Uene was one of those special horses that left his hoofprints on the heart of Assiniboia Downs even though he only raced at our local oval for two short seasons.
How does something like that happen? First of all, he came to the Downs with plenty of ability. Secondly, the 6-year-old stallion was a grandson of the mighty Secretariat! And then of course, was his performance on the track.
In 1988, his first season at the Downs, Uene went to post seven times, winning four races and placing third twice. He was an extremely versatile horse that could go long or short on either muddy or fast tracks. It just didn’t matter. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before Uene won over a legion of fans.
But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Now that we have a better idea of why he left such an impression, how was it that he found his way to Assiniboia Downs?
The answer to this questions lay with two of our more popular and veteran horsemen, Jerry Lambert and Jack Robertson. Back in the day, they were the Double J Stable. These two men have been around the Downs for what seems like forever and we are lucky to have them!
Jerry is just one of the most likable men you’ll ever meet! He always has a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone, not to mention the fact that he seems to know everybody at the track. Jack has a reputation of being one of the finest caretakers of horses on the grounds and over the years he’s trained some nice ones!
To get Uene’s story, I met up with Jerry, who explained that Uene was purchased as part of a three-horse package from Tartan Farms in 1988. Uene was a sound, but tired, beat-up $15,000 claimer. The kind of horse that was very much in need of someone with the talents of Jack Robertson. Jack is well-known for bringing a horse along slowly and getting it race ready.
Uene was a well-mannered stallion that didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He won three stakes races in 1988, the Inaugural Stakes, the Manitoba Crocus and the prestigious Assiniboia Downs Gold Cup. He won at distances ranging from 5 ½-furlongs to 1 1/8-miles. He capped off the season by winning the Manitoba Horse of the Year and Top Older Male Horse titles at the CTHS/HBPA awards banquet.
1989 was a tough year for Secretariat’s grandson. He developed leg problems for which he was being treated and likely would have overcome, but he just wasn’t acting like his usual self and the cause of his issues weren’t readily apparent. He developed a horrific infection that found its way to his lungs and he could not be successfully treated.
His loss was tough for all, including his regular rider, Downs all-time leading jockey Ken Hendricks. Hendricks had developed a close relationship with his mount and was a frequent visitor to Uene’s stall in his final days.
Thoughts of Uene just seem to be natural with the 56th running of the Gold Cup just around the corner on Saturday September 14. This was a race that he and Hendricks won with the greatest of ease in 1988. Over the course of his career, Hendricks won the Gold Cup a record setting seven times!
So even though Uene raced locally for little more than a season and a bit, the 7-year-old grandson of Triple Crown Winner Secretariat left his mark on the race track.
And on our hearts!
Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 11, 2013