Old Home Week in Prince Edward Island is a wonderful time of the year. It offers one an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends and acquaintances who may not have been seen in some time, especially if they had moved away from this region.
Such was the case when Marcel Barrieau sauntered into the CDP grandstand on August 12. He and wife Susan had made an unscheduled trip down from their Ontario base after learning of his nephew Gilles racing accident that had sidelined the "Maritime Magic Man" from regular training duties. But no problem for the Barrieau family, as there is always someone to step up, much as it has been for the past 70 years.
The present day Barrieau story for this report will begin with Leonard Barrieau. Leonard was born in 1895 and took up farming in the Rogersville area of New Brunswick. After marriage the family grew quickly to number 16 children, eleven of these being boys. Leonard always loved horses and liked to dabble in harness racing, usually at the nearby tracks like Chatham and Moncton.
As the horse racing began to consume more of his time he sold the farm at Rogersville and purchased one at Lakeburn, just outside Dieppe, It was here he would establish one of the Regions largest stallion stations and standardbred nursery. And this is where the numerous boys came in handy, as it was a time when broodmares were taken in every night in winter, with much stall cleaning to be looked after every day. The farm stood at least seven different stallions from 1950 on, and usually had a minimum of 12 to 15 broodmares in residence. There was also the Barrieau Racing Stable, with the older boys being quickly pressed into service.
The eldest son Yvon, in keeping with a good Roman Catholic family tradition, became a priest, but did not turn his back on harness racing. He obtained his drivers license and was as active as the situation allowed over many years. Next came Rufin, perhaps the most talented of all who unfortunately died accidentally in his prime, then Fred (Gilles father), Rosaire and the youngest boy Marcel. This made for five brothers in the sulky, and there would be another three from the following generation---Gilles and his brother Rheal, and Rufin's son Mike. This record would allow one to nominate the Leonard Barrieau clan as the first family of harness racing in New Brunswick.
The list of standardbred stallions offered by Leonard includes Texas Hanover, Mighty Hanover, Lakeburn (a horse he bred), Fred Scott, trotter Newport Britton, Editorial Page and Flash About. And with the McCoombs producing the Miramichi horses not far away in Newcastle, New Brunswick was a hotbed for standardbred breeding in those days. Oh, how things have changed!
The Youngest Son
Marcel, born in 1946, spent most of his youthful free time working on the Lakeburn farm, usually around the horses. After completing High School he did a year of Technical College and then tried working with Canadian National Railways in Moncton. But after six months he was ready for a change, and back to the horses he came.
Marcel notched his first harness win at Moncton in September 1967, reining Ed Goguen's 8 y/o gelding Belmont Doug to a 2:11.3 score, finishing 1 - 2 in the double heat affair. The following year he operated the Barrieau Stable at Truro (stalls were not available at Moncton) and did the same in 1969. That latter summer he had wins with Speedy Frost, Debutante Bri, Squawking Squaw, Tyee, Golddust and the Fred Scott two year old Dan Scott. This colt won 8 of 16 dashes that summer, including an Old Home Week EC 2:15.1 job as they shared a 1 - 2 summary with Anthony Hal (2 - 1) and Francis McIsaac. The Barrieau youngster was very good, and Leonard would sell him to Fredericton interests that September, much to Marcel's chagrin. He also lost the Editorial Page colt Senator Page the same way. After winning 3 of 7 that summer the colt was purchased from Leonard by George Gregory of Charlottetown, with Ike Moreside becoming the new trainer/driver.
The real star for Marcel in 1969 was Flash About, a six year old son of Adios Harry that Leonard had picked up cheap in Quebec due to bowed tendons. They finally got him racehorse sound that year and he rattled off nine straight wins, five at Truro before Marcel transferred to Sackville Downs (outside Halifax) where he won four more. The undefeated pacer, carrying a speed badge of 2:10, was entered in a Junior Invitational at Sackville on August 9. He finished fifth in the first heat behind Active Time and Kenny Kaye in 2:07.4. But sadly, that was it, broken down one last time and scratched from the second dash. It was back to Lakeburn for Flash About, and the stallion shed.
The young sire produced two foals in 1970, one being Pat Flash. This youngster won 4 of 6 for Marcel in 1972, taking a 2:14.3 record at Moncton. The top 2 y/o colt that summer was Tumblewind Chief. This son of Fastway, handled by Doug Ratchford, won 18 of 19 starts for $6,373, the talk of the Region. His lone defeat came late in the season at Sackville Downs in their rich Challenge Series ($4,872). Marcel won the first heat in 2:14.4 with Pat Flash, as Tumblewind Chief faltered to fifth. The Chief rebounded to cop the second heat with Pat Flash finishing eighth. But young Mr Barrieau had done it, taken down the champion with his lightly raced colt, son of a 2:10 record sire.
Over the ensuing years Marcel Barrieau became a regular competitor on the Maritime stake circuit, operating from a Saint John base that began in the fall of 1972. He had some fine tuning in horsemanship from older brother Rufin during a Montreal stint in 1970 and at Foxboro in 1971.
Beginning in 1980, Marcel Barrieau moved to the top echelon of regional stake campaigners with Kilkerran Robbi. Charlie Willis of O'Leary, PEI haltered the handsome Newport Robbi colt for $17,000 at the 1979 Standardbred Sale of the East, the Sale's topper. The following spring he was sent to Marcel at Saint John, going on to win 6 of 10 at two. At three Robbi was on the board in 20 of 22 starts, winning 11, for $29,706 and Regional honors. Among the many stake wins was one that was very special --- the Rufin Barrieau Memorial at Saint John. Marcel would repeat that feat the very next year with BJ Amigo, a Charlie Willis owned son of the soon to be exported sire Sultros Rainbow. Very emotional victories indeed.
In 1983, he captured the coveted Gold Cup and Saucer with Murray Wade’s Silent Class.
In 1984 Marcel campaigned stake horses Bayside Orion for the Wallaces of Moncton, Classic Cover for Leonard Wilson of Woodstock and the Knightly Blue Chip colts Big D and Charlotte's Blazer. The latter won a Division of the Don MacNeill at Charlottetown and tied a 2:02h Maritime record for freshman pacers. This was also the year for one of the greatest Maritime bred three year olds ever... Angels Shadow.
The 1985 season was another good one for Marcel as Charlottes Blazer earned almost $24,000, Big D won 14 races and $42,000, including the rich Rothmans at Truro, and Angels Shadow took home over $86,000. He also had some Whebby horses in his care at times like Miraculous Moment, Diana Royce and Special Class.
Marcel's Stable in 1984 and 85 was so strong that he moved some to Blue Bonnets in the fall/winter for more racing. Following the success gained with that experience he curtailed his Maritime bred interests, preparing the way for relocation to Montreal full time.
The 1986 season would be Marcel's final Maritime summer, but it was not without glory. He reined 3 y/o Siesta Night for the Riley's to a Rothmans win at EPR and later tied the Atlantic Sires stake record at Champlain in 2:01.1f. Hortons Thunder, a sophomore pacing son of Horton Hanover, won 9 of 28 and $32,303, highlighted by a 1:59.3f in the Ernie O'Obrien Memorial at Champlain Raceway. The three year old trotter he had for Orville Willis, Dunmore Tweed by Bancroft Hanover, was the best of his class, winning 9 of 18 for over $25,000. The night that Tweed won his ASS race at Sydney was the very day that Leonard Barrieau died, age 91. And as one door closes another opens, with Marcel readying himself for the big step up.
It was in my Chart Lines column for the June 13, 1984 edition of Atlantic Post Calls that I first wrote about this amazing chestnut horse. It stated "super colt Angels Shadow has caused quite a stir around the region with his 1:59.3 trip at Sackville and the good 1:59.1 chart last week". The article's pedigree review revealed that his sire Angels Wave "was a good tough little racehorse with pure purple pedigree". Owner Murray Wade of Moncton didn't really market the son of Harold J as a sire, but he certainly did leave his mark.
The dam of Angels Shadow is Bon Flash, a 2:09.3h record daughter of the aforementioned Flash About. Digging deeper into the bottom line reveals the fourth dam producing the top horse Adios Boy p,2,T1:58.3, a distinguished sire in the 1960's and 70's.
Angels Shadow, for a Maritime owner, was the horse of a lifetime. In 1985 the four year old set track records at four of our ovals...Truro, Summerside (1:59.1 Governors Plate), Sackville Downs in the Crui(c)kshank Memorial (1:58.2) and a 1:57 scorcher at EPR's Provincial Cup. During Old Home Week he finished second to Winners Accolade in the Gold Cup and Saucer. The next year he was second in the CDP classic once again, waging one of the greatest nose to nose battles in Gold Cup and Saucer history. He eventually yielded over that muddy track to Rev Your Engine in rein to the late, great Phil Pinkney.
Angels Shadow p,5,1:56.4f even had the distinction of beating the superstar Waveore in the Alexander Memorial at EPR. His life summary of 114 -- 45-19-18 (a 40% winning stat) for $222,577 was the best ever for a Maritime bred in the 1980's. He broke new ground, and would then pass the torch to Kilkerran Ingle and JK Beauty for further distinctions.
The Montreal Scene
Marcel Barrieau moved to Blue Bonnets full time in November of 1986. He and Saint John native Susan had married in 1980, and by then had two daughters aged three and one. The move represented a big change, and as Susan said "my mother was so upset that she didn't get out of bed to say good bye". But soon thereafter "she made the trek to Montreal to make sure everything was ok".
The personable and talented Barrieau had no trouble attracting Quebec owners, greatly enhanced by the positive impressions cast by his chief assistant, the former P E Islander Wally McInnis. Marcel is quick to add, "Wally worked with me for over 30 years, and never missed one day. Even when not feeling well he would come in to do his work, and then I would drive him home". It was probably the biggest challenge for a head trainer, finding good reliable help, and remains so today. Wally McInnis was pure gold in Marcel's eyes.
While at Montreal the Barrieau Stable had numerous Maritime horses sent their way. One very special one was Wisper Eureka, the "Cinderella horse" as coined by Fred MacDonald for a 1991 article in an Island Harness Racing Review. Sandy MacRae bought the son of Lime Time, often referred to as "Limey", for $300, with a pair of rubber boots thrown in by seller Doug Roloson.
Sandy was a PEI fisherman from Mount Buchanan, and had the winters off. After campaigning "Limey" at Charlottetown each summer he and the Mrs. would spend the winters with their horse in Montreal. From 1989 to April '92 "Limey earned almost $70,000 before being lost in a $25,000 claimer. Not a bad return on $300, with much of the credit to Marcel and Wally.
Eric Whebby was very helpful for Marcel as he settled in to big city racing. Diana Royce was a real pillar for the Stable, one of the best mares at Blue Bonnets. She won a Grand Circuit event as a three year old and over $100,000 that year; Miraculous Moment won a NJSS at three along with the Gaines Memorial at Vernon Downs over Armbro Emerson ($148,000 that season). Another Whebby horse that raced well for him in Montreal was Sherwood Abe.
Other Maritime horses sent to Marcel for big track racing were Ann Truder Abbe from Tom MacPhee, Kemodynault for Kenny Arsenault and Dr Maurice Coady, and the surprising R B's Bandit. This son of Sherwood Abe had rather unimpressive credentials when he arrived late in his 4 y/o form, but quickly began to improve. Marcel won 17 of 30 starts over 17 months for a tidy $54,000. He had an 8 race win streak at five, and took a mark of 1:53.3s, making him the third fastest of Sherwood Abe's139 foals. Quite a story for sure.
He also helped out Maritime stallion owners by racing their studs in the off breeding season. There was Largo for Alfred Moeller, This Cams for You from Dr Bob Webster, and the Roloson's tough old campaigner Hunterstown. They all came in the 1990,s, for fall and winter racing, returning to their breeding barns in March or April. All three proved profitable at the track, helping their owners with overall expenses.
Blue Bonnets, the big Montreal track, ceased operations in 2008, much to the consternation of Maritime horsemen. Marcel then moved his Stable to a Training Center in Vaudreuil on the western edge of greater Montreal. His horses raced at Three Rivers and Ottawa, with the best trying the Toronto scene. But there was too much travel, and within a few years the Barrieau Stable was relocated to the Richard Moreau Training Center in Puslinch, ON, not far from Mohawk Raceway.
Marcel has continued to succeed in harness racing at whatever venue he is in. One of his best Ontario horses was Drachan Hanover, a $4,500 Harisburg yearling purchase in 2013.Owned with two Cape Breton partners, this son of Jeremes Jet won a freshman Gold Stake and finished second in the final, rolling up $157,000 at two. There was an additional $200,000 at three, with another Gold win, and Drachan just kept on racing until age nine. He took a 1:50.1s record at four with more then a half million dollars made lifetime.
In 2020 Marcel's trotter Four Wheelin was the Grass Roots champion at two with over $100,000 made. He won 9 of 21 colt starts. then raced the Open Trot at Pompano before being sold this past spring.
At age 75, and Wally McInnis now retired for six years, Marcel limits his stable to four horses. He typically buys a pair of yearlings each fall, does their early work in Florida, and then heads back to Puslinch. This season he is campaigning the freshman trotter New Rules ($75,000 yearling) and the two year old pacing filly Grandeur Seelster by All Bets Off. This $37,000 yearling has returned early dividends by winning a Grass Roots and over $23,000 from four starts. He has former Islander Austin Sorrie doing the driving, and the filly has never been worse than third.
New Rules, a son of young sire Lookslikeachipndale, has also won a Grass Roots stake this year with almost $20,000 from five starts. H was second at Hanover on Aug 20 in an elimination division of the Balanced Image Early Closer, well positioned for the lucrative final.
At this stage the family seems quite content. Daughter Jocelyn teaches High School in Laval, PQ, and following her distinguished Rugby career she coaches the sport at Concordia University. She has recently been an assistant coach for the Canadian Womens team at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games and has been asked to continue in the same role for the upcoming World Cup.
Their second daughter Lyndsey has her Doctorate in Psychology and heads a Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Lyndsey, the married one, has given Susan and Marcel their grandchildren, two beautiful girls much to their grandparents delight.
Marcel Barrieau has been 55 years active in the harness racing sport, succeeding at every level in which he competed. He can thank his parents for his fine work ethic, his brother Rufin and others for teaching him superb horsemanship, and wife Susan for the domestic support so essential for vocational success.
They enjoy the winters in Florida, and may consider a bigger retirement sometime soon. Marcel would like to return to the Maritimes, maybe help out a stable like that of nephew Gilles. However, with grandchildren in Ottawa it is unlikely Susan will want to leave Ontario. The next few years should prove most interesting for this fine family.