Monday, 06 May 2013 12:23

So you think racing is new to Southern Alberta

Written by Garry Allison - Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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Here we are, back at Whoop-Up Downs for another Rocky Mountain Turf Club Spring Meet.

The Spring Meet will run from May 4-5 through June 29-30 and then the RMTC moves on to the historic July 1 Millarville meet. Post time each weekend is 1:30 p.m. But, in case you think racing is a new venture here in the south, think again. "Back when Johnny Longden was starting to ride Taber had racing, but it was mostly novelty racing," said Ted Allen.

"Johnny used to Roman ride and he and a girl named Fay Hall were the best around. They always had a rodeo along with the racing, and the grounds then were about a hundred or so yards west of the Taber Sugar Factory.

"The farmers were into horses in a big way and they often would race for $15 purses during the rodeo. Most of those horses were Arabian crosses. John Furman wanted to race farm work horses, but when tractors came in he went into other types of horses, and brought in two studs from Europe. I don't know though that he planned to seriously go into horse racing." Whatever horse racing there was at Taber during the pre-war years Ted said it was only two or three days, as part of the rodeo, with very little interest. After World War II there was sporadic interest in racing at Taber, with the race track on 50th Street and "something like 36th Avenue. It wasn't too far from the old water tower.

"I wouldn't imagine it could be called racing at all; lots of times there were only 25 people or so involved." In 1922, the largest crowds ever - for the era at least - took in the Taber rodeo and race meet and witnessed a superb half mile run. J.R. Watt of Claresholm saw his fine horse, Lady Carr, win by a length over Lizzie, the Overton mare. A Meeks brothers horse ran third. Lady Carr and Overton ran neck and neck but in the end Lady Carr edged home first, despite her rider being seven pounds heavier. Along with the horse races a large number of shares were sold in the racing association on the strength of the strong weekend showing.

J.R. Watt was not only a leading horseman of the era, but led the way in the boardroom as well. Around the mid 1960s Bob Patterson, Gordon Hall and Andy Andrews became involved in developing horse racing.

"I was on the Taber rodeo committee when we got parimutuel betting, I think about 1966, the year Johnny Longden came back to visit Taber," said the late Bob Patterson, a long-time Taborite. "Andy (Andrews) and I took a course on running the parimutuels.

"Betty Meyers looked after the mutuels and we had a little shed built on the northwest corner of the grandstand, with four windows on the race track side. As well, I do know I had to put a water tank on the back of my truck so we could water the race track. But you know, racing never did catch on in Taber. The '60s were probably the last years for racing." In that highly touted 1966 race meet Charlie Ivins of Cardston saw his horse, Custus Choice, take the first heat of the two-year-old futurity, with Jack Trout in the irons. The second heat went to Moore Print, guided by Mitch Tussain and owned by Merle Monroe of Cut Bank, Montana.

A 400-yard Quarter horse sprint, with a $195 purse, went to Oh Jack, owned by Douglas Matier with Wade Meyer in the irons. On the longer side, the One Mile Open, with a purse of $120, went to Smole Shadow, owned by Rulon Leavitt of Glenwood, with female rider Marie Blood in the saddle. The Half Mile Open was taken by Mrs. Pat Carpenter of Lethbridge as a young Pinky McDonald brought home Alberta Duster to take the $210 purse. Art Marks of Lomond saw his Spaniard's Bay, with Garry Marks aboard win the Seven-eighths of a Mile Open, and earn the $135 purse. The $195 purse in the Five-eighths Mile Open went to Musing Spy, owned by Stan and J. Marks, of Lomond, with Garry Marks in the irons.

The big Mile and an eighth Open was taken by Little Wazita, owned by Aresman Brothers of Arrowwood, with a top female rider of the day, Barbara Aresman aboard. The purse was $135. Little Wazita so fascinated Andy Andrew that he went to great lengths to purchase those horse.


Read 2551 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 21:54