I never really grew up around the track but my family used to go to the horse races and I loved it! I started coming around the track when a family friend who used to race chuckwagons invited me out. I never got really involved until my family bought an ex race horse for me to ride. We ended up bringing him back to the track and he actually ended up winning a race! This is when my love for horse racing began.
I became a groom and my love for horses grew more and more. I loved being able to work with all sorts of different horses and also being able to meet so many different people. I loved hearing all the stories on how things were “back in the day”.
In 2016, when I turned 18 I decided to write my trainers test. I wanted to try and make horse racing a full time career for myself. I loved being able to race in my home town. I always did dream about moving on to bigger things but I wanted to stay home. It wasn’t until this year we were forced to not race at our home track. I loved being at ASD and am thankful on how welcoming everyone was and also on the opportunity I got.
But there’s no place like home and I hope we will get the opportunity to race here again.
I was not raised on the backstretch. I don’t have deep familial ties to the industry; in fact, no one in my family does anything with horses. The reason I ended up at Marquis Downs? My love of horses and the fact that I lived within biking distance of the racetrack.
Over the years, which amount to nothing compared to some of the old racetrack veterans, I have worked as a groom, as a pony person, as an exercise rider. I was up early, I was up late. I did the whole “3 a.m.-on-a-school-day” thing. I didn’t mind. The racetrack was the only place I wanted to be.
Some of my favourite memories took place at Marquis Downs. Yet there always seemed to be this underlying notion that, while you could get started here, you should never stay.
“You’ll leave soon. Everyone always does, eventually.”
I heard it often. Go to places with more horses - better ones. Go to places with more race days, more opportunities. This place is dying, it’s not what it used to be. Leave while you can. There’s nothing here for you.
So I left. After graduating from high school, I moved to Alberta. I worked for Bar None at Northlands Park. It didn’t feel like home. I went to university and got a degree. I travelled across the ocean, going to Germany for school and to conduct research. I went to Woodbine, once, for a few days. I didn’t care for it. Those weren’t my people.
No matter how much fun I was having, how many new things I was able to see and do, it always felt like there was something missing.
Was this the “better life” beyond the gates of Marquis Downs, the one that everyone was telling me about? The one with the new faces, the better horses, the exciting opportunities?
If so, it was not what I wanted.
I returned to Saskatoon six years after leaving the city for those bigger, better, brighter opportunities. I noticed that not much had changed, a wonderful feeling that somehow still managed to made my heart sink.
Was there a future for this place? Have I returned, finally, only to have to leave again? There’s no money to speak of, anymore. Race days have been continually reduced, purses have decreased.
But that feeling I get whenever I’m on the grounds, that has remained. The people have remained. The passion has remained.
Another thing that has remained: the “I wonders”. I wonder what we’ll be doing next year. I wonder how many days we will have. I wonder who will be left. I wonder what I will do, when we have lost this place forever. All of these years spent waiting for something to happen.
Wonderful people, WE are the something that happens.
I don’t know what I would do without the track. It was a part of me through all of those years. No matter where I was, I missed it. You can take a person away from the racetrack, but you can never take the racetrack out of a person.
My greatest wish is to see Marquis Downs returned to what it once was. I want people to tell future grooms, exercise riders, pony people, horse-crazy kids to come HERE, to see what is in store for them HERE. To hear that the breeding industry is thriving, Saskbreds have made a name for themselves on home turf, not just out-of-province. That we have more race days, more horses, more trainers, younger generations getting involved alongside new. That we bring the best live entertainment in Saskatoon for young and old alike. That we don’t plan on stopping and we see no end in sight.
I do not plan to stay in Saskatoon forever. But I do plan to do what I can to help save the industry. Having a home to return to is what makes leaving worthwhile.
Horse racing in Saskatchewan has always been big part of my life.
As a little kid I ran around Marquis Downs with my friends pretending to be our favourite jockeys riding our imaginary racehorse. But our biggest thrill was when our favourite jockeys gave us a pair of their goggles.
As I got a little older, I started hot walking and grooming horses, but my biggest dream was to work on the starting gate. I used to go watch along the rail and think I want to do that some day. Eventually that day came, and now I have been the official race starter for Marquis Downs for the past few years.
Like many others, I started out in the "bush" tracks - informal racetracks that host live racing in communities throughout the province - and by the time I got to Marquis Downs, I already had plenty of experience.
I’ve seen Marquis Downs grow in popularity. There were a few years when there were only a handful of people in attendance, but these past few years you can hardly find a seat in the grandstand.
I would like to see horse racing in Saskatchewan continue for many years to come.
I have found my forever home at Marquis downs.
I started coming around the track when I was about 12, as soon as I saw the first race I was hooked! I didn’t know anything about horses or horse racing, just that it looked fun and that I love horses. I started slowly coming around more and more, slowly learning and doing little things here and there. I believe I was 14-15 when I officially became a groom. I loved the early mornings, having coffee with some of the MD family, always hearing the stories and how it was “back then”. I also was fascinated by the late nights when the races would run. It was just a whole different atmosphere. The excitement, joy and also the losses. I started out as a groom, pony rider and then I got my Trainer’s license in 2018. It was a huge thing for me, everyone who watched me grow over the years were all so proud, as was I. Working with horses you learn to have (lots and lots) of patience, and you learn all these different values which I’ll forever be thankful for. All the hard work and endless hours we put into our horses, I wouldn’t change it for the world
The thing that everyone pushes you to do is leave MD, I always laughed at them, there was no way I would leave home. But here we are in 2020, forced to leave home and set foot onto a new track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice here at ASD but it’s not home, I am hoping to be back and enjoying the track and family at Marquis next year!
Horse racing has been a part of my life since I was born. In my early childhood, my parents separated and I went to live with my grandparents. My grandpa gave me a yearling, and when it was a 2-year old I used him for a saddle horse, just rode him around. One day, my uncle Tom asked me what kind of horse that was. I said it’s a Thoroughbred, papered and everything, it just needs a tattoo and to learn how to race. So we tried him as a late 3-year-old and got 2 wins, a second and a third. He ended up being MD’s all-time-winningest horse.
I could have been a bad kid, and gotten into lots of trouble, but I knew I had a responsibility at home, the horses. On my lonely days, that horse was there for me and I was there for him. I started working on the gates at 15 years old. I loved being in the jocks’ room around all of the riders and in the gates. Today, I look after the jocks room and get to meet and greet a lot of people.
Racing has helped shape my life. I plan on training here at Marquis Downs if it ever opens again.