The weather did not cooperate on opening day at Rocky Mountain Turf Club as there was snow in the air and heavy jackets were a necessity to be outside watching the races. However, indoors was absolutely jammed on all levels. The fifth floor was predominantly occupied by the famous Red-Hat ladies who made their annual pilgrimage of over two hundred in attendance for the Kentucky Derby.
The live racing action was hot and heavy with eight live races on the card.
The first two races were quarter-horse maiden trials and first-time starter, "You Have No Equal", trained by William Leech pulled off the upset just edging out Bucky Stockwell's, "This Buds For You". Stockwell gained redemption in the second leg of the trials with, "Walters Cartel", putting together the fastest time of the day in the trials.
The highlight race for thoroughbreds was race seven, when long-time superstar, "General Day", trained by Lyle Magnuson, battled against former Alberta Bred horse of the year, "Why Not Live", trained by Nellie Pigeau. The two horses locked up from the time the gate opened, drew away from the rest of the field and battled right to the wire with, "Why Not Live", winning in a photo.
It was nice to see the return of Gail McConaghie back in the training game at Rocky Mountain Turf Club, who had an impressive second-place finish with, "Intentional Bench" in a maiden race.
Gail has to stop and think about it when asked when she first became involved in horse racing. It turns out 1988 is the year she lands one when she was an assistant for the legendary Stan Marks (not a bad way to learn the horse racing game). Gail worked with Stan and raced in Lethbridge and the infamous Trout Springs. She worked for Stan for a couple of years and then bought some of her own horses and go her trainers license. Her first year she was fortunate enough to win a couple of stakes races with both quarter horses and thoroughbreds. Gail laughs and says she thought, "This is pretty easy". She now says that she understands the learning never stops, you learn new things every day.
Gail now prefers to race in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie. She is extremely grateful to have her son, Dillon, involved. Dillon handles horses, cleaning stalls, tacking and anything else that Gail needs him to do.
Gail has no doubt that his is what she is meant to do. She loves the people in the back stretch and has a tremendous passion for the horses she trains, and all other horses. Gail was off from training for a couple of years and then last year she came back to work with Garry Marks to continue her longstanding connection with the Marks.
Getting back into the training this year she says she is happy again. Gail and Bill Tucker have worked together before and she has a number of horses with Bill again this year. Bill has his own stud, " Battle Cat ", who Gail feels is one of the most underestimated studs and Alberta and she is looking forward to bringing them to their optimum potential. She has three non starters and has her work cut out for her, but is truly thrilled about the possibilities. A horse to watch for is, "T.S. Stolan", who Gail owns with Bill Tucker, and has shown great potential so far this spring.
Gail says that after over thirty years of being involved in racing she has absolutely no regrets. She gets a kick out of sitting with the eclectic grouping of people that horse racing attracts. From millionaires to grooms, there is one common ground and that is the horse. Gail says that people have no idea how well the horses are treated. Her number one goal everyday is the health and safety of the horse and to understand every horse she trains. She marvels at how unique every horse is and how distinct each personality is.
We welcome all back to Rocky Mountain Turf Club for the start of the spring meet. As always, there will be some incredible racing action and thrills for all.