ON July 1, Assiniboia Downs leading trainer Jared Brown won only one race, but it was the first race on the eight-race program, the one he wanted more than all the rest.
As Soft Top, ridden by Downs' leading jockey Larren Delorme hit the wire, Brown was pretty sure someone was watching from above.
"It was the race I really wanted to win," said Brown. "It was in memory of Andy Neufeld and that one meant a lot to me." On June 26 Neufeld, 42, suffered a fatal heart attack at the Downs in front of the paddock during a race card.
A six-year valet at Assiniboia Downs, Neufeld's sudden death caused cancellation of the last two races as emotions ran high in the jockey's room.
Neufeld, who would have turned 43 on June 28, is survived by wife Joy, daughter Amanda, 20, and son Andy Jr., 15.
"You really have to feel bad for the family who was hit that hard," said Brown. "There is no preparing for something like that."
In addition to an impromptu moment of silence prior to the first race on June 27, the jockeys have been wearing black armbands and, now they've organized a social in support of a trust fund for Neufeld's family on July 19 at the Downs.
"I basically grew up with him in Headingley, along with his family," said Dwayne Addison, supervisor of the jockey's room, and the man who introduced Neufeld to horse racing about six years ago. "It was all new to him.
"He was a farm boy, had some cattle when he was young, but growing up he got out of that. Race horses were not his forte, but he learned very quickly."
"Andy had a room-filling spirit," said Darren Dunn, director of operations at Assiniboia Downs.
"He was the kind of guy you wanted in the locker-room and out on the field. He was a 'walk-on' if you will, but obviously he had the talent and was ready to listen and learn."
In addition to dedicating the first race on July 1 to Neufeld, the Downs also took a photograph of all the jockeys and valets in the winner's circle, and superimposed a photo of Neufeld to the side.
"That picture will be mounted in the jockey's room," said Addison, "and a second photo will go to his family.
"Our goal is to raise as much money at this social event as possible," said Addison, adding that social tickets are $15, and can be purchased by calling 633-0738.
"For those who wish to donate money, all Winnipeg RBC Royal Bank branches will accept donations to The Neufeld Family Trust, or just drop it off at Guest Services, Assiniboia Downs, attn: Andy Neufeld Family Trust."