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SC Rewind: World Record At Windsor

Published: October 13, 2018 9:15 am ET

Last Comment: October 17, 2018 10:07 am ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's In this week's 'Rewind,' Robert Smith recalls a 1980 world class performance by a truly great horse. His piece describes the day's events at Windsor Raceway when Direct Scooter went a monster mile and set a new world record and a few others in the process. A number of pictures and a copy of the original program help to tell the full story.

With the Windsor Raceway teletimer in the background Direct Scooter reaches the wire not only a winner but a new track record and world record holder. Sitting confidently in the driver's seat is Warren Cameron as the 1:54.2 mile flashes on the board. Banker Fretz (Garth Gordon) managed to poke his nose in the photo as second place finishers (Can. Sportsman)

In 1980 Windsor Raceway was embarking on the third decade of its existence, having opened in October of 1965. Its relatively short history had already seen a lot of great moments and memorable racing action. Racing fans had been treated to seeing such great horses as Cardigan Bay, Fresh Yankee, Rambling Willie, Albatross and most recently Try Scotch, winner of the 1979 Provincial Cup, the track's premiere annual event. All or most of these great horses had set new records at the border oval. They not only set speed records they were also responsible for new attendance and betting marks as well. They also captured the imagination of the local fans.

When Cardigan Bay came to Windsor in 1967 and won that year's Provincial Cup, a standing room only crowd of 8,434 fans were on hand to set a record for the track's largest attendance figure to date. In 1972 Albatross was defeated in that year's Cup but he was responsible for drawing a much larger crowd of 12,057 people as the track was literally 'bursting at the seams'. Later that year he returned to a somewhat smaller crowd but he did set a new track and Canadian record of 1:56.3.

On the afternoon of April 26, 1980 that list of great horses increased by one more as the four-year-old superstar pacer Direct Scooter came to town. Many people well-versed in evaluating horseflesh considered that he may have been the best of all of the great horses to pay Windsor a visit. Owned by a Washington, D.C. group that purchased him as a two-year-old for a mere $21,000, he had already shown his greatness. Racing out of the stable of U.S. horseman Gary Cameron, he earned $298,162 at age three and this season by mid-April had already banked an additional $93,750. At this time he was the season's record holder on all sizes of tracks in North America.

Despite his world class credentials and overwhelming record, a meagre crowd of just 3,303 showed up to see the afternoon's featured $30,000 Graduate Pace. Perhaps the locals just didn't realize what a great field of horses had been assembled that day. Driver Cameron told a Windsor Star reporter "We came here to break the track record of Try Scotch (Shelly Goudreau)." That record of 1:55.4 had been set just a few months earlier with Direct Scooter 1-1/2 lengths behind the winner and finishing second in the track's signature event the Provincial Cup.

A look at this day's feature shows quite an impressive field of four- and five-year-olds who entered the race with cumulative lifetime earnings in excess of $1,687,000. Leading the pack was the amazing Tijuana Taxi with a bankroll of $498,875, most of which was earned at the age of three when he went over the $400,000 mark. Also impressive was the fact that six of the seven showed Canadian ownership. Direct Scooter's lifetime best of 1:54 taken at three topped the speed list.

As the field of seven starters left the post, Cameron immediately headed for the front end. Delayed slightly by Banker Fretz and Garth Gordon he eventually reached the lead just past the opening quarter in :28.4. As he assumed command Cameron slowed the pace reaching the half mile marker in a slightly sluggish 58 seconds. From here Cameron gave Scooter the green light and they reached the three-quarter station in 1:26.4, the fastest third quarter in the track's then 15-year history. The leader then shrugged off a mild challenge from second choice Timely's Best Man and roared into the final portion of the race. He made the last quarter the best as Cameron slightly urged him to a time of :27.3 finishing the mile in 1:54.2 with Banker Fretz second 1-1/2 lengths back for co-owner Garth Gordon at the controls. Finishing third was Lime Time with catch driver Bud Foster in the sulky.

In the winner's circle from left are Tom Lachine, Pierre Levesque, driver Warren Cameron, unidentified groom, owner and Terry McDonnell as a special painting is presented to the horse's connections by Windsor Raceway officials.

It was mission accomplished as he easily erased the existing mark set by Try Scotch by well over a full second. His clocking was a new world record. Each horse in the race went faster than they ever had before in a race. Arrochar Mist who finished seventh and last was timed in 1:56.4 a full second better than he had registered at Windsor last fall. Sent off at odds of just 2-5 Direct Scooter paid $2.80, $2.50 and $2.10 across the board. Those who coupled him with Banker Fretz did get a little more of a payout when the exactor paid $15.40 for a two-dollar investment.

In a post-race interview Mrs. Betty Wright, co-owner of Banker Fretz along with her husband Dr. Bill Wright and Garth Gordon, was quite satisfied with the performance of their horse that day. "We're probably the happiest second place finishers you'll ever find anywhere," she said. The plan of course was to compete in the remaining legs of the series. The Graduate Series was the brainchild of Joe DeFrank, the long-time race secretary at Windsor prior to his current job as headmaster of racing at the Meadowlands.

Direct Scooter (6) and driver Warren Cameron are headed for victory with the Windsor grandstand in the background. Finishing second is Banker Fretz (4) (Garth Gordon) with third place finisher Lime Time (Bud Foster) a distant third.

Many years have come and gone since this record setting day and so too has Windsor Raceway faded into history. Horses travel so much faster now but this was a performance well worth remembering. In just two years of racing Direct Scooter earned over $800,000 and set countless records. Once retired he embarked on a phenomenal stud career and of course will forever be remembered for siring Matt's Scooter a horse for the ages and Canadian owned. He sired nearly 2000 registered foals who earned $200 million in purses. Direct Scooter lived to be 29 years old, passing away in 2005.

Warren Cameron poses with Direct Scooter (right). He was part of a very accomplished racing family headed up by his father Adelbert "Del" Cameron who achieved much success while training and driving many fine horses bearing the name Newport. Warren left us in 2014 at the age of 74 while his younger brother Gary Cameron died in 1998 at the very young age of 54. He too was a very accomplished horseman.

While most of the pomp and circumstance of this day belonged to the race winner it is worth noting that the second place horse had quite a career as well. Banker Fretz had a long racing career that saw him win 46 races and over $563,000 in purses. He too enjoyed a long retirement passing away in 2012 at the ripe old age of 37 after many years of loving care from Barrie and Debbie Bird of Harwood, Ont.

A copy of the Windsor program on the record setting day

Closing Notes - It is interesting to note the list of winning drivers on the card surrounding the world record setting performance by Direct Scooter. Certainly a number of them are still very familiar over 38 years later. The list in order from the first race onward includes the following: Ron Ellerker, Lyle Grineage, Jack Darling, Bruce Richard, Brian Belore, Jack Wray, Harold Stead, Ken Hardy and R. Paquette.

Who Is It?

Can you identify the driver of No. 5 in this photo as he heads toward victory lane ? (Abahazy Photos)

October 17, 2018 - 10:07 amThis week's photo drew a

This week's photo drew a variety of responses; thanks for sending them in as it makes the weekly quiz a little more interesting. That young gentleman heading for a win was John Douglas McIntosh driving a horse named Beezer owned by Fred Drouillard and the track was Wolverine located on the outskirts of Detroit. The year was 1983.

October 13, 2018 - 6:34 pmI remember that day very

Garth Gordon SAID...

I remember that day very well. Not only did he lower the track and world record at Windsor the next week he lowered the track Record at Mohawk. Then two weeks later at the Meadowlands in the final of the graduate series likely would have lowered the track record there. Only reason he didn’t is because they had a big rain storm just before our race and the track was very muddy. Direct Scooter never raced as a two year old. Was very good as a three year old. But at four he was unbeatable. I remember Buddy Gilmour telling me about an invitation pace they had in Chicago for F.F.A. Pacers. Buddy had a real good horse called Miller Scout. Direct Scooter was in there with and outside post. Buddy had the rail with Miller Scout and parked D.S. every step of the mile and D.S. still won. Just my personal opinion but I think Direct Scooter was every bit as good as Niatross and Cam Fella. I raced against all three of them and I know they never raced against each other, but if they had my $2 would be on D.S. I think the mystery picture is Doug MacIntosh with Wally Macillbury finishing second.

October 13, 2018 - 1:23 pmBev Kingston

Bev Kingston

October 13, 2018 - 10:44 amBev Kingston

Gord Brown SAID...

Bev Kingston

October 13, 2018 - 10:18 amGreat memories of Windsor

David Darocy SAID...

Great memories of Windsor Raceway. The driver of No. 5 looks to be Doug McIntosh and the other driver just for conversation looks to be Todd Buter. Also in the winners circle picture with Direct Scooter, I believe that Pierre Levesque is holding the painting with the driver.

October 13, 2018 - 9:33 amCould it be Jiggs McFadden

Gerry Drew SAID...

Could it be Jiggs McFadden

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