It’s one thing for an owner, a trainer or a jockey to brave the cold, mud and rain to be part of the Rocky Mountain Turf Club’s horse racing scene.
But another key component of the horse racing scene are the racing fans.
Ira Tailfeathers was, and is, part of both scenes. With his father Ken he was deeply involved in training and riding, and now he’s an avid spectator.
Ira says the last horse the Tailfeathers clan raced in Lethbridge was back in 1988.
“I’m still coming back. Racing has been, and still is, a big part of my life. I love it,” stated this prominent member of the Kainai Nation.
“I loved the training and the riding, especially when it was just my Dad and myself.”
Ira was in the winner’s circle with Ken in Kalispell, as Ken’s horse had also won in Lethbridge about the same moment. Two minutes later Ken fell dead from a heart attack.
“My Dad had horses like My Son Warren, a horse he bought for $2,500 and we later ran in Stakes races, and won. Bar Azure was another one my Dad had and he was a dandy, as was Grassy’s Last Gas, who won at Kalispell that day, and so many others.
“I still come out to the races. I just love the sport. There’s the thrill and of course, the memories.”
Saturday, covered in little droplets of rain from the continuous sleet outdoors, Debbie Cunnington mentioned how the Montana trainers and owners seldom appeared in racing columns.
Minutes later she had full reason to be front and centre at the RMTC. Her horse My Gal Slew won Saturday’s fifth race, with Ramiro Sanchez Castillo turning in a great ride in the irons.
“Wasn’t that awesome!” Debbie exclaimed after the victory. Added to the awesome aspect was the Missoula owner/trainer teamed with fellow-Montana owner/trainer Barbara Norlander for a wicked payoff.
Debbie’s My Gal Slew paid 25.10, 6.50 and 2.60. See Sosee Run paid 26.60 and 5.20. The combination of the two horses, a 7-3 $2 Exactor, yielded $493.30.
But Debbie didn’t have it.
“I never bet on my own horses,” she said with her ever-present grin.
Sunday a special E-Race Cancer six furlong run in memory of Melanie Solberg was won by Lane Gardipy’s horse, Got A Stash.
The race, which saw supporters sporting pink T-Shirts, pink ribbons and buying tickets in the Pink Pony contest was in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and the “memory and support of all who have fought the battle” – including Melanie.
Among those on hand were Melanie’s father and mother, Paul and Gwen Cornwall of Glasgow, Montana, Melanie’s daughter Jessie and Melanie’s granddaughter Kaye.
“I was pleased with the presentation,” Paul said, and added, “I even had a ticket on the winning horse.”
Sunday saw the touch of nostalgia continue at the Rocky Mountain Turf with the 7th annual running of the Jessie Payne Memorial.
The RMTC’s Parade Marshal Shirley Clark, is the grandmother of Jessie, who passed away at age 17. Jessie died in 2005 in a motor vehicle accident near Olds, where she was attending Olds College. Jessie was an avid rider and horsewoman who loved helping her grandmother Shirley and grandpa, the late Ivan Clark.
The Memorial was taken by Sweet Annie, owned by Riley Rycroft and Dale Stark and trained by Susan Hoyle. Valentino McBean was in the irons of the big win.
Pete Dubois won back-to-back races Sunday, both in runaway style.
First Blazing Temper, owned by Pete and Mason Bassett, simply blew away the field in the Starter Allowance 3rd Leg, over a distance of a mile and three sixteenths.
“It was a super race. Oh yeah, I told him (Blandford Stewart) to go to the lead right away. It’s the only way this horses runs,” said a smiling Pete who then watched General Gabe dominate the field in a seven furlong run to close out the day.
Both horses won by well into double digits. General Gabe is by Congaree out of Blazing Hot by Irish River and was bred in Ontario. Blazing Temper is by Tempered Angel out of Patchy Valentine by Patchy Groundfog and was bred at Bar None Ranches near Okotoks.
After being shut out in the Spring Meet, trainer Leonard Bourne won his fourth race of the Fall Meet Friday night. He and sister Bessie own Checkered Cab and Trevor Simpson rode him to victory.
He says he’ll run him again this coming weekend.
Careless Hunter, one of the RMTC’s class horses, won the $4,000 Claiming third race for owner Rick Wiest, and then had him claimed away by Tracy Turner.
BEHIND THE STARTING GATE . . . Nice to see trainer Pat Goruk record a win in Friday’s first race with Winterstone, to pay 7.40, 4.30, 2.70 . . . You had to have a feeling of admiration for the jockeys riding in Saturday’s rain, cold and mud . . . Missoula’s Debbie Cunnington was a winner on the track but not in the trailer . . . The toilet was having its problems and she had to send all the way to Missoula to find a needed part . . . She had to get friends Doug and Lu King to help with the repair . . . the combination of trainer Lyle Magnuson and rider Larris Allen won another pair of races Saturday . . . Despite the rain Saturday the tracks was listed as fast, Sunday it was listed as muddy . . . There’s a big Thanksgiving Dinner, all day long, set for $12.05 at the RMTC this coming Monday . . . The featured E-Race Cancer race was sponsored by the Alberta Community Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Lethbridge College Students Association . . . The final four days of racing for the RMTC’s Fall Meet are this Friday, at 6 p.m., and Saturday through Monday, post time 1:15 p.m.