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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s

Published: November 7, 2015 8:40 am ET

Last Comment: November 7, 2015 7:04 pm ET | 3 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 1970s in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago.

1970 - Canada's First Triple Dead Heat For Win

Canada's first official triple dead heat for win occurred at Windsor Raceway on October 14, 1970 and was recorded as the fith in history (The first took place at Freehold in 1953). The Windsor photo finish camera could not separate three horses at the wire. They were Arnolds Gem driven by Bud Foster, Bervaldo piloted by Gerry Bookmyer and Banjo Phil in rein to Charlie Grunkemeyer. All of the drivers were U.S.-based but racing at a Canadian track. A large picture of the event hung in the upper level of the Windsor grandstand near the clubhouse entrance, presumably until the recent destruction. Shortly after this rare event occurred, a special handout was given to thousands of Windsor race goers as a commemorative reminder.

Harness racing's first recorded triple dead heat for win occurred at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey on October 3, 1953. Oddly the three horses involved were all three-year-old fillies and each of their names began with the letter "P".

The camera was unable to separate Patchover, Penny Maid and Payne Hal at the finish wire (pictured at right).

The use of photo finish camera technology in horse racing began back in the 1930's, first at several Thoroughbred tracks such as Hialeah, Santa Anita and Hawthorne. It eventually came into widespread use at harness tracks as well. The idea was conceived as far back as 1882 but the technology was not yet available.

One ingenious photographer back then came up with the idea of putting a thin black thread across the track that could be "tripped" as the first horse crossed the finish line, thus setting off his camera!

1972 - Michigan Dentist "Pulls One Out"

The 1972 Hambo renewal had quite an oddity that had undoubtedly never occurred in all its previous years, or probably since. Dr. Anderson Arbury, a retired orthodontist from Midland, Michigan, entered his well-bred Matastar colt Axystar and kept up all of the sustaining payments. When Hambo day arrived the lightly-raced colt had made just three starts, all on the Michigan Fair Circuit and had earnings of just $77.00 on his card. With the surplus of capable drivers made available by the shortened field, one might have expected that he would have a large group to choose from.

No, a "catch" driver was not necessary. Dr. Arbury, at the age of 67, was more than capable of handling the chores himself. While many reporters gathered around the better-known horsemen such as Stanley Dancer, Delvin Miller and Billy Haughton, more than a few gravitated to the genial dentist to get his story. True to form, Axystar was well back at the start of each of the two heats and was able to maintain that position finishing last in both heats 7-7, distanced on each occasion. He may forever hold the record for the longest odds ever on a Hambletonian entrant, except there was no wagering on this event. It was also reported that he had a good seat (maybe a bit expensive) to view the record-setting performance of Super Bowl that day. At season's end Dr. Arbury and Axystar had recorded 12 starts and earnings of $342.

When Dr. Arbury was questioned about his involvement in the famous race he explained it in the following way, as narrated by famed writer Larry Evans. "My horse was eligible and all payments were made on time and my money is as good as anyone else's. As to getting in the way he laughed, "with only seven horses in there on a wide track, those fellows ought to be able to avoid me if they're as good as you say they are."

Dr. Arbury could always say he drove a colt in the Hambletonian.

1973 - Western Fair Enjoys Highly Successful Year

Blaze Herbert sets a new London track record of 2:02.3 for driver Jack Herbert with Keystone Gary second for Wm. Wellwood. In the winner's circle co-owner Ruth Herbert (red jacket) joins Jack and several others in the celebration.

The management at Western Fair Raceway were very pleased at the overall success of their 1973 season and reported the following statistics covering both meetings. This year marked the 13th season of operating under the lights. During this season several new speed records were established as shown below.

  • Fastest All Age Pacing mile:
    Mr. Peter Ray (Ray McLean) 2:01.1 (Track Record, later broken)

  • Fastest Trotting mile:
    Blaze Herbert (Jack Herbert) 2:02.3 (Track Record)

  • Fastest 3 Y.O. Pacing mile:
    J.R. Skipper (Ron Waples) 2:00.3 (Track Record) Labatts Blue Invitational Pace $10,000 purse

  • Fastest 2 Y.O. Trotting mile:
    Buckle Down (Don Corbett) 2:09.1 (Track Record)

Total & Average attendance

Spring meet - 125,006 / 3,125 Daily
Fall meeting - 90,096 / 2,805 Daily

Leading Drivers (Fall Meeting)

Percentage based
Jack Campbell - .406
Rick Moffatt (pictured at right) - .388

Dashes Won
Ray McLean - 21
Rick Moffatt - 18

1974 - RUS Back In The 1970's

Pictured is Baron Wolfgang von Richthofen and his wife with the noted horse Varioca M, a French imported trotter that performed in many special events on the OJC Circuit during the 1970's

Back in 1974, in an effort to attract Thoroughbred fans to harness racing, O.J.C. publicist Wm. Galvin devised a series of Trotting Races Under Saddle, with Woodbine's top riders in the tack. The first event was staged opening night of Grand Circuit Week at Greenwood and Thoroughbred fans flocked to Greenwood to see their jocks in action and help set an opening night attendance record of 13,598, an increase of 1,600 over the best previous opening night attendance. Talented riders like Canadian Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley competed in the one-mile test, with French-bred Varioca M, a nine-year-old French stallion, ridden by Jimmy Walford and trained by Gordon Baxter for Carol and Rex Bailey of Burlington cruising to a handy 2:06.1 World record for Trotting under Saddle on a five-eighths mile track.

Wes Coke's classy old trotter Sun Bo finished second in that inaugural test and Wes did not like the result. Following the race he told Galvin that his old trotter could beat Varioca M. "I'll put up a $1,000 side bet to prove it", he said. With that Bill contacted the Baileys and they agreed to match Wes's $1,000. Galvin then asked Ontario Jockey Club president John Mooney if the Jockey Club would contribute towards the purse money. Mr. Mooney added another $2,000, and the $4,000 Winner-Take-All Match Race was on.

On August 24th at Greenwood the two trotters went postward in the one mile dash and true to Wes Coke's prediction, Sun Bo won by 3/4 length in 2:07.3 over Varioca M, who made a break at the quarter pole with jockey John LeBlanc in the irons.

Sun Bo and Varioca M met again a few weeks later in a Match Race at Garden City Raceway on September 3rd. This time Varioca M trotted home in front in 2:11.2 and took home the Winner Take All purse of $5,000.

Sun Bo went on to successfully compete under saddle in 1975 and in 1976, as a 14-year-old, picking up considerable purse money along the way for a couple of different owners. The venerable old gelding by Famous Hanover gleaned over $100,000 during his racing career.

[Info. courtesy of Wm. Galvin, O.J.C.]

1975 - Flamboro Downs Opens, 40 Years Ago

Track owner Ray Connell addresses the opening night crowd at Flamboro. Just to his left are two other principle figures at the track Charlie Juravinski (with hat) and John Grant.

April 9, 1975 - Canada's newest racing facility opened its doors on this date and the night was undoubtedly one of the most successful that any new track has ever experienced. Track officials grossly underestimated the opening night crowd and printed just 5,000 programs which were sold out well before the first race. Scores of people were turned away as the crowd far exceeded the capacity of the facility. Traffic jams were reported in every direction. The official opening night attendance figure was recorded as 6,532 and the mutuel handle totalled $232,190.

The first race winner was Classic Jester with Albert Nickle in the bike stopping the clock in 2:10 even. Other opening night winning drivers were Ron Waples, Doug Hie (2), Ray McLean, Brian Webster, Wayne Stead and Wm. Wilson. The feature of the evening was the 8th race named "The Ray Connell Opening Day Pace" and was captured by a horse named Thorncrest owned and driven by local horseman Cliff Sheppard. In addition to taking home half of the $2,500 purse, Mr. Sheppard also had the honour of setting the opening night track record of 2:06.1. Each race winner was presented with a cooler compliments of Mr. Connell.

As the evening closed, the infield tote board flashed the words "Ray Connell.. .We Love You! from the Flamboro Downs Staff"

November 7, 2015 - 7:04 pmThe main thing I recall about

The main thing I recall about the Flamboro opening was that it was supposed to happen the week before but a huge snowfall cancelled everything and knocked out the power. I had moved in with 12 horses from Windsor and we had to pail water for the horses from a nearby creek.

November 7, 2015 - 9:29 amNice picture of Trevor

Steve Jewitt SAID...

Nice picture of Trevor Ritchie holding Blaze Herbert's head .


November 7, 2015 - 9:08 amAnyone have a clue who's

Gord Brown SAID...

Anyone have a clue who's holding Blaze Herbert? I sure do! Give you a clue....he could drive a trotter pretty decent lol

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