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SC Rewind: Winter Training

Published: January 24, 2015 9:53 am ET

Last Comment: January 25, 2015 9:31 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith nostalgically recalls the long winter season when the only activity in harness racing for most people was the daily routine of training.

Back in the older days of harness racing, a fairly large part of each year was spent in training, and much of it was in the winter season. It tended to be at times monotonous, always cold, and needless to say not financially rewarding. Those who busied themselves on the country's training tracks had to be hardy souls. They bundled up, covered up with the heaviest buffalo robes they could find, and just somehow toughed it out. They hoped that the owners would keep coming to visit, and above all pay their training bills. Spring always seemed to be far away.

Back in the day. Future Hall of Famers Keith (right) and Ron Waples are shown winter jogging. They were also undoubtedly discussing strategy for the upcoming racing season.

A few things helped to mollify the long winter routine. One popular pastime of horse enthusiasts, be they trainers owners or grooms, was to read about the activities of others. During the late fall, all through the winter and into spring, the racing journals published reports from training spots across the land. Many were lengthy and often humorous, tending to cover more subjects than just the actual training activities. Remember the journals themselves were in need of filling in time and space in the off-season too!

I have read a ton of these old stories and always enjoyed them; not just for the information they conveyed, but also for their literary style. Today I have recreated a couple of old stories. They are all based on actual write ups, but I have edited them for length and also slightly 'doctored' them for purposes of this exercise. The names and places are all authentic.


By Jack M. Climie, Excerpted from Canadian Sportsman Feb. 28, 1944

With the recent snows which have permitted the use of cutters and sleighs on City streets, the citizens of Tillsonburg have witnessed some wintry sights. They have had the opportunity of seeing most of the 18 trotters and pacers that are wintering at the fairgrounds strut their stuff up and down Broadway. Their speed and good looks have created a great deal of favorable comment from the Townsfolk. Listed below are a few of the local horses and their connections.

A Canadian Sportsman ad from 1944.
Ryerson Co. of Stratford were long-time suppliers to harness horsepeople

Resident trainer Harry Fields has the largest number of any trainer, having eight head in his stable. Four head belong to Len Owen and his father Joseph. All are in fine shape and are logging their jog miles daily. The six-year-old Lenora Lee is back in training after a lay up of two years. Corporal Leone is their candidate for the upcoming three-year-old Futurity. The others will be covered at a later date.

For Bennie Morrissey, he has Una Henley and a green trotting prospect named Mr. Oakie who is a full brother to the champion Prince Oakie. All of these green horses really show class and look like the goods. Rounding out the Fields' contingent is Blue Wave, a registered Thoroughbred gelding that is being used for a saddle horse by Mrs. Barbara Ferguson.

Jack Hefferon has the pacers Black Prince and Royal Sadie in show horse condition. They look to be both ready to start turning it on as soon as the weather permits. Court Smith of Delhi, who owns Royal Sadie also has Wanda Grattan in this barn and the latter filly has really filled out this winter. She is rapidly learning to pace and will undoubtedly be heard from in the upcoming season.

The rest of the horses are one-horse stables, each being the pride and pet of the various owners. Charlie Cole, Harry Dunlop and Danny Ellis are all at the stables early each morning to tend to their hopefuls. Gordon Crossett has a nice big gelding by Corporal Lee that he is jogging daily. They will all be ready when spring arrives. The always reliable groom Eddie Harris arrives each morning bright and early on his bicycle.

The track has been well looked after all fall and winter and has received two liberal coatings of manure. It should be in great shape for the two race days this coming summer. Any time any interested horsemen are down our way they should visit the modern barn at the track. The boys will surely make you feel welcome.


By G. Desjardins, Turf Club Secretary
Excerpted from Canadian Sportsman issue of April 8, 1946

The Maniwaki Driving Club is made up of a fine group of men and we look forward to a great summer of racing on the new beautiful track of ours. This will be the third year of activities. I am pleased to offer a few comments on our local horses and their owners.

Lillian Lee, owned by Dr. R. Leduc and being taken care of by Tanner Thompson, is having a fine winter. 'Lily' as usual is nice and fat and everybody enjoys seeing her pacing down the alley. Dr. Leduc takes her out himself once or twice a week and when he cannot, his son Fernand does. Tanner takes her out at regular hours as he knows the doctor watches the clock. Every day when Lily goes by the office the patient in the doctor's chair has to suffer a lot before he takes his nose out of the window.

Dr. Arthur Besner of our town has a full stable and Alfred Gagnon his jockey has plenty of work. He has Golden Boy, Patricia Grattan, Tony Chenault and a pony for Claudy, his son. His good trotter Po-Ka-Bout is wintering with Cecil Champion at Winchester, Ont. The other day the Dr. told me that his horses are in the best of shape but that it takes a lot of hay and oats to keep them like that. If only he could get a couple of good dividend payers the likes of Po-Ka-Bout he might even give up medicine.

Paul Hins, another busy man of our town has in his stable the good racing mare Miss Canada. When the time comes to hitch up it does not matter how cold it is or if the wife has enough wood in the house to fill the stove; Paul goes just the same. At the rate he is going now the care he is giving the horses will bring big dividends next summer. He will never be sorry supposing he has neglected his wife a bit.

Local hotel man Gerald Nault also has his horses with Tanner Thompson. Gerald likes to drive his own a couple of times a week, but he also likes to speed. The results are that when he takes the horses back to Tanner they are sometimes a little too warm. The other day I was there when he returned and he dropped the lines pretty quick and headed back to the Hotel before Tanner gave him a piece of his mind. His trotter Maniwaki Boy is in great shape and everybody is very anxious to see who can beat him in the 2:28 class this summer.

The trotter Maniwaki Boy named after the Town of the same name is pictured at the local track. Seated in the cutter is veteran trainer Tanner Thompson, trainer for Gerald Nault owner of Maniwaki's Central Hotel.

Veteran pacer Benny Barrett owned by Raoul McCarty, in spite of his age is fairly well advanced. Benny looks nice and fat and it takes a good horse to steal from him the pole on the start of a race. He is still sound, just like a colt. Watch out for him as the weather warms up.

B. Harvester is a three-year-old stallion owned by Howard Heafley and he should beat some good horses once developed by his owner. He goes free-legged and is showing a lot of ambition. Howard has a lot of friends, except on the track and he proved this last fall when he beat his closest friend. He is a real horse lover.

In closing I would like to pay a tribute to General Lee, who closed out his career last summer and is now retired from the track. He is owned by J.E. Boyle, a lumber merchant here in Maniwaki. For anyone who wishes to see this horse, he is now housed in the luxurious stable of his owner situated at the corner of Ottawa and Apignon Streets. The good old horse is now getting his reward as he brought in a lot more money in purses than the price paid for him.

Stay tuned as there will be a lot more to be heard from this little town as the weather warms up and the boys start to turn their horses the right way of the track.

January 25, 2015 - 9:31 pmRobert, That is so great that

Jack Darling SAID...

Robert, That is so great that you could dig up that information and stats on Dust A Bout from the 1960s. I didnt even think it existed. Thanks for sharing it and I have a feeling that I and others will have some more names from the past for you in future columns.

January 25, 2015 - 3:22 pmThanks to Jack Darling for an

Thanks to Jack Darling for an interesting comment. Apparently frolicking in the snow at the Darling farm was a good way to condition a horse for the upcoming racing season. A check of the 1961 racing stats shows that Dust A Bout ,then four years old, had a pretty successful season. She made a total of 16 starts, winning 10 of them, finishing second twice and earned a cheque in all but one start. Her season's earnings amounted to $1,006. The young mare took her record of 2:09 2/5 at Parkhill. She was driven to victory in all 10 of her winning starts by a very interesting local horseman named Tom Yearly. I remember the name of Charles Godbolt the owner of Dust A Bout as he raced a one horse stable for quite a number of years around at the small tracks. While he enjoyed owning a good horse, they were usually for sale for the right price. Tom Yearly who hailed from Jack's home area trained at the Exeter track and once owned a horse named Amber Grattan that won 49 races in one season (the subject of a previous Rewind ).

January 24, 2015 - 4:11 pmJust awesome stuff Robert.

Just awesome stuff Robert. Shivering in Florida with the memories you brought up today !!! I think there was so many hotel owners involved because they had access to the alcohol which was a great painkiller in the cold.

January 24, 2015 - 11:36 amMy first contact with

Jack Darling SAID...

My first contact with standardbreds was when a local trainer brought his pacing mare and cutter to my fathers farm in Exeter for the winter back in the mid 1960s. The trainers name was Charlie Godbolt and his mares name was Dustabout. She had a racemark of 209 I believe and was considered a pretty decent racehorse at that time and a favourite of the locals. Charlie would hook her up to the cutter when the conditions were right and jog her around the snow covered field to keep her in shape until the racing season started in the spring. The good old days !!

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