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Sunday, June 20, 1999


Charity could be the big winner at next Sunday's Queen's Plate. That is if Lenny The Lender winds up in the money. 

Lenny appears to be the Canadian counterpart of Charismatic, the $62,000 USclaimer who went on to win the first two legs of the U.S. Triple Crown. Lenny cost owner Victor Deschenes only $40,000 Cdn when he claimed the horse off jockey Mickey Walls in April on the advice of his trainer Rita Schnitzler. It didn't take Lenny The Lender long to pay for his oats. He won the first time out for his new owner and placed second in the Marine Stakes, thus returning Deschenes' investment. 

Deschenes, a 48-year-old philanthropist who owns the transport company Expedite Plus, is new to horse racing. He has been involved in the game of kings for only three years, but he's not a newcomer when it comes to charities. 

You may recall that Deschenes is the fellow who enjoys taking as many as 5,000 youngsters to Blue Jays games and paying for their tickets. Deschenes, who grew up in downtown Toronto, also has been known to walk into a school and ask the teachers about the number of kids who needed bikes. Then he would go out, buy them and have them delivered to the school. 

On other occasions, visiting different downtown schools, he would ask about poor students who could not afford lunch. After being told, Deschenes would order in Kentucky Fried Chicken meals for those kids. 

"Look, I've been lucky with my business, so I feel I should give something back," he says. "In fact, I'm thinking of donating my winnings from the Queen's Plate -- if I place in the money -- to charity. I've already been discussing potential charities with CFRB's Bill Stephenson and Ted Woloshyn.

"However, I'm also leaning toward the jockeys' injury fund because I think it's a worthwhile project. I was at the races one day and watched a jockey get hurt. He suffered a bad back and was out of action for a couple of weeks. No one gave a darn about him. The poor guy had no chance of earning any money for those two weeks. Such a fellow would certainly deserve financial support from a fund." Deschenes got involved in racing when a friend suggested they should do it for fun. They went to Woodbine and got hooked. At first they were only betting, then acquired a trainer and horses. 

"I used to bet big time in casinos a few years ago," Deschenes said. "In fact, I nearly went broke. But I stopped in time and now I can have a little fun with the horses. Some Jockey Club members don't look on me favourably because I have a female trainer. But she's good. In fact, this year I got a cheque for each race my horses competed in. They never finished worse than third. Obviously, she knows what she's doing. 

"I have six horses and hope to increase the number to 10. As far as the Queen's Plate is concerned, I'm quietly optimistic. There is a possibility that we could win, but I wouldn't say it's a sure bet. We could also place second or third. As a matter of fact, we could also wind up last. That's horse racing. But the main thing is that we're having fun." 

So will the beneficiaries of charities -- if Lenny lends them a helping hand. 


A former SkyDome quartet has taken over key positions in the Maple Leafs-Raptors empire. In addition to president and COO Richard Peddie, the board of directors promoted project manager Tom Anselmi to senior vice-president, business; Bob Hunter to senior vice-president and general manager of the Air Canada Centre and Maple Leaf Gardens; and Ian Clarke to senior vice-president, finance and administration. Peddie and Hunter are from the Raptors side of the merger, Clarke and Anselmi from the Leafs side. "I'm thrilled," Anselmi said. "We did a lot of work, but there's also a lot of work ahead of us" ... Ex-Maple Leaf Peter Ihnacak is in Toronto, looking for players. He coached Nuremberg to the German league championship during the winter, but his team lost the cup final to Mannheim in five games. His brother, Miroslav, another ex-Leaf, played last year for Kosice in Slovakia and helped the team win the Slovak elite league.

Copyright 1999, The Toronto Sun Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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