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SC Rewind: It's Waples Day!

Published: October 10, 2020 10:48 am ET

Last Comment: October 15, 2020 10:35 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith takes a look back some 35 years ago to 1985 when a special day was held at the Orangeville track to commemorate its opening in 1970 which was 15 years prior to the day. Several members of one of Canada's greatest racing families participated in a series of races on a Sunday afternoon that took the format of a competition.

The following is an excerpt from a write up in the April 11, 1985 issue of The Standardbred magazine authored by Kent Williams. "Orangeville Raceway is not about to let the 15th anniversary of its opening pass by unnoticed. The celebration will be held on April 28th and to commemorate the long association between the track and the name Waples; a unique event will be featured."

The plan was to have a gathering of members from the famed Waples family on hand to drive in a number of races throughout the afternoon. With the possibility of not quite enough of those clad in the familiar Waples' colours to fill the spots, a couple of "extras" were also part of the family, if only for this special day. Also recruited were Tom Strauss and Barry "Peewee" Drury, both former pupils of the Waples outfit. As it turned out they played a pretty major part on this memorable day.

The day of the reunion turned out very well with a nice crowd on hand. In a rather strange twist of fate, Barry Drury and Tom Strauss stole the show as they outdid the Waples teamsters by deadheating for top position in the competition, each with 83 points. Gord Waples upheld the family honour with the best showing of any of the remaining drivers to finish in third spot.

A field of mainly Waples competitors hit the turn at Orangeville during a 1985 Reunion in observance of the track's 15th anniversary (Photo by Monica Thors)

About 15 years prior to this day, on Sunday, May 3, 1970 Canada's newest raceway opened for business at the Orangeville Ontario Fairgrounds. While it was technically "new", it was actually one of the oldest racing spots in the Province of Ontario. As this anniversary day was being planned, a well-preserved poster advertising both running and trotting races for the July 1st card was on display at the Race Office. By the way that was for July 1st, 1875.

On the day of the reunion a number of original drivers and trainers were on hand to join in on the reminiscing about the track's opening day. Among those present and familiar to the current day fans were Bill Stirton, Herb Young, Bill Troy and of course Charlie Lawson to name just a few. Lawson, who had driven more winners at the Raceway in those first 15 years than anyone, said that he remembered that first card well. "Keith Waples was standing out on the track on that far turn holding a rake and directing traffic." Seems there was a bit of a bog caused by frost boils which required the horses to follow a path well out from the rail.

The following is a bit of a reminiscence of the actual opening of Orangeville Raceway on Sunday, May 3, 1970, just over 50 years ago.

An old clipping from the old Barrie Examiner newspaper

Orangeville Raceway - Orangeville, Ont.

Harness racing at the Orangeville fairgrounds goes back as far as history has been recorded in this Dufferin County Town. A famous man of the area named Dr. Henry Riddell, a local veterinarian, was active in the staging of races for many years. It was truly located in a veritable hotbed of harness racing. The modern day version of racing began in 1970 when a team headed by Keith and Murray Waples along with Jim Keeling upgraded the facility and staged weekly racing for many years.

Opening day was Sunday, May 3, 1970 and it marked the first of 18 consecutive Sunday cards that first season. Fans crowded the "new" facility to capacity. Many well-known drivers were on hand to help launch the opening of the Dufferin County track, due in large part to the persuasive powers of Keith and Murray Waples. The first ever race was won by a horse named Jack Honers owned and driven by Bill Carroll, a fellow who was born and raised not too far away from here at Riverview. Second was 12-year-old Innocent Bob for Ray Gemmill with third spot going to Pauls Signal for Brian Webster.

Purses on opening day ranged from $200 to a high of $600 for the Free For All Pace won by Piper Herbert and driver John Hayes, who was followed in second spot by Jet Adios and Jack Gordon. A few other winning drivers on that day included John Murphy, Reg Lipsett, Brent Davies, Andy Avery, Carman Hie, Joe Truckle, George Wain. Veteran Jimmy "Red" Holmes closed out the day with a victory behind Glenholme Joe. By the end of May, two races were held which each carried a purse of $1,000 and both were won by Barbara D Pride, driven by Retta Herrington for owner Hilliard O'Connell of Roseneath, Ont.

Known as the ‘Dean of Ontario Harness Racing,’ Orangeville veterinarian and former town mayor, Dr. William Henry Riddell, played a pivotal role in the province’s harness racing history. With large numbers of horses conscripted to the First World War, quality Standardbred racehorses were on a decline. Riddell began breeding horses with proven lineages and shared his resources, which allowed racehorse stables across Ontario to thrive. Never married to my knowledge, he was known to drive a horse called The Bison to make his vet calls. Local legend had it that he was known on occasion to pay a visit at the odd young lady's residence while making his rounds.

Closing Note: The Orangeville Raceway was opened in 1970 and was closed in 1993, prior to the construction of the RioCan fairgrounds shopping centre that now occupies the property where the raceway stood.

An old 1970's Orangeville program. If you purchased it at the track the price was just 40 cents.

Quote For The Week: "Everything is possible even the impossible" - From Mary Poppins

Who Is It?

Can you identify these two gentlemen who just may have been present on Orangeville's opening day back in 1970?

Who Else Is It?

Can you put a correct name on this fellow? Looks like he might be at Orangeville.


I would like to offer my very best Thanksgiving Day Greeting to everyone in the "Rewind" audience on this special day. For all of us this has been a very unusual year to say the least. Many of the things we have always taken for granted have all been changed this year. Our ability to gather and celebrate special days as we have always done has been either removed or the numbers greatly limited. It is somewhat sad and painful but we must do our best to do what we can. I am confident that we are slowly on our way back but we must endure the short term pain to be here for the long term gain.

Being thankful and appreciative is something that we should try to do each and every day.

Today and always be sure to treasure what you have, and much more importantly who you have around you. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

October 15, 2020 - 10:35 amThis week's pictures were

This week's pictures were once again snapped up by our experts. The top two were Bill Carroll (left) and Jimmy "Red" Holmes, both winning drivers on Orangeville's opening day back in 1970. Sadly and ironically, both men passed away just before this special day was held 15 years later.

In the lower photo was Lloyd Spinks, an Orangeville regular. Nice to hear you still have all your hair, not all of us are so fortunate. 

Thanks for your guesses and your Thanksgiving wishes.

October 11, 2020 - 12:15 pmThanks for the Orangeville

Lloyd Spinks SAID...

Thanks for the Orangeville Write-up, Mr. Smith. My photo was at Orangeville Raceway when I was reaching a wins plateau. 1985 I think...Still have most of the hair just a different colour
* Happy Thanksgiving *

October 10, 2020 - 7:31 pmRed Holmes Holmes keeps

Eric Warren SAID...

Red Holmes Holmes keeps horses Horses keep Holmes in the first picture

October 10, 2020 - 7:09 pmBill Carroll Jimmy 'red'

Bill Carroll
Jimmy 'red' Holmes
Lloyd Spinks

October 10, 2020 - 5:39 pmThe gentleman on the right in

The gentleman on the right in the first photo is Jimmy Holmes. The gentleman in the second picture is Lloyd Spinks!

October 10, 2020 - 4:03 pmBill Carroll, Red Holmes,

Gord Brown SAID...

Bill Carroll, Red Holmes, Lloyd Spinks

October 10, 2020 - 3:49 pm2 great guys, Bill Carroll

Karen Breen SAID...

2 great guys, Bill Carroll and Jimmy Holmes. Picture below is Lloyd Spinks I believe. All lot of fun racing back in those days

October 10, 2020 - 3:06 pmThank you for all of the

Bert Clish SAID...

Thank you for all of the great stories and pictures. HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and all of your readers.
Regards, Bert Clish

October 10, 2020 - 3:03 pmthe first fella is Bill

kent benson SAID...

the first fella is Bill Carroll the next fella is Jimmy Red Holmes always having a joke to tell you and the last one is Lloyd Spinks

October 10, 2020 - 2:53 pmBoy, Robert this brings back

Boy, Robert this brings back lots of Memories for me.

The gentlemen sure look like John Baxter, Jimmy Holmes and Lloyd Spinks

Great job.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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