Monday, January 31, 2011

Remembering Bobby Stewart

A "Bobby" moment in 1962 
The above photograph shows Bobby Stewart (age 18) - the lanky jockey from Kittson County, Minnesota - being presented with a winner's trophy by legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro, who was on a retirement tour at the time.  Who knew that Bobby would go on to win six riding titles, set five track records, and even ride in the (1969) Kentucky Derby?

Remembering Bobby: A brilliant career, a tragic end
In the photograph:  Winners' Circle, Saturday July 10, 2010, with paddock host Kirt Contois (right) following the Bobby Stewart Memorial Stakes are Bobby's brother Wayne (left), daughter Lori, son Lance and brother Garylle, all who live in the U.S. Garylle recollects the 1960's and 1970's when his brother (inset) lit up the toteboard with 724 wins and bagged a record six riding titles. Later, son Lance, a former U.S. Marine who now repairs X-ray equipment, talked about the demons that haunted his father after an ailing back ended his riding career in 1976. Bobby, he said, couldn't deal with "going from everything to being nothing" and in 1985, at the age of only 41, died from a police bullet after taking a gun to visit his estranged wife in Lake Bronson, Minnesota.

From the Assiniboia Downs website comes this tribute, written in anticipation of the race named in Bobby's honor:
He was the master of swagger, the Fargo Phantom, the reaper of records. He was, in short, a riding dynamo at the Downs in the 1960s and 1970s who's never been equalled. Bobby Stewart. Never in a hurry to get to the paddock to mount up ("C'mon, let's go!") but always in a hurry to cross the finish line first ("Way to go!"), he earned the leading jockey title six times (no other jockey has more than four) and set five track records. He even rode in the Kentucky Derby. Lanky frame, cherubic grin. "He had no peer," said ASD patriarch owner/trainer Bert Blake who had Bobby ride his horses every opportunity he got.
From the Red River Valley website on Bobby's family, a quote from Mike Rustad reminds us that "Former residents of Kittson County will remember that Glen Stewart's son got their start at the Kittson County Fair Grounds."  From humble beginnings can come much greater things!