The word ‘Assiniboia’ is used a lot in Winnipeg. The people of the Assiniboia First Nation were the original bearers of the name. Since then we’ve named a river, a zoo, a municipality, numerous businesses, and a racetrack after them.
Fast Facts about Horse Racing for the total Know-Not-All:
I’ve never paid it much attention, but now that one of my kids has a part time job there, I’m suddenly curious. I’ve even attended my first horse race this past weekend and lost three whole dollars!
Usually, in the mornings when I drive past the track on my way to work, I’ll see horses prancing around in circles like they’re part of a merry-go-round. Sometimes there’s a smoky fire nearby, to keep the mosquitoes away. I’ve now learned that the carousel devices are called ‘hot walkers.’ Four to six horses can exercise at the same time for about half an hour.
The racetrack opened in 1958. Before that, races were held at Polo Park (which for all of my lifetime, has been the name of our biggest shopping mall).
The Assiniboia Downs racetrack is six and a half furlongs long. (To put this in perspective, the track for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is 10 furlongs). There are 8 furlongs in a mile.
Live thoroughbred racing happens only during the summer – on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. What is a thoroughbred, you ask? Somehow, they can all trace back their lineage back to three specific horses that were bred in England. Thoroughbreds come in a variety of colors, and sizes – measuring from 15 to 17 hands. (A hand = 4 inches.)
Other Horse facts:
Filly – female three years or younger
Mare – female over three years old
Entire – male stallion
Gelding – a male horse that’s been castrated
Non-horse person that I am, what I find most fascinating about the whole sport is naming of the horses. Here’s a sample of some recent Assiniboia Downs competitors: Ally Scatter, Gentle Rain, Black Iris, Awaytobelieve, Fine Feline, and Oh Holy Moley. These names must rival the names chosen by rock bands. It's not a good idea to place bets according to names, though. I lost my three bucks betting on Gentle Rain.
Perhaps this is a good place to stop. I haven’t touched on the jockeys, the actual racing, or the betting procedures. But I do want to recommend a young adult book I read awhile ago. It’s written by Annie Wedekind, called A Horse of Her Own. Great story about the horse/human relationship and some insight into the complicated horse world.
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