Wednesday, 02 October 2013 10:50

RMTC Feature Mahlon Bourne

Written by Garry Allison - Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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The late Lyman Turner, known much of his life in Magrath as Junior, remembers back when
Mahlon Bourne used to be a jockey.

"He rode for a guy named Bill Murray out of here (Magrath)," the then 92-year-old recalled.
"Murray had some horses out at what he called the Mill Pond Pasture. He ran the Ellison
Elevator when not racing horses. I can remember Mrs. Murray hollering down to Mahlon from
the grandstand, 'Oh Mahlon, pick up on those reins.'

"When Mahlon went into training horses he'd still ride, but not in races any more. One time
Mahlon got in some trouble and was thrown over a big board fence. I used to tease him about
that right up until he died. He'd get mad at me and was always telling people 'that smart-nosed
kid saw me thrown and I've never heard the end of it.'

"The Magrath race track at that time was just on the west edge of town and had box stalls, the
track and a grandstand. We had some great fairs over there, then the Dirty '30s came and it went
broke. Alf Ririe ended up with the land and they moved the track and the grandstand over to
about where the high school is now. Then in '45 or so we had the worst hail storm you've ever
seen and the wind and hail  totally flattened the grandstand."

Mahlon's younger brother Jack was a jockey and Mahlon trained some top horses of the day,
like Vixen and Thora.

"Mahlon's wife rode for him too, as well as most of his boys," Lyman recalled with a laugh.
"The Meeks boys from Raymond used to come over to run at Magrath and they had some darn
good Thoroughbreds.

"David Holladay Bingham - we all called him Judge because he was a Magistrate or
something like that - owned some race horses and was among the best. The best he had was a
horse called Minnie Warren, with the finest winning record in Magrath.

This was the time of no starting gate and the horses started off a starting line. When that
Minnie Warren walked up, they'd holler go and she was gone. Blair Sabey used to be a jockey a
lot for the Judge. Gordon Rice was also a rider at times.

"Around here (southern Alberta), on what we called the dirt tracks, Minnie Warren won a lot
and she won over some awfully good horses."

Minnie Warren was said to have started 19 times, ending up with 16 wins, a second and two
thirds. Lyman said the Judge ran her five times over three days at a meet in Shelby, winning four
and finishing third in another. The Judge also used to ride Minnie in the Magrath parades, the last
one in 1944.

Lyman recalled seeing a young Johnny Longden ride on the original Magrath track in the late
1920s. He became a follower of Longden's career and recalled when the Jockey was back home,
at Taber, after he rode Bog Star for his 3,500th win.

Rumours at the time was Longden would retire, but he still had more than 2,500 winners to
come.

Glen Holman and Lyman were good friends and Holman had a lot of horses in his later years -
Lyman turned his attention to training field dogs.

"Glen had some good race horses and he ran at Lethbridge a lot. The Holmans had come from
Taber and Ray and Elnor Holman were great friends of Longden. In fact, when they had that TV
show for Longden, This Is Your Life, they appeared on it. The year Johnny retired he was up at
Taber and Glen and I had a great visit with him when others couldn't get near him. It was a big
banquet and they showed a film of his last race on George Royal.

Lyman was also a good friend of Tom Three Persons, started through Lyman's almost life-
long association with the Magrath Trading Co. He said two of Tom's best horses were Cracker
Jack and Twinkle Toes.

"Tom raced a lot in Raymond. Our track (Magrath) was gone by the early '30s and the second
one  was on a 10 acre plot, so it was only a quarter to 3/8 of a mile. Tom ran a lot here of course."

Lyman was reluctant to tell the story because of  animal rights feelings today about Twinkle
Toes near the end of his days. But a fact is a fact. It seems the horse was simply turned into a
large pig sty and shot.

East of Magrath was the Fox farm, where a lot of horses were butchered. You could take in a
heavy work horse and trade it for a much lighter Thoroughbred at times, and many made it to the
race track that way.

"Both Blair and Lloyd Sabey had horses and Blair was a Roman rider. Another bunch of race
people were the Murphys, down along the river. They had a track down there, back when
prohibition was in Alberta, in the 1920s, during Emperor Pic's time in the Crowsnest Pass."

Lyman remembered being at the Cardston track and watching one of Charlie Powell's big
horses, Yaknee Clipper II, run away with its 70-pound ride, just a kid. They circled the track
twice before run down. They gave the pair five minutes to gather themselves, and then started the
race.

"Yankee two was off again and won by a mile," Lyman laughed. "The next spring I was at the
Calgary race meet and Rulon Leavitt had Pagan Queen, the favourite. The odds on Powell's
Yankee Clipper II were 30-1. We were at the paddock with Dorrel and Lorne Pilling and we were
joking about the odds. Well, James Meeks had seen him run in Cardston and bet it down to 13-1.
Yaknee won by so much it wasn't even funny.

"Old Angus Monroe said the old horse was practically run to death in Montana. That horse
could have gone a long ways. I think that Yankee Clipper was the best horse I ever saw - I'm
talking compared to the rest running at that time," he said.

Lyman said there were a lot of Roman riding teams in those days and he remembered Jack
Rasmussen as having two or three quality teams for chariot racing, selling one team to the
Salmons.

"Jack was quite old when he started. His nickname was Jungle Jack because he had shot a
cougar out of the trees, just south and west of town. That cougar was on display in the hardware
(Magrath Trading Co.) for 20 years or better."

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