Groom Awards

In 2019 the HBPA decided to present two new awards for grooms in two separate categories.  The awards have a female and male winner in each category.

These two categories were “Groom of the Year,” awarded to a person with more than one-year experience as a licensed groom; and “Rookie Groom of the Year,” awarded to a first-year groom.   In both categories’ grooms were nominated, reviewed by the HBPA and officials, and chosen for displaying exceptional skills in their field, professionalism, excellent work ethic, and a willingness to help others.

The number of nominations was overwhelming, making the selection process extremely difficult.  It is easy to see that our backstretch is full of hard-working individuals that take pride in their work.

Thank you to all the nominees for their continued dedication to the sport of horseracing and our four-legged athletes. 

Grooms of the Year 2019

Susan Crane– Sue started her career with racehorses in 2001 here at ASD after working at a hotel. A regular customer and she had a conversation about horse racing. Sue went to the racetrack and was introduced to former trainer Emile Corbel and the rest is history. Being a long-time groom at the track, she is always willing to share her knowledge with anyone needing help. Sue continues to love her job, the work, and of course the horses. Congratulations Susan!

Did you know Sues love for animals extends far past horses? Sue has housed, helped and/or rescued animals of every shape and size from goats to lizards. Not only does Sue love all animals, but they love her too… just ask her cats.

Richard Spencer- Richard started grooming in Jamaica at a fairly young age. He first started at ASD in 2009 after friend Patrick McLean told him that ASD was short of grooms. Fast forward 10 years and you can still find this hard-working guy having quiet conversations with the horses he looks after. Richard is the first one in the barn every day and the last one out, yet always has time to help someone in need. He loves his job and it shows. Congratulations Richard!

Did you know that Richards father was hoping Richard would become a police officer? Richards father followed Richard to see why he was late for school every day and ended up at the local racetrack. It became clear to everyone that Richards love for animals was not a passing phase and being a police officer was not in Richards plans.

Rookie Groom Of The Year

Erin Clarke– Erin is no stranger to horses. Erin’s grandparents were long time breeders of standardbreds and morgans. In the spring of 2019 Erin found a Facebook post about the HBPA looking for grooms; and here she is. A hard working, helpful, happy person, Erin has fit right into the racetrack routine. So much so, that it is hard to believe that 2019 was her first year on a racetrack. Erin will be returning to the backstretch for the 2020 race season and is looking forward to getting back to work. Congratulations Erin!

Did you know that Erin is also quite the artist? A photo of her work was featured in “The Insider” back in September. The HBPA has also recognized her talent and has commissioned a picture to be given as an award.

Regan Froese– Regan came to ASD in 2019 after applying for a position threw Indeed. Although Regan did not have any experience with horses, he did have previous experience working as a ranch hand abroad. He started a groom training program in the spring of 2019 at ASD, and quickly impressed trainer Jamie Hartmann who took on the new groom. Regan quickly adapted into the role of groom and continued to impress. By the end of the 2019 season it was hard to believe that Regan had only been a groom for 6 months. Congratulation Regan!

Did you know Regan is now attending University with the ambition of becoming a veterinarian? No doubt his experience in the backstretch will help with his future goals. Good Luck Regan!

Final Furlong

What happens when to a racehorse when it is no longer racing? That seems to be a question that weighs heavily on a lot of minds these days. Enter Final Furlong with the answer to this question.
Final Furlong is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting owners and trainers find homes for their four-legged athletes when they are ready to retire from racing. Final Furlong, along with the racing community, understands that thoroughbreds are a particularly athletic breed suitable for other disciplines. Just because a horse has finished its racing career does not mean that they stop being an athlete, a companion, or someone’s best friend.

Final Furlong opens a door that was once hidden to most buyers. Years ago, you had to “know a person” who knew someone connected to the racing industry to be granted a look at a horse for sale. Now you just need to know Final Furlong. Providing a free posting service to horsemen and utilizing social media outlets; Final Furlong takes pictures, collects information and posts it for prospective buyers to see; and their audience is growing!

In 2019 Final Furlong along with the support of Assiniboia Downs and The HBPA of Manitoba kicked it up a notch with the first (of hopefully many) Showcase, that was held in the paddock of Assiniboia Downs. The date was set, advertised via social media and a group of horses and handlers took center stage in front of a group of prospective buyers from all over Canada and even some of the United States. It was showtime and our horsemen and horses did not disappoint.

The showcase allowed a large group of people to view a large group of horses at one time. This approach of viewing helps the busy horse professionals by relieving some stress from the trainers that would typically have to show a horse to individuals multiple times.

The Showcase also had supporters from Tribute Feeds, Elders Equine, and horse transportation services, all for the prospective buyer’s convenience. Final Furlong had a wonderful group of volunteers assisting in organizing, selling Final Furlong merchandise, answering questions, handling horses and providing direction to the large crowd as well as directing the real stars of the show, the horses.

It was incredible to see the horse community along with the racing community come together and volunteer, showing their support for this wonderful organization. The Showcase was a hit and most importantly the horses found wonderful homes. Great job everyone!

It has been noted that this was the first year in recent memory that the demand for Off the track thoroughbreds outweighed the number of horses for sale. A pleasant trend that shows the understanding of what amazing and versatile horses’ thoroughbreds are. No doubt this organization has had a hand in this as well. Educating the public on the versatility, athleticism, and abilities of these amazing animals is just one of the many services that Final Furlong provides on behalf of thoroughbreds.

This organization is growing by adding incentives for our retired friends like the addition of awards for Final Furlong graduates, a prospective clinic on TB aftercare and competitions for OTTBs. By promoting their efforts on social media they are gaining and reaching a wider audience. This is very exciting; there is no doubt the racing community will continue to keep an eye out for old friends by following along online as they continue to grow into their new homes and careers.

With continued support there is no end to what Final Furlong and the racing community can accomplish together. To quote George Williams, “Thank you, said every horse.”

If you are interested in information or donating to this outstanding organization, you can contact them by email;

The HBPA of Manitoba is a proud supporter of Final Furlong and their efforts. To find out more about Final Furlong please visit them at:

Loosing Ardell Sayler

A loud chuckle filled the office. “Tell me something good girl.” The voice boomed as the man behind it smiled and walked through the door. This was the way most of my late morning conversations with Ardell started. I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last time I heard that phrase.

In May of 2019 ASD suffered a great loss. The big man from South Dakota, with an even bigger personality, had passed away. The feeling of shock and disbelieve spread through the backstretch along with the news of his sudden passing.

Soon to follow were all the stories. Horsemen sharing memories of the man they still struggled to believe was gone. There are so many stories about Ardell. So many career wins, training titles, and achievements, yet still not enough. The backstretch was still struggling to come to terms to losing one of their own and they rallied behind Ardell’s family. Sending staff to help with the morning chores, writing articles, planning a memorial service, asking what they could do, or just being there for his family. It was most definitely humbling to witness how close this community truly is.

Racing always seems to be a “to be continued,” sort of thing. At ASD we leave each other in September, and it is a to be continued moment until the following spring. Horsemen head off to another destination, or home for the winter months and are reunited in the spring with new hopes and hopefuls in their stables. As we fast approach the 2020 racing season the story of Ardell will not be continued by him. The story of Ardell will be continued by the horses and people left behind. In his horses that continue to run. In stories and photographs. In the people that have a career in racing because of him. In his family that will always be apart of the ASD family. It will be continued with the first open two-year-old race to be run each year in his name. Ardell’s physical self may be gone, but the memories and impact he has had on the Manitoba racing community will continue.

“I’ll see you later Ardell,” I said as he left my office. “If you’re lucky!” He said with a chuckle and closed the door.

-Shannon Dawley

The Legend Of Spanish Fowl

Spanish Fowl was the Assiniboia Racing Club’s (ARC) first thoroughbred to race. Established in 2016, ARC had bad luck with the first horse they purchased. Smed, claimed for $5000 US at an American track, was working out with trainer Tanya Lindsay. She noted a problem and the big bay gelding was found to have a stress fracture and had to be retired.

With only a few dollars left in the club’s kitty, John Field found a bargain priced filly, Spanish Fowl, a three-year old daughter of Spaniard out of Crusty Duck at Woodbine. ARC members, Louise and Jim Townsend, who were in Toronto for an unrelated event, tracked her down at a horse farm near Nobleton ON, where she was waiting for transport to ASD (see photo right).

Her season with ARC was a screen-writer’s horse-story drama. She was our trainer’s nightmare and the gate crew’s challenge. She finished fifth and seventh in her first two starts. The troubled ARC’s founding season became the subject of news articles by Ivan Bigg for Canstar Community News and George Williams for Canadian Thoroughbred Magazine. Those stories, described how in her last start on September 10, after two near misses, came to a dramatic conclusion.

Guided by Richard Mairs, she claimed a whopping nine-length victory. Her Winner’s Circle appearance, complete with the huge crowd of whooping ARC owners, was a challenge for legendary track photographer Gerry Hart (see photo left). This was the thrill the bunch of mostly first-time owners needed. Most signed up for the following year.

At the end of the meet, Spanish Fowl was sold to an ARC member and raced without much success in 2017. She went off the radar in 2018 and 2019. This May, Final Furlong, a wonderful group that finds new homes for OTTBs (Off the Track Thoroughbreds), found her for sale and put up the cash to buy her. Held at Emily Johnson’s little horse-heaven in Cook’s Creek for testing and farrier care, Louise Townsend, the first ARC owner to see her in 2016, had the chance to reunite with the now seven-year old mare for the last time (see photo right) before she travelled to a ‘forever home’ in Saskatchewan as a companion horse. Spanish music cues happy ending.

And, if you are wondering, here’s ARC’s other first horse Smed (see photo left) relaxing in a pond at his home since 2016 with a loving owner in Ontario.