by Bob Gates
Werre? There has to be some of you wondering who Ed Werre is and what's so special about him?
This is another one of those blogs where our person of interest represents a number of -- in this case -- riders who have spent a good portion of their lives at Assiniboia Downs. We can't cover all of them, so you seek someone who sticks out among the rest. Not to mention, you can't always write about the riders at the top of the leader board. After all, not all the jocks were a Dick Armstrong, Bobby Stewart, Irwin Driedger or Tim Gardiner.
So why Ed Werre? Werre was one of the names from the days of old that stood apart from the rest. Look at any of the photos that accompany this story. Ed just looks good on the back of a horse and from that perch, Edward Werre Jr. was a somebody. You can feel it in his pose. Especially in those trio-shots with horse, owner/trainer and rider. Love and miss those photos.
Eddie was one of eight children born to Edward and Mary Werre from the tri-town area of Lehr (population 81), Wishek (pop. 864) and Ashley (pop. 613), North Dakota with all located within 10 square miles.
The Werre children were split evenly, four boys (Wilbert, Marvin, Dennis and Ed) and four girls (Mavis, Betty, Adeline and Donna) and to quote brother, Marvin the family was "dirt poor."
Ed was a horse lover. He grew up around the four-legged creatures and was four years old when he got on his first. He quit school as soon as he could and got a job breaking colts for neighbour and horseman Elery Scherbenske. Werre rode in the "bushes" before making his way north to Assiniboia Downs in 1964.
His first win on a recognized track came on June 29, 1964. Ed rode Karl Flaman's Ninn to victory at the Downs and he hadn't even celebrated his 17th birthday, that would come on July 30th.
Ed took Ninn to the front as instructed, going gate to wire in the seven-furlong race, leaving second-place Frank Barroby and third-place Dick Armstrong and their horses in his wake. Nice start! He would garner six wins that season, setting-up 1965 as his best showing at the Downs.
In July 1965, Ed lost the best friend a jockey could ever have, his "bug." As an apprentice rider, he enjoyed the benefit of a five-pound weight allowance until he won 40 races.
Ed got off to a good start in 1965 and topped the leader board for most of the year. With less than a week left in the meet, he held a two-win advantage over Dick Armstrong, the 1962 and 1964 leading rider.
Ed’s slim lead looked good as the season wound down, with he and Armstrong keeping pace with each other. However, Ed had the opportunity to Art Schade's Lady Zenith in the Canadian Derby in Edmonton and left town with only a couple of days to go in the Downs meet. Armstrong rode three winners on the final day of Winnipeg racing, bettering Ed by two wins.
Ed’s mount in the Canadian Derby finished last, but it didn’t take away from his incredible year. To go from six wins in 1964 to vying for the jockey title in his first full year was nothing short of a miracle. His 35 wins saw him finish ahead of Ray Correa, Roger Jensen, Norm Dubois, Jim Anderson and Bobby Stewart.
In the fall of 1965 Ed rode in Alberta, and it wasn't long before he made an impression on the local racing scene out west. The September 1, 1965, edition of the Calgary Herald put it this way:
Western racing could stand more riders like Ed Werre. To put it bluntly, he isn’t afraid and has a lot of the old "know how."
Career Highlight: On June 28, 1971, Ed put on a "one-man show" at the Downs. He rode three winners, a second-place finish and figured in all four featured betting pools. In the second race he won aboard Jokellina, who paid $23.40 and finished-off a $123.90 Daily Double. He won the fourth race on Barmingo ($5.50) and was the top half of the $5.70 Quinella with Step Forth. In race five he rode longshot Roman Slipper ($31.80) and again led the way for a $67.90 Quinella. In the final race of the night, his second-place finish combined with winner Capitol Spending for a $87.60 Quinella. Not a bad day's work!
All told, Ed rode nine seasons from 1964 to 1977 at the Downs and finished in the top-ten five times. The Downs never saw Ed Werre after 1977. He rode in Regina in 1978 and won the riding title, and then finished out his career riding south of the border from 1979 to 1987.
Equibase stats from 1976 to 1987 credit Ed with 323 firsts, 359 seconds and 330 thirds from 3,168 starts, respectable numbers for the multiple stakes-winning jockey. But as you might suspect, statistics don't tell Ed Werre's story.
Starting out, Ed was a young and talented rider. In the spring of 1966 he married Linda Irion, daughter of trainer Bud Irion.
Who knew? Ed and fellow rider, Roger Jensen became brothers-in-law, when Roger married Linda's sister.
Downs' trainer Carl Anderson Ed’s contract in the early years and offered, "he got too good, too fast." In time, this would lead to some bad life choices.
Our current Jock's Room Supervisor, Dwayne Addison got his start at the Downs as the Jock's Room Runner in the early 1970s and remembered Ed as one of the nice guys. Dwayne was just a kid, but Ed, Marvin Kruger and Rupert Parker all made an impression on him. They had what Addison called "full" personalities. "They were fun, all good guys."
You can tell a fair bit about a rider if you look at who he rode for. During his time at the Downs, Ed rode for Gary Danelson and in his last stint in Winnipeg you would find him on top of Tom Dodds' horses. So you know he was doing something right.
By all accounts Ed was a likeable sort and on cruise control when life "gut-punched" him, and he never fully recovered. Eventually, evil drink and a terrible temper would get the better of him. While riding in Detroit in 1976, he fell in with the wrong crowd and life became challenging. A failing marriage didn't help. Granted, Ed brought on a lot of those issues on his own. At the end of the day, we all make choices. Some of us get lucky and others, don't!
There isn't a whole bunch to say about Ed once he finished riding in 1987. One can only imagine, his brother Marvin said he never saw the end coming, but in March 1992 Ed's pain stopped. Marvin explained he and Ed had some serious fights over the years. However, when all was said and done, Ed was his brother and "I loved him!"
Who knew? Marvin Werre trained horses at the Downs during the period that Ed rode here. Marvin also held the contract for a young Joan Phipps and it was his horse, Thistle Dawn that got Joan her first win. Yes, right here at Assiniboia Downs on July 7, 1972.
Ed's been gone 30 years now and he has a place in the history books at our Assiniboia Downs. Edward Werre Jr. was 44 years old when he passed and was laid to rest in Boelus, Nebraska.
May he Rest In Peace.