When horse owner Brad Grant heard the news last April about the accident that claimed the lives of 16 people aboard a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, he knew he wanted to help. Grant, whose own involvement in Canadian junior hockey stretches more than three decades, was uncertain what to do, but came upon the answer as he looked at a page of racing entries.
Earlier in the year, Grant had bought a pacer named Humboldt. Grant decided to donate the horse’s earnings for the remainder of the month to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Assistance Program, which was created to raise funds for all people affected by the accident.
Humboldt, the horse, raised $15,000 for the fund. Horse owner Tom Rankin also contributed purse earnings to the program, pushing the figure to nearly $25,000.
For his efforts, Grant has been named the 2018 recipient of the January Davies Humanitarian Award, presented by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The award was created in 2008 by U.S. Harness Writers Association member Callie Davies-Gooch in memory of her daughter to recognize contributions beyond harness racing.
“Brad is the epitome of what this award is about,” Davies-Gooch said. “His work in the community, not only in this instance but in many others, is a great example of humanitarianism and he is a perfect choice for this award.”
Grant, a resident of Milton, Ont., said he was surprised by the recognition.
“I think there are a lot of good people that do a lot of good things, but I’m honoured,” Grant said. “I’ve known Callie all my life. To receive this in memory of her daughter is really quite an honour.”
Grant, the leading owner on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit in 2018, is also on the volunteer board of the Milton District Hospital Foundation, which raises funds for facilities and equipment.
In addition, Grant has held several positions in the Ontario Hockey Association, including chairman. In 1986, he purchased the Milton Merchants junior hockey club and saved the team from folding. The Merchants won four division titles, three league championships, and a provincial crown before Grant sold the team in 2001. In November, Grant was inducted into the Milton Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the program.
It was his connection to junior hockey that fuelled his desire to help the people affected by the Humboldt tragedy.
“Hockey has been a big part of my life and I know many of the people out there in junior hockey,” Grant said. “That’s something people are never going to forget; it’s a tragedy beyond tragedies. To be able to get something going and support those who are going to need help down the road, my wife and I are very big supporters of health care in our local community at the hospital, so it was a no-brainer for us to do something. In my mind it was the least we could do.”
On the racetrack, Grant enjoyed a banner year. In February, his horses won three 2017 O’Brien Awards — Stay Hungry, Bettors Up and Sandbetweenurtoes. His highlight on the track came in August when he watched filly Atlanta win the Hambletonian, but he also owned multiple stakes winner Stay Hungry and six-figure earners Babes Dig Me, Dr J Hanover, Easy Lover Hanover, Captain Trevor, B Yoyo, Witch Dali, Bettors Up, Captain Ahab and Missle Hill.
In December, Atlanta was named the Dan Patch Award winner for best three-year-old female trotter.
“There were a lot of highs this year,” Grant said. “It’s going to be hard to top, but I’d sure love to give it a try. We’re hoping for good things for some of our three-year-olds coming back and it looks like we have a nice crop of (two-year-olds). They’re all going good, which at this time of year it’s really hard to get excited, but they seem to know what they’re supposed to do and their breeding says they should know what to do so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
“It’s going to be hard to top last year, but just to be a part of it, that’s the exciting part.”