Jackson Wittup Retiring

Published: August 4, 2019 10:36 am EDT

The history of horse racing in Alberta runs deep. For nearly a century and a half, spectators have gathered on the apron of racetracks across the province to celebrate the spirit of horsemanship, which still remains at the cultural core of the province. The legacy has been built on the dedication of individuals like Jackson Wittup, who have spent a lifetime contributing to the sport in both their personal and professional pursuits.

Wittup first found himself at the racetrack alongside his parents. His father worked in the mutuel betting office and his mother worked in the horsemen’s bookkeeper office. At 16, Wittup got his first job in horse racing – he carried money from the clubhouse at Stampede Park to the bank, and when the Standardbreds were there, he was also what was called the Judge’s Runner. He would take the photo finishes down from the judges and post them around the grandstand. “That’s probably where got my main interest in Standardbred racing,” said Wittup, whose career ended up touching many aspects of the industry. He worked as a timer and in the Standardbred race office until he was named race secretary for Standardbreds at Stampede Park in 1980.

Wittup’s involvement at Stampede Park spanned more than 30 years, with more than 25 of those served as race secretary. The bulk of his career took place on some of the most hallowed ground in the world of horse sport. Wittup’s love of Standardbred racing not only permeated into the entirety of his professional life, but it remained central to his personal life, as well. “My favourite horse, for some reason, was an Australian horse Justa Ripple A. I liked him, and the weekend that my wife and I got married, there was a stakes race he was in on the Sunday, so I made my wife go and watch before we went off to the mountains (for their honeymoon.)”

However, in 2008, Stampede Park ceased conducting live horse racing, which forced industry professionals, including Wittup, to find work elsewhere. During that period when horses were not racing in Calgary, Wittup spent some time as race secretary in Grande Prairie, as well as at Fraser Downs in Surrey, B.C. He was also the executive director of Harness Racing British Columbia for a period of time.

In April 2015, the sound of hooves thundered back into the heart of southern Alberta, and Wittup once again got to work in his hometown with the new title of race manager at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino. He was instrumental in the resurrection of horse racing in the Calgary area and laying the groundwork for racing at the brand new facility. Wittup’s final year saw the most extensive Standardbred race season yet. “I’m going to miss the people, that’s the obvious answer, but the kinship of being around the horsemen – every day was good dealing with them.”

It is often difficult to sum up a legacy: a lifetime in the industry, a 43-year career, the only race secretary for 25 years for the Nat Christie Memorial. Wittup’s legacy is rapt in his unwavering participation. Following the industry when it left Calgary for nearly a decade; partaking in events and campaigns for casino management; always finding time to lend expertise for media initiatives; somehow storing boundless information about stats, horses, drivers, and people in his memory; and still, on most weekends, standing on apron with his wife, Helen, as not just a race manager, but also a fan.

Jackson, on behalf of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association, thank you for your participation and all of your hard work. Congratulations on your retirement!

Century Downs will be hosting a stakes-packed program of live racing on Monday (August 5), featuring divisions of the Alberta Starlet and Rising Star, the $125,000 final of the Gord & Illa Rumpel Memorial, and the Ralph Klein Memorial.

To view the harness racing entries for the Monday card at Century Downs, click the following link: Monday Entries – Century Downs.

(Storm Dafoe / horsesporter.com)



What a class act. Jackson, your professionalism and integrity will be missed!

Jackson was also active as a Director of Standardbred Canada for many years and even served as Chairman at one point. I wish him good luck in future endeavours.

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