Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/8/2019 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There will be plenty of heart on display at Assiniboia Downs this weekend, and some of it will be for sale.
Racing takes place tonight, Saturday evening and holiday Monday afternoon, the latter of which will be highlighted by the 62nd running of the $30,000 Gold Cup. And on Sunday, the first-ever Thoroughbred Showcase, courtesy of Final Furlong Canada, will parade more than 20 horses for sale to anyone in the public looking to add a little horse love to their life.
The Gold Cup has attracted 15 exceptional nominations and could turn out to be the race of the year on the second last weekend of live racing, while both the rider and trainer battles are too close to call. Richard Mairs is in front of last year’s co-leading rider Antonio Whitehall 43-41 on the jockey side, while five-time champ Tom Gardipy Jr. leads newcomer Juan Pablo Silva 41-40 on the trainer side.
Make your bets accordingly. For Mairs and Silva, it would be their first title.
Final Furlong Canada is a non-profit organization that has been finding good homes for ex-racehorses by linking buyers with sellers for 10 years here. And this year’s showcase — the first of its kind in Manitoba — is expected to attract some intense interest from across the country and south of the border.
“This is the first year that demand has exceeded supply,” Final Furlong Canada president April Keedian said. “And many of our buyers have been from outside Manitoba. We’re certainly selling horses quicker than ever before, within hours sometimes. It’s insane. These horses are really valuable and they go for peanuts.”
Former racehorses are very attractive to show-horse buyers, mainly due to their athleticism, but also because of their hearts and minds. Smart, versatile, courageous and willing, many ex-racehorses go on to have long careers in the show-horse ring. Some even become stars.
Two Final Furlong success stories that have made Manitoba proud recently are Larry’s Quest, who performed exceptionally well for Ontario owner-trainer Ashley Minion in the elite Thoroughbred Makeover Competition at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington last year, and Play Book, who received the Second Career Award from the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Final Furlong Canada earlier this year for his prowess as both a hunter and jumper for new owner Billy Wiltshire.
“This year, Assiniboia Downs said they would host a showcase for us,” Keedian said. “And we also wanted to showcase Assiniboia Downs, which we think is a pretty darn good little track. They’ve been huge supporters of us and we’re very thankful for that.”
Final Furlong Canada was founded by Keedian and Emily Johnson. They now have three additional board members in Leona Stahl, Shannon Dawley and Connie Clauson.
“People often asked us how we got our horses,” Keedian said. “Because you couldn’t really find these ex-racehorses unless your riding coach knew someone at the track. There was no way for people to get them, so we decided to try to bridge the gap.”
More details on the 2019 Thoroughbred Showcase are listed in an event on Final Furlong Canada’s Facebook page, along with a photo album of the horses for sale.
Full sales listings with names and contact information will be available at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning, and the showcase begins at 11:30 a.m., with the horses being paraded around the paddock. All are welcome.
Buyers will contact sellers directly and a veterinarian will be on-site for pre-purchase exams. Two horse-transport companies will be on-site, but there could be as many as five. You can’t ride a horse all the way to Kansas City anymore, which is where the most recent Final Furlong horse was being shipped. Azzhaulers will be heading west and Foothills Transport will be going east and south. Additional shippers in attendance will haul locally.
Every summer at the Downs, you’ll find the Final Furlong crew in the backstretch taking photos of horses and posting them for sale on Facebook. It’s a lot of work, and they sell almost all of them. But they receive no commissions on sales and they’ve never really had a budget for anything. Next year, they might have to make one, due to the added support from Assiniboia Downs. A portion of the proceeds from the Downs’ annual golf tournament and from their popular Chase the Ace contest, which is now at more than $40,000, will go to Final Furlong Canada.
“We were hoping to start paying ourselves gas money at some point,” Keedian said. “Up until now, we’ve run on about $2,000 per year. With the support of Assiniboia Downs, we’ll be able to do more rescues now if we have to, but we’re also hoping to add some incentives for buyers. It’s a labour of love.”
“Thank you!” said every horse.