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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s

Published: October 3, 2015 9:03 am ET

Last Comment: October 4, 2015 3:19 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind, Robert Smith takes a look back at some of the personalities and events from the decade of the 1960's in the ongoing monthly feature, Years Ago.

1960-61 - Johnny Dale Scores 42 Victories In Two Seasons

Johnny Dale, a roan son of John Dillard, was a bit late making his racing debut for owner John R. Ball, a feed mill owner from Baltimore, Ont. When the 1960 racing season opened in May, the then five-year-old was finally ready to begin to earn his keep. In his first start on May 28th at Belleville he had a respectable day, finishing second in the opening heat and getting his first lifetime win in the second, scoring in 2:17. He went on to make 22 starts, racing at nine different spots that year. He closed out the season on a positive note winning both heats of his final season start at the Norwood Fair. His earnings for the season of about 3 1/2 months amounted to $647.00. His win total was 10, with a first season record of 2:15 taken at Campbellford in late September.

In 1961 Johnny had quite a year and may very well have been the winningest horse in Canada. He went to the post a total of 41 times and returned to the winner's circle a whopping 32 times. Not every place had a camera. During nearly all of his starts Frank Alexander was in the bike. In mid-August he recorded his lifetime best of 2:06 1/5 at Old Woodbine. He became quite a favourite racing over the old 3/4 mile track with the chute, and it was believed that the announcer didn't have to look to see who was on top as they passed the stands. His earnings this year rose to $2,758 and he went undefeated during the month of September taking 16 straight heats, each at a different track. In these two busy seasons Johnny Dale scored an amazing 42 wins. Maybe not a lot of money, but a lot of fun!

[The dam of Johnny Dale was the roan mare Dixie II. I believe to be a roan, one parent has to be roan.]


Johnny Dale outdistances his two closest foes en route to his lifetime mark of 2:06 1/5 at Old Woodbine in 1961. In the sulky is Frank Alexander with Sir Symbol (Bert Madill) finishing second while Virginia's Boy closes for third with Duncan Campbell driving. (Michael Burns)


A visitor to the winner's circle an amazing 42 times in two seasons the roan speedster Johnny Dale poses at Old Woodbine for driver Frank Alexander and owner John R. Ball of Baltimore, Ont. As always an amazing crowd is shown in the background (Michael Burns)

1961 - Adios Butler Gets Special Treatment

Back in 1961, Adios Butler was the toast of the world of harness racing and his position of supremacy apparently entitled him to some special treatment. At about this time a newly launched program which involved lip tattooing of all horses came along just in time for the "Butler". The pictures displayed below show his "personalized" tattoo, something akin to a licence plate we might see today. Adios Butler had a then unbelievable record of 1:54.3 taken in the fall of 1960, a mark thought to be almost unattainable. It was made quite plain at the time that this would be the only exception made to the U.S.T.A. numbering system, which at the time had already tattooed some 700 horses. (Hoof Beats Photos)


Left: USTA Tattoo technician. Mike Slaughter, left, inspects his handi-work on Adios Butler. while co-owner and trainer Paige West appears satisfied with the work. Right: Serial Number 01543 Is imprinted on the inside of Adios Butler's upper lip. The significance of the number of course, Is that it represents his time, 1:54 3/5. Although there has been no personal comment from the Butler, members of the syndicate that owns him are hoping that a reduction in this world record by him will make the significance of the tattoo number short-lived.

1968 - Accident Mars New Year's Eve Program At Windsor

Dec. 31, 1968 - An unfortunate accident in the "Retirement Trot or Pace" spoiled an otherwise perfect evening of racing at Windsor Raceway. A huge crowd of 4,886 fans were on hand for a special New Year's eve program which started off with a non-betting event for horses who were all reaching the age of 15. This is the mandatory retirement age for racing other than at the fairs. The race drew a field of eight starters and as a special gesture, Herb Craig, a retiring driver who had turned 75 and was about to retire was invited to drive.

As the field left the gate, four horses were involved in an accident with Adios Judge and driver Herb Craig going down. The veteran teamster landed heavily on the track and sustained a fractured cheek bone as well as several facial abrasions and contusions. He was removed by medical staff and transported to nearby Grace Hospital. One driver, Joe Moss suffered a twisted knee, while both Murray Waples (handling Junior Goose) and Richard Carroll (behind Lemac) escaped injury. In his long driving career the affable Mr. Craig had been involved in only one other serious accident and that was during a training mile at his home base at Ridgetown, Ont. At that time he suffered fairly severe facial injuries.

Race winner So Longs Prince was unaffected by the mishap and breezed to victory for visiting driver Herve Filion, who scored four wins on the card to add to his world record title. The evening's feature event for a $2,100 purse went to Scott Quad, driven by Walter Srigley for local owner Hugh Lee of Wheatley, Ont. The win was the four-year-old mare's fifth straight and gave her eight wins in 16 starts on the season; all coming either at Windsor or London.

The festive crowd sent a total of $288,629 through the windows to close out the calendar on the 1968 season. It was a very cold evening and I don't have to rely on newspaper clippings for that fact as I recall being there.

​1969 - Nevele Pride Sets New World Record at Saratoga

In 1957 when Darn Safe became the first trotter to break the two minute mile mark on a half-mile track with a 1:59.4 mile, many experts believed that this was about as fast as the record might ever be. However as the quality of racing improved so did the times. In 1969 Nevele Pride graced the Spa oval and trotted a mile in 1:56.4, again giving rise to just how fast a horse could trot.


Sept. 6, 1969 - ​Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer shouts encouragement to the great trotter Nevele Pride as they complete the fastest trotting mile in history to that point on a half-mile track. They covered the Saratoga twice around in 1:56.4 in front of a gigantic crowd. [Saratoga archives]

Not only did Nevele Pride break Speedy Rodney's 1:58.3 world record on the trot, but his mile was the fastest race mile on a half-mile track REGARDLESS of gait as it shaved one-fifth of a second off the pacing mark set by none other than three-time Horse of the Year Bret Hanover in 1965.

This record did stand for a long time until 1988 when Mack Lobell won a Breeders Crown event at Saratoga in 1:56 for John Campbell.

1969 - Canada's Newest Bridge

​On July 4, 1969 Canada's newest bridge was officially opened. Built at a cost of $30,000 it is believed to be the first bridge built exclusively for the use of trotters and pacers. Its location was not across water but rather across Glendale Avenue, which previously separated the stable area at Garden City Raceway from the main track. Prior to this, dating back to the track's opening in 1964, the horses and horse people had to cross the road using special traffic lights, controlled by a security guard. At the time of the bridge's opening, some 624 trotters and pacers were recorded as residents at the Garden City backstretch. That number would insure that the new bridge would be well travelled.


Present for the official opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting on that July day was OJC Director of racing Ed Bradley (Left) along with Les Ehrlick, Pres. of the O.H.H.A. The first horse to officially cross the bridge was the then 12-year-old​ Superior Richard ​with​ Carmen Hie ​​of Cob​o​urg, Ont. in the bike for owner Cliff Hie Carmen's father. ​[​Story information​ and photo​ from the publication Harness Horse Happenings - Wm. Galvin​]​

October 4, 2015 - 3:19 pmThat bridge at Garden City

Eric Sherban SAID...

That bridge at Garden City was three lanes wide. If you had a pulling horse, you prayed nobody was coming up the passing lane.

October 4, 2015 - 8:35 amAgain Mr. Smith ,you bring

Again Mr. Smith ,you bring back some good old memories, fantastic job, thank you. Ron.


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