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SC Rewind: Remembering Glen Garnsey

Published: January 19, 2019 11:38 am ET

Last Comment: January 26, 2019 1:02 am ET | 11 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In the current edition of 'Rewind' Robert Smith remembers one of the sport's all-time greatest horsemen, Glen Garnsey. This gentleman authored a tremendous career as a trainer and driver over a period of five decades before he lost his life in a tragic auto accident in 1985. Although he was U.S.-born and spent most of his career stateside, he was very well known to Canadians and fondly remembered by many.

One of the great all around horsemen of the second half of the 20th Century was a gentleman named Glen Garland (after his father) Garnsey. Born in 1933 and raised near Clayton, New York -- which is located on Grindstone Island, part of the 1000 Island group in the St. Lawrence River -- he learned his early lessons there. He was preceded in the harness sport not only by his father but also his great Uncle (his grandmother's brother) who was also a blacksmith and raced horses as well.

Glen began his driving career at the age of 16 when he first drove at Saratoga Raceway while working in his father's stable. He won his first race at the famed Cobleskill Fair in Upstate New York. At the age of 20 his budding career in the horse business was interrupted when he was inducted into the U.S. armed forces. He soon found himself involved in the Korean conflict and later returned home from his stint in the U.S. Army with the rank of Sergeant.

He was quickly back into the harness racing business as he landed a job with the Cedar Lane Farm in Ocean City, Md.. This job was fairly short in duration as he moved back to work as second trainer for his father, who was a very successful campaigner at various N.Y. State tracks such as Batavia and Vernon Downs. By 1963 he started his own public stable and soon assembled a good quality operation as he registered 100+ wins in his first season; a good indicator of his success back then.

His next career step occurred in 1967 and involved accepting a job as private trainer and driver on the Grand Circuit for Texas oilman K.D. Owen. While here he developed a number of top horses including Floribert. Just two years later he accepted a job as head trainer for the famed Castleton Farm, a position vacated by Canadian-born horseman Ralph Baldwin, who retired at that time. During an eight-year stay with Castleton, Garnsey turned out a large number of outstanding horses including Colonial Charm, Alert Bret, All Alert, Racy Goods, Noble Florie and numerous other top performers.

In this 1973 photo driver Garnsey pilots the outstanding two-year-old trotter Noble Florie (3) to an eventual victory in the In Free Stakes during Grand Circuit week at Greenwood. Their winning time of 2:05 was a season's record for two-year-old trotters.

By 1975 he was on to a new chapter in his life as he reestablished his own public stable. A long line of horses emerged from this time period. An abbreviated list would include Abercrombie, Sherry Almahurst, Bruce Gimble, Armbro Aussie, Armbro Blush and Delmegan. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Glen Garnsey with another outstanding Canadian horse, Arnies Frilly that was part of his high-class stable in 1983. Also pictured is co-owner Bob Waxman following a win in that year's Champlain stake at Mohawk.

The years surrounding 1980 were extra special ones due in large part to his involvement with the incredible mare Fan Hanover. Together they rewrote a number of world and track records and, of course, their once-in-a-lifetime victory in the 1981 Little Brown Jug which still stands as the only mare in history to capture the coveted Jug. In a small way Fan Hanover's Jug victory helped to fill the void left by his failure to win that revered prize with Abercrombie. An even greater thrill came when he time trialled Fan Hanover in 1:50.4 beating the world record by two full seconds. Twice within four years he had the distinction of guiding the careers of two North American Horse Of The Year winners, first Abercrombie in 1978 and then Fan Hanover in 1981.

Fan Hanover appears with friends and family. From left is Charles Armstrong; Pat (Mrs. Glen) Brown; Dr. Glen Brown, owner; Odell Short, groom; Fan Hanover and driver Glen Garnsey

In 1983, at the age of just 50, Garnsey was elected to the U.S. Hall of Fame in recognition of his many contributions as a trainer and driver and his overall role as a giant in the sport. In a memorial written at the time of his passing it was stated "He enjoyed a kind of mutual admiration relationship with Canadian owners dating back to the days when he first started purchasing racing stock from the celebrated Armstrong Bros. Stable." This close association undoubtedly led to Armstrongs placing many top prospects in his care and also led to Dr. Brown choosing him to handle Fan Hanover.

On September 27, 1985 the life of Glen Garnsey came to a sudden and very sad ending. Shortly after leaving a standardbred sale in Lexington, Ky., his sports car flipped over and he suffered serious head and chest injuries which caused his death. His wife Paula, a passenger in the car, suffered extensive injuries as well but eventually recovered. Left to mourn his passing was their only son Gregg, 22 at the time and then working as an assistant trainer in the Garnsey stable, as well as five daughters -- Gail, Glenda, Geodi, Gina and Valeri who ranged in age from 28 to 18.

He was just 52 years of age at the time but had recorded 2,058 lifetime wins and earned $11.1 million in purses. At the time of his passing Glen and his father Garland were the first and then only father-son team in history to each win 1,000 races as licensed U.S.T.A. drivers. The passing of Glen Garnsey was a huge shock to not only his family but to the entire world of harness racing. His memory lives on.

This photo was taken during a visit to Greenwood Raceway in 1973 for Grand Circuit week. The filly Noble Florie greets visitors (from left) Valeri Garnsey, age 6, and her parents Glen and Paula Garnsey. He had a most productive stay winning numerous stakes events that year at the downtown Toronto track.

Who Is It?

Can you name the three well-known drivers pictured in this 1983 photo taken at Foxboro Raceway? On the far left is Race Secretary Warren DeSantis and on the far right is Asst. Race Secretary Larry Miller (Northeast Harness News)

Where Is It?

Can you figure out the location of these two trees?

Stay tuned for the correct answers during the coming week.

January 26, 2019 - 1:02 amWe used to take our holidays

James Milne SAID...

We used to take our holidays to coincide with the Grand Circuit at Greenwood. We would stay at the Sheraton Centre and take the Queen streetcar out . You had to phone at 10 am, six days ahead to get a dining room reservation. It truly was "the" downtown track. We later met Glen Garnsey at an Armstrong Show Day. He was an ambassador for the sport.

January 22, 2019 - 3:19 pmThis week's pictures seemed

This week's pictures seemed to draw a number of interesting answers. The three drivers at Foxboro were from left Wm. O'Donnell, John Hogan and Walter Case. The tree picture showed a pretty good view of the old Greenwood grandstand in the distant background verifying its location. Thanks to those who further identified the more precise names associated with the area.

January 20, 2019 - 11:47 amThe only one I recognize is

The only one I recognize is on the left : Bill O'Donnell.

January 19, 2019 - 8:07 pmBottom photo is 100%

Bottom photo is 100% Greenwood, taken from across Lakeshore Blvd at Ashbridges Bay... I miss “The roar by the shore”.

January 19, 2019 - 6:02 pmDrivers left to right. Billy

W Doug HIe SAID...

Drivers left to right. Billy O, John Hogan, Walter Case.
Lower Picture: Greenwood Raceway.

January 19, 2019 - 3:36 pmHis death was so tragic. Much

His death was so tragic. Much missed to this day.

January 19, 2019 - 1:28 pmGreenwood Raceway - Kew Beach

Greenwood Raceway - Kew Beach Park.

January 19, 2019 - 12:58 pmGreenwood obviously; seems

Dave Aziz SAID...

Greenwood obviously; seems after the remodelling and enclosure of the seats (1971?)
two trees at the north east corner of Coxwell and Lakeshore Blvd.
"Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never..." I guess they did!

January 19, 2019 - 12:23 pmBilly O, Mike Lachance,

Gord Brown SAID...

Billy O, Mike Lachance, Walter Case. Bottom photo looks like Greenwood, but I don't see the paddock. Thanks Robert, amazing job as always!

January 19, 2019 - 12:18 pmFoxboro picture L to R Bill

chris coyle SAID...

Foxboro picture L to R Bill O'donnell, John Hogan, Walter Case

January 19, 2019 - 11:58 amIs it Greenwood Raceway? (Old

Tom Foley SAID...

Is it Greenwood Raceway? (Old Woodbine).

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