This Saturday, October 7, Century Downs Racetrack and Casino will be hosting Pioneer Day. This day is prepared with the intention to honour pioneers of Thoroughbred racing, showcase its history, and bring back horsemen, owners, breeders and fans who may not have not been in the industry since the closure of Stampede Park. To leap into celebrating pioneers here in Alberta, we caught up with former jockey, and current trainer and exercise rider Rod Haynes.
Haynes has been in the horse racing industry for over 50 years, and is now on his way to retirement. “I’ve been in [the industry] for a long time,” said Haynes. “I quit before, then I came back… [I think] it’s just time to start enjoying life a little bit and start doing other things. My wife has supported me all of these years, never complained about anything, and it’s a tough life.”
Haynes is looking forward to spending some more time with his young grandchildren.
Looking back on his career, there have been a lot of changes that happened in the industry. “When I started there were a lot of smaller operations, and they gradually got quite a bit bigger,” said Haynes. “We didn’t have to move as much, which made it a bit better. The last few years, the industry has been a bit tougher; purses have been good, but there hasn’t been much stability in the business.”
Haynes is seeing the industry move back into the right direction. “It’s nice to see Century Downs [racing] Thoroughbreds now, and if we get another track outside of Edmonton, that’s going to do a lot to get racing coming back to the positive side again.”
Haynes was previously a jockey and transitioned into being a trainer and an exercise rider. “It’s was getting hard to keep my weight down,” said Haynes. “I got lucky. A few people were willing to give me a few horses to start with, and it was a slow process. [I was] working with just a few horses to gradually getting a big stable. I just had to work hard”
Haynes is happy to have racing back in Calgary. “It’s just nice to be home,” said Haynes. “It’s nice to be only 20-25 minutes away from the track.”
Haynes had one horse in on Saturday, September 30 HOPEWICK. “She’s just a nice honest mare,” said Haynes. “She’s run very well [over] the last few years.” In the final race of the day, there was a field of eight, there was HOPEWICK (Williams) with the odds of 21/1. It was a slow start out of the gate, as LAST FLIGHT (K. Balgobin), LADY AMELIA (Welch) and CLASSYSHADESOFGREY (Walcott) were duking it out throughout most of the race. PICK A PRIZE (Muir) and HOPEWICK were sitting way back behind the crowd until the final bend when HOPEWICK starting gaining ground, took it wide, and strutted into third place behind LADY AMELIA and PICK A PRIZE.
We’re hoping to see more of Rod Haynes and his horses here at Century Downs for this season, and wish him the best of luck to his retirement.
Watch and wager live racing every Saturday and Sunday at 12:50 p.m., and enjoy racing on Thanksgiving Monday at 3:10 p.m.