Monday, 16 June 2014 00:00

Pete Dubois

Written by Garry Allison - Rocky Mountain Turf Club
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It is fair to say Pete Dubois' life centres around the race track. He and wife Erna, whom he married in 1964, live in their trailer at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club from April through October, with a two month break in July and August for the race meet at Grande Prairie.

"I'm just plain happy in these, what are supposed to be my retirement years," the grandfather of three said with a smile. "Really, we run horses on the weekend as a hobby." The racing bug bit Pete back when he was in Grade 8, working one summer with Jim Munro, who passed away this May, "I liked horses all my life," Pete said. "Jim was running horses in Raymond - Overdrive and Jen's Pet - when I first started with him. After Jim, I got involved with the Buxtons, Anne and Ken, who passed away last September, and its really their fault I'm still involved." As a kid growing up on the Cluny Reservation, where his father worked for the Oblate priests, Pete was more interested in horses than school. He preferred reading about track people like Johnny Longden rather than reading school books. Pete attended school in nearby Cluny, not at the Crowfoot School on the reservation, "though when there was a blizzard or something like that I did go to the Indian school for a few days; my parents didn't want to see me miss.

"I ended up with part of my Grade 11. When I was in school I often missed exams because I was at the track, but one of my favourite teachers always let me write them when I returned.

However, she could see my education wasn't going anywhere, at least in the classroom." On the racetrack however, Pete was learning all there was to know.

"I was probably about 13 or 14 when I was hanging around Munro and I was about 15 when I was with Ken and Anne, and still trying to go to school." Pete tried his hand at being a jockey, a dream of most smaller boys who loved race horses.

He pursued that dream for about two years with the Buxtons, riding on the B tracks. He did go up to the A circuit at Calgary for a while but found weight to be his number one problem. Apprentice jockeys were tipping the scales at 100 pounds and the great Jim Fitzsimmons, the toast of the circuit, weighed in at 104 - both too heavy for the young Pete.

"In those days (the 1950s) horse racing on the B tracks was a way of life," said Pete, born in 1941 at St. Paul, Ab. "The Buxtons had a small ranch bear Gleichen and basically they have dealt with horses, of all types, all their lives. Most horse racing people of the day would fight to get their crops in and then harvested, and in between they's spend their weekends at the small B tracks. My first race meet was at Lake McGregor (also known as Milo)." The horsemen would move on each weekend, to a meet at Millarville, Raymond, Cardston, Magrath, Stettler and so on, simply enjoying racing their horses. In those days the weekend race meet also likely tied into a small fair, often with a rodeo and some with chuckwagon races. Besides race riding Pete tried his hand at bronc riding: "I guess you always think you're pretty good," he laughed.

Pete started at the bottom of the racing world, mucking stalls, then feeding, watering, grooming and exercising horses, always aspiring to be a trainer. By age 17 he was in love with the race track. Oh, he tried other jobs, but always kept coming back to the track.

Pete even took a shot at Woodbine and Fort Erie down east in 1959 but was back in the west for the 1960 season. In 1962 he headed half way east, to Winnipeg, but was back in southern Alberta in 1963. A year later Pete and Erna were wed, brining a barrel racer into the horse-oriented Dubois family. Erna was soon busy ponying the race horses at the tracks, while Pete was busy training them.

"I left the track for a while to work the oil rigs near Brooks, but they soon shut down and I was back with the horses. I started to train in Lethbridge under Neil Cressman and then I went up to Calgary. I recall one good horse we bought off Morgan Heninger called Fort Hay, and it was then I was really stuck in the horse business. That when Spring I worked for Cressman I galloped horses for him and trained for him, but not with much success." Certainly his success was nothing compared to what he has been enjoying in this millennium, where he was the 2008 trainer of the year with the Thoroughbreds at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club.

Pete has been training horses in Lethbridge since the track's last days on the A circuit, when it only ran about 10 days a year. He was leasing his own training farm between High River and Okotoks for a spell, "and by 1976 we moved to Stavely, right up the road from the Buxtons at Granum.

"So there we were, back into horses big time again," Pete laughs. "From there things really snowballed and I've been coming to Lethbridge ever since." The couple feel their first really good horse was Alfa Dinero, which Pete trained for Jack Orr.

It was so good, they even raced him across the line at Portland.

One of the best tales of Pete's success and ability as a trainer was when he took a horse called Ding Dong Dandy, a reject of Bar None Stables which owner Lynn Chouinard saved at the last minute from a trip to the canners. Not only did Pete guide Ding Dong Dandy to great success in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, but the horse moved up to the A circuit and wound up running a close second in the Canadian Derby.

Pete has racked up numerous wins in Lethbridge, but few have pleased him more than his double victory's in the Rufus Goodstriker Memorial each Fall at the RMTC.

"I'm very proud of those wins," he said quietly.

He's also proud of his current champion Dubla Gold, making Pete and Erna the ones to beat at Whoop-Up Downs, as being among the very best.

But you won't hear Pete bragging, The personable trainer simply goes about his tasks each weekend, chatting with fans and fellow trainers, and enjoying the world of horse racing.

Read 2265 times Last modified on Monday, 16 June 2014 14:59