R. JAMES SPEERS
R. James Speers can be accurately described as the father of thoroughbred horse racing on the Canadian prairies and although he operated a flourishing enterprise which extended from Manitoba to Alberta, he was fiercely devoted to the City of Winnipeg.
It was at Winnipeg’s River Park that Speers organized his first race meeting in 1922. Subsequently, he built Whittier Park and Polo Park in Winnipeg and Chinook Park in Calgary. Coincidentally, Speers was operating annual summer race meetings for the local Exhibition Associations in Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Calgary.
Speers’ personal integrity and warm personality earned him the respect of every racing enthusiast in North America. Never one to lose touch with the “little person”, Speers was a friend to the wealthy as well as the stable grooms, from Toronto’s Woodbine to California’s Santa Anita Park.
R. James Speers was born in Toronto but quickly became an ardent westerner after his move to the prairies at eighteen years of age. After settling in Winnipeg in 1920, he decreed that Whittier Park and Polo Park were to be models for the entire Canadian racing community. Indeed, they were little gems; their immaculately kept white cottage barns with the green and red roofs were far superior to any other race track stabling areas in the country. Speers was also determined to prove that the West could produce thoroughbred horses equal to any in North America. Accordingly, he assembled stallions and mares for his Whittier Park Stock Farm near St. Boniface. Speers’ bold gamble was vindicated as he was Canada’s leading breeder from 1946 to 1951 - the only westerner ever to top the list.
When Manitoba was ravaged by floods in 1950, Speers devoted the entire profits of his 1950 racing meetings to the Flood Relief Fund. R. Jame Speers was one of the most admirable Manitobans of his or any other generation.
d. July 19, 1955