by Bob Gates
Carl Anderson was only 13 years old when Assiniboia Downs opened in 1958, but it didn't take him long to find his way to the Portage Avenue track. Right from the "get-go" young Carl had a fondness for horses and his boyhood home was just northeast of the track near what is now Sturgeon Road.
In those early days he made pocket-money by walking hots for Duke Campbell, Tommy Patton and whoever else would give him work. His affiliation with the Downs has been a lifelong passion. Sure, he trained full-time in Saskatchewan for about 10 years and had a stint in Alberta, but his heart was always at Assiniboia Downs.
The Downs was his home track, but Anderson was a horseman that led a gypsy-like existence, travelling wherever his horses took him. From 1958 to 1963 Carl took whatever work he could find around the Downs. In 1964 he got his trainer's license and made himself comfy around the west end track until the latter part of the 1970s.
From 1979 to 2002 he divided his time training primarily in Saskatchewan, with a few years in Canada's oil country, while still making regular trips to Winnipeg, not to mention the time he spent south of the 49th parallel when his Canadian tracks went dark. He would return fulltime to the Downs in 2003 and he's never left.
If you're doing the math that gives CA almost 55 years experience in training thoroughbreds after allowing for his 4-year hiatus following his "retirement" in 2015.
Who knew? Carl Anderson.
- Early in his career, he worked on the Downs' gate crew when called upon.
- In the late 1960s he looked after the yearlings at Jack Hardy's JY Farm.
- In the early 1970s he worked as a Parade Marshall for the Downs' harness meet.
- From 1987 to 1998 he won 10 leading trainer titles in Saskatchewan.
- In 1989 he recorded 62 victories in Saskatchewan and garnered Canada's top-trainer award.
- In May 1990 he saddled his 1,000th career winner while racing in Winnipeg.
- He won the Assiniboia Downs leading trainer title in 2009 when he and Tom Gardipy Jr. both registered 45 wins for the season.
- Among his many stakes victories in Winnipeg, he won four Gold Cups and three prestigious R. J. Speers Memorials.
Over the years there have been countless headlines detailing Carl's racing exploits. So what to share? Let's go for a couple of local odd-ball tales of the turf.
On June 25, 1969, Carl teamed up with Max Freed's Maxwell King Stables for a historic evening. He saddled five horses for Max that night. What followed must be a record. Carl’s charges won four races and added a third-place finish for good measure. The winning horses that evening were Tiny Will in the first race, Forever Maxwell in the second to complete the Daily Double, Rob's Choice in the sixth and Freed's Guardian F. in the seventh.
A good night for sure, but a four-bagger isn't unusual. Ok, are we paying attention? All four victors wore the silks of the Maxwell King Stables, were trained by Carl, ridden by Dick Armstrong, bred by owner Max Freed, and all were sired by Freed's stallion Joe Wilson. That's what you call a record quartet!
Next is the story of the five-year-old mare Sylvadust. On June 23, 1974, Carl was getting the mare ready to go to the Downs for that day's second race. This after being turned out for a week at the farm about 10 miles from the track. Things started to fall apart when his truck and horse trailer had flat tires. He called for help, but it was a Sunday, and he wasn't going to be rescued any time soon. What to do?
Anderson gets full marks for his resourcefulness that day. He saddled the mare and galloped her cross country to the racetrack. When questioned by security at the north gate, Carl saw the horses were on the track for the first race. He explained his situation and said, "She's entered in the second race, you better let me in."
Carl got the mare ready for the race just in time and told his jockey, Ken Hendricks to go easy on her in the warm-up. The result? Sylvadust went gate-to-wire, drawing-off to win by three lengths!
Racing is an interesting sport. When your horses are winning, things are good -- really good -- but when wins are hard to come by, lean times can challenge your passion and commitment. Whether times were good or otherwise, Carl was always loyal to a fault to his barn staff, his owners, the business partners he patronized over the years and to his brother Lenny.
Knowledgeable sources will tell you that Carl Norman Anderson is the best horseman and trainer on the grounds these days and has been for some time. The veteran trainer is part of a dying breed, good to his horses and his owners without regard for himself. Anderson was never one to self-promote with the sole purpose of increasing his client base.
Quotes on Carl
Darren Dunn - C.E.O. Assiniboia Downs: "Carl Anderson is in the Gary Danelson conversation as it relates to ability to train, loyalty and longevity at Assiniboia Downs in an industry that will try you."
Ken Hendricks - Downs all-time leading jockey 50-year friend: "Carl is one of the best to ever train at Assiniboia Downs. We won many races together. He was always my favourite trainer to ride for because he understood what was going on out there."
Dr. Ross and Brenda McKague - long time clients: "Carl is a complete horseman. He knows how to develop a young horse, how to handle a good one and everything in between. He is an old-school, hands-on professional who trained for his owners and not for training titles."
Over the years, Carl and his brother Leonard grew to be very close. Sadly, this came as a result of Len's health issues. So, the Andersons did what they had always done, they became a team. Together they coped. Maybe it wasn't perfect, but they made it work.
On December 14, 2015, Leonard could go no further and passed in Carl's arms. The elder Anderson had a tough time dealing with Len's death and lost his way. So much so that he sold his tack and quit racing, something that had been dear to him for over 50 years. When Carl quit training, some of his clients left racing. If Carl wasn't going to train their horses, they’d just as soon walk away.
Finally, in 2020, after a 4-year lay-off, Carl wanted to come back. He missed mornings at the track, the horses, and most of all he just missed being a horseman.
So back he came, granted on a smaller scale, but one that worked for him. At 76 he wasn't interested in a large operation and the work that came with it. Now-a-days he looks for a dozen or two starts with a few quality horses. He's become a percentage trainer. In 2020 his win-place-show percentage was 93%. Currently that number sits at 62%.
"Some people say they have 20 years experience, when in reality, they have one year's experience repeated 20 times." ~ Stephen Covey
Carl Norman Anderson is an old school horseman who has more than 50 years of legitimate experience. They say anyone can train a good horse, but Carl can get the most out of a bad or mediocre horse and he also has the talent to develop a young one. Perhaps songstress Carly Simon described Carl best, when she sang…
“Nobody does it better…”