Thanksgiving Day arrived with a blanket of snow, forcing cancelation of the seven-race card at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club, including the Rocking Horse, a race designed for those eight years and older. However, the first three days of the second final weekend went off without a hitch.
Of the many Memorial races through the weekend, perhaps the most meaningful in regards to the well-being of the Rocky Mountain Turf Club itself, was the Marvin and Louise Christensen Memorial Sunday. The six furlong run was won by Jim Depew’s Forever Man, ridden by Larris Allen. “He’s a nice horse and it was a nice win in a special race,” said Jim. “Marv was a good guy, an awesome guy. We’d often visit with him in Bullys and he was always up-beat and happy. “Marv was the backbone of this place and he will be missed.” Marv was 84 and was a key figure in the RMTC, dating back to the beginning of racing under the RMTC banner. He was a true gentleman and loved the sport of horse racing. 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, CEO of the RMTC. “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.”
It went as owner/trainer Janice Sather feared. Prior to the 400-yard Canadian Paint Championship she was apprehensive of Buckey Stockwell’s Cowboy Mafia, and rightfully so. Janice’s Splashy Mamacita led all the way in the $11,400 race – until the final few strides when Buckey’s Cowboy Mafia flew by to claim the title.
Newcomer, as far as the RMTC is concerned, Shannon Beauegard, won her third race of the meet aboard Zippity Zap to earn trainer Kelly Grieves and Bar None Ranches the winner’s share of the $16,400 Amtote Open Derby Sunday. In a thrilling finish to the $11,050 Dating Game Fillies and Mares Stake, Martin Ortiz, astride Lillie Abbie, helped Abbie win seven of her last 11 starts. Dallas Birdrattler is the trainer for the winner, owned by Gordon Howg. Lillie Abbie is by Uncle Abbie out of I’m A Pine by Robin des Pins and was bred in Texas.
In the Peggy Cummings Memorial, with the blanket presented by her brother, longtime RMTC supporter Tom Dixon, Larris Allen was at his best aboard the Lyle Magnuson-trained She’s It Again. It was an appropriate win for Rocky Mountain Turf Club Stable.
Saturday featured a series of Memorial races, with the Lyle Magnuson-trained Italian By Marriage winning the six-furlong Ivan Clark Memorial. The Rufus Goodstriker Memorial, covering five furlongs, went to Just Zoom Will Do, owned by Harold Burbank and trained by Eric Turner. The Jessi Payne Memorial was taken by Darcy Hawkes’ Love Is Elusive, ridden by Martin Ortiz.
The Rufus Goodstriker Memorial is near and dear to RMTC Max Gibb’s heart. He raced horses against Goodstriker and in younger days often boxed against fighters out of Goodstriker’s club off the Blood Reserve. The Goodstriker Memorial was capped off with a turkey supper for family and friends. There were special presentations to the rider, owner and trainer in the winner’s circle as well as to family and friends after the banquet.
Ivan Clark was a former jockey and trained horses with the RMTC, so it was a little fitting that his Memorial was won by Rocky Mountain Turf Club Stable’s Italian By Marriage. Finishing third was RMTC Stable’s He’s Italian. “I don’t believe Ivan ever rode for me but I do remember his riding all the time here in Lethbridge, and training as well with the RMTC. Ivan rode until he was 69,” says Gibb. “As for our win, those two Italian horses are brothers, but I always felt He’s Italian was better than the other one. I was surprised when Italian By Marriage won.”
While elated with two of his horses in the money in Ivan’s Memorial, Gibb was a little shocked with the one-time feature, the Bullys Futurity, a race that was on the program with eight horses. Then four were scratched – two of them from the RMTC Stable. Then, right out of the gate Teeplay, out of the one hole, reared, dumped its rider and the remaining three horses took off for their virtually private six furlong run, finally won by Ava’s Angel. Ava’s Angel was ridden by Shannon Beauregard, who also rode Port Protection, trained by Kelly Grieves, to a win in the sixth race, the Fillies Oaks.
“There were a number of scratches during Saturday’s card, the majority of them due to equine flu,” said Gibb. “As I understand it they are having the same problem in Edmonton. It’s something like human’s flu but it can’t be transmitted to humans. I guess the vet’s don’t know its cause or cure - just the same as doctors with humans.”
Friday night in the chill of a Fall evening, Marin Ortiz won three of the six races. But for fans the biggest win was in the sixth where Philip Clunis won aboard Dennis Oberholtzer’s Coconut Joe. Joe paid 29.00, 9.10 and 5.30 and the $1 super-tri of (Coconut Joe, Bambazonki, Coriandrum and All) 2-7.6-A paid $645.50. Coconut Joe is By Tiger Trap out of Sallie Dee by Corwyn and was bred at Circle Farms Ltd.
BEHIND THE STARTING GATE
There was a light rain at the start of Saturday’s card, but it quit by the third race... RMTC trainer Lyle Magnuson talking about his younger days as a saddle bronc rider and how his exploits used to scare the wits out of his mother... Trainer Jackie Smith’s recovery is well on its way after a serious arm and body injury after being kicked by a horse... Blood Reserve councillor Marcel Weaselhead on hand Sunday to watch his brother Godfrey’s horses run... In Saturday’s second race, Neville Stephenson aboard Lady Amelia from Rollingson Racing Stables engineered one of the most impressive runaways of the Fall, winning by almost the entire stretch... In the eighth race Saturday the $1 superfecta, with the 8-7-1-6 horses, paid $861.05... The scheduled Canadian Paint Championship paintings by Radford Blackrider of the Blackfoot Confederacy was cancelled... There were dozens of 4H kids on hand for Sunday’s card... It was cold Sunday and most race-goers wore layers of clothes... The final race weekend of the year will be this Saturday and Sunday – Just go away snow!