The first “Derby” was run in 1930; although from 1930 to 1933 it was known as the Manitoba Stakes. In 1934 the name of the race was officially changed to the Manitoba Derby.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the race was the brainchild of Robert James Speers, the Father of Thoroughbred Racing in Western Canada. Speers established the race for horsemen to showcase thoroughbreds that were foaled in Western Canada.
In 1936 the Derby was opened to all horses bred in Canada. The race was run annually at old Polo Park race track, with the exception of 1937 when it was contested at Whittier Park in St. Boniface.
In 1941 the Manitoba Derby was changed to the Canadian Derby. Few people realize that the heart and soul of the prestigious Canadian Derby can be found in Winnipeg and that the Canadian Derby was “born” if you will, out of the Manitoba Derby. At that time, Canada was the only major country that did not have a national “Derby” so R. J. Speers sacrificed "Manitoba" for a national name.
The new Canadian Derby was run at Polo Park until that track closed in 1956 and the race was relocated to Edmonton. Jack Hardy tried to bring the race back to Winnipeg when Assiniboia Downs opened in 1958 but was not successful, so the race remained there to this day. In 1960 the Manitoba Derby and its storied past were resurrected. Manitoba's signature race, it has been run at the Downs ever since. In 1985 the Derby was changed to an open event for all three-year-old thoroughbreds.
This year marks the 66th running of the Manitoba Derby and the list of previous winners reads like the Who's Who of Horse Racing, with such horses as Fanfreluche, Merry's Jay, and Overskate. The list of owners and trainers includes Levesque, Mitchell, K5 Stables, Rowntree, Blake and Starr. Jockeys Hawley, Krone and Platts have participated in the Manitoba Derby, to name a few.
Assiniboia Downs salutes all participants past and present who have made the Manitoba Derby what it is today!