The story of Omar’s Gift is the stuff that legends are made of!
There was a time when most everyone knew the story of Omar’s Gift, but not so much any more, and as your historian, that’s where I come in, to make sure that legendary tales like this one are not forgotten, but instead are told, and re-told, so they live on through the ages.
As for Omar’s Gift, I can’t think of a better time to share her story, with the 84th running of Winnipeg Futurity going to post on Saturday, September 7. Who knew? The Futurity is believed to be the oldest continuously run stakes event in western Canada.
The players in our story are a 2-year-old light bay filly named Omar’s Gift, racing icon Robert James Speers, and the man who would go on to become the first general manager of Assiniboia Downs, Alexander Gardner “Scotty” Kennedy.
Picture the scene if you will. One cool April morning in 1942, 32-year-old Scotty Kennedy, big-time horse racing enthusiast and Secretary of the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Football Club, and Robert James Speers, the Father of Racing in western Canada, were leaning on the rail at old Whittier Park race track in St. Boniface watching early morning workouts.
The subject of their attention was a group of 2-year-olds from Speers’ Whittier Park Stock Farm that were breezing that morning. The cunning Speers asked Kennedy if he saw anything he liked. Kennedy pondered a moment and pointed to a filly. Seizing the opportunity, Speers told Kennedy the horse was his for all of the money he had in his pockets.
The story goes that Kennedy had been in an all-night crap game and had been cleaned out and all he was carrying that morning was a grand total of 37 cents! Speers, true to his word took the cash and Kennedy had himself a horse.
On the face of it, this sounds like a strange transaction, but Speers knew all too well what he was doing. He desperately wanted Scotty in the racing business and what better way to achieve this goal than to “sell” him a young and talented Omar’s Gift!
And so it was that morning in April 1942 that A. G. “Scotty” Kennedy found himself in the horse racing business, a passion that would stay with him his entire life!
Later that summer, Kennedy's speedy filly won the 13th running of the Winnipeg Futurity which was at the time a $2,000 added stakes race. Needless to say, Kenedy received a handsome return on his 37 cent investment.
But the happy tale doesn’t end with Omar’s Gift winning the Futurity. In 1943 she was retired to the breeding shed and her first foal, a fine filly named Victory Gift would go on to win the 1948 Canadian Derby, which back in the day was run at Polo Park race track.
Victory Gift would in turn have a colt of her own named Bocage, who would win the Manitoba Derby in 1960. So as you can see, Omar’s Gift was a success on and off the race track, all for the bargain basement price of … yes, 37 cents.
Stories like this one just don’t happen anymore, do they? And that’s why we must keep these legends alive! Share the tale of Omar’s Gift with a friend, so her story lives on, even though all associated with it passed on decades ago!