Frank J. Selke
Hall of Fame Inductee, 2003
The man who masterminded Stanley Cup hockey dynasties in both Montreal and Toronto was also one of the more astute Thoroughbred horsemen in Canada. Frank J. Selke imported and stood Ladder, the Kentucky-bred stallion who sired Canada's Horse Of The Half-Century, Bunty Lawless. Selke also bred one of Canada's great fillies, Wonder Where.
Born in Kitchener, Ont., in 1893, Selke helped Conn Smythe build a hockey empire and Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1930s and 40s, winning three Stanley Cups in Toronto before heading to Montreal as the Canadiens' managing director, capturing six more Cups in the 1950s.
An electrician by trade and an avid chicken fancier, Selke was a noted race horse breeder in both Ontario and Quebec. He was president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society from 1942 to 45 and a director in 1947-1948.
In 1934 the ill-fated Ladder had bred only a handful of mares at Selke's farm on land he leased from Thorncliffe Racetrack on Don Mills Road before a fire destroyed the stables and 32 animals, including Ladder. His potential would never be fully realized. However, a mating with Mintwina, owned by Selke's friend, Willie Morrissey, produced Bunty Lawless, the King's Plate winner of 1938. Ladder's only great son would later sire Plate winners Epic and McGill and champion Windfields.
Selke headed north to King, Ont., and built Rolling Range Farm, a 220-acre breeding operation. In 1946 he moved to Quebec and Rolling Range Farm #2, 40 miles west of Montreal at Riguad. It was at this farm that he bred Wonder Where, the exceptional multi-stakes winning filly who was Canada's Horse Of The Year in 1959, defeating Triple Crown winner New Providence in the year-end voting. Owned by Smythe and Larkin Maloney, Wonder Where's incredible season helped overcome Winning Shot's loss in the Plate. Bred by Selke and sold as a yearling to John Evans, the colt finished third as the Plate favorite.
Another broodmare that Selke owned was Ebony Lass. A mating with Bunty Lawless produced B Fast, a filly who gained celebrity status after being sold to a breeder in Alberta. In 1965 B Fast's son, Whistling Sea, became the first Western Canadian-bred horse to win the Queen's Plate. Selke also stood Smythe's old warhorse, Shoeless Joe, a very productive stallion during the 1940s. Selke died in July, 1985, at age 92.