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SC Rewind: Danny Song A

Published: January 20, 2018 9:32 am ET

Last Comment: January 25, 2018 11:16 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith recalls the long and interesting career of a great trotter from yesteryear as this month's 'Golden Memories' series offering. For many years Danny Song A., a true "rags to riches" performer entertained racing fans wherever he performed. His story, though now at least a half century old, is still a good one to hear and to tell. He is truly part of the lore of our sport.

Golden Memories - Danny Song A

If by some magical means we could travel back in time to say 50 years ago and make a trip to a day of racing it would be interesting to discover what horses we would see. I am guessing that high on the list of many who recall that era would be a great trotter of the day with a pretty simple name but a sterling resume. His name was Danny Song A.

Early in his career, apparently Danny Song was a bit of an 'ugly duckling'. Deemed to be unfit and unsuitable for his intended life's calling, the brown trotter was apparently tried by several trainers but with little success. Like so many before him and many since, he was dealt off to the Amish. His life of pulling a buggy over rural roads would be his lot in life, or so it was thought.

Somehow someone eventually saw the potential within him and he was rescued from a somewhat lesser career. On March 19, 1963 Danny Song made his first official lifetime start in a career that was a bit late in starting. He was then a five-year-old and had yet to have a charted line. He was apparently well-prepared for his new calling and scored a victory in his first test which was a qualifier at Greenwood scoring in 2:19. Racing under the ownership of Harold Bell of Chesley and his breeder Earl Ash of Desboro, Ont., the son of Dick Song was in the stable of a leading trainer and driver of the day: Ken Galbraith. It was under his guidance and management that this fabled trotter would achieve much of his future successes. In his day, the name Danny Song A was a household word among harness racing fans.

"Danny" soon took to his new vocation and during his first season he scored an incredible 15 victories in 30 starts. At one point in the season he reeled off seven straight wins as he climbed the ladder of success. The old saying that "bad news spreads quickly " can also sometimes work in reverse and so it did as Galbraith and his new found star made their way across the 1963 campaign. As the wins mounted so did his reputation as a real up and comer. By season's end he had a very respectable record of 2:06.2 and $9,165 in the bank. There would be much more to follow.

By year two in 1964, he was racing exclusively in Invitations every week, thus hooking up with the best trotters around and holding his own. Some of his competition included Ardee, Betsy Herbert, Cadenza, Duke Demon, Canadian Intrusion, Cotton Maid, Count Yates, Empire Song, Fanny Symbol, Kintoo Colby, Nancy Brook B., Peaches Atom, and Vans Pride C., to name just a few. At the end of the year he had a new record of 2:04.2 and another $21,600 in the earnings column. All year long the purse for an Invitation was steady at $3,000, not a lot of money by today's standards but pretty inviting back then.

In 1965 Danny was sold to Bruce Smith of Toronto, a popular sportsman of that era who operated Galleon Stables with Ken Galbraith as his trainer. He also owned a trucking company. They established a nice farm at Dundas, Ont. and built up a formidable stable of performers anchored by Danny Song and became a major force on the O.J.C. Circuit. Racing in a number of Stakes events such as The Don Mills Trot, the seven-year-old carried on with his share of successes on the track. Always a durable horse, he went postward 30 times, winning six times for his new owner and put almost $18,000 in his newly opened bank account.

In 1967 as a true aged trotter Danny really hit his stride. In a long season that started in March the nine-year-old went to the post a total of 31 times that year and had an outstanding campaign. Early in the year he served notice that he was one of the top trotters in the land. On the evening of March 24th in just his second start of the season and his first on the Windsor Raceway Tartan surface, a new track record was set at the border oval.

A Windsor Star sports page write-up said the following. "Danny Song A. owned by the Galleon Stables of Toronto and driven perfectly by Ken Galbraith rushed from third place at the 3/4 pole to the lead and then easily held off the late charge of Gerry Say (Gordon Norris) to register in 2:03.3." It was a new all-age trot record for Windsor and cut short a presentation planned to honour the current record holder. Instead a presentation was made to Galbraith to commemorate the feat as the spring meeting closed.

Danny Song A and his longtime trainer and driver Ken Galbraith appear in the Windsor Raceway winner's circle following a victory that set a then new track record for aged trotters as they stopped the clock in 2:03.3.

Later that 1967 season Danny went on the road, racing at many tracks including the fabled Suffolk Downs in Boston, Mass. This would be his finest year as he banked just north of $47,000 and further lowered his lifetime record to 2:03.3. Nine wins, eight seconds and five third-place finishes was his summary for Canada's Centennial year. In late December Danny closed out the year in a fashion similar to how he started as he reeled off a pair of wins in the weekly Invitational at Windsor which at that time went for a sizable $5,000 purse.

​On the evening of November 20, 1972 Danny Song bid adieu to the world of harness racing. Fans in attendance that night at Mohawk, many of whom had seen the old fellow countless times over the years, watched intently as he closed out his storybook career. With his current trainer Ronnie Feagan in the sulky for the Galleon Stable, Danny didn't quite make it one last time. In this his final race, a third-place finish was the best he could do. Oddly a horse with a similar name -- Royals Van, with Bill Wellwood in the sulky -- was the winner.

Danny Song A is honoured following his last lifetime start at the age of 14. Ronnie Feagan, the famous horse's trainer and driver, accepts a large hamper of carrots and an inscribed cooler to mark the occasion. On the left is O.J.C. publicity official Wm. Galvin.

There to meet him following that memorable race regardless of the outcome was Jockey Club publicity man Bill Galvin. Armed with a retirement cooler and a bushel of carrots, the winner's circle was a happy place except that Danny would no longer thrill the legion of fans he had created over 10 memorable seasons. At the ripe old age of 14 he had now officially entered his well-earned retirement years.

In a stellar career that saw this horse once relegated to buggy duty rise to national stardom Danny Song racked up some pretty impressive career statistics. Unfortunately by the time this racing career had ended a very young Ken Galbraith had passed away a couple of years earlier at the age of just 38. It was a tragic loss to his wife and young family and to the entire sport of harness racing. Ken was one of the best, a tribute to his profession and a man still remembered and admired by those who knew him.

Danny Song A. retired with a career speed record of 2:02.4 taken at the age of 10 and lifetime earnings of $203,400. As a matter of interest this amount converted to 2018 dollars would be equal to approximately $1,198,000. In his final year of racing he still had a lot left in the tank and while his speed and stamina from the glory days was not quite what it once was, he had yet another remarkable year adding 10 more wins to his lifetime total. He was a true "workhorse" who seldom if ever made a break and even more importantly brought a piece of the purse back home for his owner in nearly every start. I would venture a guess that during his 10 year racing career no horse ever started in as many Invitationals as this fellow did.

On a personal note I can recall something special about the start of this horse's racing career that showed how different things were back then. His sudden rise to stardom after being rescued from the Amish caught the attention of a lot of people, including many more people than the traditional harness crowd. A man who lived in our community hailed from the Chesley, Ont. area where Danny originated. After learning of his sudden popularity, he began to follow his every start. Knowing of my father's close ties to the sport and the fact that he always received the London Free Press for its race coverage, this gentleman would invariably drop in at our house following one of his starts just to see how he had fared. No internet in those days!

Good thing someone saw he had a lot more going for him than pulling an Amish buggy.

A group of top drivers from the late 1960's gather for a presentation from Carlings Brewery representative Dave Groombridge. From left: the long time trainer and driver of Danny Song A., Ken Galbraith; Wes Coke; Keith Waples and Ronnie Feagan

Who Is It ?

Can you put a name on this gentleman from days gone by? His identity will be revealed during the coming week.

January 25, 2018 - 11:16 amOnce again the Rewind

Once again the Rewind audience has shown how hard they are too fool when it comes to picture IDs . Indeed this was the famous # 7 "The Mick " ,Mickey Mantle ,also know as "The Commerce Comet " ( he hailed from Commerce Oklahoma) . Mick was the game's greatest switch hitter perhaps of all time and also loved to take part in harness racing . He drove in a few celebrity events including this one at Pompano Park . In its day ,Pompano attracted a lot of big name stars including Jackie Gleason,Walter Matthau ,Ed Sullivan and even Rodney Dangerfield . The big name folks attended in numbers decked out in tuxedos and evening gowns. Carnivals and novelty events featuring elephants and zebras entertained the huge crowds.

January 20, 2018 - 7:19 pmGREAT article about a GREAT

GREAT article about a GREAT horse Robert !!! You both passed the test of time.

January 20, 2018 - 3:20 pmGreat job once again Robert.

Great job once again Robert. Brings back old memories. Thanks for doing this.
Take care.

January 20, 2018 - 2:11 pmPops Barrieau?

Gord Brown SAID...

Pops Barrieau?

January 20, 2018 - 12:46 pmMickey Mantle

Mike Adams SAID...

Mickey Mantle

January 20, 2018 - 12:21 pmMickey Mantle

Jack Darling SAID...

Mickey Mantle

January 20, 2018 - 11:13 amMickey Mantle, the great

Bert Clish SAID...

Mickey Mantle, the great Yankees out fielder.

January 20, 2018 - 10:26 amLove these articles Robert.

Norm Brunet SAID...

Love these articles Robert. Keep them coming.

January 20, 2018 - 10:22 amDanny Song A trained right

Danny Song A trained right here in Wheatley, ON. Along with all Bruce Smith's, Galleon Stable horses handled by Ken Galbraith.
In the fall of 1968 I purchased the farm from Mr. Smith, and have been here ever since.
Ken Galbraith was a great horseman, a great guy, and a good friend!

January 20, 2018 - 9:41 amMickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle

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