by Bob Gates
R. James Speers and "Bobby" Summers are getting awful lonely over at 145 Pacific Avenue, home of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (MSHOF).
This past March, Assiniboia Downs took steps to address this situation by filing Hall of Fame nomination papers for the late Harvey Warner (builder), and Todd Kabel (athlete). Warner died March 9 of this year, while Kabel passed away on March 27 last year.
Before we go any further, how about some background on the MSHOF? The Hall was established to pursue the rich history of sports in Manitoba. Their Pacific Avenue home includes a museum that is dedicated to honouring the history and achievements of all sports.
Currently the Hall is home to 307 athletes, 132 builders and 10 athletes/builders from a variety of sports. The following sports lead the way in terms of inductees:
Hockey 61 13
Canadian Football 36 11
Athletics 28 3
Basketball 20 9
Golf 19 2
Curling 15 7
Sadly, horse racing has but two inductees. Racing icon Jim Speers was inducted as a builder in 1983 and jockey Bobby Summers was inducted as an athlete in 1992. In the last 40 years only two people from horse racing have been elected to the Hall and there haven't been any more in the last 30 years.
Yes folks, honorees Speers and Summers are all by themselves in the MSHOF and we here at the Downs are trying our best to beef-up representation from the sport we all love.
The following comes directly from the MSHOF website at www.sportmanitoba.ca/hall-of-fame:
How are honoured members chosen?
The people of Manitoba are the only ones with the power to choose Honored Members. The people inducted into the Hall of Fame are individuals whose names have been submitted by nomination to an independent Selection Committee.
Anyone, except Hall of Fame staff and board members, can submit a nomination for induction. The Selection Committee considers nominations from the current year as well as unsuccessful nominations from three years prior, to honour six or seven individuals as well as a team inductee each year.
Who is eligible for nomination?
Individuals or builders (e.g., official, coach, administrator) must be Manitoba-born or must be residing in Manitoba at the time of their contribution to Manitoba sports.
Manitoba teams that have won national or international championships events are also eligible for nomination.
Non-human nominees are not eligible.
Sorry, that means no horses!
In an average year the Hall receives 30 to 50 athlete nominations, 20 to 40 for builders and 10 or so for the athlete/builder category. Each year, the Selection Committee chooses between 8 to 10 honourees, made up of four to five athletes, two or three builders and a team for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Harvey and Todd's nominations are only a start. The intention is for the Downs to file the necessary papers for deserving individuals on an annual basis. Here are some highlights from Kabel and Warner's respective careers:
- - From 1982 to 1985 served as President of the Winnipeg Horseman's Club and as a voice on the Manitoba Horse Council Board.
- - From 1989 to 1992 served on the Manitoba Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) Board and was a former President of the HBPA.
- - In 1993 was one of the original architects of the non-profit Manitoba Jockey Club (MJC) that rescued Assiniboia Downs and the Manitoba horse racing industry from bankruptcy.
- - In 2020 the Jockey Club of Canada presented him with the Special Sovereign Award in recognition of his commitment and significant contributions to the Canadian Thoroughbred industry.
- - At the time of his passing was a Steward for the Jockey Club of Canada, a volunteer role that provided a "voice" for western Canadian racing.
- - Multiple graded stakes-winning jockey compiled a lifetime win-place-show record of 3,306 - 2,845 - 2,427 from 18,512 mounts and earned $105,831,055 in purses.
- - Rode 690 winners during his career at the Downs (1984 to 1989) and won three leading rider titles (1986, 1987, 1989).
- - In 1986, while racing in Winnipeg, won horse racing's Sovereign Award as the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in Canada.
- - Won the Manitoba Derby on a horse named Rough Catch in 1989. Even following his Queen's Plate win in 1995, Kabel still said his biggest thrill in racing was his 1989 Manitoba Derby win.
- - Won six Sovereign Awards for Outstanding Jockey in Canada, with those awards coming in 1992, 1995 and from 2003 to 2006.
- - In 1995 won Canada's most prestigious race, the Queen's Plate, aboard Regal Discovery. He repeated the feat again in 2000 with Scatter the Gold.
- - In 2003 became the first jockey in Canadian history to win more than $10 million in purses in a single season, and in 2004 he equaled jockey Avelino Gomez's single-season record of 36 stakes wins.
- - Manitoba's Male Athlete of the Year in 1995 and 2004.
Making up for lost time is going to be a challenge. We're not going to go from two inductees to five, 10 or 20 any time soon. However, there will not be another 30-year gap between our nominees.
Messrs. Speers and Summer take heart, with any luck you will have company from some of your horse racing friends before you know it.
When this year's successful candidates are announced later this summer, wouldn't it be special if Harvey and Todd enter the Hall together? It just seems right…