Monday, 25 July 2016 10:22

History of RMTC - Angus MacDonald

Written by Garry Allison, Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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Every sport must have its pioneers, and one such pioneer in horse racing was the late Angus MacDonald.

He was 84 years of age, as of 2008 when we talked, but Angus still considered himself a rolling stone.

“Who knows, I might be in California next year," the octogenarian horse trainer said with a laugh.

And don't think being age 84 is old. “I'm only 84, just a kid, my Dad, John MacDonald lived to be 110. I've still got 30 or 40 good years left."

However, Angus passed away in 2010 at age 89.

The rolling stone tag certainly fit Angus.

He was born in Enid, Oklahoma in May of 1925 and made his way north to Calgary in 1934, following along with his mother, Alice Methering, who travelled the United States and Canada as a trick rider and horse trainer.

Angus headed back south to answer the call of the burgeoning oil industry but by 1947 he was back in Alberta, working the oil patch. In between, this rolling stone found himself in the uniforms of two different countries during the Second World War. He served with the U.S. in the 82nd Airborne Division and then with Canada in the First Canadian Intelligence and Sabotage Unit.

“I was in Sicily, Italy and all over Europe before I was captured at Arnhem. I was a prisoner for eight months and 23 days before the war ended. There wasn't much you could do about it, you just accepted what you had to and that was that."

Despite all the moving around, and the different duties and jobs, one thing remained a constant in Angus' life, a love of horses.

“I've been in this horse business all of my life, I was born into it," he said. “I've trained and owned horses for the last 55-plus years, that's for certain. I have winner's circle pictures from here at Lethbridge going back to 1967, but I was here before that. My son John MacDonald was a jockey back then and some of the others riding back then included John Buxton, Barbara Suitor, Ron Burrell and Duane Wiseman."

One of the early horsemen he ran into in Calgary was the late Rufus Goodstriker, a former Chief of the Kainai Nation. During the war the two soldiers crossed paths - and fists.

“Rufus was in the military the same time I was and we were both boxers. I used to spar with him despite the fact he was a light heavyweight and I was a welterweight.

“We sparred a lot and he was a good boxer, very scientific. A few years after the war I was training horses in Calgary and one day along came Rufus. We got to BS’ing about the old times and before long he asked me to train some of his horses."

One of those Goodstriker horses Angus still remembers was a stud Rufus had purchased in the United States and brought up to the Blood Reserve, called More Moolah. At the same time Rufus was also driving chuckwagons at Calgary and other tracks, but Angus never did get involved in wagon racing with Rufus, though he did help hook up his team a time or two.

In later years, about 1998, Angus did work for Ron David, at the time among the top chuckwagon drivers at Calgary.

“I've been in this horse racing business a long time (more than 50 years) and its pretty well a different ball game now than when I started. I remember back when Lethbridge didn't even have a tote board and they wrote all the information up on a big chalk board by hand. As well, we never even had pony horses back then to lead the Thoroughbreds onto the track before the races.

“Now the sport is all different, highly controlled and modernized, but the training is still the same, the horse has to be ready to race. It's been a great life," said Angus with a grin.

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