While other young men at their age are still trying to figure out what to do for a living, Mike and Chris Blake have firmly established themselves as up-and-comers in the Ontario racing and breeding industry.
Mike, 28, and Chris, 25, own and operate Ascot Stud in Port Colbourne, Ontario, and race a small contingent of horses under the name of Berkshire Stables.
Ascot Stud, a property purchased two years ago by the Blakes, is home to the accomplished stallion Tejano Run, sire of multiple Canadian champion One for Rose and promising young sire Impeachment, who was third to Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Kentucky Derby. The Blakes will also introduce the A.P. Indy stallion Swing Lord, owned by Roy Monroe, to local breeders next spring.
Mike Blake is not sure where his avid interest in racing started, but as soon as he was legal to drive he was making trips to nearby Fort Erie racetrack to place a wager. "Our mom would take us out to the track for the day when we were kids," he said. "I liked following it, and the entries and results were always beside the hockey scores in the Toronto Star newspaper."
Mike Blake purchased his first yearling while studying political science at Western University in London, Ontario. Once he graduated, he worked for Ashford Stud in Lexington, Ky., and the Television Games Network while continuing to claim and race horses on a small scale.
In 2004, the Blakes and their trainer, Layne Giliforte, claimed Matty's Song at Tampa Bay Downs. They won four races with the gelding before losing the horse in a claiming race at Keeneland. "Matty pretty much got us started," said Mike Blake. "He was a really good horse. We bought a few mares after him."
Mike Blake lured his brother into the world of horses while Chris was attending McMaster University. "During his summer break he would look after a mare we had bought, Showtina," Mike Blake said. "She was pretty beat up when we claimed her, and he nursed her back to health. I guess I kind of sucked him in.
" In 2004, the Blakes, with the help of their mother, Lynn, purchased Ascot Stud, a 55-acre property that had a farmhouse and one barn. Today there are nine new paddocks and two barns with 25 stalls. The brothers plan to add another barn and an Equisizer, this winter.
Both Mike and Chris are hands-on in the business. They live on the farm and work with the stallions, the half-dozen mares the family owns, and the small racing stable.
Tejano Run and Impeachment covered 84 mares collectively in 2006 and both are proving popular again for 2007.
Tejano Run, a millionaire and graded stakes winner, is close to the top of the Canadian sire list by progeny earnings, number of winners, and 2-year-old earnings.
Impeachment, a striking son of Deputy Minister, is a leading third-crop sire in North America who stood his first five seasons in Florida.
The Blakes, who are breeding to sell or race, recently purchased the graded-stakes-placed Fappies Cosy Miss, a Fappiano mare, in foal to Tomorrows Cat at the Keeneland November sale. "We don't go too crazy on the numbers of horses," said Mike Blake. "We just want to keep going forward and putting money into the business."
Days away from the farm for the Blake boys are their annual trips to the Breeders' Cup, or the Kentucky Derby, or horse sales.
"We keep things pretty tame," said Mike Blake. "It's nice to go out to the barn and top up the horses' hay and water before we go to bed. I love what I do; I'm my own boss. I once thought I wanted to be a politician or a lawyer, but this is my life."