Flashback – Longacres racetrack in Renton, 1979. I was just 15 years old when I first laid my eyes on Loto Canada. My mother, Sandy Beesley, had been good friends with Len and Kay Kasmerski since before I was born. Their daughter Kari and I would hang out together at the track.
Len was training a little gelding – and at just over 15 hands, I mean little – who was creating quite a stir. I was introduced to Lee and Patti Brauer, who had purchased Loto Canada for $5,000 the previous year as a spunky yearling colt, after they had won $1-million in the Canadian lottery; hence the name, Loto Canada.
Lee and Patti, along with their kids, Lou and Nikki, would stay at the Pony Soldier Hotel in Kent – ironically named – during the Longacres racing seasons. I remember living it up with delicious meals at the hotel’s restaurant with my mom, the Brauers and Kasmerskis, and a large group of Loto Canada supporters; all compliments of Loto and his purse earnings. Back at the barn, Loto was generously rewarded for his accomplishments by his handlers in the form of candy bars and Coca-Cola from a can, which he had a penchant for.
As a two-year-old gelding in 1979, Loto Canada (mispronounced by a few race announcers as Lodo Canada) loved to run in the slop and won five races, including the prestigious Gottstein Futurity by nine lengths. He led all Washington-breds that year with $117,105 in earnings. A son of Saltville out of T. V. Actress, Loto Canada was ridden during his racing career by such greats as Bill Shoemaker, Gary Baze, Gary Stevens and Basil Frazier.
In 1980, Loto Canada won the William E. Boeing Stakes by 10 lengths, tying the 5 1/2 furlong track record of 1 :02 2/5. That same year, he defeated Temperence Hill, who went on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1). As a four-year-old in 1981, he won the Washington Championship and the Seattle Handicap and finished third to Trooper Seven in the Longacres Mile (G3).
Loto Canada finished his career with an impressive record of 11-5-10 from 33 starts, and with career earnings of $311,993. Due to an untimely hoof injury, Loto Canada retired from racing in 1982 as one of the all-time Washington-bred greats.
When my husband John and I were first dating in 1990, we went to Yakima, where I introduced him to Len and Kay. We visited Loto Canada at a horse farm where he was enjoying his retirement, with the company of mares and challenging other geldings to races around the pasture. Of course, Kay obliged Loto by treating him with a candy bar and a can of Coca-Cola.
Fast forward to the fall of 2001 when John and I took our three daughters, Michelle, Emily and Celina, to Yakima on another weekend trip to visit Len and Kay. We went to see Loto again at a different farm where he had been moved. At 24 years of age, he looked like a run-down work horse. His front legs bore the scars of having been entangled in pasture wire. He was noticeably underweight and had to be led up the hill to the fence where we were standing because he was too listless to greet us himself. He looked scruffy and unkempt. Through nobody’s fault, but because of passage of time, the great Loto Canada had been downgraded to a regular old horse. John and I lamented to Kay that it was too bad, and that we and our kids would love to take better care of him at our little farm called “Belly Acres” in Lakebay.
The next morning we met Kay at the local IHOP restaurant for breakfast before heading back home. She surprised us with some incredible news! Kay took our comments about Loto to heart and called Lee Brauer to discuss it with him. Patti had recently passed away, and Lee found it difficult to visit Loto on a regular basis because Patti was not there to see Loto with him, as it reminded Lee of her absence. He agreed to let us have Loto.
As per Len’s instructions, we built a brand new feeding and shelter shed on our property before we moved Loto to our five-acre farm the following spring of 2002. Oh, the excitement! As a special treat, Len had arranged for Elliott Simkins, the veterinarian who cared for Loto at Longacres during his reign, to come to Belly Acres to float Loto’s teeth and give him an overall check-up.
Our girls spoiled Loto with all their love and attention. He ate candy bars and drank Coca-Cola from a can on a regular basis. We fed him the highest quality hay and grain and plenty of apples. Loto loved to run around our one-acre yard and munch on the lush grass. When we first saddled Loto up to lead the kids around the pasture on him, he got so excited that he started to buck, and we had to remove the girls quickly for safety. John said Loto looked like Gumby because he became so nimble with excitement.
In 2003, the folks at Emerald Downs invited us to bring Loto Canada to the track to be commemorated. John and I consulted Len, who felt at the time that it would be too stressful for Loto. We took his advice and declined the invitation. The following year, Joe Withee asked us again and this time we were able to convince Len that Loto deserved this recognition and that Len could be in charge of all the details.
So, in September 2004, at 27 years of age, a rejuvenated and revitalized Loto Canada made the trek to a place so like where he spent his glory days. Len was awaiting Loto’s arrival like a newly expectant father – after all, Loto was his baby so many years ago. Len got Loto bedded down in a nice stall and gave him a mild sedative to calm him down, because he was very excited to be back in the barns. Trish led Loto around the paddock between the fifth and sixth races while Robert Gellar announced Loto’ s presence and played some recordings of a few of Loto’s past races over the loud speaker. Loto trotted out of the paddock with his head held high and his ears pricked forward. Trish led him out onto the track and Loto paused and looked around as if seeming to take it all in, just like he did when he was in his prime racing days. Lee and Lou attended the event and they shared their memories of Loto Canada with us.
When Loto turned 30 we threw him a big birthday party and invited family over to celebrate by watching videotapes of Loto’s races. A few years ago, Lee paid us a surprise visit at Belly Acres. Seeing him reunited with Loto was a real treat. Lee generously gave us the William E. Boeing Stakes racing blanket that Loto had won in 1980, as well as a spectacular win picture of the race.
Over the last five years, Loto’s gait has slowed from a trot to a hobble on old legs. He can’t hear or see very well. His frame is showing its age. But he continues to enjoy his candy bars (we’ve cut out the Coca-Cola because of the acid effect on his old tummy), grain, alfalfa and his apples – all of which he eats with a hearty appetite that seems to say, “Give me more of this good stuff!”
Loto is still spoiled by all the love and attention he receives from my daughters. I consider myself blessed to have been given the privilege of experiencing so much of Loto Canada’s life over the last 34 years. He has given me many great memories and much fun and joy to my family and to all who have had the honor to have known him. He’s the little horse that could, did and still does. Thank you so much, Loto Canada. We love you!
Loto Canada (WA), 1977, h., Saltville—T. V. Actress, by T. V. Lark.
Raced five years, 33-11-5-10, $311,993; won Washington Championship S., Seattle H., William E. Boeing S., Tukwila S., Joe Gottstein Futurity, Stripling S., Blue Boy S.; 2nd Silver Screen H.-G2, Washington Championship S., Longacres Derby; 3rd Longacres Mile-G3, El Dorado H.-G3, Sunny Slope S.-G3, Warren G. Magnuson H., Renton H., Washington Stallion S. Males.
On January 1, 2012, I heard some noise at 6:30-ish in the morning from Loto Canada’s stall shed, and I knew he was trying to get up. Just like the past couple weeks, he kind of struggled to get up. But this time would be different. His right front leg just could not support his weight any longer. So I got him some bute and tried to help him up, but could not. I had a few minutes to say goodbye and thanked him for the courage and warmness he brought to my family, and then I called up to the house to get my wife to help me and to get her blessing to call the vet. We tried to work with him before the vet came out, but it was too late. Loto Canada’s heart was trying, but his leg was not. My children came down to say goodbye and thanked him for all he has shown — what a little horse with a gigantic heart can do. His head was on my wife’s lap as she was stroking him. And then the little horse that could was gone, at the ripe old age of 35. We buried him that day, along with a salute and a care package of a Snickers bar, mints, an apple and, of course, a cola. The racetrack in the sky, for a horse that gave it his all.
When I was going to races around 1980, this is the horse that you always heard of, and to have him at my home for the past 10 years was an honor. THANK YOU, Lee Brauer, owner, and the Kasmerskis, who trained him.