by Bob Gates
Much has been written about the president and founder of K-tel International since his unexpected death on April 27, 2016.
Today we leave the world of the Miracle Brush, Veg-O-Matic, Teflon Fry Pan, Patty Stacker and records like "Hooked on Classics" and pay tribute to Phil Kives, the horseman.
Kives, owner and breeder of race horses in Manitoba for four decades, has left an incredible void in the local horse racing scene. Under his leadership, K5 Stable was a key component of the thoroughbred breeding industry in Manitoba.
How do you measure the value of his contributions to horse racing? The short and honest answer is, you can't, and I'm not even going to try.
Kives was a perennial leading owner and top breeder at Assiniboia Downs whose orange and black silks with K5 emblazoned on the back were easily recognizable. The stable was known as K4 (Phil, Ellie, Kelly and Samantha) until 1982, when it was changed to K5, after son Daniel joined the Kives clan.
Kives' K5 stable was often considered the most powerful stable on the grounds. K5 horses made the headlines when they won, and because they were expected to win, they also made headlines when they lost.
I'm told that there was many a day when K-tel business was put on hold while Kives dealt with "more pressing" horse racing business. Why? Because racing was his passion. Kives loved the ponies.
He hadn't been in racing long when the opportunity to acquire Jim and Hazel Wright's El Mingo Farm, located just north of the race track, presented itself. K5 Farm was born and Kives was into horse racing and breeding in a huge way.
One thing is for certain, you can't talk about Phil Kives and horse racing without mentioning the late great trainer, Don Gray. Gray was Kives' first trainer. A mutual respect grew between the two and after Don's untimely passing in 1993, Kives admitted to being a "little lost" without him. Kives used the services of various trainers in the years that followed, in search of another "Don Gray", but never could find another like him.
Gray didn't get it right all the time and neither did Kives, but together they were a formidable team. Phil had a great deal of respect for Gray and the two got along well. Don Gray was an honourable man who spoke the truth, and that worked well for Kives.
Let's take a look at some K5 stars from the past.
Multiple stakes winner Island Fling was Kives' first horse. And he was a good one! Island Fling's name appears in the track record books three times. In 1977 he set the record for 1 3/8-miles and on June 11, 1978, he set the new mark for seven furlongs in 1:23 4/5. He then broke that record a couple of weeks later on June 24, when he ran the distance in 1:23 3/5.
Intercontinent was a graded stakes placed multiple stakes winner and he was one of, if not the best horse, Kives ever sent to post. Intercontinent, Northern Spike, and Rangatira own the distinction of having their names appear the most on the list of track records at the Downs, having set or equaled track records on four occasions. But the edge here goes to Intercontinent as the all-time record maker at the Downs, as he set four records. Northern Spike set three and equaled another and Rangatira set two records and equaled records on two other occasions.
Intercontinent could go long or short, but was at his best in sprints, and he was a far better horse on a fast track than he was in the mud. And who could forget his classic duels with Elman Guttormson’s Major Enterprise in 1981. Intercontinent and the Major ran one-two that year on four occasions, with Intercontinent finding the wire first each time.
Admiration, or the "runner from down under" as I like to call her, was a nice mare that Kives purchased in Australia. On July 22, 1983, while in foal to Island Fling, she set a track record for about seven furlongs. Her time of 1:24 1/5 bettered the previous mark of stablemate Intercontinent by a fifth of a second. On August 31, 1983, in the final race of her career, she was five months in foal to Island Fling and still finished second in the Duchess Handicap. Quite an accomplishment!
Here is a sampling of a few of the many stakes races K5 horses have won over the years.
Manitoba Derby - 2 wins:
Plenty Chilly 1991
Gold Cup - 8 wins:
Island Fling 1977 & 1979
Proven Reserve 1986
Plenty Chilly 1993 & 1995
Sir Pucker 2002 & 2003
R. James Speers - 6 wins:
Island Fling 1977 & 1978
Texas Scout 1980
Sir Pucker 2002
Northern Affair 2003
Winnipeg Futurity - 3 wins:
Only Dreaming 1996
Corporate Shuffle 2000
Ness Gadoll 2001
Matron - 5 wins:
Irish Dream 1983
Coral Prospect 1989 & 1990
Body Works 1992
Jack Hardy - 2 wins:
Only Dreaming 1997
Supreme Rush 2015
The world famous colt Goldencents participated in two of the three legs of the famed Triple Crown, and won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile twice. By now everyone knows that Goldencents’ mom was none other than K5's Manitoba-bred Golden Works, who in turn was out of K5's Manitoba-bred Body Works. Body Works was a bay goddess with a resume that was as impressive as her looks.
Throw into the mix other K5 charges like Bold Viscount, Diggar's Haunt, Golden Stripe, Rockcliffe, Sir Officer and Bishairt and you've got yourself a stable of true bluebloods!
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the K5 boss in February 2013. He said that he had named one of his horses after his daughters Kelly and Samantha. "Kellsam" enjoyed moderate success on the track, but Kives decided it wasn't such a good idea to name a race horse after family members. In his mind there was a too much pressure for the horse's performance to meet the family's expectations.
Kives basic philosophy on managing his stable?
"Never waste time and money on horses that don't win."
On April 27, 2016 at 3:45 p.m. Kives' executive assistant, Shelley Colquhoun delivered the sad news. Philip Kives had lost the good fight. The Kives are deeply private people and news of his illness had only been shared with a select few, so his sudden passing came as a surprise to most. Shelley had worked directly for him for 30 years and that says a lot.
Later that day I spoke with K5 Farm manager Leona Stahl, a lady who had worked for Kives for 16 years. Leona struggled to describe the loss and explained how she had received calls and texts from people all over North America that Kives knew from the horse racing world.
The son of Kiva and Lily Kives, husband of Ellie and father of Samantha, Kelly and Daniel is gone. This week we pause and reflect on the many memories of Philip Kives, the Master of K5 Stables…
Forever missed, always remembered.