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Prince Edward Island

Saving Sammy: Friends step up to help Denny and Sammy

Jayson Baxter, producer and co-host of CTV News at 5, shares the personal story of rescuing Sammy, his family’s beloved racehorse.

Earlier this month my father, Denny Baxter, a 78-year-old retired trotting coach and driver, received a special opportunity – an invitation for himself and our family’s rescued racehorse, Samspace, to reconsider their trotting careers.

Charlottetown’s Red Shores Racetrack wanted Samspace to get back on the track and Dad in the sulky to do a special race in their honor.

I wanted to make it happen.

But who would pull the horse trailer to bring Sammy from Ardoise, NS to Charlottetown? Dad sold his truck and horse trailer more than a decade ago.

Where would they stay when they got there? Dad said he needed a week to make sure the 18-year-old pacemaker was healthy and up to the task.

Turns out there was nothing to worry about. Friends stepped in to make the adventure a reality.

My second cousin, Sam McLean, met us at 5am on a starless Saturday morning. He transported Sammy from Hants County to Truro, NS

Sam, his wife Lynn and their family are also enthusiastic horse people – world-class quarter horses are their passion. The McLeans have their own busy schedules and raising horses is a seven-day-a-week job. But they insisted on helping.

Danny Romo, one of the Maritimes’ most successful drivers and coaches, is pictured here. (Standardbred Canada)

Sam drove our Sam to Truro Raceway, where we met Danny Romo – one of the Maritimes’ most accomplished drivers and trainers – who accompanied him the rest of the way to the PEI.

Dad has known Danny since they were both young trainers at Sackville Downs in the 1970’s. When Papa needed someone to drive Samspace’s mother, Lotsa Bunny, at Truro Raceway in the early 2000s, he asked Danny, which reveals how Papa thinks of his skills.

It was a good bet. Danny won that day with Bunny, making it to 2,500th victory of his career, which is still ongoing.

Talent, hard work, results, longevity – this is Danny Romo.

Randy and Donna Van Meer can be seen with their racehorse in this old photo. (Submitted: Randy and Donna Van Meer)

Enter Randy and Donna Van Meer, who joined PEI just two years ago in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They had trotting success at the big Ontario circuits, but the Red Shores called, so they made the jump shortly after Donna retired from Royal Bank.

“Heaven for me,” is how Dad describes their farm outside of Stratford, PEI. There the winner of 5,000 races, Gilles Barrieau, stables his horses. Her clean, friendly and organized stable would be Dad and Sammy’s home for 10 days.

We will always be grateful to the people who helped make this possible for Dad and Sammy.

Many Thanks,

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