Working hard at his ‘hobby’, Lee managed to turn out several champion horses including:
- Frank’s Mistake – 1948 Alberta Derby winner
- Air Cadet – stakes winner
- Last Hour – 1959 Alberta Derby winner
- Sonoma – 1959 Canadian Derby winner
- Northern Mission – 1969 Alberta Derby winner
Lee’s wife Marion shared his passion for horses. She named many of them with Spanish names due to her interest in the language. She chose names like Suerte (luck), Sabrosa (tasty) and Muy Guapo (very handsome). Frank’s Mistake got his name from a friend who bought the horse, only to be told by his wife to get rid of it. Lee bought him back and he went on to win the Alberta Derby.
Sonoma was Lee’s favourite, named for a Spanish mission in California. She was sired by Battant, a horse he imported from Argentina that had once been owned by Hollywood producer Louis B. Mayer and actor H.B. Warner. Battant also sired Air Cadet. In Edmonton in 1959, Sonoma became the first filly to win the Canadian Derby.
Of course none of this could have been done without long-time trainer D.E. “Earl” Robertson and jockey Robert Taylor. Lee thought, “at best…we had a mediocre chance”. He was wrong and Sonoma ran an incredible race, coming from last place before she hit the clubhouse turn. Sadly, the victory was tainted. Robertson solemnly told Lee “she’ll never run again…she’s run her last race”. Sonoma had injured her knee in the deep mud. Her contribution to thoroughbred racing continued as a broodmare. One of her offspring was Northern Mission, another winner of the Alberta Derby.
Image Credits: Lee with Frank’s Mistake (left) and Air Cadet (right) – 1949, Musée Héritage Museum