Fond Memories of Opening Day at Assiniboia Downs
Sunday May 6, 2012 will be the 55th opening day in the illustrious history of Assiniboia Downs. To mark the event, let’s take a trip back in time and see what kind of memories we can find in the Downs’ memory vault.
You may be surprised by how much you remember about the people, horses and events from the opening days of yesteryear!
30 Years Ago – April 23, 1982
The Pick-6, Canada’s newest form of exotic wagering, was offered on the upcoming thoroughbred meet for the first time. Northern Spike, the pride and joy of the Dowler Brothers, tore up the track, setting a new track record for a 4-furlong sprint that still stands today – 44.40.
35 Years Ago – May 1, 1977
For the third straight year the Inaugural Handicap was won by Western Canada Stable (previously Wescana Stables), trainer Glen Ball and jockey Jimmy Anderson. The winner, Taboga, was one of the greatest mares to ever race at the Downs. The winners of the previous two Inaugural Handicaps were Lexico in 1976 and Teddy H in 1975.
40 Years Ago – May 5, 1972
As it has done so many times over the years, weather stole the spotlight on opening day. Once again, the perennial feature race on the card was the Inaugural Handicap, and the 1972 racing season was launched in a sea of snow and sleet. That wasn’t enough to stop Mine Host from winning the $5,000 feature however, and you had to love the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press the next day: Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Etc. Stops Mine Host”
45 Years Ago – June 3, 1967
The star of the show for the 1967 season opener was not a horse; it was not an owner; it was not a jockey and it was not a trainer. It was – wait for it – the newly glassed-in Assiniboia Downs Turf Club and main floor grandstand area. And what a welcome relief it was on this blustery opening day, as patrons were spared the effects of gale-force winds which created nothing short of a desert-like dust storm.
50 Years Ago – June 15, 1962
Heavy rains turned the track into a sea of mud, but fans were treated to the introduction of a new exotic wager – a variation of the Quinella – no it was not the Exacta/Exactor. The wager was known simply as the “One-Two” – where fans were required to predict the correct order of finish of the first two horses in the fourth race.
54 Years Ago – June 10, 1958
Yes folks, this is the day it all began at Assiniboia Downs. After a one-year absence, racing had returned to Winnipeg! Remember, old Polo Park shut its doors in 1956, so there was no horse racing in Winnipeg at all in 1957. The first race on opening day was won by Gold Ern who paid $30.50 for a two dollar “Straight” ticket. That’s what they called a “Win” ticket back in the day. Gold Ern was piloted by 18-year old Dick Armstrong, who would go on to win four jockey titles at the Downs – second only to Bobby Stewart’s six riding titles.
It’s been more than half a century since that first opening day at Assiniboia Downs. Fond memories from the past always seem to make it just that much more special. We certainly hope you’ll join us on Sunday, May 6, 2012. Together, we’ll be making history.
And I’ll be here to write it.