By Justin Seward
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The Rocky Mountain Turf Club horse racing kicked off its annual fall season earlier this month.
“Everybody’s busy in the backstretch getting their stalls ready and getting set up. Horses are shipping in and at this end of it, we’re trying to make everything look real pretty and nice and inviting for our race fans and our new race fans, which we encourage,” said Rose Rossi, RMTC general manager.
New this fall season was the Elicie Bates Race Day on Sept. 9 to remember a person who was a long time RMTC ambulance attendant, a worker in the backstretch and was a horseman.
“She was a long- term at the emergency room there in the Lethbridge Regional Hospital,” said Rossi.
“So you could see this spitfire of power. This little gal out there for years and years, you know, taking the horses around the paddock, and you know assisting with the trainers and then you would see her over at the ambulance assisting during race days.”
Another memorial will be held for former Logic Lumber owner Tom Dixon at the RMTC on a date yet to be determined.
“He was a quiet unsung hero of our community,” said Rossi.
“He always donated to everything. He also raised horses, his family has forever. As you know in horse racing it is generational. There’s a lot of people there that have been in generations. So Tom’s going to have a special day. He built our petting zoo, which is open for the kids and Milos runs it.”
This year sees the start of the Alberta Bred races, which are races that have to be horses bred in the province in order to enter the stakes races.
“It’s some big money there,” said Rossi.
“And that is set up also to encourage the breeding of horses in Alberta and the calibre ,and we’d hate to ever see a day where there’s not a purpose for a horse. So the Alberta Bred show the best of the best of Alberta and continuing good, responsible breeding for the industry.”
The B Cup Series Stakes Races will begin later this month.
“There are A tracks that are like Century Mile and Century Downs and there’s B tracks,” said Rossi.
“So, the B track is either your horse could graduate to an A track or your A track horses could come and run in a B track and they’re all very good horses. You never know, I mean it’s horse racing. You never know what you’re going to get sometimes. It’s not always in the breeding and it’s not always in the price of the horse. It’s just sometimes, I guess, just pure luck and a blessing for you.”
The annual Jason Goodstriker Memorial Race will be included with the Warrior Relay Races Sept. 23 and 24.
“It’s big,” said Rossi, one what these races mean to the community.
“We are so lucky. Not many communities have a race track, which lend itself to do all those things. Like to have the thoroughbreds running and have the Warrior races and say a chuckwagon or a rodeo. We are so fortunate and even in the bigger scope, you know for tourism, and as I had mentioned the $48 million economic impact it has to our community and rural area, it’s huge. And that has been recognized over and over again, you know ,through government and otherwise.”
Rossi says it’s economical for a family or an individual to get together with groups.
“People show up here, you know, they derby it up,” she said.
“They have their race hats on or you know if you’ve seen the movie Seabiscuit, the thin ties. They might wear them with a pair of shorts. You know, but they get into it. You could walk around the grounds, we have an outdoor pub, really there’s something for everyone. The fun is there.”
The RMTC has horse owners come from many places.
“You could look at Raymond, Lethbridge, Taber, a lot of the rural areas. . . they’re syndicate,” she said.
“People just owning a piece of a horse just because they enjoy it so much. We’ve got Lyle (Magnuson) and a bunch of them that come in from the U.S. and are pretty much here all the time. And have purchased vehicles here (and) they get all the feed for their horses. So that’s where you see the economic impact start take off with a lot these people.”