By Bob Gates / Photos courtesy Assiniboia Downs
If you haven’t already noticed, Assiniboia Downs has gone to great lengths to make available to its patrons a historical display that commemorates more than a century of horse racing in Winnipeg.
The display’s name “Racing Through Time.”
Located just inside the front doors to the grandstand where the old turnstiles once stood is now an area dedicated to remembering our horse racing past.
The display includes a “Wall of Champions” that features framed photos of the jockeys who have won the leading jockey title at the Downs since 1958. These riders represent the best the Downs had to offer from its jockey colony over the last 60 years. Included in the array of photos are three record setting saddlesmiths:
Ken Hendricks: All-Time Leading Jockey – 1,666 wins
Bobby Stewart: Most season titles – 6
Irwin Driedger: Most wins in a single season – 214 in 1981
The jockey photos are complemented by blockmounts of the trainers who have won the seasonal titles dating back to the Downs first season in 1958. Sixty years of trainer history reveals the following record holders:
Gary Danelson: All-Time Leading Trainer – 1204 wins
Ardell Sayler: Most season titles – 12
Tom Dodds: Most wins in a single season – 78 in 1990
Several photos, newspaper articles and posters also share space on the Wall of Champions. Historical memories of River Park, Whittier Park, Polo Park and the early days of Assiniboia Downs hang side by side as a tribute to the past.
In the center of the floor are the two trophy cases that were moved from their home in the second floor clubhouse so that they could take their rightful place among the racing artifacts. The “star” attractions being the silverware that celebrates 209 years of winners:
The Winnipeg Futurity – 2018 marks its 89th running
The Gold Cup – 61st running
The R.J. Speers Memorial – 59th running
And then we come to the three history cases, two anchored by a special cooler blanket and the other an oil painting of a perennial Downs favourite, Major Enterprise.
1948 Canadian Derby:
This blanket was won by Scotty Kennedy’s filly Victory Gift back when the Canadian Derby was run at old Polo Park. Photos in this case include icon Robert James Speers, R. J. Bob Watt and our own Albert Edward Blake. Those who knew the ever-modest Blake know how much he would have hated being singled out for his contribution to racing over the years.
1969 Manitoba Derby:
The cooler blanket of Fire N Desire is truly a treasure and found its way back to the Downs after many years in exile in Ontario. Other jewels in this case include photos of: the Queen from the 1970 Manitoba Centennial Derby; Merry’s Jay – the first Manitoba bred to win the Manitoba Derby; and jockey Bobby Stewart in the paddock at Churchill Downs on his mount Ocean Roar in the 1969 Kentucky Derby.
1966 Major Enterprise:
The painting of "The Major" is a recent addition to our historical display. Also featured are tributes to the late great trainer Don Gray and the Downs’ All-Time Leading Trainer, Gary Danelson. Another find from the past is the framed shoes from Gold Ern who won the first race at the Downs on June 10, 1958.
And tucked away behind guest services is the cooler blanket belonging to the 1981 winner of the Manitoba Stakes, Will Scoot Away, which adorns “Thunder.”
The best way to get a proper appreciation for the various memorabilia is to check it out! The Racing Through Time display is available for your viewing pleasure every day, all year long.
Please drop by and ready yourself to be transported back in time. Hope you enjoy the trip!