Backtrack, a USTA newsroom feature that will look back at memorable races and performances, will appear Tuesdays and Fridays in April.
Hightstown, NJ — On Sept. 1, 2007, Somebeachsomewhere paced the fastest mile in history by a 2-year-old to win the Metro Pace by two lengths over Moon Beam at Mohawk Raceway in Ontario. It was the day, for all intents and purposes, when Somebeachsomewhere became The Beach.
Winning driver Paul MacDonell, who earlier this week was elected to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, recently looked back at that memorable performance as well as the memorable career and legacy of Somebeachsomewhere.
Somebeachsomewhere’s nine rivals in the 2007 Metro Pace final were (in alphabetical order) Alard Hanover, Dali, Deuce Seelster, Its That Time, Lonestar Legend, Moon Beam, Santanna Blue Chip, Shadow Play, and Weekend Gambler.
Dali, Deuce Seelster, Santanna Blue Chip, and Shadow Play all earned more than $1 million lifetime. Dali, who prior to the Metro won the Woodrow Wilson, and Shadow Play were world-record-holders during their careers. Moon Beam was the runner-up in both the Metro and Woodrow Wilson. He won his remaining four races that year.
“There were some nice horses in there,” MacDonell said. “There was quite a bit of hype about (Dali). He was a nice horse in his own right, no question about it. Deuce Seelster turned out to be a really nice horse in the long run. Moon Beam, I remember him as a 2-year-old, and he was a good colt. It wasn’t an easy season, that’s for sure.”
Owned by a group from Nova Scotia, Somebeachsomewhere was trained at age 2 by co-owner Brent MacGrath and Jean Arsenault. He made his debut on July 30, 2007, in an elimination of the Battle of Waterloo and won by three lengths in a track-record 1:54.2 at half-mile-oval Grand River Raceway. He won the final by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:55.
“I got to train him before the Battle of Waterloo elimination and I could tell right away he had some serious power to him,” MacDonell said. “But you never know how they’re going to perform in a race. His first start, he showed he was special right off the bat. He had power and that fluid gait. He stood out.”
It was 19 days from the Battle of Waterloo final to the Metro Pace eliminations. Despite his early success, Somebeachsomewhere was the second choice in the third of the three elims, sent off at 5-1 odds. Woodrow Wilson champ Dali was the 1-9 favorite.
Somebeachsomewhere won by 3-1/2 lengths over Dali in 1:52.1, the fastest of the three divisions. It was the last time Somebeachsomewhere was not the favorite in any race in his career. After going off as the 8-5 chalk in the Metro final, he never was higher than 2-5 in his remaining 17 lifetime starts.
“The punters never got another ticket on him like that again,” MacDonell said with a laugh about the Metro elimination.
MacDonell drove two of the three Metro elim winners. One race prior to Somebeachsomewhere’s score, he guided Deuce Seelster to victory in 1:52.2. Deuce Seelster was undefeated in six career starts to that point, with MacDonell notching four of the wins in Ontario Sire Stakes action, but there was little question which horse MacDonell would drive in the Metro final.
“(Somebeachsomewhere) was fresh and ready,” MacDonell said. “The choice became very clear after the elimination; he was very strong. I didn’t want to give Deuce Seelster up by any means, but it was kind of a no-brainer when I did have to make that choice.”
Moon Beam was the remaining elimination winner, also in 1:52.2.
THE METRO PACE FINAL
Somebeachsomewhere started the Metro Pace final from post four. MacDonell wasted no time in putting Somebeachsomewhere in front, taking the lead in the race’s opening strides. Somebeachsomewhere reached the quarter in :26.3, half in :54.2, and three-quarters in 1:21.4. The colt separated himself from the field in the stretch and won in a world-record 1:49.3.
The time took one-fifth of a second off the previous record for 2-year-old pacers, which was established by Rocknroll Hanover in the 2004 Metro at Woodbine.
“After I watched all the eliminations and figured things out, to me it was apparent (Somebeachsomewhere) was the best horse, and I drove him that way,” MacDonell said. “I didn’t really expect him to pace (1):49 and change but he did it and did it quite easily.
“I was probably in just as much awe as everybody else that was watching him. You look and you’re like, did he really just do (1):49 and a piece? The way he came to the wire, he was strong. I think that’s when the legend really began of The Beach. That was his coming-out party, no doubt.”
To view a replay of the race, click here.
Several months after the win in the Metro, MacGrath reflected on its significance.
“It was a pretty big deal for us,” MacGrath said. “There’s never been a Maritimer to win a million-dollar race. For us little guys in Truro to find the winner, it was a big deal. He’s created an awful big stir here. It makes people feel good that a horse can be trained here on the east coast of Canada with the rough winters and go on and do what he did.”
Following Somebeachsomewhere’s win in the Metro, “beach parties” started in the Maritimes as hundreds of fans would gather to watch the colt race on simulcasts. Somebeachsomewhere started twice following the Metro, winning a division of the Champlain in a stakes-record 1:51 (with a :26 final quarter) and a division of the Nassagaweya in 1:51.4.
Somebeachsomewhere was not eligible to the Breeders Crown or Governor’s Cup, so MacGrath decided to bring the horse home and prepare for his 3-year-old season.
“When he started doing what he was doing, then it got to be more about (the) next year,” MacGrath said at the time. “Typically, the weather in the Maritimes is nice in September and October. We brought him home and it was, it was terrific. He had one day in the five weeks that he didn’t get in the field. The grass was nice and green and lush. It was just what he needed. He loves that life anyway.”
At the end of 2007, Somebeachsomewhere was voted the best 2-year-old male pacer in both Canada and the U.S. and shared Canada’s Horse of the Year honor with Tell All.
His 3-year-old campaign stamped Somebeachsomewhere as one of the sport’s all-time greats, with only a neck loss to Art Official in the Meadowlands Pace separating him from perfection. Ironically, many consider it The Beach’s top performance.
“I’ve had millions of people tell me it was probably his best race,” MacDonell said. “He didn’t disgrace himself anywhere he went.”
Memorable victories from 2008 included his 1:46.4 score in a division of the Bluegrass, a clocking that equaled the fastest race mile in history and established the world record for a 3-year-old pacer. He also won the North America Cup, Breeders Crown, Confederation Cup in a half-mile world-record 1:49.2, and Messenger Stakes in torrential rain.
Somebeachsomewhere was the 2008 Horse of the Year in both the U.S. and Canada.
He finished his career with 20 wins in 21 races and $3.22 million in purses. He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 and U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2015.
“He had all the physical abilities, he had that strength and size, but I think the one thing that set him apart was his intelligence,” MacDonell said. “The ones that are hard to get along with are wasting energy for no reason. You need every bit of energy these days to stay competitive. He was like driving a sports car, and when you asked him to go, he was gone.
“He had that ability to show up at the racetrack and he knew what he was there for. He was just great all around in every category.”
Somebeachsomewhere enjoyed great success as a sire before his untimely passing in 2018 as the result of cancer. His offspring include 10 horses to receive year-end honors (Dan Patch and/or O’Brien awards) including two-time Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous and three-time Dan Patch honoree Pure Country. The 10 award-winners are among 17 Somebeachsomewhere-sired millionaires to date.
“His legend status I think is growing even more,” MacDonell said. “Even as a sire, what he’s done, people realize how great he was. He had that gait that was so fluid, and I see a lot of that in his stock. It brings back memories just watching those horses.”
Now, MacDonell will join Somebeachsomewhere in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
“It was pretty cool when I got the call,” MacDonell said. “It was mind-blowing, really. It’s something you don’t even think about when you’re starting out, you just go about your business. Now, here we are at 57 years old and being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’m truly honored, truly honored.”
His association with The Beach will likely remain a topic of discussion forever.
“Not too many weeks go by where someone doesn’t come along and want me to sign a poster, or even just talk about him,” MacDonell said. “He’s always mentioned to me. It’s been that way for the past 12 years. I’m forever grateful to him, let me tell you.
“And I had the best seat in the house.”