and a guy asked if I wanted to ride some of those racehorses. I said ‘Sure’ and it was great.”

Soon she found herself breaking babies – teaching the young animals how to have someone on their backs and learning to behave.

Doing that resulted in a lot of broken bones. She broke her pelvis, ribs, nose and had a few concussions.

But it never came close to stopping her.

Getting her trainer’s license in 2015 O’Hagan quickly put together a barn of 30 horses at Saskatoon’s Marquis Downs. Then she moved to Edmonton and started training on the A circuit in 2018 - the last year Northlands raced.

Now, in addition to training horses, she coaches young kids how to ride on a farm in Saskatoon where she has 100 boarded horses.

“I’m busy. I travel back and forth all summer. Probably 2 or 3 times a month,” she said of the five-hour drive.

“I have two girls working for me at Century Mile. They’re both great and they run things when I go to Saskatchewan.

“My favorite horses to train are babies. They all have their own personalities. It can be frustrating but it’s also very rewarding,” said O’Hagan, who has three two-year-olds this year including one from Keeneland, Kentucky and one from Ontario.

“I haven’t worked any of them yet but they’re starting to go good,” said the only child of parents who have always been very supportive.

“They’re all massive. Huge. You wouldn’t know they are just two-year-olds.

“It’s a long summer. We’re good to go.

“I think all of my horses are going to be OK,” she said of the 16 horses in her well-maintained barn.

“Going forward we are good.”

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Read 1296 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 May 2024 18:18