The month of June has special significance for me. Four of the most important women in my life celebrate birthdays in the month of "leaves and roses," my wife, Kathy, our daughter, Deena, the cat, Kopy Kat and the "other" woman in my life. Yes, you heard it right, the other woman.
This mystery woman turns 57 this year and is starting to show the wear and tear of her years on what used to be the outskirts of Winnipeg. Of course, I'm talking about Assiniboia Downs.
The fact is I'm crazy about the old girl and have been since I started coming to the Downs with my folks in the early '60s. Not sure how to explain it, but there is a certain mix of nostalgia and majesty in the now dated grandstand.
Truth of the matter is I have had a life-long crush on the facility that once boasted it was "Western Canada's finest track."
Recently a Downs' staffer "caught" me taking a photograph of the door that is located behind the ticket sellers on the west wall of the main floor grandstand. This doorway takes you to the offices below. On it, you can still read the original lettering "Employees Only". I'm pretty sure that the staffer who saw me wondered about my choice of subject for that photograph.
The door and everything around it will be 60-years-old in a couple of years, but as I took the photo you could imagine Jack Hardy or Scotty Kennedy rushing to the offices below to attend to some urgent matter. This door is as much a part of the Downs' history as most anything on the grounds!
The building certainly isn't as isolated as it was back in 1958. At that point there wasn't a whole lot on either side of the perimeter. Things are starting to get a little crowded out here now, in the 3900 block of Portage Avenue, or if you prefer, the Trans-Canada Highway.
This year the Downs celebrates its "birthday week" from June 10 to 13 with giveaways, birthday cake, food and merchandise specials, all of which will be available Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
On Wednesday be sure to pick up the second card in the Manitoba Derby All-Star Collector Card Series, while they last. Balooga Bull was on the first card. Who will grace the second card in the five card set?
Wednesday will also feature a historical photo display in the front lobby by guest services. The display includes photographs of the grandstand as it appeared through the years, as well as photos of some of your favourite thoroughbreds from years gone by, including:
15 Years Ago – July 17, 2000:
Manitoba-bred Fancy As, who won $670,092 in the course of his career.
30 Years Ago – May 20, 1985:
Robert Mitchell and Bert Blake's Nifty or the "French horse" as Mr. Blake liked to call him.
35 Years Ago – September 3, 1980:
Multiple track record breaker Intercontinent.
45 Years Ago – May 9, 1970:
Another multiple record breaker, Rangatira.
50 Years Ago – July 31, 1965:
Gary Danelson's Texas Colonel's win photo, but in this case history was made by Mid Strome, the horse who finished second and paid a whopping $242 to place! That record still stands.
55 Years Ago - June 29, 1960:
Royal Ghost, with six-time leading jockey Bobby Stewart in the irons for the first win of his career.
Plus more flashbacks that are sure to bring back pleasant memories!
Come out this week and help us celebrate our 57th birthday and stop by on the evening of Wednesday June 10 to take a look at the photo display. There were always scads of people attending the races back then. Who knows, you might even spot yourself in the background of one of the shots.
Happy 57th Birthday Assiniboia Downs! And thank you so much for being you.
My "other" woman.