There was a pall hanging over Whoop-Up Downs this past weekend, with the death of two longtime horsemen and a Celebration of Life planned for this coming Saturday for a third deceased horsemen.
This past weekend marked the passing of two fine horsemen, Garnet Leech and Bob Romney.
Garnet was one of the men who put Quarter horse racing on the map, persevering for many years at the smaller tracks until the Quarter horse races were firmly established as they are today. He is also the father of Alberta's top Quarter horse trainer, William Leech.
Bob Romney was a mainstay of quality race horses around Whoop-Up Downs for many years, well before the RMTC came on the scene; and his daughter Ley Bodie is the head statistician for the Alberta Community Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Then, this coming Saturday at 11 a.m., there will be a Celebration of Life for Dick Aldoff at the RMTC grandstand's fifth floor. He is a former director of racing for the Lethbridge Exhibition and owner and trainer of many top race horses.
Also, still in the minds of many horsemen, particularly RMTC CEO Max Gibb who used to be a jockey for the late Jim Monro in his younger days, is the passing of Jim.
Throughout the winter the RMTC lost other fine horsemen like Harry Gwilliam, Kenny Buxton, Ivan Clark, Art Calling Last, and the great horse Mistress Bell.
Sunday's Running of the Genny Romney Memorial was unfortunately extended to include Bob Romney. The Memorial was taken by owner/trainer Michael Braun's Pipestone Flyer, Ramiro Sancehz Castillo aboard. Pipestone Flyer, owned and trained by Michael Braun is by Tukoman out of Oh Leary by Lear Fun and was bed in California by Gilbert Huey.
Ley Bodie, the Romney's daughter and RMTC CEO Max Gibb, presented a blanket to the winning owner. There was a $4,200 purse with $1,000 of that added by the Romney family.
There was a crowd-gasping incident in the fourth race when Tyler Walker, aboard Kevin Oberholtzer's Gilded Knight hit the turf in the middle of the pack on the backstretch.
Gilded Knight, a quality gelding with a second and a win the last two times out, broke down, and when the rest of the field headed for home the prized gelding was moved of the track, never to run again.
"I heard the pop and I was lucky I could keep him up as the other horses raced past," said jockey Tyler Walker, who has 10 wins this Spring. "I could also feel my feet go further into the pedals and that could have been a disaster. We went sideway and we were clear when the other horses went past." Walker, who caught a toe on the gate in an earlier race and pulled his thigh muscle a tad, came out of the Gilded Knight spill sore all over but in particular with a stretched left thigh muscle.
"I still have to keep going, or I'll tighten up. I'll be galloping horses Monday morning," he stated.
Rick Wiest, second leading trainer at the RMTC Spring Meet, also owned Careless Hunter, winner of the $8,900 Spring Overlie Sprint. In winning, Careless Hunter beat a star-studded field with Pete Dubois' Dubla Gold second, Lyle Magnuson's General Day third, and Beau Gris from Norm Cuthbertson fourth.
Careless Hunter is by Forest Danger out of Shimmering Sunday by Exchange Rate and was bred in Kentucky.
Friday night the combination of jockey Larris Allen and trainer Lyle Magnuson kicked off the card with back-to-back victories. The pair brought the loveable pair Meet Me For A Kiss home first along with Bandalito Hombre.
As well Friday, there was a strong presence of veterans as Stan Marks continued his hot Spring with another win, while Pete Dubois and Jim Depew had horses they trained cross the line first. Mark's Sweet Esteem came in on top as did Pete's Perfect Temper and Depew's Pure Vertical.
Saturday, the two Quarter Horse All Canadian Open Futurity Trials was scheduled to have 10 horses chasing the eight qualifying positions. Well, in the opening race two horses were scratched, one because jockey Vincent Alvin Palmer refused to ride the bucking Timbers Voyage. Tequila Tuesday was also disqualified for antics in the gate.
That leaves trainer Angelle Carter with four horses for the All Canadian Open Futurity, Spin Time, CJ Hezasmilngdown, Saqqarah, and Dash For The Wind. Laurie Ferguson brings Raging Wave, Kevin Oberholtzer has Augie Meyes and Buckey A Stockwell will bring Miss Invictus Eh. As well there'll be Zillas Fate, trained by Nolan Little Bear.
BEHIND THE STARTING GATE… Friday night jockey Ramiro Sanchez Castillo did not have the winning ride on Bandalito Hombre as would be fitting… but he did have a winner aboard Sweet Esteem… The 6th race saw a $303.80 Triactor paid for a 6-1-All combination… Regroup, Slews Academy and all bettors… There seemed to be a curse on the opening three races Friday, with two of the first five horse fields straining under two scratches, leaving three horse to race… It was sunny, but kind of cool and windy for Saturday's large crowd, but it was hot Sunday… Ramiro Sanchez Castillo, aboard Dailydblnotrouble made his usual big move on the back turn, but the field moved with him and he wound up out of the money… There were only seven races Saturday so fans could watch the disappointing Triple Crown race, where California Chrome finished fourth… One of the horse's owners had a lot of honest reaction to the saving of horses for the Belmont, while the others ran in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, wearing themselves down… He suggested if you don't run in the first two races, you can't run in the third… What do you think?… Lyle Magnuson only had two wins on the weekend, but still leads the trainers with 12 and Rick Wiest sits second with nine wins… There's a two-way tie for the top rider with Larris Allen and Ramiro Sanchez Castillo both with 14… Next race action at Whoop-Up Downs will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, post time 6 p.m., and 1:15 p.m. the other two days.