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SC Rewind: Remembering Quebec City

Published: March 17, 2018 9:33 am ET

Last Comment: March 22, 2018 1:57 pm ET | 13 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith recalls the once great racing centre located at Quebec City as part of the ongoing Golden Memories series. Much of his story is told by the old photographs that serve as a reminder of what a great place this once was.


An aerial view of the beautiful track at Quebec City in the 1950's. It was a fine example of what the Province had to offer back in the 1950's (Harness Horse)


In the early 1950's, the Province of Quebec was among the most popular and progressive locations in the world of harness racing. While the big tracks in Montreal were most publicized, several other locations were annually growing by leaps and bounds as well. Leading the way in virtually every category was the track in Quebec City. It was not only a great racing centre, it also featured a beautiful track layout with architecture and grounds seldom if ever seen at a racecourse.

The Quebec City track was far from being just for locals, it attracted horse people from far and wide and frequently drew fairly large stables from Western Canada that travelled by rail car, a trip that took a long time. One veteran horseman from Manitoba once told me that the men rode right in with the horses and that they packed mattresses but seldom used them because of the "swing and sway" of the fast-moving train.

Also listed among those who frequently raced at Quebec City (which I believe was at times also referred to as "Exposition Park") were many horsemen from the Maritimes, Ontario and parts of the Eastern U.S., particularly the New England states. For many years this quaint track staged rather long racing seasons where a lot of well known stables competed year after year.


A close finish in a $1,000 purse race in 1950. Purses of that magnitude were not too common back then. ​Hollyrood Dewey (1-Marvis) winning first heat of $1,000 15 Trot over Max Bingen (2-Ratte), Roxie Hanover (3-Cantin), Joe's Judge (4-Brown) and Worthy Petrella (5-Giguere).

 


A rather old photo shows Poplar Dale, the winner of the 1948 Quebec Derby which carried a purse of $1,500. The winning horse was purchased the previous year for $4,675 at Harrisburg and immediately following this three-heat victory was sold for $8,000 to Rosaire Rivard of Three Rivers. In this photo the owner Eugene Catellier is shown at the horse's head while driver Emile Ratte is in the sulky. The lady holding the tray is unidentified (Harness Horse)

 


A infield view showing the beautiful flower beds and interior training track (Harness Horse)


When the 1952 racing season at Quebec City ended on October 26, 1952 a page was added to the history of the harness racing sport. It was the 98th program of racing presented at the Quebec City track which set a new Canadian record for the number of meetings offered during an entire season. Another new high was recorded as 312,115 fans paid their attendance to attend what was considered the "most modern" track in Canada. While it reflected an upward trend across the board, it definitely showed that devotees of the harness sport in the Province of Quebec were leading the way. From a betting standpoint the totals were just as impressive.

As recently as 1947, just 21 programs were presented with an attendance of only 31,500. At about this time the Quebec Harness Racing Club Reg'd. took charge of the track and in 1948 floodlights were installed thus paving the way for night racing. In 1948 a vast increase in programs was implemented and the response was phenomenal as just over 139,000 patrons viewed the 62 meetings; many held under the lights. In 1948 the purses paid out totalled less than $110,000 and by 1952 the amount more than doubled to $251,465.



A view of the front entrance displaying some beautiful architecture as well as a full parking lot (Harness Horse)

During this time period, a mere five years, the track itself was transformed into one of the most attractive and modern in Canada and indeed the equal of many of the U.S. operations. The number of stalls was increased from 154 to 485 and a jogging track was laid out in the inside of the regular race track. In the infield of these ovals beautiful flowerbeds were laid out in a professional manner and featured over 40,000 plants embellishing the entire grounds. A greenhouse capable of producing 70,000 plants per year was also being built at this time to be managed by the gardener of the Club. To put it mildly it was a showplace.


Much of the success of the operation could be directly credited to a quartet of dedicated directors of the Quebec Racing Club. Shown above are from left Henri Bertrand, Jacques Gravel, Jos. Cauchon and Jules Giguere, all regarded as pioneers of harness racing in the Province of Quebec (Harness Horse)

A number of very fine horse people were from Quebec City or raced there over the years. I have put a very small list together which is just the tip of the iceberg. Rejean Boily, Henri Cantin, Alf & Benoit Cote, Georges and Jules Giguere, Henri Portelance, Emile Ratte, Roger White.

In the years that followed this time period the grand old track at Quebec City remained popular for many years until it too fell victim to the changing times. What took literally centuries to build and perfect, is now all but lost.

Who Is It?


Can you correctly identify the two gents in this old picture? The answer will be given during the coming week.

March 22, 2018 - 1:57 pmTo Beth Fouts I remember your

Garth Gordon SAID...

To Beth Fouts I remember your dad at Richelieu Park in the late 50’s early 60’s. I am quite sure your father was the judge that gave me my licence in May of 1961 I was 16. I drove 3 qualifying races and he told my dad Jack Gordon that I was ready for a provisional licence. In those days you had the letter P beside your name until you drove a few races. Then when the judges thought you were ready they took the P off and gave you a regular licence.

March 21, 2018 - 11:05 amThis week's photo featured

This week's photo featured the father son duo of Benoit Cote (left) and his father Alf Cote, both originally from Quebec City. Thanks to those who sent in a response.

March 20, 2018 - 9:54 pmThanks again Robert, for

ron francis SAID...

Thanks again Robert, for revisiting older times in harness racing. From mid-80's for twenty years, I visited QC for a few days on biz, during colder months. Always looked forward to, and enjoyed my visits to Hippodrome Quebec. As for Benoit Cote, the Jean Beliveau of Quebec racing. Quiet and classy off the track. A respectful winner on the track with the reins.

March 19, 2018 - 9:23 amFond memories. My father, Don

Beth Fouts SAID...

Fond memories. My father, Don Perfect, was presiding judge at Quebec and Montreal as well as other Canadian tracks in the 50s and 60s. Would love to hear from anyone who remembers him.

March 18, 2018 - 7:53 pmHi Dustin, Indeed he looks

Manon Gravel SAID...

Hi Dustin,
Indeed he looks like Jean Quesnel but in fact it's Benoit's father. :)

March 18, 2018 - 1:16 pmI came off the track one

Garth Gordon SAID...

I came off the track one morning when I was stabled at Mohawk Raceway about six or seven years ago. As I was getting closer to the barn I noticed a gentleman standing just inside the shed row - it was Benoit Cote. He was in the area and stopped over to pay me a visit. I showed him a picture of Richelieu Park. We talked about the time when he was private trainer for Drummondville Stables and driving Chief Maid. And the night that Chief Maid and Senator Sprangler finished in a dead heat 2:00 4/5 - a world record at the time. And the time Chief Maid cut the mile for Mighty Dudley when he won in 1:59 2/5 - first horse to break 2:00 minutes. Ben said he got down to the half too fast that night. When he left, a couple of my caretakers asked me who he was. I said that’s Benoit Cote from Montreal a well respected horsemen and hall of famer. They said you must be proud that he took the time to pay you a visit. I said you have no idea how proud I am.

March 17, 2018 - 2:36 pmI raced a horse one time at

Garth Gordon SAID...

I raced a horse one time at Quebec City in the Canadian Juvenile Stakes for pacers. There were seven horses in the race. Back then they paid seventh money in the Canadian Juvenile Stakes. My horse made a break leaving the gate and stepped out of his hopple. I pulled up and the two guys in the starting gate helped me put the hopple back on and told me to finish the race. I did, and received the seventh money cheque.
Robert, you're right - the grounds were well kept and the barn I was stabled in was spotless. The two men in your mystery photo are Benoit Cote and his father Alfred. I didn’t know his father but I do know Benoit. Well deserved Hall of Famer, and a gentleman on and off the track.

March 17, 2018 - 2:31 pmBenoit Cote and Jean Quesnel

Dustin Jones SAID...

Benoit Cote and Jean Quesnel

March 17, 2018 - 1:02 pmFor the Burgess family, this

For the Burgess family, this track is where our interest in harness racing all started. During the 50's & early 60's, I spent many wonderful evenings at the Quebec City track. I'm sure that it's Benoit Cote on the left and think it's his brother on the right.

March 17, 2018 - 12:05 pmThanks for the memories

Rick Karper SAID...

Thanks for the memories Robert. Quebec had a great history of harness racing.

March 17, 2018 - 10:59 amMerci pour ses souvenirs.

Merci pour ses souvenirs. Thanks for the memories.

March 17, 2018 - 10:42 amMr Benoit Cote and maybe

Mr Benoit Cote and maybe Roger White?

March 17, 2018 - 9:55 amBenoit and Alf Côte ?

John Hill SAID...

Benoit and Alf Côte ?


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