By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: At first glance the man in running shoes, shorts and an old soccer jersey looked like a dead-ringer for Horatio Kemeny, co-owner of Swift Thoroughbreds Inc.
On second glance, it was Horatio … frantically collecting autographs in a crowded BC Sports Hall of Fame reception area on May 31 honouring the 1979 Soccer Bowl champion Vancouver Whitecaps.
The only time racing patrons get a chance to see Kemeny is when he and his fellow Swift Thoroughbreds owner Mark Mache are in the winner’s circle at Hastings.
But there he was like a wide-eyed little kid scrambling for signatures from Roger Kenyon, Derek Posse, Kevin Hector, Willie Johnston and his boyhood idol, goalkeeper Phil (Lofty) Parkes.
“Back in 1979 I knew every stat of every Whitecaps player,” Horatio says. “I played soccer as a young boy and actually went to Whitecaps soccer camps for two years. I was a goalkeeper myself and regret to this day not putting my hand up quickly enough when Tony Waiters said he was looking for a ‘keeper to volunteer for some on-field drills.”
Horatio played for a powerhouse Under-12 team called the Kerrisdale Hawks. “We were demolishing every team we played and one day our coach told us the league would be spreading us around,” he recalls. “I sat on the bench for six straight games with my new team and was so discouraged, I gave it up.”
Fortunately for the racing industry, Horatio and his childhood friend Mark from St. George’s School didn’t lose interest in riding their bicycles or taking the bus to Hastings to watch the thoroughbreds. “We’d raise money collecting pop bottles and find some willing guy to buy us $2 wagering tickets,” Kemeny says.
Mark went on to graduate from UBC with a degree in economics while Horatio attended SFU in computer science. They entered into the video games and software world and in 1999 bought their first racehorse. By 2006 Swift Thoroughbreds Inc. had acquired 50 horses with trainer Dino Condilenios working for them exclusively.
“We’re down to 18 horses now and in fairness to Dino agreed to let him work for other horsemen,” Kemeny says. “He’s so good at what he does.”
By the way, Horatio did get to mix and mingle with his 1979 super heroes and even got to tell Phil Parkes about his own goalkeeping prowess with the Kerrisdale Hawks.