It is with profound and deep sadness that Assiniboia Downs shared the news of the unexpected passing March 9th of Board Chair Harvey Warner.

The contributions he made to the horse racing industry in both Manitoba and Canada were immense and will leave a lasting impact on the sport forever.

Harvey was one of the original architects of the non-profit Manitoba Jockey Club (MJC) in 1993, rescuing Assiniboia Downs and the horse racing industry from the bankruptcy situation of the former private owner Jim Wright.

A lifelong lover of horses and participant in the industry, both in a horse ownership and industry leadership capacity, before assuming his role on the MJC Board, Harvey previously lead the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association as their President. In 1989, Harvey, along with his stable co-owners, achieved the pinnacle result on the racetrack at Assiniboia Downs by winning the 1989 Manitoba Derby with a horse named Rough Catch.

A recent testament to the contributions that Harvey made to the sport of horse racing was his national recognition in 2020 of a special Sovereign Award.

Harvey leaves his wife Edie, their daughters Sheri and Michelle, and their families.

The following tribute was written by Jennifer Morrison on the occasion of Warner receiving his 2020 Sovereign Award:

“To say that Mr. Harvey Warner was a major player in the revival of Assiniboia Downs and horse racing in Winnipeg, Manitoba would not be an overstatement.

In 1994, privately owned, Assiniboia Downs was in receivership and destined to close but a small group of concerned horse people, which included Mr. Warner, officially formed the Manitoba Jockey Club (MJC), mandated to attempt to purchase and host live racing. The group worked tirelessly, lobbying government officials and meeting with the track’s financiers. Mr. Warner became the voice of the MJC and eventually its president. He led the MJC to achieve its final goal and make Assiniboia Downs a not-for-profit entity.

A self-made businessman who owned Westwood Esso in St. James, Mr. Warner first became involved in horse racing ownership in 1983 as a part owner of his first horse with trainer Jim MacFarlane. Success with his first horse led Mr. Warner to later join forces with trainer C. J. ‘Shorty’ Gray. One of their first horses was multiple stakes winner Sonshire. In 1989 Mr. Warner won the province’s biggest race, the Manitoba Derby, with Rough Catch.

He became immersed not just in owning horses but in the workings of racing in Manitoba, serving as president of the Winnipeg Horseman’s Club from 1982-85, and as a voice on the Manitoba Horse Council Board. He was a member of the Manitoba HBPA Board from 1989 to 1992 and is currently a Jockey Club of Canada Steward.

Once the MJC was in full swing, Mr. Warner’s role was to facilitate the projects and concepts that he and his board of directors had initiated. His self-taught philosophy of not spending more than you make was ingrained in the MJC. Whenever something was suggested to be included in the budget, Harvey would speak out: “And where is the money coming from?”

Today, the days of horse shortages, difficulties in maintaining a provincial breeding industry, maintaining a mid-century facility and competing for the gaming dollar, the common denominator of the success of the MJC is still Harvey Warner.

Dr. Ross McKague, a successful owner and breeder, said about Mr. Warner’s Special Sovereign Award, “Harvey’s nomination for a major “contribution” award was inevitable. He is, to this day, at the head of the table for all MJC meetings, and always thanks the directors for attending. The Special Sovereign Award is well-deserved and long overdue.”

~ with files from Assiniboia Downs