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SC Rewind: Novick Wins Six At Windsor

Published: October 12, 2019 11:38 am ET

Last Comment: October 17, 2019 10:56 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of 'Rewind,' Robert Smith takes a look back an even 50 years ago to a spectacular evening that opened Windsor Raceway's 1969 fall and winter racing season. It was a very special way for the Raceway to open its fifth season of winter racing since most of the excitement was totally unexpected.

On the evening of Monday, October 6, 1969 Windsor Raceway opened its doors to kick off the fall and winter racing season; it was the fifth time for the border oval to hold a season opener since its inaugural season back in the fall of 1965. Raceway management was so pleased to be opening a new season that President Al Siegel decided to offer free admission as a welcoming gesture. The response was nothing short of spectacular as a record turnout of 7,809 fans showed up. While they were understandably happy have racing action back, most of the crowd left the premises talking about the exploits of one driver.

"Mike Novick Jr. with the finest driving performance in Windsor Raceway history stole all the thunder Monday night at the tartan track's biggest ever opening night" was the opening line in the following day's Windsor Star sports pages. Novick, then 29 years old, had been a regular at Windsor since its opening and had a reputation as a very steady performer who operated a first-class stable. His only really outstanding accomplishment to date had been his setting of the all-age track record back in 1966. At that time he had steered Bobby Axland to a mile in 2:01 which was the fastest ever at that point in time over the Tartan oval.

Things were about to change as Novick quickly rewrote a bit of Windsor Raceway history and beyond as he won a record-breaking six races to shatter all existing modern day records in Canada. Just twice in the rather short history of the Windsor track had a driver ever scored as many as four wins on a single program. In 1965 Percy Robillard had notched a four-bagger and on New Year's Eve 1968 Herve Filion had also made four trips to the charmed circle. One of Herve's wins was in a non-wagering event.

On opening night Novick, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., wasted little time in getting his winning ways started. He was an easy winner in the opener behind the veteran 12-year old trotter Dutch Dillard. On this one he was subbing for Wally McIllmurray Sr., who was busy at Hazel Park trying to win the driver's race. After a second-place finish in the second, he was right back in the winner's circle with Billy Rhythm. Oddly this was the only one of his six winning drives that he had any real experience driving prior to this evening. He was a member of the Ben Calvin Stable, the outfit Novick had been employed as head trainer by now for several years.

His third win came in the fourth race as the string continued. This time it was with Right Season, owned by locals Denis and Frances Fauteux of Tecumseh, Ont. This win he later related was the most unexpected as he felt the horse had no chance of winning at all. In the fifth a win behind Hotel Man owned by Windsorite Ed Hunter tied the Robillard - Filion mark. Immediately in the seventh race and again driving an entry from the Hunter barn he broke the record by winning with J J Lassie. However he still wasn't finished and the new record was soon broken. Just for good measure he breezed home in front again in the ninth and final race of the evening driving Lenawee Song, owned by Bill Riley of Lincoln Park, Mich.

At the conclusion of the whirlwind evening Novick shared a few of his thoughts with Windsor Star sports reporter Jim McKay. "It's just fantastic, I can hardly believe it. I had to have some luck to get that many. For instance in the seventh race I was content with second as there was no way I was going to catch Con Man. When he made a break at the head of the stretch my horse gave a big effort and we won it." He passed off the night as a "combination of luck and live horses. When you're holding a hot hand everything seems to go your way." In only one of the eight races he competed in did he finish worse than second.


Driver Mike Novick Jr. appears in the winner's circle following his record setting fifth win with race winner J J Lassie. He went on to win one more and set an new record for races won on a single card. (Windsor Star photo)

Windsor Raceway officials were bewildered as the night played out and Novick continued to win races. Rather than let the record setting performance go completely unrewarded President Siegel quickly resurrected a set of Canadian Centennial coins which was presented to Novick immediately following the last race.

If there was a downside to the entire evening it was in the very low mutuel handle. Despite the huge crowd (who were all admitted free), the handle was just $309,941. Even at that it was much higher than the previous year's opening night total of $291,987. The crowd total far surpassed the largest ever opening night gathering by some 2,000 people which occurred at the track's original opening night in 1965.


The above clipping from The Windsor Star describes the results of research done by the CTA at the time of Mike Novick's six-win performance in 1969.

Mike Novick Jr. passed away a few years ago an unfortunate victim of cancer I am told. He enjoyed a long career in the sulky and in addition to his own trainees he was often called upon to perform as a catch driver, many times by Keith Waples.

A Note Of Interest: Throughout most if not all of Windsor Raceway's existence many racegoers, horse people and track employees often visited a local watering hole known as The Michigan Tavern located on nearby Malden Road. Just recently this long-time eating and thirst quenching spot became a part of local history as it fell victim to the wrecker's ball. I believe the land it once occupied will soon be home to some type of commercial development. I recall visiting there a time or two myself!

Quote For The Week: "Humor is one of mankind's greatest blessings."

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!

I am going to include a "repeat" from a Rewind of a few years ago:

I would like to offer my very best Thanksgiving Day Greetings to everyone in the Rewind family of readers on this special day. For many of us this has been a memorable fall season as we have been blessed with an abundance of autumn sunshine and much warmer than usual temperatures. I personally think we as Canadians have a better choice on the calendar for our Thanksgiving than our friends in the U.S. It is a special time as the harvest is underway and we have so many great things to choose from to adorn our holiday table.

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!!

Who Is It?

In late 1969 Mike Novick Jr. (far right) scored a Saturday night Invitational win at Windsor with Zip Tar, a noted horse of the day. On the far left is co-owner Eugene Stirling. Can you correctly identify the two gentlemen on each end of the blanket who made the presentation? Not finished yet; name the gentleman second from the left next to Mr. Stirling.

Who Else Is It?

Can you correctly name the young fellow pictured above?

Answers will appear during the coming week so stay tuned.

October 17, 2019 - 10:56 amThis week's pictures were

This week's pictures were identified with minimal difficulty except for one individual. In the upper photo the correct names from left to right were Gene Stirling, Russell Miller, Brad Farrington and Fred Goudreau holding the blanket with Mike Novick on the far right. Brad was an Ohioan racing at Windsor at that time; he was a brother to Bob and Richard Farrington, all prominent horsemen.
In the lower photo as correctly identified by several was Benoit Cote. Thanks again for your entries and the best wishes.

October 14, 2019 - 8:00 pmThank you Sheila for being in

Thank you Sheila for being in touch and further clarifying the owners of Zip Tar. As far back as my memory goes I can remember your mother and her parents Russell and Jean. It is my pleasure to often mention the "Miller" connection to the past of harness racing. All the best to you folks! P.S. - Later this week I will give the name of the gentleman on the end of the blanket next to your Grandpa.

October 13, 2019 - 3:12 pmRobert, my mother Marjorie

Robert, my mother Marjorie Patterson confirms her father J. Russell Miller (my grandpa) is the man second from left in the photo. She also confirms the owners of Zip Tar at the time were Sterling, Miller, Reynolds and Patterson (my mom). She believes the man to the right of the blanket could be Bill Reynolds. It is always special for mom and our family to read your articles.

October 13, 2019 - 11:31 amOn the left of the blanket

On the left of the blanket (Keith Waples) longtime trainer Clarence Gagnon????

HAPPY THANKSGIVING MR. SMITH.

October 12, 2019 - 5:09 pmGentleman on the left of the

David Darocy SAID...

Gentleman on the left of the blanket is a “blank” other gentleman to the right is Fred Goudreau. Gentleman next to Mr. Stirling I believe is J. Russel Miller and the bottom photo looks like Benoit Cote. Great reading again Mr. Smith and Happy Thanksgiving.

October 12, 2019 - 4:27 pmFred Goudreau on the right

Joe Wright SAID...

Fred Goudreau on the right holding the blanket. Possibly Russ Miller second from the left.

October 12, 2019 - 2:12 pmJ.R. Miller Garnet

J.R. Miller
Garnet Crawford
Freddy Goudreau

October 12, 2019 - 2:09 pm#2 - Benoit Cote.

#2 - Benoit Cote.

October 12, 2019 - 1:26 pmNo. 1 ? No. 2 Benoit Côté

No. 1 ?

No. 2 Benoit Côté

October 12, 2019 - 12:56 pmSmiling Fred Goudreau beside

Gord Brown SAID...

Smiling Fred Goudreau beside Mike, bottom photo French Phenom Benoit Cote.


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