War veteran always had a special place in his heart for horses
Wendell Holmes Mustard was born near Gladstone, Manitoba on January 23, 1896 to Hugh and Catherine Mustard. He was destined to take over the family farm, but WWI would come first.
Mustard enlisted in 1916 and before long found himself with the 12th Canadian Field Ambulance Corps, where he spent most of his time driving a 20-mule team in Europe. If the phrase “20-mule team” sounds familiar, you probably remember the old TV show Death Valley Days, hosted by Ronald Reagan and sponsored by Borax in the mid 1960s.
Mustard was a life-long lover of all animals, but horses always had a special place in his heart, as did the sport of horse racing. He got his start in the mid 1920s, racing in the “bushes” at fairs in rural Manitoba. In 1951 he brought his salmon coloured silks with the red star on the back to Polo Park. Mustard’s first horse on the old western circuit was Beverley Lady and he purchased her from noted horseman Ivan Dowler, who would go on to achieve his own fame in the horse racing business.
The absence of formal records makes statements of distinction difficult to support, but it is generally believed that Mustard had one of, if not the longest consecutive careers as an owner/trainer of thoroughbreds at Winnipeg racetracks from 1951 at old Polo Park to the time of his death in 1986 at Assiniboia Downs.
Most of the Mustard horses were raised on the family farm in Gladstone. A few of note include Broad Zone, Golden Stream and Mr. Campanini, but there were many more.
- Broad Zone won the 2¼-mile Free Press Handicap in 1961.
- Mr. Campanini became an Olympic jumper with the American Equestrian Team.
- Golden Stream combined with Cecil Filby’s Scotty K for a record-setting $2,347.90 daily double in 1967.
Scotty K, by the way, was named for Downs’ General Manager, Scotty Kennedy.
People I spoke with remembered Mr. Mustard fondly and described him as a “nice man” who was quiet and well-respected. During the racing season, he and his wife Jessie lived in their tack room and “didn’t have an enemy in the world.”
The Mustard’s raised four sons, Wendell Jr. Hugh, Donald and Doug. A daughter, Cathy, died in infancy.
In 1986 Mustard was named an honourary steward by The Manitoba Horse Racing Commission, joining former racing Commissioners Sydney Halter and Hugh Macdonald, former Downs’ owner Jack Hardy and former trainer Bob Watt -- definitely some exclusive company!
Son Doug and wife Judy have taken the reins of the family farm, which was deemed a “Centennial Farm,” having been in the Mustard family for more than 100 years. The couple has two children, son Carman and daughter Heather.
Doug is hopeful that Carman (named after former Downs’ all-time leading trainer Carman “Don” Gray) will follow in his footsteps and keep the Mustard name alive in the racing business for yet another generation.
In my conversations with Doug, you could sense the respect he had for his Dad, a small grain farmer who wasn’t afraid of hard work. Doug said that there was nothing extra special about the farm. He explained that it was a typical family farm that you would find on every quarter section back in the day.
Doug said that nothing seemed to faze his Dad, and that he had heard stories about him driving his team of mules through the midst of gunfire in WWI, not disturbed by what was going on around him. His Dad told him that he was never afraid of being shot, he just didn’t want to lose one of his mules!
When Doug was born his Dad was 48. It was clear when speaking with him that he had a great love and respect for his Dad, a rare and special bond, something out of the ordinary.
“He was a kind man who loved life,” said Doug.
And the horses knew it.
Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 31, 2013