Monday, 26 May 2014 00:00

RMTC Wall of Fame

Written by Garry Allison - Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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The Rocky Mountain Turf Club Wall of Fame is located in Bully's, in the Royal Ascot Betting Parlor. The idea has been to keep adding to the Wall for years to come.

Among those honoured thus far are Ken Tailfeathers, a trainer and horse owner from the Kainai Nation who was a long-time supporter of racing in Lethbridge. Ken's horses were regular winners on the Whoop-Up Downs track.

Naturally the great jockey Johnny Longden, who got his start on the bush tracks of southern Alberta, is on the Wall, along with equally great George "The Iceman" Woolf. Both made indelible marks in local and international racing circles.

Mel Depew is also among the early horsemen honoured. He was a breeder and trainer and his great hose Snowball won the Raymond Derby on five occasions.

Bill West was a trainer and owner of race horses in Lethbridge and former director of racing when the Lethbridge and District Exhibition Board operated the track before RMTC Inc. took over the reins. Also on the Wall from the Lethbridge Exhibition is Andy Andrews, who like West ran a number of top horses and had an eye towards the improvement of the sport.

Among the early Wall inductees were Ken and Anne Buxton, Anne was the first licensed female jockey in the sport within Alberta and both she and Ken were supporters of the early small town weekend race meets. Ken was a champion outrider at the Calgary Stampede a number of times and was a top breeder and trainer of quality race horses for more than a century.

The Wiest family, originally from the Enchant area, including Phil and wife Caroline, Rick Wiest and brothers John and Reg are on the Wall. It was Phil Wiest the great Don McBeth an opportunity to ride and his first win on the Lethbridge track.

Mel Depew and his great horse Lucky Diamond, who had its early starts in Raymond and Lethbridge, left a lasting impression on the A circuit in Calgary as well, with a win in the Stampede Futurity. Both have been recognized. The late Mahlon Bourne, deceased at the time of his induction, and likely looking on from the other side, saw one of his horses win a race in his honor the day he was inducted into the Wall of Fame room. The great trainer and owner, whose family is and was also deeply involved in horse racing, including son Elijah, a legendary jockey on the Whoop-Up track, was a longtime fixture at Whoop-Up Downs.

In 2007 RMTC CEO Max Gibb said: "I felt it was time we honoured some of the people we have been overlooking the past few years, to go along with the earlier greats. These four men and families are certainly worthy of the Wall and should have been officially named to it years ago.

Its now time we honoured them." Being honoured was Dale "Digger" Moretensen, who raced top horses at the RMTC for years and was also an integral behind-the-scenes worker for the betterment of horse racing. A former leading trainer, Digger had well over 200 wins.

 At the same time Ed Calf Robe and his family from the Siksika Nation were honoured. Ed has supported Lethbridge horse racing for more than 40 years and now his son carries on the Calf Robe tradition. Ed worked his way from a groom to a trainer and owner to a retiree, but he still involved in the sport. He remains involved with the family race horses at Whoop-Up Downs.

Stan Marks and his family were named to the Wall as well. Stan, now 86, is still running and winning with his horses and is a strong presence in the RMTC association. Stan, with more than 55 years in the sports, has always said: "Just to win a big Allowance or Stake race here in Lethbridge is good enough for me, that's my Kentucky Derby. I like to go into a place, run my horses, and when I leave have people say, 'holy man, he did pretty well.'"

The Meeks family were some of the first men to import Kentucky Thoroughbreds into southern Alberta. They bred two of the all time great prairie race horses, Silent Messenger and Silent Partner. Their horses ran in the early days of the sport and two famous jockeys started their careers with the Meeks boys, George Woolf and Johnny Longden James Meeks was famous all over North America for his shrewd eye in breeding and expertise in training Thoroughbred horses. Ted Meeks had a son and three grandsons follow the family's racing tradition.Son Glen, and his son Terry were also prominent in racing circles while grandsons Darcy and Jim Ralph are involved in training and raising their own race horses.

Another grandson, Scott Dahl, was a top jockey on the Calgary and Lethbridge tracks and is now a steward in Lethbridge. Ted's sister LaVon married Mel Depew, another great horseman, and their son Jim Meeks Depew is a top trainer a Whoop-Up Downs today.

Cliff Miyashiro was a stalwart of the RMTC at Whoop-Up Downs since 1993, but his career, and his passion, extended back 29 years before his retirement at the end of the Spring Meet, at age 48. Cliff got his first chance to race ride, with the likes of Norn Jewell, Peter McAleney and Freddie Tobacco, all of whom have ridden in Lethbridge. Cliff rode the bush tracks of the west as well, including Trout Springs, Millarville, Trochu, Duck Lake, Sask, and Maidstone. Wilf McDougall was the first president of the Alberta Community Horse Racing Association, and has a history in horse racing going back to when he was a jockey, at age 12. "Before I went off to play hockey, my Uncle Ernie Grier and I had race horses and I'd ride them," says Wilf. "I rode at Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod and Carmangay. We ran on the Blood Reserve, when the track and rodeo grounds used to be where the Senator Gladstone Hall is now. I was a jockey for about four or five years." Wilf has had some good horses, but he says the best he ever had was, I Hate Music.

Bob Merluk has been part of the Whoop-Up Downs horse racing scene since the 1970s - except for a few years sabbatical - and has been the Paddock Judge for the RMTC since its inception nine years ago. Bob, who started his racing career at Hastings Park in Vancouver where he shoed horses for 10 years, is also a farrier at Whoop-Up Downs.

Lee and Bernice Haynes first became involved in horse racing in the 1950s, when Lee was running horses and farming about five miles north of the Taber Sugar Factory. The couple had a family of six, most of whom became active in the sport. One daughter, Sandra, is married to Harold Barroby, who has been the leading trainer in Vancouver five or six times. Son Rod started out as a jockey and moved on to become a top Alberta trainer. He's been in the business 41 years and has been the leading trainer on the Edmonton track a number of times, with the assistance of his wife Star, and now Rod's son Chase is involved with his dad. Lee's son Ryan is the track photographer at Northlands, for both harness and Thoroughbred racing.

Another member of the Haynes family, cousin Pinky MacDonald, was a top jockey in Alberta for a while and then turned his skills to training on the A Circuit

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