As Tough As Nails

After what was an average two-year-old campaign, Dr. Ian Moore and partners almost sold Shadow Play - but they’re glad they didn’t. Learn why, and read as Doc Moore reminisces about two memorable events from the horse’s three-year-old year that still stand out in his mind today, while Blue Chip’s Tom Grossman shares the reasons, from back in 2008, that he originally coveted the horse to join his stallion roster. By John Rallis.

(Dave Landry Photo)

There was nothing overly flashy about Shadow Play as a two-year-old. Although he won his first three starts - two at Charlottetown and one at Mohawk - and all three with his part-owner/trainer, Dr. Ian Moore in the bike, he finished the year with only $31,151 in earnings. He did reach the final of the Metro Pace, but his connections actually considered selling him in Harrisburg at the end of that freshman year. It was only after a couple of 1:54 training miles late in the fall at Mohawk, off of halves in a minute, that Moore figured there was something there worth keeping in the former $16,000 yearling purchase. Boy, was he right!. At three, the talent and toughness came to fruition, as the son of The Panderosa began to carve his name into the history books. 

As the champion racehorse and stallion is set to enter the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, read what two important figures in Shadow Play’s life have to say, as Dr. Ian Moore and Blue Chip Farms’ Tom Grossman reminisce and share their thoughts on their horse, and some special moments from his career, both on the racetrack and in the breeding barn.

Trot Magazine cover from June 2023, the Hall of Fame issue


2008 LITTLE BROWN JUG: The Little Brown Jug was always something I wanted to go to and race in. Shadow Play could handle any size track, but he was extra dangerous on a half. In late June, in his first start after the North America Cup, Tim Tetrick won with him at Mohawk by about eight lengths in 1:50.2, and things just seemed to click for him after that. We didn’t pay him into a lot as a three-year-old because his two-year-old campaign just wasn’t strong enough. I’d say that probably helped him though, because at three he was as good at the end of November as he was on the first of May. He was also a late foal, so that probably did him a lot of good when it came to still being strong late in the year too. 

The atmosphere on Jug day was great, as it always is. I was excited about the opportunity to race and I knew I had a good shot, but the excitement quickly switched to some concern. He won the first heat but came out of it with a foot issue. Because we were in the first heat we had some time in between to work on it and we just hoped we could get it sorted out by then.

He was lame after his heat. It looked like he was going to have a [hoof] separation, so I requested a blacksmith - Eric Wilts. He came over and I told him what I wanted him to do. Shadow Play had never worn a set of pads before, but we put a leather pad on and left that area open. The inside of his left front was infected. Dave Miller had already picked him [to drive in the second heat] in the interview before he heard about it. He came over and stood beside me, not looking at each other, and asked ‘What’s going on, Doc?’ When we brought him out, he didn’t walk out lame with the pad on. 

As mentioned, we were in the first of three eliminations, and that was lucky because we needed every bit of that hour and a half to make it work for the final. Honestly, everything worked out for him that day. Especially him drawing the rail for the first time in his life, with the other heat winners drawing the two and three holes. The rail is so important on a half-mile track, in a race like that, especially when you’re dealing with a foot that isn’t 100%. I’m not really sure it would have mattered with how easily he won, but it was his day, nevertheless.

Everything worked out. The fact that he was in the first heat and we had time to try and get his foot issue sorted, the fact he drew the rail after that. That was the largest winningest margin in the Jug at the time [6 ¼ lengths]. I’m not sure if that record still holds, but it was also a World Record for two-heats , both with last quarters in 26 too. My daughters were standing beside me at the gate and they were screaming so loud when he was coming down the stretch that my left ear was ringing. I was half-deaf on that side for five days [laughing]. 

We took a few people out for dinner after the fact, but truthfully, I wasn’t really in the mood for it. I even forgot the Jug trophy because the horse was on my mind. It wasn’t really much of a celebration for me because all I could think about was Shadow Play’s well being. 

They couldn’t get a urine sample on him because he was so lame he couldn’t stretch out. They ended up testing him back in his own stall there in Delaware. People had so much to drink and everyone was all over the place [in the stable area], so I was pretty annoyed because there was so much going on and I was just trying to focus on the horse. When my daughter went in with Shadow Play, he bit her, which was very uncharacteristic of him, but it was because he was in so much pain after the race. That day had a wide range of emotions for me, that’s for sure.

Because of that we stayed in Delaware for three days. In the morning you could tell it was going to be an abscess and not a separation, but it ended up being both actually, because the abscess destroyed so much of the wall there.

2008 MESSENGER PACE AT YONKERS: After the Jug, it was three weeks until I was able to race him again. There wasn’t much left on his stakes schedule that year, so we supplemented him to a few races, one of which being The Messenger at Yonkers [in late October]. The conditions were terrible that night. It was pouring rain and the track was like concrete. We got parked through the quarter before we got the lead, and then Somebeachsomewhere moved out going to the half, and was parked the last half, so they both had tough trips, no doubt. You can’t take anything away from either one of them that night. Right at the wire, if you look closely, there was a guy taking win photos standing right beside the track. Just as we were approaching the line, you could see Shadow Play turning his head to look at him. We lost the race by a nose and Shadow Play was turning his head [laughing]. But anyways, like I said, they both went a hell of a race. We were both deserving of a winning result there, that’s for sure. What was special to me about that result was that both of those horses were trained in the [Canadian] Maritimes. Brent trained Beach and I trained Shadow Play, and both of those two horses were separated by a nose at Yonkers in a $500,000 race. That’s pretty cool. 

Blue Chip wanted to buy into the horse and syndicate him after that, so we got a deal done before the Breeders Crown. When we raced him in the Breeders Crown, Blue Chip was a half owner by then. The Breeders Crown had twelve entries. Shadow Play and Somebeachsomewhere drew byes into the finals, but because we kept having some bad luck when it came to post position draws in a lot of these big events, we wanted to race and have some control of our post. So we raced in the elimination and won. Dave Miller and I agreed we’d choose the two-hole. Of course, Somebeach drew the rail [laughing].

* * * *

Once again, as in the Messenger, Shadow Play would finish second to his nemesis - Somebeachsomewhere. This time by 1 ¾ lengths. The race was the final one of his three-year-old year, a season where he earned just shy of $1.2 million. The beautiful black stallion would return to the races at age four, earning another $351,250 in just 11 starts, and lowering his speed badge to 1:47.4 in winning the U.S. Pacing Championship at The Meadowlands on Hambo Day. Following his final start - in the Allerage at The Red Mile - Blue Chip Farms announced a deal with Winbak Farm that saw the World Champion retire to stud in Ontario, where he would stay until relocating to New York in late 2022.

The toughness that Shadow Play displayed on his successful Little Brown Jug Day at Delaware is exactly why Tom Grossman coveted the talented colt to add to his stallion roster at Blue Chip Farms.


That year [2008], Shadow Play was the only sire that I wanted. Late in a two-year-old campaign is when I start to look for them [as potential stallions]. I don’t generally engage in a two-year-old’s year too heavily - and by engage I mean open a conversation with the owners. For me, what I look for in a sire is pedigree, speed and conformation. My fourth determinant is toughness and willingness - and he had exactly that.

I can’t believe he was such a cheap yearling because he was so well conformed. To me, his conformation was a B, his pedigree was a B, his raw speed was an A, and the fourth factor - toughness - which is artistic and not scientific, was an A+. You could just see it on the racetrack when he was racing, he just didn’t want to be passed. On nights he didn’t even feel his best, he still never wanted to get passed. He was just so tough, and his kids are too. 

As for the negotiations to secure Shadow Play, they were good-cop, bad-cop [laughing]. Doc was the good cop and Serge Savard was the bad cop. Me and Ron McLellan, who own the biggest piece of the horse, were in the middle. Serge was tough as hell but Doc talked some sense into him [laughing]. They knew what was best for the horse and they knew we’d get him the mares that we did. I never felt like we were going to lose him, but it was definitely good-cop, bad-cop during our back-and-forth. 

Shadow Play produced a lot of quality racehorses, but I’m really happy he was able to produce a generational star like Bulldog Hanover. Both were tremendous racehorses and shared similar traits. They were tough as nails, loved to be raced, and they always put on a show. 

* * * *

Led by the great Bulldog Hanover, Shadow Play has produced six millionaires, 17 sub-1:50 performers, and has been at or near the top of the sires standings in the Ontario Sires Stakes program for over a decade. Now, after a brilliant career on the racetrack, and one still in progress in the breeding barn, he rightfully takes his place in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, as a member of the Class of 2022. 

 This feature originally appeared in the June issue of TROT Magazine. Subscribe to TROT today by clicking the banner below.