by Bob Gates
Fred was a thoroughbred who only knew one racetrack, Assiniboia Downs. His first start came as a 2-year-old on July 30, 1976. His final call to the post took place 11 years later, on May 24, 1987. He had reached the ripe old age of 13 and retirement awaited him.
The bay gelding had gone postward 125 consecutive times, all at the Downs. A record you ask? We can’t say for sure, but it is quite an achievement! So yes, let’s call it a Downs’ record.
By this point you’re probably wondering, who Fred is? The Florida-bred was “better” known on the local racing oval as Fleeting Heritage, but that may not help much. There were no track records or victories in stakes races on his resume.
Fleeting Heritage’s breeding left room for promise, his sire Native Heritage came from the Raise a Native-Native Dancer line. Despite this hopeful heritage, Fred spent most of his career as a modest claimer. Sure, during the peak of his career (1979 to 1981) he rose to be a mid-level plater, but his on-track performances never made the sports pages.
Fleeting Heritage was “Fred” to his friends, and we’re going to call him by his barn name, because it suits him. Fred spent most of his life with Don “Buddy” Keyes, a railway engineer from Minot, North Dakota. Fred was an honest horse who was all business on the track. He gave his all in everyone of his 125 starts. He won 15% of his races and finished in the top three 40% of the time. Mostly, he was just the kind of horse you wanted to have in your barn.
Don was a likeable guy who had a modest stable in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Keyes was well known for using his working holidays to train his stable in the spring before handing them over to another trainer. In the ‘70s he used the likes of Glen Ball, Don Gray, Ben Benjamin, Gary Danelson and Linda Edwards for the summer meet. By the ‘80s, Keyes had hooked up with the late Clarence Marzolf, and had that trainer condition his horses. Clarence, along with wife Sue, got to know Don as well as any and became friends.
In the mid-1980s Don developed health issues that caused him to fret about Fred’s future welfare. As he wound down his holdings, Keyes needed to know that Fred would be looked after. The Marzolfs were a natural choice. When Don passed, Sue and Clarence gave Fred his forever home, and cared for him until he took his last breath.
In the twilight of his career, Fred wore the silks belonging to Clarence and Sue, but come 1987, Clarence knew it was time for Fred to hang up his racing shoes. Fred scored his first win on May 11, 1977 and his last on May 19, 1986.
A funny thing happened to Fred during his time with the Marzolfs on their farm in Woodlands. Fred fell in love. The object of his affection was a mare named Rambling Lassie, or “Mother” as she was more affectionately known. Fred loved Mother, she was his everything, and together they lived out his retirement.
According to Sue, Fred was a pleasure to be around. On the farm he did everything from haul hay to babysit the young ones. Susan Elizabeth Marzolf (nee Daniels) knows of what she speaks. She was in the biz for more than 40 years.
“I worked for Ted Haber, Alec and Bill Kyliuk, Bob Ramsey, Harry Gumprich, Brain Palaniuk, Bob Watt, Jim Crossen, George Sadler, Bill Grohn, and Dr. Norm Elder... There were some very long days and nights through heat, rain, sleet, snow, and the odd tornado, but I would do it all again! No regrets.”
Sue explained that Mother passed first, and not long afterwards Fred took that last breath. Was it the bacterial infection that couldn’t be treated or loneliness and a broken heart? After all, he missed Mother something awful.
It was a treat to be able to connect with Sue once again. She lost Clarence during the pandemic when health protocols wouldn’t permit her from being with him when he took his last breath on April 11, 2021. Sue’s heart aches still.
Once again, her guardian angel and the love of her life, Clarence tends to Fred, Hooter and all the others – and together they live…
Forever in her heart!