Kalfaari – The Peoples’ Horse


Winnipeg Free Press Trophy

Winnipeg Free Press Trophy

People who had never been to the track before came just to see him

by Bob
This week’s featured stakes race is the 53rd running of the $30,000 Free Press Stakes. The Free Press, run on Father's Day Sunday, June 16, is the first major stakes race for 3-year-olds and up.

The Winnipeg Free Press Trophy (see photo) was presented to the Downs in 1960 for an annual competition. In the early years the race was a marathon event, with the inaugural running of the race contested over what might still be “Canada’s Longest Race” at 2 ¼-miles.

Now a six furlong sprint championship, the Free Press has featured some of the finest horses ever to run at the Downs including three-time winner PC’s Bluff, two-time winner Smoky Cinder and other notables such as Monsoon Rain, Nephrite and the late Bert Blake’s Nifty.

Kalfaari wins June 15, 2003 Free Press Stakes

Kalfaari. Winner's Circle. June 15, 2003. Free Press Stakes.

This week’s honouree is a two-time winner of the race (2002, 2003), Clint Willson’s Kalfaari.

Federico Tesio said that “A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character.

Kalfaari is one of the all-time greats at Assiniboia Downs, and he was definitely a fan favourite. He had an exceptional set of lungs, a huge heart and tons of character. As impressive as his lifetime stats are: 24 starts in five short years of racing in which he collected 15 wins, three seconds and two third place finishes with earnings of $232,964; what people remember most about him is his character.

On the one hand he was a fierce competitor; famous for taunting his opponents in the drive to the wire, yet he was as tame as could be around children, who would gather to feed him carrots!

And who could forget the 2001 racing season when the 4-year old Kalfaari and Ed Pawluk’s 7-year old Smoky Cinder duked it out in the R. J. Speers, Wheat City and Free Press, with a slight edge going to Smoky, but we’ll leave his story for another day.

Kalfaari’s last race at our west-end oval came on June 15, 2003 in the Free Press Stakes, and the outcome of that race you ask? A win of course!

In the end, which came much too soon in May 2004, Kalfaari’s huge heart gave out on him, but his accolades still echo. Gary Danelson called him “special”. Darren Dunn said that he was the peoples’ horse at the Downs. Owner Clint Willson described him as if he were a member of his family. And trainer Jared Brown thought it would be long time before we ever saw another like him.

Kalfaari was indeed a rare and special horse. He had the charisma and ability to draw people to the track. Race fans adopted him as their own and people who had never been to the races before came just to see…

“The Peoples’ Horse.”

Kalfaari gest the best of Smoky Cinder in the 2001 Wheat City

Kalfaari gets the best of Smoky Cinder in the 2001 Wheat City

3 Responses

  1. Large Mac

    Thanks Bob for the memories of Kalfaari. He was a neat horse!

    I’m wondering if you have any records of some horses I remember from the late sixties/early seventies. I was about 11 years old and my older brother used to take me to the track. I have vague recollections of a few horses from that era but three stand out in my memory. Rushin’Red, Lea’s Lightning and Shamrock Field. I can remember Shamrock Field winning one of those marathon races for John Gray, and I remember that Lea’s Lightning was one of those horses that dropped way back and then came flying with a big run. I think Rushin Red belonged to Danelson but I certainly could be wrong. Do you have anything at all?

    • Bob Gates

      Thanks for your interest and comments. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but this took a little bit of digging! Here’s what I was able to find:

      Lea’s Lightning was foaled in 1962 and his career spanned from 1965 to 1974 – he raced locally from 1968 to 1970. You’re right, he loved to go a distance of ground as did Shamrock Field and Rushin’ Red. In fact I found a few races where all three were entered in the same race. Gary Danelson told me that he owned Lea’s L. for a short time in 1969 but sold him sometime later during the meet.

      Rushin’ Red was foaled in 1965 and his career spanned from 1967 to 1973 – he raced locally from 1969 to 1971. He was another good route horse. In 1970 he was entered in the five-part marathon series and finished with one win, three seconds and a third for then owner E. Wasson who had claimed him in July 1969. So strong were his route races that he was even entered in the Speers Handicap in 1971, but he was a little over his head in that race and finished up the track.

      Shamrock Field was foaled in 1964 and ran locally from 1969 to 1971. You’re right, he was owned and trained by John Gray of Sioux City Iowa for most of his career. In 1969 Shamrock Field won the Free Press Purse – it was his fourth win of the meet. However, 1970 and 1971 were pretty lean years for the bay gelding.

      Great memories and thanks for sharing!


    • Bob Gates

      Please check out my history piece for this week on Body Works. I will be posting a past performance chart for each of your horses. Once again, thank you for your interest!


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