Glen Royce Ball, the man they call “GB”

Jul 10, 2015 | ASD History

Glen Ball with Taboga

Glen Ball with Taboga

by Bob

Originally from Edmonton, GB came to Winnipeg with his family when he was a youngster. Glen always loved to be around horses and got his start with show horses. Horses were his passion, but he made his living as a “car guy.”

GB operated a White Rose service station and later got involved with car dealerships where he worked for Consolidated and Dominion Motors, all while balancing his show horse activities.

GB held executive posts with the Horseshoe Riding Club and the Horsemen’s Club of Winnipeg and maintained a high profile in the show horse community.

When the Shrine Circus hit town, GB provided horses for stars like Hugh O’Brian in 1959, who appeared as his alter ego “Wyatt Earp” on GB’s good looking palomino Gold To Do. In 1960 he made sure TV’s “Rifleman”, Chuck Connors had a mount and again in 1961 for western star “Johnny Ringo.”

In the 1960s GB left the car world and started training horses for a living. He traded a valuable prize saddle for his first two thoroughbreds. GB established himself as a quality conditioner of horses and operated a modest size public stable. May 1968 saw GB score his first win as a trainer with Speedy C. A few weeks later What A Gem gave him his second win and Ball never looked back.

GB was always one of the first arrivals at the Downs in early spring, but his was no solo effort. He had wife, Louise and three children in tow. Glen and Louise Ball were a team, one of the many husband/wife duos that the Downs has had over the years.

Louise was a full partner in this enterprise, looking after sons, Rick and Shane and daughter, Treasure in addition to more four-legged skittish young ones than she cared to count. As he came of age, number one son, Rick galloped and helped cared for his Dad’s horses and brother Shane followed.

In 1969 Glen claimed Tarry News from Lloyd and Clayton Gray. Tarry News was a quality runner whose 1969 record was the envy of all. In 18 combined starts at the Downs and Blue Bonnets the dark bay gelding never missed bringing home a share of the purse, with 9 wins, 6 seconds and 2 thirds as well as a fourth place finish. In doing so, Tarry News was named the Downs’ best older horse for 1969.

In 1972 GB conditioned the well-bred Sky High Stream for Leslie Bohna. Stream broke his maiden at the Downs on June 16, 1972 and went on to become a very nice horse. In 1973 the colt raced against Our Native and Shecky Green in the Grade ll, $100,000 Ohio Derby.

As he started out, hard-knocking types like Tarry News and Bond King help GB make his transition to owner/trainer of race horses, but GB will forever be known for his association with Marcel Chartier’s Wescana Stables.

In the 1970s brothers Don and Clayton Gray dominated the leading trainer board. Don winning in 1975, 77 and 78, while Clayton won in 1970, 72, 73, 74, 76 and 79, but GB was “The Man!”

To say he operated the most powerful stable in the mid-1970s just doesn’t do it justice. Mere words can’t describe a barn that included: Macale, Lexico, Taboga, De Cat, Medieval Time, Teddy H, Proud Chief and Northern Diamond. Any owner or trainer would consider themselves fortunate to have any one of these fine steeds, but GB had them all and more!

Tarry News won nine races for GB in 1969.

Tarry News won nine races for GB in 1969.

There’s no way to adequately sum up GB’s multi-decade career, so how about a couple of selected tales?

In the 1960s GB and a few of his regular cowboy buddies would visit the Lockport area gravel pits to do some shooting. Glen owned a fancy ivory handled six-shooter and enjoyed target practice. On one occasion he had a minor “wardrobe malfunction.” In the process of drawing, his gun got caught up and fired way too soon. The pain running down his leg told him something was dreadfully wrong, sure enough, he had shot himself in the foot!

The choices to remedy the situation were few. It was either a hospital visit and police reports or a long embarrassing ride home to Louise for some “homecare.” This incident is a well-known sort of urban legend and has been told many times by GB’s backstretch friends.

Another “tail” involves one of Ball’s female stars from Barn B. Taboga was a multiple stakes winning mare for its owner Wescana Stables, who truly believed she was royalty, a regular princess. She was a smooth large-striding champion and one of the better females ever to have raced at the Downs, but this story is not about one of her feats on the race track. Rather it is about her fondness for GB or at least his “treats” – Life Savers in particular!

On his visits to the barn, GB would and give Taboga a Life Saver from his shirt pocket. It got to the point that when he got close to her stall she would sniff out the candy in his pocket. As a result of her owner’s financial issues and a subsequent dispersal sale she found herself in another barn. Time passed and one day GB went to visit the chestnut who recognized him and as he approached sniffed out a Life Saver from his shirt pocket. Does it get any cuter and smarter than that?

It’s hard to believe that GB never won a leading trainer title, but the very nature of his racing operation, a smaller quality stable, never really lent itself to winning the title. GB sits in 16th position on the all-time leading trainer board with 437 wins in a career that spanned more than 40 years!

GB turned 87 this past February and he’s dealing with some health issues that don’t allow him to get out to the races these days, but fear not, Louise takes good care of him with help from the family.

First winner. Speedy C. May, 1968.

First winner. Speedy C. May, 1968.

However, the Balls still have a strong presence at the track. Son, Shane is a jockey agent these days. Elder son, Rick has never been far from the track and was pressed into service this year to help out in the backstretch, this in addition to his regular job.

Car guy turned trainer, Glen Royce Ball, GB for short, the man who gave us so many stakes winners – we wish you the best of health and hope to see you again soon!

There will always be a seat in the clubhouse with your name on it!