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Third-generation horsewoman McKenzie Sowers is making her family proud

by Victoria Howard

If you’re involved in harness racing and racing in Canada, you’ve probably heard of the name Sowers. And if you haven’t, you will.

McKenzie Sowers is a third-generation horsewoman who was born and raised in New Brunswick.

Her grandparents on both sides — Phil and Joan Sowers, and Dean and Iris Bustard — raced standardbreds in that province.

After Bustard’s daughter met Sowers’ son, they married and had a daughter of their own that they named McKenzie.

Besides McKenzie, the Sowers’ also have a son, McGwire, who has his own stable and trains and drives.

McKenzie started mucking stalls as soon as she could hold a pitch fork. She knew from a very early age that horses and racing were her passion and what she wanted to do.

While attending school, McKenzie worked for her father and began taking paddocks. Today, 24-year-old McKenzie has her own stable at Monticello Raceway in New York.

“Harness racing is in my blood,” McKenzie said. “I was hooked from the beginning. My horses are not just animals, they are my kids. Nothing beats the feeling of meeting them in the winner’s circle after they have given their all and crossed the finish line first. The only thing more exciting is when I drive them to that victory.”

McKenzie started driving as a teenager.

“Harness racing has always been a male-dominated sport,” she said. “I always heard, ‘You will never be able to drive against the big boys,’ but that didn’t stop me. I got my first drive at 17 and I feel I’m just getting started. I believe that women are the heart and soul of racing horses. That includes the grooms, trainers and drivers.

“My idol is trainer/driver Lauren Tritton. I just admire her so much. She’s tough as nails and a lot of times that she’s driving, she beats the boys.”

At 17, it was never in McKenzie’s plans to be a driver.

“But, I was helping my brother study for his training/driving test and thought ‘Why not?’” she said. “When I mentioned I wanted to drive nobody took me seriously, so I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to take the test and show you all.’ So, I did and to date I have 20 winning drives.”

Her fastest winning drive so far this year was with Premier Joy A in 1:53.2.

“But the horse with the fastest record is Bass Player who took a record of 1:49.3,” she said. “I also drove Causeway at The Meadowlands when he was clocked in 1:52.3.”

Currently, McKenzie trains 14 horses at Monticello.

“I train eight pacers and two trotters,” she said. “Then there are my four retirees, one who is in foal to Doctor Butch.”

As far as her favorite, McKenzie said this is a tough one to answer for there are several who will always have a piece of her heart, such as Regal Delight and Avogadro Hanover.

“Regal Delight gave me my first winning drive in 2018 at the Topsham Fair,” she said. “That will always be the highlight in my career. And, of course, I owe a lot of thanks to my horse Avogadro Hanover in launching my career as a driver. I bought him when he was a 10-year-old with the intention of having fun at the fairs. I credit him for teaching me how to drive and steering me around an accident by himself to keep us safe. I guess you could say, he saved my life for although I was holding the lines, it was Avogadro who steered us clear.

“He’s so smart and all class. And, of course, there’s my Penney’s Spirit. My family broke him as a yearling and we’ve had him his entire career. He is now 14-years-old.”

Helping her launch her career was Cinco Senorita, the first from her stable to cross the finish line first, followed by Jumpshot and Ice Breakers K.”

Presently, Sowers mainly races her horses at Monticello Raceway. Recently, she experienced her first big milestone in the sport by getting her first training triple at Cumberland Raceway.

Sowers’ partner in crime is Marianna Monaco who helps her run their stable of six horses that they own together.

“I couldn’t do it without Marianna,” McKenzie said. “Besides my partner she is my close friend.”

McKenzie has some big plans for the future both in and out of harness racing.

“I attended the University of Brunswick with honors and recently became a registered nurse,” she said. “I’m planning on working as an R.N. while doing what I love the most [harness racing]. Eventually my dream is one day to own a farm where my retired kids can live out their lives happy and safe. I want to give back to them the happiness they have given me, if that is possible.

“Horses give so much of themselves to us. No matter how they are feeling when they get behind the starting gate, they give us their all. Some may not be champions or as fast as others, but nonetheless, they try to make us proud. The least we can do is give them back a little bit of happiness, and security after they are done racing. Putting all the time, work and miles in has paid off and there is nothing I’d rather be doing.”

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