There’ll be four days of racing this Thanksgiving holiday weekend – Friday through Monday – and fittingly much of it will be taken up with Memorial races. Saturday, at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club, there’ll be memorials for Rufus Goodstriker, Ivan Clark and Jessi Payne, while Sunday a Memorial for Marv Christensen will be held.
The Rufus Goodstriker Memorial Race is run each fall at Whoop‑Up Downs to honour the family patriarch and the former Chief of the Kainai Nation. "I admired Rufus my entire life," said RMTC CEO Max Gibb, who often boxed against Rufus' fight club and raced against his race horses. Rufus was one of the foremost athletes ever produced on the Blood Reserve. In later life a respected healer, Rufus had been a standout in many sports - rodeo, boxing, chuckwagon racing, hockey and horse racing. As a boxer Rufus fought 34 times, 12 as an amateur, 22 as a professional. His only loss came as an amateur, to Laurie McLean of Lethbridge, later an Alberta judge. Rufus raced chuckwagons at Calgary and for many years was a top race horse breeder and trainer, really making his mark at the Raymond July 1 Derby. A Goodstriker horse, Sweep Up, won the vaunted Raymond Businessmen’s Derby in 1960, and he ran second to Glen Holman in 1975. In 1978 Rufus and Whistling Fred won the Raymond Businessmen’s Derby.
Also to be honoured Saturday will be the late jockey/trainer Ivan Clark and Jessica Payne who died Oct. 15, 2005 in a single vehicle rollover near Olds, where she was attending Olds College in the Land Administration Program. Jessi was an avid rider and horsewoman and spent a great deal of time with her grandparents, Ivan and Shirley Clark, assisting them with their horse racing operation. She was involved in many organizations and is remembered for her determination, tenacity and her gentleness with young children and fellow riders. Jessi’s motto was “Reach for the Stars” and she did just that.
Ivan Clark answered the final call to post September 23, 2013, at age 83. "Ivan was the oldest jockey riding at the RMTC when he retired about 2003, and he went on to have some good horses as a trainer," said RMTC CEO Max Gibb. "Ivan's wife Shirley served for many years as our Parade Marshal.” As a jockey Ivan rode race horses throughout Alberta, Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and started riding when he was nine or 10 years of age. "I quit riding in 1999, so I was 68 years of age. That means I rode horses for about 58 years," he said with a laugh.
On Sunday a Memorial race will honour the memory of Marv Christensen. Marv was 84 and was one of the key figures in the RMTC. He dates back to the beginning of racing under the RMTC banner. He was a true gentleman and loved the sport of horse racing. I would chat with Marv often during the race meets and he was always upbeat and smiling and could be found in Bullys, or the winner’s circle. In Bullys he was always surrounded by members of his family, enjoying the races together. Whenever there were problems with the track Marv was right there with his earth-moving equipment to help out. He was an integral part of the RMTC, and was a man who worked behind the scenes to make horse racing improve from year to year. “Marv was a true friend, and we miss him here at the RMTC,” said Max Gibb. “He was among a key group of people who helped us renew horse racing here in Lethbridge, but most of all he was simply a great guy.”
Also this weekend there will be a special treat prior to the Paint championship sprint. “Radford Blackrider, of the Blackfoot Confederacy will carry out a traditional painting ceremony on the horses in the race. As I understand it he will apply a number of traditional markings which the Blackfoot used to use on their horses, prior to going to war,” said Gibb. “It will make an already colourful race even more colourful and add a tradition of the Blackfoot people to the race.”