The Canadian Pacing Derby will be contested tonight at Woodbine Mohawk Park for $650,000 but it began in 1936 in New Hamburg, Ont. — about 70 kilometres west of Campbellville — for $1,275.
The event ran as part of Derby Days at the local fairgrounds where it drew as many as 20,000 spectators at the height of its popularity. Attendance eventually waned as the number of race starters decreased, and the race was last contested there in 1957.
But in 1953, it seems a curious plot was hatched to rejuvenate the patronage for Derby Days. It involved the local police chief, an alligator wrestler and a river monster nicknamed Nithy.
Having spent the majority of my career in harness racing creating strategies to rejuvenate our fan base, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this tale as fodder for my newest work creating video episodes about local heritage for the Doors Open program operated by the Region of Waterloo.
I hope you enjoy this tale of how harness racing intersected with a ‘sea serpent’. It’s the second of these two stories (6:16 marker) featured in this episode.
Kelly Spencer is the owner of True Nature Communications, a marketing agency which serves harness racing clients such as TheStable.ca. She is the former longtime marketing manager of Grand River Raceway.
The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.