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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1990s

Published: October 3, 2020 11:59 am ET

Last Comment: October 8, 2020 11:41 am ET | 8 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind is the latest version of Years Ago, a monthly offering covering a specific decade from the past. This time it's about the 1990's, a prosperous time for the sport of harness racing at least as the decade dawned. Included are a few short stories and some old photos from the times.

1991 - Drivers Approaching Career Milestones

May 1991 - Even 30 years ago statistics and racing data was not nearly as readily available as it is today. Periodically the U.S.T.A. released figures on driver's lifetime wins and made them available to racing journals and raceway statisticians. Shown above is a list from May 1991 showing drivers who were approaching certain milestones ranging from 5,000 career victories to 1,000. It is interesting to see just how many Canadian-born horsemen appear in virtually every category. See below for a couple of pictures related to this item.

1994 - Ontario Horse Wins Zweig Memorial

Dating back to its inception in 1977, the Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial Stakes has provided one of the sport's top prizes for three year old trotters, both colts and fillies, each with their own division. This event was named in honour of Dr. Zweig, a veterinarian long associated with Cornell University. When this stake was first started in 1975 it was called The Empire State, but after two years it took on the Zweig title. The first winner under the new name in 1977 was Cold Comfort piloted by Peter Haughton. Many famous drivers are listed as winners over the last 40-plus years.

In 1994 a Canadian entrant was victorious in that year's renewal as Ontario-based horseman Harold Stead made the journey to Syracuse and earned the top prize with his fine colt named Stone Bold. This youngster known as "Sonny" around the barn provided a special thrill for Harold and his wife Maryanne as he was a homebred. The son of Super Bowl out of the Dream Of Glory mare Dream Of Ironstone was a foal of 1991 and first saw the light of day at the Stead farm in Moffat. The Steads had purchased the dam from Bill Wellwood privately as a two-year-old and after some successes on the track they retained her as a broodmare. She became their foundation mare and provided them with several more successful foals including Stoneworthy, who was exported to France after a stellar racing career locally.

Stone Bold is shown winning the 1994 Zweig Memorial at Syracuse with co-owner and trainer Harold Stead on the bike. With a purse of $200,000 added on the line the three-year-old son of Super Bowl trotted the mile in 1:55 flat to take the victory. This pair also won the Keystone Classic that season.

Dr. Zweig was one of the master planners in the renewal of harness racing at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse in the mid-1960s. Under his guidance the two-afternoon event grew to become a pari-mutuel meet held over several weekends. The $150,000 Empire State Trot was added, a modern 15,000-seat grandstand was built and the track was renamed the Syracuse Mile. Zweig took great pride in the growth of the meet and invariably could be found at trackside, in the stables or the racing secretary’s office. (Text courtesy of the Harness Horse)

1994 - Joe Hudon Enjoys Career Year

The season of 1994 proved to be a very rewarding experience for then 43-year-old horseman Joe Hudon. His 23-year career in the sport, which started back in his home Province of Manitoba, had witnessed numerous ups and downs but it seemed this year everything came together at the right time. The Rockwood, Ont. resident made a total of 705 starts during the season and his horse's earnings amounted to $1,510,052.

Hudon made the move to Ontario from Western Canada in 1991 after recording 16 consecutive years of winning 100+ starts. At the top of his list of reasons for moving to Canada's toughest harness racing circuit was his desire to race against the sport's best. "The competition is keener here, there are more Stakes races and everything is so much bigger," he said. When I came here I wanted to race the best horses and compete with the best drivers."

Hudon experienced a couple of huge thrills during his busy season, long before he knew that his hard work would help him win his O'Brien award. The first was a trip to the prestigious Hambletonian held at the Meadowlands which saw him record a third-place finish in the final with his stable star Bye Tsem. A fifth-place spot in the elimination provided the start in the $1 million event. Scoring from the No. 10 position and going postward at odds of 47-1, Hudon's showing was incredible as his horse trotted the mile in 1:55 flat while Victory Dream the winner recorded a time of 1:54.1.

The other thrill was winning the final of the $531,600 Metro Stakes with Rover Hanover in September. He was quick to point out that a little luck may have come his way in winning his O'Brien trophy. "A lot of others could have won the award; I guess I was just luckier this year."

Joe Hudon Jr. proudly holds his O'Brien award earned during the 1994 season as "Canada's Horseman Of The Year." (Photo courtesy of The Rockwood Miller)

1995 - Roosevelt Under Demolition

A familiar scene at Roosevelt as a huge crowd watches a popular driver reach the wire a winner.

News from April 1995 - The famous Roosevelt Raceway, which has been at the centre of all things good in harness racing since it opened in 1940, will soon be completely demolished. Work has been underway to completely remove all parts of the facility for some time now and only the grandstand remains.

Roosevelt hosted all of the great horses and horsemen over the years and it was the dream of every person who ever raced a horse to be able to compete there. It was here that night time racing was first held in the fall of 1940 and in 1946, shortly after WWII, the mobile starting gate made its first appearance. After many financial obstacles during its early years which nearly closed it on more than one occasion, the complex began several decades of steady growth and prosperity. It became so successful that it was difficult to imagine it ever falling into decline.

By 1971 the downward spiral began as off-track betting started to cause a decline in attendance and betting at all tracks in the State of New York. When The Meadowlands opened in 1976 the decline accelerated. The loss of revenue, declining attendance and deterioration of the facilities all became factors. Above all the value of the land for other purposes eventually signalled the end. The track closed on June 15, 1988.

A view of the Roosevelt paddock in the early years

1997 - Cam Fella Has A Homecoming

Cam Fella and Pat Crowe appear on front cover of Track Times, May 1997

Tuesday, April 15, 1997 started out much like any other day at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville, Ont. Lots of training and preparation for the night's racing program and other daily routines went on as usual. At about 10:00 a.m. as a grey Doyle Transport van arrived at Barn 7, the day took on a different atmosphere. On board was a most famous passenger; Cam Fella was back in Ontario after a very long absence. There to greet the now famous stallion and former racing great was his long-time trainer and driver Pat Crowe. He had the honour of leading him off the van.

News of the 18-year-old superstar's arrival spread quickly throughout the backstretch. Soon a steady flow of visitors including co-owner Norm Clements began to trickle in to join in the homecoming. It marked the end of a 14-year absence since Cam Fella and Crowe had spent time together. The plan was to see if the horse was fit and healthy enough to go on a whirlwind tour. His stallion career had come to an end after repeated surgeries (six in three years) had prolonged his breeding career but earlier this spring he had been gelded as tumors returned.

Quote For The Week: A group of people were taking a guided tour of a large factory. At the end of the tour the guide asked if there were any further questions. A fellow raised his hand and said "How many people work here?" The tour guide without hesitation said, "Probably about half of them."

Who Is It?

Can you identify this U.S.-based horseman as he receives an award from a presenter who may be somewhat easier to identify? One clue I will offer is that this gentleman's name appears on the list shown today of those nearing milestones and he was pretty close to reaching his target.

Who Else Is It?

Here's an easy one. Can you put a name on this lad whose name also appears high up on the list of drivers shown in the 1991 item above?

Two More For Good Measure

In the early years at Roosevelt these two lads were in the process of rewriting how drivers performed at the sport's premiere track. Can you identify each of these trail blazers?

...and Who is in the sulky in this Roosevelt picture also shown above?

October 8, 2020 - 11:41 amThis week's pictures turned

This week's pictures turned out to be no match for our "experts". In the top photo as per Sheldon Rose, alongside Liz Taylor was Winston Lineweaver, a native of Virginia. .Next writing on the stable chalkboard was Bill Gale. The young drivers were Billy Haughton (left) and Stanley Dancer and in the bottom photo at Roosevelt  Wm. "Buddy" Gilmour is shown winning a race. Thanks for your time and interest.

October 3, 2020 - 11:37 pmI am guessing it is Bill

James Milne SAID...

I am guessing it is Bill Popfinger with Liz when Lady Be Fast was racing against Fresh Yankee at Roosevelt or Yonkers . Thanks again for another great article . Unfortunately I think the value of the land at Greenwood also just got too high .

October 3, 2020 - 4:32 pmThank you! Another great

John Vance SAID...

Thank you! Another great article. The first one is Liz Taylor and I don't know. 2 is Bill Gale I believe. 3 is Haughton and Dancer and Buddy Gilmour in the last one or they are wrong. Lol. Thanks again.

October 3, 2020 - 4:16 pmHere goes my guesses Robert:

Here goes my guesses Robert: Liz Taylor, Connel Willis, Bill Gale, Wm Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Buddy Gilmour !!! "Keep Safe" everyone.

October 3, 2020 - 4:11 pmLiz Taylor, hmm not sure, the

Gord Brown SAID...

Liz Taylor, hmm not sure, the W doesn't even help. Bill Gale. Bill Haughton, Stanley Dancer, William Gilmour.

October 3, 2020 - 3:46 pmThe bottom two photos are

Bert Clish SAID...

The bottom two photos are Bill Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Bud Gilmour. We certainly miss Roosevelt. The half mile tracks are the best. Regards, Bert Clish

October 3, 2020 - 3:34 pmwho is it: Elizabeth Taylor

who is it: Elizabeth Taylor and ....Kevin Wallis
who else is it: Bill Gale?
two more: Bill Haughton and Stanley Dancer
Who is in: Pat Crowe

October 3, 2020 - 1:09 pmElizabeth Taylor and Winston

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Lineweaver

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