By Al Beeber on June 26, 2021.
It was part of our summers growing up and horse racing is still part of the southern Alberta sports culture. I took the camera to the Rocky Mountain Turf Club last weekend for the first time to try shooting the races, which turned out to be pretty challenging. I’ve shot a lot of things over the years, including hockey back in Ontario when I I was a sports writer for the first seven years of my career. But shooting the races is a different beast.
I hadn’t been to a race meet since the Doug Bassett Memorial was held a few years ago. Doug was my next door neighbour in Raymond and a great friend who was heavily involved in the southern Alberta racing industry for many years.
He tragically died way too young before his 50th birthday 12 years ago and a race was held in his honour that fall.
Being from Raymond, going to the horse races is one of those things that we used to love doing. Doug’s younger brother Rick and I would pore over the racing form for hours planning our bets before hitting the races on a Saturday afternoon and we did well. Especially Rick, since I sometimes strayed away from the picks we’d made and lost money making bad bets.
We first started hitting the track when the grandstand was still constructed of wood, that old facility which had so much character. Years before, while living in Cardston, we’d get rides in with friends’ parents to watch the stock car races which never had the same appeal to me as the horses.
On Sunday while shooting a couple of races on Father’s Day, I scoured the crowd to see if I recognized any familiar faces. I wasn’t overly optimistic because I haven’t been to Raymond in years except to golf the odd time so I haven’t seen too many people from that town since high school aside from class reunions.
But sure enough there was Darcy Ralph by the paddock. I recognized him instantly despite all the years that had passed.
Charlie Holt was manning the ambulance and while I’d been told he’d be there, it’s been so long I honestly couldn’t tell if it was him or not. But he recognized me.
And so did Jim Depew’s wife, who I immediately recognized as the daughter of Ira Bourne, who served as a police officer in both Raymond and Cardston and was a legendary basketball referee.
In the brief time I was back at the track, I felt like I was at home again. There’s something about the atmosphere at the horse races that brings back memories and a feeling of belonging.
And I’m looking forward to heading back tomorrow with the camera to improve my photography ability.
This weekend is the last of the spring race meet at Whoop-Up Downs with action starting today and tomorrow at 1 p.m. The gates open on the first race both days at 1:15 p.m.
After more than a year of COVID restrictions, it’s nice to get outside in the sunshine and actually socialize again. Maybe I’ll see you there.
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