SC Rewind: Flamboro Highlights
Published: March 27, 2010 7:54 am ET
Last Comment: March 30, 2010 6:41 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
With the excitement and hoopla of the opening of Flamboro now firmly recorded in the history books, it is time to take a look at some of the interesting happenings in the early days and formative years. It is also an appropriate time to recall many of the people who put on the show.
Right from the start, the Flamboro management served notice that this was not only a venue for horse racing, it was also a place for fun. One of the early promotional events involved a true scene from the "Old West", a masked man and his companion named "Tonto". In this instance the masked man was none other than Raceway President Ray Connell challenging the real Tonto, Jay Silverheels - a Canadian who was no stranger to the neighbourhood as he hailed from the Ohsweken area. The winner of the match race was The Masked Man, but only by a "whisker".
On October 22, 1975 Raceway management hired Gary Copeland a parachutist to land on an X marked on the track between races. Despite his previous good "aim" in some 300 tries, he missed the mark by a wide margin landing in the parking area, near but thankfully not inside the electrical transformers. I guess no one said all promotional stunts turn out well but the anticipation provided some good entertainment.
Less than a month into the Flamboro inaugural season one of the drivers who sang the praises of the operation on opening night was back to put on a driving "clinic" and in so doing became the first driver in the track's history to record a four-win night. On May 3rd, Bill Wellwood, a few months shy of his 35th birthday, scored with Scotch Cheers, Bronze Whaler, Mr Moot and then captured the Preferred Pace for a $2,200 purse with Leroy N. His mile in 2:04 3 was an indication that the "speed" built into the track was beginning to show. Wellwood and his outstanding trotter Surge Hanover made an unusual appearance August 17 when they started in the Preferred Pace and finished second as a tune up for The International Trot at Roosevelt. Not exactly an everyday occurrence.
Fairly early in the Raceway's history faster and faster miles were recorded. The opening night's best of 2:06.1 fell to 2:04.1 when Scarpia won for Bill Megens. Eventually by May 29th the fastest mile of the opening season was recorded by Armbro Mystic who paced a mile in 2:01.3 for driver Brian Webster and owners Mary and Howard Oster of Brampton, Ont. The following year, a regular at the track by the name of Alex Duncan served notice that the 2:00 barrier was in jeopardy scoring in 2:00.1 with Stoney Creek Kid. The very first two minute score was posted a few months later by 21-year-old driver Harold "Buddy" Wellwood driving Royal Brat for his father, stopping the clock in 1:59.3.
While the opening chapter of Flamboro was one marked by celebrations, presentations and happy times it was also a time to mourn the loss of a beloved fellow horseman. Well known and well respected driver and trainer Bert Madill died of an apparent heart attack in his tack room that first season. Bert's loss was a shock to all but he is still remembered for his warm smile and for brightening many people's day with his humour. A memorial race was held here in his honour.
Here is a partial listing of drivers who competed at Flamboro's opening season. It is not intended to be a complete list as I do not have that information; assembling this 100+ person roster was task enough. They are listed at random; if I have missed someone (probably many) my apologies apply.
Albert Nickle (winner of first ever race), Ron Waples, Doug Hie, Ray McLean, Brian Webster, Wayne Stead, Cliff Sheppard, Wm. Wilson, Dieter Adomeit, Gord Baxter, Stan Williams, Brian Lawson, Roy Lawson, Ron Feagan, Chas. Lawson, Wm. Wellwood, Carman Hie, Benny Larocque, Bert Madill, Marcel L'Heureux, Bud Fritz, Bryan Richardson, Terry Langille, Wayne Langille, Norm McKnight Sr., Harry Leatherdale, Dave Wall, Cam McKnight, Jack Kopas, Ted Keating, Elmer Nicholson, Jim Lavery, Dick Mitchell, Paul Maguire, Neil MacKay, Larry Fitzsimmons, Brent Davies, Dale Dufty, Jim Pawley, Larry Walker, Russ Morgan, Kevin Wallis, Harold Stead, Blaine Stead, Wm. Megens, Doug Nash, Kent Davies, Don Davies, Fred List, Neil Curran, Robert Warner, Mike Schaeffer, Grant Burns, Rolly Dibenedetto, Kirby MacDonald, Geo. Zirnis, Ken Webb, Roland Ducharme, Jim McNeil, Jimmy Holmes, Bernie Wilson, Doug Bishop, Gerald Loney, Chris Christoforou Sr., R. Glover, Ed Tuinstra, Mike Ruffolo, Herb Young, Gary Payne, Reg Lipsett, Fred Beacham, John Holding, Ken Bogart, Wm. Whitwell, Gary Umphrey, Serge Dubord, Jim Miller, Willis Jones, Terry Kerr, Cam Smith, Norm Campbell, Orwell Morrissey, Paul Matthews, Joe Kemps, Ron Hill, Larry Zebedee, Dennis Nadon, Paul Ruhl, Andy Avery, Alex Duncan, Jack Fox, John Thompson, Rodger Toth, Howard Kennedy, Nelson White, Ross Roselle, Dave Shewfelt, Gary Keays, Wm. Hicks, Paul Daleo, Jacob Geisel, Stan Maguire, Dick Field, Eric McNutt, Lloyd Lorenz, Jerry Robinson, Don Ruddick, Richard Carroll, Peter Miller, Bill Habkirk, Tom Riley, Gary Feagan, Jack Harris, Platt Purvis, Larry Nickle, Don Corbett.
Now, some 35 years after its opening Flamboro remains a very important part of Canadian harness racing. Hats off to all track personnel past and present, horse owners, trainers and drivers and the many patrons who have visited over the years!
Please don't be afraid to share your memories; they invariably make the story.