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SC Rewind: Windsor Doubleheaders

Published: January 12, 2019 11:44 am ET

Last Comment: January 16, 2019 10:11 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In the current edition of 'Rewind' Robert Smith recalls a time when Windsor Raceway presented racing doubleheaders much to the delight of its patrons. His piece recalls some names and other interesting tidbits of information related to a time just about exactly 50 years ago.

Windsor Star Ad announcing the coming of doubleheaders

Doubleheaders have long been a popular attraction in baseball but their introduction to harness racing is fairly recent. With the surge of interest in winter racing at Windsor Raceway back in the late 1960's, the practice of afternoon and evening racing on the same day proved to be quite successful. The following is a recap of the first doubleheader of racing for the 1969 season that was held on Saturday January 4, 1969 at Windsor. With a combined attendance of nearly 11,000 people and a total mutuel handle of over $738,000 it was evident that this was a successful day of racing and a sign of the times. During the "glory" days of Windsor these day evening doubleheaders were a big hit. It was not unusual for at least a few patrons who had attended the afternoon session to assemble at some nearby spot such as The Michigan Tavern and have a "shell or two" and head right back to the evening's festivities.

Afternoon Session
Attendance - 4,284
Mutuel Handle - $279,097

A total of nine races went postward in the afternoon before an enthusiastic crowd happy to be back at the races following the holiday season. The driving star of the matinee event was 40-year-old Murray Waples of Victoria Harbour, Ont., who reined three horses to the winner's circle. He was home first in the third with Billy Hal C., came back in the seventh with Flashy Flic and closed out the afternoon taking the last race behind Barra Bee. These three tallies when added to his two wins from New Year's night vaulted him to an early lead in the driver's race. It was also a productive program for trainer Johnny Reid and his wife Marion of Ailsa Craig, Ont., who owned the first two. In addition to his three wins this afternoon, Murray also chalked up two second place finishes. Other winning pilots on the afternoon were Mike Novick Jr. with two wins, Gene MacDonald, John Bonne, Ross Johnston and Jack Campbell who scored in the opener with Captain Scott for owner Murray Mackey of Parkhill, Ont.

Left: Murray Waples; Right: Patch Pride and a bundled up driver Tom Merriman braved the 5° temperatures at Windsor in winning the feature race of the evening card (Windsor Star photo)

Evening Program
Attendance - 6,502
Mutuel Handle - $459,246

In the evening portion of the twinbill with a 7:45 post time, 10 races made up an excellent card of racing offering a total of $17,600 in purse money. Although he had several drives under the lights, the afternoon driving "ace" Murray Waples was unable to repeat the magic that he had worked in the earlier program. In the eighth race which, carried a purse of $2,900, he nearly caused an upset as he slipped up the inside lane with Sarge Patterson but couldn't catch the favoured Earlylakes John who got the win for Everett Norris with the Waples mount taking second. Driver Norris also won on this card with Royal Alex in the fifth race. Midway through the program two local horses scored wins in back-to-back races. In the sixth, Winsocki Wick driven by Mike Novick Jr. bested a field of six after a scratch of Gina Guinea, pacing home in front for owners Bruce and Frances Fulmer of Windsor in 2:07.2. In the next race Gentry Yates handled by Bert Madill won a conditioned race for owner Clarence Hyatt of nearby Leamington.

The most anticipated event of the evening was the Invitation Pace for a purse of $5,000 that attracted six starters. Based on his latest outings, the overwhelming favourite was Zip Tar owned by Russel Miller of Dutton, Ont. and driven by the afternoon driving star Murray Waples. Following two straight wins, the son of Tar Heel - Timely Dream was sent postward at odds of 3-5. Leaving from the outside post, Zip Tar headed for the lead but was heavily challenged by Lee O driven by Gene Marchand and the torrid tussle for the lead saw the pair reach the first marker in :29.2. This fast start seemed to take its toll on both horses and Lee O eventually faded to last with Zip Tar hanging on for a third-place finish, much to the chagrin of his many backers in the audience. For a time it appeared that Bold Ruler Pick (Bobby Gordon) would gain his first victory in Invitational company but in the final strides Patch Pride driven by Tom Merriman edged up to take the win, pacing in an incredible 2:05.2 on an evening where the mercury dipped to just 5°F. The other starters were Walvis Bay 4th and Castle Knight finishing fifth.

The winning horse Patch Pride and his driver had to have experienced quite a shock in climate change as they had just returned from racing in California and were making their first local start for owner Robert Kalish of Southfield, Michigan. The eight-year-old gelding was sent off at 9-2 and returned $11.30 to win which oddly was the longest win payoff for the 10-race program. The winning connections were rewarded with a nice Windsor Raceway blanket, a gift that was fitting given the weather conditions. The slowest mile of the evening was recorded in the third race when Collingwood Boy driven by Clarence Lockhart was the winner in 2:14 with Magella (Bev Kingston) taking second and Easy Girl (Ken Kimball) getting up for third.

Within a couple of years the number of day-night doubleheaders was increased and the betting numbers escalated accordingly. In early 1971 the track announced that it would present 22 dates with two programs of racing.

Commentary: For those who remember these days it was a great time in Canadian harness racing. People flocked to racetracks to see live racing; they paid for parking, admission to the grandstand or a premium to sit in the clubhouse and of course bought a program. Once in, you were often lucky to find a seat. People also recall that by the end of each racing program you could quite easily cut the smoke-filled air with a knife!

Who Is It?

Can you identify this driver that often competed at Windsor?

Bonus Photo

Can you name this non-driving trainer associated with the Windsor track?

As always the correct answers will be given during the upcoming week.

January 16, 2019 - 10:11 amThis week's driver picture

This week's driver picture featured Lonnie McCorkle a native of the Chatham / Dresden Ont. area as identified by a number of respondents . He worked for several stables training and driving at his hometown Dresden track as well as being a frequent competitor at London ,Windsor and other area tracks . Lonnie left us at the young age of 58 when he passed away in April of 1997 . The horse was Shiaway Red owned by Fred Tanner of Windsor .
The second photo was well known trainer Bruce Fenn who lived and trained near Windsor Raceway and often raced there as well as at the Detroit area tracks .His son Bryce followed his father in the sport and I believe may now be residing in Florida .

January 13, 2019 - 8:02 pmThey had double headers in

They had double headers in the seventies and eighties as well at Windsor. I remember as a young teenager going with my parents to watch their horses race and staying all day if they had a double header. Also when I had my own stable there in '83-'84, they had a few double headers. Long days but so much fun.

January 13, 2019 - 1:18 amIn 1969 at Garden City I

James Milne SAID...

In 1969 at Garden City I placed a $700 bet for an owner on Raw Yankee, a pacing half-bother to Fresh Yankee. He broke at the starting gate. He then shipped to Windsor and with Murray Waples driving, he won and paid enough to buy the owner a new car. With the huge crowds in those days you had to watch that you didn't get shut out at the mutual windows.

January 12, 2019 - 4:09 pmI miss the doubleheaders and

I miss the doubleheaders and don't understand why Flamboro and Western Fair don't have alternate double headers on days when Mohawk is dark. I think they would both see an increase in their handles.

January 12, 2019 - 3:59 pmI would have to say that Lyle

David Darocy SAID...

I would have to say that Lyle is correct, the two photos look like Lonnie McCorkle and Bruce Fenn. Great story on the days of Windsor Raceway Robert, imagine those numbers in that era and they continued for several more years. As we all have witnessed the racing industry drastically change it is still hard to believe that in a PROVEN market there is such a small presence of harness racing available.

January 12, 2019 - 3:32 pmNo idea at all

No idea at all

January 12, 2019 - 12:42 pmThe driver is Lonnie

The driver is Lonnie McCorkle. The trainer is Bruce Finn.
When I raced at Windsor Raceway in its heyday, there was a camaraderie amongst the drivers, trainers, grooms, and owners because we all worked, and in some cases lived together, everyday in the backstretch. It was a small interactive community. Today with training centres scattered throughout southwest Ontario, the community of racing is becoming a thing of the past. Today's racing seems to be spelling the downward spiraling of harness racing as we knew it. The stands are empty, there are fewer and fewer fans at the finish line to cheer their horse selection across the wire. This article, brings back a lot of fond memories.

January 12, 2019 - 12:26 pmDriver, Lonnie McCorkle?

Driver, Lonnie McCorkle?

January 12, 2019 - 12:23 pmLonnie McCorkle and Shiaway

Lonnie McCorkle and Shiaway Red

Trainer, I think, Keith Quinlan.

January 12, 2019 - 12:02 pmMaybe John Millman? Bottom no

Gord Brown SAID...

Maybe John Millman? Bottom no clue

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