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“B” is for Borth

by Melissa Keith

To become a top “B” Ontario track driver is no small achievement. To take that success and run with it, catch driving at Woodbine Mohawk Park, is even more ambitious. For Tyler Borth, Canada’s leading 2023 driver by wins this year (303 as of Sept. 6), prioritizing Mohawk this fall is a calculated risk, one that could build upon his reputation as current king of the “B” tracks.

Saturday night (Sept. 2) at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Borth won the first race of the star-studded card in a 5-1 upset with Emmetts Buddy (p,4,1:49.0s; $113,022). He bookended the night with a race 12 victory driving 8-1 winner H P Momentum (p,4,1:48.4s; $126,051). In between, racing analysts Randy Waples and Elissa Blowe praised his ability, with the latter commenting, “In the next few years, you’re going to see him driving in some of the big races.”

“Obviously, both are really nice horses,” Borth said, turning attention back to Emmetts Buddy and H P Momentum. “I didn’t know if they could win the races or not, but the way that the races set up allowed them to get it done in fast miles. Emmetts Buddy, my fastest win with him was 1:49 the week before. He went 1:49.2 [Saturday]. Then H P Momentum tied my fastest mile again. It’s funny: I was coming down the lane with H P Momentum and I saw like :46, :47, :48 [on the teletimer],” enroute to a 1:49 victory.

He did not drive in the Maple Leaf Trot, Canadian Pacing Derby, free-for-all pace, or Simcoe Stake divisions for 3-year-old trotters, but admired the victories of Alrajah One IT, Tattoo Artist, Warrawee Vital, Climb the Pole, and Gaines Hanover from the sidelines. “All nice horses,” he said. “Not what I’m used to driving my whole career, that’s for sure.”

Borth began driving professionally in 2012 at The Raceway at Western Fair in London, ON. His career started much earlier.

“My mother [Karen Sparling] actually had horses where I jogged my first horse, at Putnam Training Centre. I think I was 8 years old, The horse’s name was Matty Long Legs. He was only about a $5,000 claimer… I was also always there with my dad [William Borth]. He has a farm just outside of a little town called Thamesford… Now, I still train out of my dad’s farm.”

Pursuing a driving career was always a possibility, although not the only one.

“I liked training them too,” Tyler said. “I remember when I was in high school, one manufacturing teacher… knew my dad and knew a bit about the business. All the other kids would go to work, and me and him would sit at the front desk and we’d watch horse replays… I still see him to this day.”

After his family and that teacher, Mr. Britton, Tyler’s biggest influence has been his home track. “My first qualifying drive was at Western Fair. My first drive was at Western Fair. My first win was at Western Fair,” he said, recalling his Feb. 10, 2012 victory with trotter Region Hall [5,1:59.3h; $62,291]. “My dad trained, and he had the 7-hole. I went right to the front and hung on by a nose.”

Tyler shared the 2022 driving title at The Raceway with Travis Henry (both with 144 seasonal wins), but said he wasn’t sure how much he would be there for the upcoming meet, which begins Monday, Oct. 2.

“Well, that’s the thing: Now that I’m getting drives at Mohawk, if I continue to get drives at Mohawk, I will stay at Mohawk. On the off days, the days that Mohawk’s not racing, just London’s racing, I’ll be driving at London, because it’s only 20 minutes from my house.”

Tyler’s mastery at the “B” tracks was evident on Sept. 3 at Clinton Raceway, when he captured both the Charity Drivers’ Challenge and 2023 driving title (44 seasonal wins) on the final day of the meet.

“I’ve always loved Clinton,” he said. “It’s a good atmosphere. They do a good job, obviously, with [general manager] Ian Fleming. They do a lot for the people. It’s just a long day for me, because [afterwards] I have to go to Georgian [Downs, Innisfil, ON], and the drive from Clinton to Georgian makes for a long summer, but I was having some luck, so it makes it a little easier.”

The decision to focus on Mohawk was not an easy one for the 30-year-old reinsman, who gives considerable credit to the track that shaped his early career.

“I got off to a really good start this year because I think I won like 150 races at London from January to May. It’s what put me on top… I won most of my [recent] races at Hanover, Clinton, Georgian the odd time. But I’m getting my fair share of wins at Mohawk, too – more than I thought I would be getting, being new there.”

Tyler’s first driving win at Mohawk was on Jan. 26, 2023, with Cutting Class (p,5,1:52.0f; $76,260), his only drive on the card.

“I’ve got to give thanks to Shane Barrington for that, because I drove a little bit for him on the ‘B’ tracks,” Tyler said. Barrington trained the gelding, who won a second consecutive race for Tyler on Feb. 2, before being claimed.

When Barrington initially suggested Tyler try out the big track, the driver said he was skeptical.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ People say that, but how am I going do that, right? Shane was like, ‘Trust me, you drive a horse well. You should come try and drive here, make a nice living for yourself. You’re just as good as the guys down here. Once you get down here, you’ll get the hang of it.’ So I’ve got to thank him for that, because he obviously gave me my first win there, but it was also him putting it in my ear.”

Tyler continues to pick up catch drives at Mohawk. “I think the word about me is pretty good,” he said. “I don’t think that too many people would say that I’m an a-hole! The general consensus is that I’m a nice guy, so I’m happy with that.”

Competing with the top drivers in the country has been a learning curve.

“I always felt that the regular drivers that drive there would do a better job than me… I feel like if they come to London and drive against me, I feel like I’d do as good a job as them, because I know London, I know the horses. Now that I have quite a few starts [at Mohawk], I really feel like I’m getting the hang of it, but it definitely took a little while, because it is a lot different.”

The WMP drivers’ colony has been welcoming to Tyler. “They’ve been really good to me,”

he said. “I think once you win a couple races and you start driving, and they see that you drive fairly smart for the most part, they respect you. I think they respect me, too, because I’ve been putting a lot of races in… I’ve been driving for 12 years. I’ve been driving everywhere. I have driven a lot of horses.”

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