by Bob Gates
Horses that know how to win are the most revered in the sport of horse racing. Every owner, trainer, jockey and groom wants one -- a horse that knows where the wire is and lays it down to get there when it counts, every time, with no regard for the odds -- tote board or otherwise. They find a way to win. Assiniboia Downs has had more than its share of these genuine monsters.
So let's get to it!
First up are the horses with the most wins in a single season at Assiniboia Downs. Our listing starts in 1961 when Murray Duncan's Precambrian notched seven wins during the 42-day meet. Precambrian ran eight times in the 1961 season at the Downs and won seven straight. He finished second, losing by a head in his eighth start on the final day of the season. Yes, he came that close to having the perfect season, but there was one minor flaw in his record.
Precambrian, through no fault of his own was disqualified from his second win and placed last because his jockey, Ray Padron grabbed and held onto the equipment of Cote Off while in close quarters in the stretch drive. You gotta feel for Precambrian, he came that close to an undefeated season!
Precambrian’s mark would stand for 16 years until Flag the Trayne won eight times during the 123-day season in 1977. By the way, Flag the Trayne's eight wins made him the second winningest horse in Canada that year!
As the racing seasons lengthened, more repeat winners made their way into the record books. In 1978 the 128-day meet saw three horses match Flag the Trayne's eight wins. Speedy Frost, Job's Alibi and wonder filly Liz's Pride all scored eight victories.
The 131-day season in 1979 had Our Lane and Not a Tweet trump all rivals with nine trips to the Winner's Circle. And the 109-day meet in 1983 set the scene for Ed and Pauline Senkiw's Navy Days' record-setting eleven wins. Many years have passed since then, and this mark has yet to be topped.
In 1987, GM Stables' Major Action equaled Navy Days’ benchmark of 11 wins, but the ‘87 season was 10 race dates longer at 119 days. Needless to say, once the seasons started to shorten, no one came close to the record held by Navy Days and Major Action.
What about the horses who recorded the most career wins at our Portage Avenue track? This list was more difficult to compile because there is no single source of accumulative totals, but the winningest horse in the history of Assiniboia Downs is Job's Alibi.
For the most part Job's Alibi raced under the colours of the People's Stable, but he was a horse that was claimed and reclaimed over his career. Job's Alibi ran at the Downs from 1976 to 1984. Over the course of his nine-year racing career he amassed 29 victories. For many years it was believed that the title of winningest horse belonged to Key Canadian, who had 26 victories in his nine-year career from 1985 to 1993.
So, second place on our list goes to Key Canadian, right? Nope! Equibase records support that Gary Danelson's Last Lea chalked up 28 wins during his 13-year career (1973-1985) at the Downs. Key Canadian's 26 victories put him in third place and if I've got it right, Michigan Avenue follows him with 23 wins. Together these four horses had quite the monopoly on the hallowed ground of the Winner's Circle.
Great care was taken in a sincere attempt to be as accurate as possible with these win totals. However, we leave room for the possibility that a horse or two may have been overlooked. If that's the case, please let me know. After all, it isn't just about being right, but getting it right.
The aforementioned horses all achieved something special, but I've saved the best for last. It occurred more than 60 years ago, when the meet at old Polo Park was only 28 days long.
A 10-year-old chestnut mare owned by R. W. "Bud" Mathes won an unprecedented eight times during Polo's 28-day meet back in 1955. Not impressed yet? How about the fact that she was in foal when she won those races and she gave birth to her colt in the winter that followed!
Let’s raise a glass and toast to all the extraordinary racehorses above, especially our marvelous 10-year-old mare! But her name. What was her name? Ahh... but of course, you must have it!