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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1940s

Published: August 3, 2015 8:36 am ET

Last Comment: August 3, 2015 9:57 am ET | 1 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 1940's in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago.

1940 (75 Years Ago) - Bob Lee Wins Canadian Pacing Derby

August 14, 1940 - The fifth annual Canadian Pacing Derby held at New Hamburg, Ont. is now history. It took three heats until the eventual winner Bob Lee could secure the victory for London owner W.J. Hyatt. With Barney Hughes in the sulky, the fleet four-year-old -- who was last year's three-year-old sensation -- finished second in the first two heats but managed to win the third and earn the huge trophy for his proud owner based on his best standing. A crowd of some 9,000 fans were treated to an afternoon of first class harness racing as a total of 15 heats were held. Bob Lee in taking the lion's share of the $1,500 purse also paced the day's fastest mile, stopping the timer's watch in 2:08 3/4. Other heat winners were Tom Grattan (James) and Leah Guy (Finnerty).

In his only two year old start, Bob Lee went an exhibition mile in 2:14 3/4 at the Strathroy Fair for a Canadian record. Soon after, Mr. Hyatt purchased him from Nate Neely for a reported $1,000.

Dr. Meldrum of Norwich, Ont., owner of last year's winner Dillon Mc was unable to attend but did furnish a beautiful trophy which was presented by E.C. "Katzy" Katzmeier, secretary of the New Hamburg Turf Club. Mr. Hyatt assured those in attendance that he would be back the following year to present a trophy to the 1941 winner.

(Note: The winning driver Barney Hughes was the great grandfather of Rod Hughes of San Pail fame)

​Mr. W.J. Hyatt (with cigar) accepts a trophy from New Hamburg Race secretary Earl Katzmeier following Bob Lee's victory in that year's Canadian Pacing Derby.

1941 - New Track Opens at Saratoga Springs, New York

On the evening of June 26, 1941 North America's newest harness racing plant opened for business. Known as "Saratoga Harness" it became the very first track designed and specifically built for night-time racing. The two previously opened tracks, Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island and Batavia Downs which both opened in 1940, were refurbished for racing under the lights. On that historic opening night a crowd of 4,048 fans filled the newly constructed grandstand and started a tradition that continues to this day. The track has operated continuously with the exception of the 1943 season when their doors were closed because of WWII which seriously curtailed harness racing across the land. Many Canadians have raced at the Spa track over the nearly 75 years of its existence.

​A view of the Saratoga grandstand during construction in 1941


The opening night crowd at Saratoga in 1941

1942 - In The News

(The following random items were culled from the Nov. 9, 1942 edition of The Canadian Sportsman)

  • Gordon Lawrence of Blenheim, Ont. advertises two mares and three colts in this issue. Both mares are believed to be in foal to Corporal Lee

  • Manchester Farms of Galt, owned by Mr. F.S. Scott, held their annual yearling sale and auctioned off 19 youngsters. Among those purchasing the young stock were McDonnell Bros. of Hamilton, J.L. Waples & Son of Midland, Wm. Herbert of London, Wallace Munro of Embro, and Morris McDonald of Strathroy who took Roanie Lee. The buyer making the most successful bids was T.E. McCool of Pembroke who haltered seven head. A bid of $245 sent in by telegram from Allison Langille of Heartland, N.B. secured the pacing bred filly Mono Lee. Dr. Foster of Galt made the sale's highest bid of $480 for Dianna Lee as he outlasted Wm. Herbert.

  • Young driver Joe O'Brien was a winner of seven of nine heats at the Truro track at the recent race meeting. He missed out on another possible three wins when his top horse Dudey Patch was withdrawn by the owners as they would not agree to the starting handicap being proposed

  • Gilbert Grattan, an amazing horse who has had both hind legs broken earlier in his career, recently completed another successful season of racing for Jimmie Connors in Eastern Ontario. The last race day of the season was at Avonmore. Two different vets worked on repairing this horse's legs and extending his racing career. One was Dr. Robertson of Brockville and the other Dr. Brough of Laflechville, Que.

  • Blacksmiths are reported to be in short supply for Maritime horsemen. Many have either entered the service or taken jobs in war effort industries where the pay is better and the work less strenuous

  • Jimmy Grover of Glencoe has Lee Stout, a two-year-old gelding for sale. This fellow, sired by Todd Stout, has shown that he can pace or trot an eighth in 18 seconds with very little training. No price stated.

1945 - Collingwood Driving Club Members Cover Losses

This small town in the Georgian Bay region with a population of approximately 7,000 people recently organized a Driving Club. They have a nice track and stabling for about 50 head. Starting with 60 members each paying dues of $2.00, they decided to stage a race day. Aware that good purses must be offered they put up $750 in total; $250 for each race. A nice crowd attended to see a very good day of racing. The club provided free stabling, hay and straw and did everything possible to establish a good reputation. All of the horsemen were paid right after the last race was completed and all other debts were settled shortly thereafter. A deficit of $150 still remained.

Anticipating this possibility, 20 of the members signed a 'note of deficit' agreeing to contribute evenly towards the shortfall should any occur. Each of these members paid a little over $7 in order to keep the Club afloat. Their hope was that this first year's experience would advertise the races for the coming year and would result in much higher gate receipts. New bleachers were in the works.

This is a fine example of how people worked together to help the sport survive during tough times

​​1948 - Dufferin Park Opens The 1948-49 Season

With all fair racing now completed, a number of stables have moved into Toronto's Dufferin Park for the winter months. Opening day was November 13th with Donalda Lee taking the first race for owner H.A. Dickenson of Mount Hope and driver "Ancaster" Bill Harvey. Among those present for the early part of the meeting are the stables of Lew James, Floyd Milton, Alfred Moore, Del MacTavish, Wm. Harvey, Vic Lutman, Phil Dussault, Real Bardier, Pat Paquin, Raoul Giguere, Cecil Champion, Keith Waples, John & Cliff Chapman, Vic Rowntree and Gord Kitchen.

One relative newcomer is Edward Arthur, who has his tobacco crop safely stored away back home in Otterville and is here with his good mare Dillon Flicka. They were winners on opening day taking the $500 Free For All with Mr. Arthur now doing his own driving.

An interesting story out of the barn of Strathroy horseman Morrie McDonald concerns his encounter with a long time groom. Apparently after several firings and re-hirings MacDonald recently told the misbehaving stable hand, "If I look at you and you're even thinking about taking a drink.. ..YOU'RE FIRED!" Sounds a bit like Donald Trump.

August 3, 2015 - 9:57 amAnother great journey into

Another great journey into the past Mr. Smith, thank you.

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