By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Two or three mornings a week a tall, lean man wearing a broad brimmed, caramel-coloured hat walks briskly through the Hastings Racecourse parking lot towards the track’s main entrance. His routine rarely changes. He mingles for a bit with his pals in Jerome’s, picks up the overnight entries and a racing form, then heads back to his home on Eton Street a couple of blocks away.
There is no mistaking Allan Jack, a distinguished member of the BC Horse Racing Hall of Fame and one of the most successful trainers in local thoroughbred history.
It would be negligent to allow this 2018 Hastings season draw to a close without a brief tribute to this gentleman of 84 years affectionately referred to as A.J.
A survivor of two heart attacks five years apart in 2002 and 2007, he got his start in racing galloping horses when he was 12 years old. At 14 he lied about his age and manipulated a few mounts as a jockey before returning to galloping and working as an outrider.
As a trainer, A.J. saddled his first winner in 1959 and his career rocketed from there with prolific performers such as Hall of Famers Strawberry Morn and Mike K. “I have so many great memories,” he says. “Winning the inaugural BC Oaks in 1963 with Be Famous ranks up there with the best of them. I had a half ownership in Be Famous with Dr. Harry Pitts and remember him buying a case of champagne for $90 to celebrate the win. Back in those days the BC Oaks purse was $3500, not like the $100,000 it is today.”
Strawberry Morn, the home-bred grey filly owned by Aubrey and Jenny Roberts, went on to top $500,000 in career earnings. “She won the first race ever staged at Emerald Downs when the track opened in 1996,” Jack says. “That was another memory I will always cherish.”
Allen Jack could write a best-seller about the highs and lows he experienced over five decades as a trainer and the characters he met along the way. For now, he’s content to enjoy his walks to the track and socialize with old friends. “It’s all part of keeping fit,” he says. “Every day is a good day.”