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SC Rewind: Canada's Miracle Mile

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Published: July 18, 2009 7:46 am ET

Last Comment: September 5, 2009 4:17 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Writer Robert Smith takes us back to a special day in Canadian harness racing 50 years ago and also reveals a little piece of trivia previously untold.

July 21st of this year marks the 50th anniversary of a special harness racing milestone. On July 21, 1959 at Montreal's Richelieu Park, Canada witnessed its first ever sub 2:00 mile. It was indeed a pivotal moment. Today the prevalence of speed is so widespread it is difficult to imagine how long it took to reach the lofty plateau that was often referred to as " A Miracle Mile" - a mile in two minutes or less.

The horse was Mighty Dudley; the driver was the now legendary Keith Waples, a mere lad of 35 at the time. He also co-owned the son of Dudley Hanover along with Montreal based Jacques Giard, and the duo listed their partnership as the K & J Stable. I am not totally certain but believe the horse's caretaker may have even been a man with an interesting name, Hampton Hoover, "Hamp" for short. I stand to be corrected on the latter.

Mighty Dudley was in many ways an unsuspecting candidate to become Canada's first two minute performer. Unraced at two, he began to show promise as a three year old, winning seven races while earning over $10, 000 and taking a then very respectable mark of 2:04.2. He had the makings of a good horse but not a great horse.

Mighty Dudley and Keith WaplesHis 1959 record setting season started out at the upstate New York State track Batavia Downs where he notched three early season victories. It was then on to Montreal where he reached the "sharpness" that led to that record setting day. One week previous on July 14, Mighty Dudley toured the Richelieu oval in near record time of 2:00 1/5 defeating a field similar to those he faced the following week.

The record setter of 1:59.3 was accomplished in the Canada Cup Race which carried a purse of $10,800, a pretty hefty sum in those days. In winning he nosed out Chief Maid who finished second for Benoit Cote with third going to Great Adios piloted by Jules Giguere. Several other noted horses of the day made up the 10 horse field.

Mighty Dudley was purchased under private terms from The Hayes Fair Acre Farm of Duquoin, Illinois as a yearling. He was secured for cash as well as the trade of a broodmare named Mighty Jolly that Waples had raced for Mr. Giard. A Montreal-based trainer named Jim Hammond, who had at one time been a second trainer in the Waples stable, now worked for Mr. Giard. He worked on much of the deal's details.

Jim hailed from the small Essex County hamlet of Harrow, probably best known for being Canada's most Southerly town. He made the long trip east from Montreal to deliver the "trade" horse and to pick up Mighty Dudley in Illinois, crossing at Windsor. On the return trip he had made prior arrangements with a farmer and horse owner that lived right near his parents. The plan was to have the colt stabled overnight, have a visit with his parents, and then back to Montreal. Kind of like a "horse motel".

All went as planned and as a bonus he didn't even have to look after his colt as the farm owner had told his young son, "Tonight and in the morning, water and feed Jim's horse when you look after ours…" The following day it was back on the road toward Quebec and on to his new home went Mighty Dudley.

As the saying goes "Once upon a time was a long time ago ". Today Mighty Dudley has a special spot in the Hall Of Fame at Woodbine thanks to his exploits those many years ago. Jim Hammond passed away in 2002 after working many years at the Armstrong Bros. Farm in Brampton. Keith Waples is a member of both the U. S. and Canadian Hall Of Fame and still making the rounds. What more can anyone say about him - is there anything this man hasn't seen or done?

And the young boy who fed Mighty Dudley his first two meals in Canada? Well, rumour has it, he's writing stories about the tales of yesteryear on the Standardbred Canada website.

September 5, 2009 - 4:17 pmLoved reading the article.

Loved reading the article. Jim Hammond was my dad and Robert told my mom he would be writing this. Brought back a lot of memories of stories Dad would tell us. Hope you see this Robert and many thanks!!

July 21, 2009 - 9:07 amThis is great stuff !!! We

Larry Smith SAID...

This is great stuff !!! We just love the look back in time or "back in the day" as they say. Mighty Dudley could be a forgotten memory where it not for the old timers like Rob Smith digging it up and reminding us of the history behind SPEED !! This definately should be a regular feature along with todays news.


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