In 2012, Malabrigo accomplished what no other Maritime-bred horse had ever achieved: She was a O’Brien Award divisional finalist, up for the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year title against American Jewel (p,3,1:48.2s; $1,834,823). While she did not win the O’Brien, she was flawless in her attempt. Malabrigo was undefeated at age three, facing the best of her crop in Maritime stakes both years. She still shares the Fredericton Raceway track record for sophomore filly pacers (1:57h), and captured one of the toughest stakes in Canada: The same-day two-heat Maritimer, raced at New Brunswick’s Exhibition Park Raceway.
Malabrigo was sold under the name Lil Light of Mine at the 2009 Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition yearling sale. Her $11,500 price tag was a huge bargain, in retrospect: She has now earned $143,781 on the racetrack, and taken a mark of p, 9, 1:56.1h. Her toughness and spirit were in the spotlight again last year, as the mare returned to the Red Shores races under new ownership.
In July 2013, Malabrigo’s then-owner Derek Buntain confirmed that the mare had successfully transitioned from her November 10, 2012 retirement party at Red Shores CDP to the breeding shed. “She is now in Kentucky in foal to Bettors Delight and due in mid January,” wrote Buntain. The resulting foal was a 2014 filly named Millamia.
The three-year-old filly first qualified July 18, 2017 at Mohawk, finishing seventh. Her next few starts were unimpressive efforts at Grand River and Flamboro, followed by a move to new connections at Monticello Raceway. Millamia was purchased by Jessica Anderson of Michigan at the Standardbred Horse Company’s Black Book mixed sale that fall for $4,000 (U.S.). She managed to finish third for driver Jim Devaux and trainer Delores Basilone in a pair of lower-level Monticello conditioned events in late 2017. Millamia raced three times there last January, failing to hit the board, and has not raced since.
Malabrigo’s second offspring was the product of another Maritime legend: “I have just confirmed that we have a season to Somebeachsomewhere for Malabrigo thanks to Brent MacGrath,” noted Buntain in a 2013 message. The 2015 filly was named Malnificent, and was destined to become her dam’s best so far. Now four, she is currently owned by Brian and Ira Wallach Racing of New Jersey.
Malnificent started out like her older sister—with an unremarkable qualifier in Ontario. But unlike Millamia, Malnificent made it to the races at age two, and her second qualifier was a win. Racing for trainer Isabelle Darveau and driver Robert Shepherd at Grand River Raceway, Malabrigo’s second-born foal captured that August 16, 2017 qualifier in 2:00.2h. Malnificent finished second in her first purse start, timed in 1:58.1f behind winner The Bay Front at Georgian Downs. She broke her maiden at Flambroro Downs in a 2:02h, off-the-pace effort on October 14, 2017. Two races later, Malnificent and Shepherd were back in the Flamboro winners’ circle following a 2:01.1h victory versus conditioned company.
She was purchased by Bob McClure for $11,000 (U.S.) at the Harrisburg Black Book 2017 mixed sale late in her two-year-old season. The ownership group would expand to include the Ontario driver, Dean Nixon, Jody Howard, and John McClure. The filly dropped into the claiming ranks at Western Fair for her final three starts of 2017, winning her first start there in 2:00h flat for new trainer Nixon. Malnificent finished a game second (by a neck, and then by a head) in her last two races of the year.
At age three, Malnificent went behind the starting gate 25 times, all in claiming or conditioned races. January 2, 2018, she romped by a stunning 16-and-a-half open lengths at Western Fair for Nixon and reinsman McClure. She was a narrowly-beaten favourite in her next two races there, and made the natural leap to a Mohawk January 26. With McClure in the bike, Malnificent managed third (timed in 1:55.1s) in her first start over the big track. After taking some time off, she surfaced May 25 in a Mohawk qualifier, finishing third (timed in 1:57.2s) behind eventual Fan Hanover winner and O’Brien divisional champion Shower Play. Malnificent captured a subsequent Mohawk qualifier and her first seasonal purse start (at Georgian Downs, June 16, in 1:56.4f). She completed the year with a mark of p, 3, 1:53f; and 7 wins, 10 place finishes, and 5 show finishes.
At four, Malnificent has been a solid performer at Yonkers Raceway. She won there at first asking January 14, over distaff non-winners of 6 lifetime. Campaigned by new trainer Monica Krist and driver Billy Dobson, the Malabrigo daughter had three consecutive Hilltop victories in February. Malnificent was recently campaigned by conditioner Carmen Fusco at Harrah’s Philly, scoring a lifetime-best-equalling win (p, 1:53f) for driver George Napolitano Jr. on May 4. It’s worth noting that her $119,473 (U.S.) in career earnings has been made the hard way: The royally-bred mare has never faced stakes competition.
Malabrigo returned to the “book full and closed” Somebeachsomewhere for the 2015 breeding season, foaling another filly in 2016. That daughter was named Mirasol. She sold as a yearling at Harrisburg for $17,000 (U.S.). Mirasol is now owned by Jo Ann Looney-King, trainer Jim King Jr.’s wife and a well-known horsewoman associated with top fillies and mares like reigning Dan Patch Pacing Mare of the Year Shartin N.
Mirasol debuted for King Jr. and driver Tim Tetrick with a fourth-place effort in a two-year-old Harrah’s Philly qualifier June 12 last year. She was individually clocked in 1:59f flat. The filly missed her first purse start at the Pennsylvania track on June 22—she was scratched sick—but closed in 28.1 for a third-place result on July 4, timed in 1:56.3f. Paired with Tetrick, Mirasol was third in her next couple of races at Harrah’s Philly, broke her maiden there on September 6 (p, 2, 1:55.2f), and finished out the year trying stakes company without much success.
The Kings’ filly came back in an April 2, 2019 qualifier at Harrah’s Philly, finishing third behind the sensational Queen of the Pride. Mirasol made a break and finished seventh in her first pari-mutuel race at age three, but has followed up with one show and two fourth-place results, all at Harrah’s Philly. The best may be yet to come from Mirasol, who has raced well in a competitive state, individually timed in 1:53.2f both of her last two starts and earning $22,405 (U.S.) to date.
Malabrigo’s only male offspring is her 2017 Bettors Delight colt Malvolio. He was bought as a $10,000 (U.S.) weanling at Harrisburg that year by Herbert Burns of Pine Bush, NY, and consigned to the 2018 Black Book Yearling Sale by agent Blue Chip Farms L.L.C., bringing a $50,000 (U.S.) winning bid from Gestion Jean Yves Blais of Montreal. Although he has yet to qualify, expectations must be high: The two-year-old is on the eligibles list for the 2019 Metro Pace and 2020 Simcoe Stakes.
The Buntainwood Farms dispersal of Malabrigo and her four foals came in 2017, the year owner Derek Buntain was hospitalized in Charlottetown. Sadly, the lifelong horseman had suffered a stroke, and now lives in a P.E.I. senior care facility. While official records show Buntainwood Farms as the owner on 10 horses, none of them have raced since 2017; some did not make it to the races at all. Derek’s son, Angus Buntain, is a Thoroughbred owner/trainer under the Greenoaks Farm stable name in Ontario. (For an interesting view, watch “MALABRIGO paces a 2:12 mile on the treadmill”, a YouTube video posted by Greenoaks Farm in January 2012.)
Malabrigo herself was named for a fine knitting yarn favoured by Derek’s wife, Dianne. Under the mare’s latest Island-based ownership group (Darryl MacLean, Gordon MacLean, Meghan MacDonald, and Natasha Campbell), she has flourished. The Nova Scotia-bred pacer made her triumphant return in an April 2018 qualifier at Red Shores CDP, winning in gate-to-wire style for trainer/driver Marc Campbell in 2:00.1h. In Malabrigo’s pari-mutuel return, Brodys Leona turned the tables to beat her by a length. On May 17, the former Maritime stakes champ hit her winning stride again, defeating West River Ambyr at the Charlottetown track in 1:57.3h.
Following a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Pacing Mares series at Summerside on June 17 and a show finish the following week at Charlottetown, Malabrigo was started on Lasix. During the course of her 30-race season, the mare managed to climb the class ladder to the Open level for Marc Campbell, recording 8 wins, 1 place and 4 show finishes. Her last start came at Charlottetown, in an event for distaff non-winners of $1,101 in their last 5 races. Malabrigo went to the front and maintained a one-length advantage at the wire, winning over Elektra Express in 2:02.3h, on a surface rated “good”.
On Mother’s Day, it’s always fitting to salute the sport’s broodmares. Malabrigo was brought home from the 2017 Harrisburg mixed sale for $2,500 (U.S.) by Chuckie Symes, then returned to the Island stable where she started her racing career. Her story is a bright light. Malabrigo is rewarding the kindness shown to her by Marc and Natasha Campbell, and demonstrating the beautiful resilience of a Standardbred working mom.