P.E.I. horse gives owner much more than race earnings

Sally MacDonald's prize-winning horse State Treasurer means much more than race winnings to her.

Sally MacDonald credits State Treasurer with helping her battle cancer

Co-owner Sally MacDonald with State Treasurer, whose exploits and winning ways she credits as helping her in her fight with cancer. (Sally MacDonald)

When Sally MacDonald from Souris bought a racehorse in 2010, little did she know how much the yearling would give back to her — and not just in earnings.

MacDonald, her husband Alan and their nephew Paul paid $6,500 for State Treasurer.

The horse has since returned close to $2 million in winnings.

"Watching him always dig in. He's been in many races where we look at him and he's near the back, and he digs in and circles the field and he wins. It's just a tremendous feeling to watch," said Sally MacDonald.

We knew early on that he was a special horse.- Sally MacDonald, co-owner

"It's like he's got the desire to win, which you don't always see in horse races. Some of them have the ability, but not the desire. He seems to have both."

But State Treasurer has been more than just a money-maker for MacDonald.

At the time the horse was purchased in 2010, MacDonald had just been given a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year.

Cancer spreads

Then in 2013, cancer returned, this time spreading to the bones.

With treatment and medication, she made it through again, and MacDonald said State Treasurer was a big motivation during those difficult six months.

"It gave me the distraction I needed to focus on something other than the treatments," she explained. "That's the way I looked at it. It gave me something to really look forward to, watching him and the way he raced and overcome his challenges of bad post positions, and that sort of thing, it just made me as determined to fight this."

MacDonald travelled around the tracks in Ontario and the U.S. to cheer for her horse.

Not for sale

State Treasurer's winning ways soon caught the eye of buyers, but despite those offers, MacDonald and the other co-owners refused to sell.

"Even though I was at a point where I couldn't attend the races, I could see them on TV," she said. "It meant a lot to me to have that to look forward to. So I always felt he provided normalcy to my life at a time when I needed it, so we turned down the offer, and made the decision to keep him, and it turned out to be the right decision."

State Treasurer's owners and connections receive Canada's Horse of the Year award. (Standardbred Canada/Iron Horse Photo)
In February 2016, State Treasurer was named Canada's Horse of the Year.

MacDonald said the seven-year-old has changed her life.

"We knew early on that he was a special horse. He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse and we're just so lucky to have him," she said. "He's taken us to so many places that we never would have been to normally, and we've met so many people and I just can't say enough about him."

Sally MacDonald said State Treasurer is still racing at a high level. As for how long he'll continue to run, MacDonald said, "We just take it year by year now."