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SC Rewind – The Tale Of A Champion

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Published: February 26, 2011 10:40 pm ET

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In this week's Rewind Robert Smith reviews the outstanding career of Rosemary Brook, a mare who distinguished herself and her owner in the late 1940s and early '50s.

It seems that the years immediately following WW II were a time of renewed interest in Canadian harness racing. Many factors were at play and it was attracting new people to become involved as owners, trainers and drivers, not to mention an increase in fans. One such new participant was a farm raised "boy" from Dresden, Ont. named Harold Carr, then a young man in his early 30's.

Eager to enter the sport, Mr. Carr purchased a couple of colts from Thomas and Fred Saint, a father-son combo from nearby Wallaceburg, Ont. The Saints, veterans of the sport, not only raced horses, they also bred and sold them and even owned their own track called Saints Park. Carr's first purchase was a gelding named Brookdale, and as luck would have it he was quite pleased with his first venture. Next he purchased a roan filly by the same sire, Duchess Brooke and as a "throw in" for the bargain price of $100, he also took home a full sister to his first venture. This young brown miss by Miller Brooke out of Mary Richards (both Saint's owned ) was registered as Rosemary Brook. Her eventual rise to stardom would define the life and racing career of Harold R. "Duke" Carr and also show the "power" of a one-horse stable.

The young trainer began breaking the pair at his farm located between Tupperville and Dresden with his training headquarters at the Dresden Fairgrounds. In the case of "Rosemary", he soon found out where the term "breaking" originated. The young Miss was a bit of a handful but from the outset also showed that she had a lot of ability. Despite being adept at the pacing gait she utterly "hated" the hopples. Her owner soon learned that she could pace fairly well without them and quickly converted her to a free-legged performer and thus she remained.

Rosemary made her racing debut at Ridgetown, Ont. as a two-year-old and after six starts and no earnings, her brief season ended. As a three-year-old she was much busier, racing at both Canadian and U.S. tracks - making 34 starts at eight different tracks. Her first victory came at Sarnia and her season's best occurred at Exeter, stopping the timer in 2:14.4. After 40 starts as a colt performer her patient owner was still awaiting the promise he saw from the start. To date she had earned just $590 and was clearly still a work in progress.

In 1948 Rosemary raced exclusively on the U.S. circuit, racing between Ohio and Northville Downs in Michigan. A new strategy of sorts was now in play. Veteran Canadian horseman Harold Wellwood was hired to do the driving. He too was known as a man of patience and perseverance and a skilled trainer and driver whose steady hands would eventually start to coax some of the potential speed and racing ability from within. Late in the year Rosemary began to enter the winner's circle with regularity and on Oct. 28th she paced a mile in 2:10, her best to date. Her earnings at season's amounted to a respectable $1,775 and in the process won five races.

Finally in 1949 all of the pieces of the long evolving puzzle began to fit. Mr. Carr and his mare headed for Fairmount Park in St. Louis with hopes that a mile track would be to her liking. A well known U.S. reinsman Foy Funderburk was engaged as her driver. Just a few starts into the season she scored back to back wins in the 2:01 range. On July 1st she toured the big oval in 2:00.2, setting a new track record and erasing one set by a very famous Canadian horse named Dr. Stanton. At season's end it would stand as the fastest mile by an aged pacing mare in the sport. Later that year Rosemary was taken to California where she showed well, winning at Hollywood Park. Her earnings of $7,481 for the season began to redeem the faith her owner had somehow known from the start. That year she started 43 times, getting her picture taken nine times.

In 1950 Rosemary started the year off with a "bang", winning her first start at her old stomping grounds Northville Downs. Her victory in 2:03.2 set a new track record previously held by the noted Jimmy Creed set in 1948 and was also the fastest mile ever seen this early in a season. Bob Plaxico, another U.S.-based driver, was in the sulky this time and drove her most of that season which saw her win several more races before closing out the year at Batavia Downs. This was her last season in the ownership of Harold Carr and she then made her way to a new owner, Virginia McDonald of Washington D.C. She was campaigned in her final two seasons by Wm. Fleming, a Canadian born horseman racing mainly in Maryland. She retired with lifetime earnings of $ 22,766 and the proud holder of two track records, both at major raceways. Her final lifetime victory at the age of eight came at Roosevelt Raceway a long way from her humble beginnings.

When the racing career of Rosemary Brook was over, she joined the broodmare band of the prestigious Castleton Farm in Kentucky. She is credited with eight registered foals, sired by six different Castleton stallions. The Carr family visited her in Lexington and were on hand to see her first offspring auctioned as a yearling. Her fastest performer was Wonderful Time, a Good Time mare who took a mark of 1:59.4 and was coincidentally free-legged.

Harold Carr went on to raise, train and race a number of other performers but none reached the status of Rosemary Brook; either in his heart or on the track. The Carr family name has lived on well past 1968, the year Mr. Carr died at Windsor Raceway. His son Joe, the eldest of seven children, continued to wear the black and white silks of his father. He has long been a familiar fixture around London and Dresden as he combined his teaching career with the driving of his own horses. His homebreds all bore the name "Azucar", the Spanish word for sugar. Paramount among his lifetime of memories is the time spent with his father and his $100 bargain mare lo those many years ago.

The tale of Rosemary Brook carried her owner across the Continent at a time when most people did not stray too far from home. Today her record times, her lifetime earnings and the joy she brought to her owner may be commonplace, but 60 years ago she rose to the top and was truly a Champion.


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