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SC Rewind: Forty Years Ago

Published: January 18, 2020 9:45 am ET

Last Comment: January 24, 2020 9:43 am ET | 12 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of 'Rewind,' Robert Smith takes a trip back 40 years ago to the happenings of the year 1979, then just completed. His recollections include some short accounts of major races and also some of the names and faces from that time period as well as old pictures and a trivia question related to that year.

Pacing sensation Hot Hitter and driver Herve Filion, who was 39 at the time ,led all of harness racing by a mile in 1979. The three-year-old son of Strike Out won virtually all of the major events of the season and banked a huge $826,000 in the process. This familiar pose of Filion returning to the winner's circle with Hot Hitter has often been shown over the years and even appears with his biography at the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Who were the leading drivers in 1979?

  • Ron Waples led North America with 443 winning drives. Second was Carmine Abbatiello with 393 winning tallies and Herve Filion third with 374 wins.

  • C. J. Osborne took the U.D.R.S. title in the 300+ starts category with 0.566 in 344 starts. (This category was later changed to 500+)

  • George Hawke, originally from Coldwater, Ont., led the 200 - 299 starts category with a 0.464 average as he won 75 of his 220 starts.

  • John Campbell, at only 24, led all drivers in money won as he earned $3,308,984. Seven Canadian-born drivers were on the top 10 money earners list.

  • A total of 29 drivers across North America earned in excess of $1 million in purse money that year.

  • A total of 32 drivers won 200 or more races in 1979.

In 1979 Canadian horseman Ronnie Waples, who turned 35 in July of that year, led all of North America in dashes won with 443 trips to the winner's circle. He is shown here surrounded by his large collection of silverware collected at the year-end awards ceremony. In a New York Times article that appeared a few years after this, a writer had the following to say: "Waples is a taciturn, cryptic and unduly modest man, at times seemingly unable to handle a compliment." Comparing intelligence, Waples insisted "On the track most horses are smarter than the people behind them," and said that included him.

Top Performing Horses in 1979 (with earnings rounded to nearest $1,000)


► Two-Year-Old - Thats Terrific - $144,000

► Three-Year-Old - Chiola Hanover - $553,000

► Older - Keystone Pioneer - $236,000


► Two-Year-Old - Niatross - $605,000

► Three-Year-Old - Hot Hitter - $826,000 (This is equal to approx. $2.7 million in today's dollars)

► Older - Try Scotch - $490,000

Who won some of the major stakes events of 1979? I have selected eight of the top ones.

  • The Little Brown Jug went to Hot Hitter and Herve Filion

  • The Prix d' Ete also went to Hot Hitter and Herve

  • The Messenger went to Hot Hitter and Herve

  • Confederation Cup won by Hot Hitter with Henri Filion

  • Legend Hanover (Geo. Sholty) won the Hambletonian raced at Duquoin, Ill.

  • The Provincial Cup was won by Try Scotch (Shelly Goudreau) in a stakes record time of 1:55.4

  • The Can. Pacing Derby went to Try Scotch (Shelly Goudreau)

  • Geers Stake for three-year-olds won by Striking Force and driver John Hayes, Jr.

  • Hanover Filly Stake for three-year-olds won by Roses Are Red and driver Jack Kopas

  • Labatts Pace at Western Fair in London, Ont. won by Rock N Wave (Dave Wall) in a new track record time of 1:58.1

The Cane Futurity of 1979 held on June 23rd at Yonkers Raceway was well-represented by horses with Canadian connections. Of the 14 entrants, a total of eight horses had either Canadian ownership or were driven by Canadian born reinsmen.

Shown above is Armbro Ultrasonic, the winning horse from the first heat of the 1979 Cane Pace. The owner H. Leslie Stewart of Halifax, N.S. was presented the trophy by Bill Brown of Blue Chip Farms. Maritimer Ron MacArthur the driver and other friends and relatives look on following the mile in 1:58.4. The opening leg of pacing's Triple Crown carried a purse of $336,420 and was New York State's richest race at that time. This horse finished fourth to Happy Motoring in the final heat.

Shelly Goudreau, who turned 31 that year, had a banner season scoring 281 wins, good enough for seventh place and earning $2,115,000 in purses placing him in fifth spot in that category. His top horse was Try Scotch who won numerous stakes and almost $500,000.

It's a happy scene in the Yonkers winner's circle following a victory in the 1979 Cane Pace by Happy Motoring. Raceway president Tim Rooney (right) holds the trophy as driver Bill Popfinger and his wife Betty (far left) smile their approval along with caretaker Karen Bender.

The Battle Of The Sexes - 1979

Harness racing has seen a lot of very good female drivers throughout the years and while their numbers in comparison to their male counterparts are pretty small, they have certainly held their own as shown by the results of the 1979 "Battle of the Sexes" competition held at London's Western Fair Raceway. The ladies won the overall contest scoring 443 points to 357. The individual champion was Terry Kerr with 154 points to Bea Farber's 140.

From left: Janet Irvine, Jacqueline Ingrassia, Sandra Fisher, Bea Farber, Ray McLean, Terry Kerr, Fred List and Dave Wall

Trivia and other interesting tidbits from 40 years ago

  • For the second year in a row Canadian horseman Doug Hie won the Florida Breeder's Stake at Pompano Park. After winning at two, three-year-old Passage West repeated in the sophomore edition of the stakes event.

  • Canadian driver Allan Hohner (Barrie) placed 18th in the U.D.R.S. standings with an average of 0.368 and Chuck Fraleigh (Wallaceburg) was tied for 25th with 0.360. Both were in the top category (300 + starts).

  • The leading dash winning horse among pacers was Sheet Rock owned by Bruce D. Garland of Carbonear, Nfld. The eight-year-old won 32 heats in 66 starts but just $6,600 and took a new record of 2:07.

  • Solar Eden wasn't far behind winning 26 of 67 starts for owner Michael Williams of St. Johns, Nfld. Also had 18 second-place finishes.

  • The leading dash winning trotter was the seven-year-old Going Once, owned by Richard Fissell of Marengo, Ohio who took 23 out of 40 starts and won $4,500. I wonder if he was purchased at an auction sale?

  • A 14-year-old horse named Chestnuts Earl closed out his career in fine style making just 71 starts and taking a standing of 22-11-13 and banking $6,223 for his owner Wm. E. Ellis of Truro, N.S. His lifetime record of 2:08 was taken at age four.

Trivia Question - In that year's Little Brown Jug Dr. John Hayes piloted two members of his stable to qualifying positions in the Jug final. In the first heat John finished second to heat winner Tijuana Taxi (Jim Miller) with Oil Strike. In the second heat he piloted Striking Force to a fourth-place finish with the race won by Hot Hitter (Herve Filion). Thus he had two entrants.

Dr. John chose Striking Force as his mount in the final, so who did he select to drive Oil Strike?

Quote For The Week: "Lately I've noticed that everyone my age somehow looks a lot older than I do."

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify these two young lads in this photo taken just 45 years ago? Nice to see a horse with no boots. (Abahazy Photo collection)

January 24, 2020 - 9:43 amThis week's Trivia question

This week's Trivia question seemed to be a popular one and also apparently not too hard to answer. Carmen Hie was the lucky guy who got the drive behind Oil Strike. The "mystery" picture shows just how fast time goes by as we look at a very young John Campbell and Peter Wray, two very familiar names in Canadian harness racing.

January 21, 2020 - 11:52 amJohn Campbell and Bandit

Russ Gale SAID...

John Campbell and Bandit (Pete Wray)

January 18, 2020 - 5:48 pmOr as Roger Huston said,"Oil

Leon Siple SAID...

Or as Roger Huston said,"Oil Strike, driven by 'Carmine' Hie."

January 18, 2020 - 3:50 pmThe two young lads in the

The two young lads in the photo taken 45 years ago are John Campbell and Pete Wray. It was at Wolverine Raceway and the horse was a very nice horse named Grover Minbar.

January 18, 2020 - 3:15 pmOil Strike was driven by

Bert Clish SAID...

Oil Strike was driven by Carman Hie.
Photo looks like a young John Campbell.

January 18, 2020 - 3:08 pmTrivia Question - Carmen

David Darocy SAID...

Trivia Question - Carmen Hie.
Who Is It? - John Campbell and Peter Wray at Wolverine Raceway.

January 18, 2020 - 12:04 pmCarmen Hie drove Oil Strike.

Joe Wright SAID...

Carmen Hie drove Oil Strike. John Campbell is the driver in the picture.

January 18, 2020 - 11:52 amTrivia: John's good friend

John Burke SAID...

Trivia: John's good friend Carman Hie on Oil Strike.

January 18, 2020 - 11:16 amJohn Campbell and possibly

Gord Brown SAID...

John Campbell and possibly Shelly Goodreau. Trivia: I'm going to go with Ron or Keith Waples.

January 18, 2020 - 10:59 amJohn Campbell & Pete Wray.

John Campbell & Pete Wray.

January 18, 2020 - 10:25 amWho is it - John Campbell and

John Hill SAID...

Who is it - John Campbell and Pete Wray.

January 18, 2020 - 10:16 amCarman Hie drove Oil

W Doug HIe SAID...

Carman Hie drove Oil Strike.
John Campbell & Peter (Bandit) Ray.
Four sons of Strike Out in the final heat.

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