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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1950s

Published: October 5, 2019 11:30 am ET

Last Comment: October 10, 2019 1:32 pm ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's edition of 'Rewind' takes readers back to the decade of the 1950s, as Robert Smith offers the monthly Years Ago column. Old photos and accounts of the happenings and personalities of the day make up the story. In the 1950's the sport was "on a roll" as new tracks were being built in the U.S. and harness racing was increasing in popularity with each passing year. It was a time of tremendous change; virtually all positive.


As the 1950 season started Peterborough, Ont. horseman Jim McIntyre had to be pretty happy with his newest campaigner a pacing stallion named Turnabout. That year the four-year-old won 10 races and over $500 in his first year of racing. The best was yet to come. In 1951 Turnabout had quite a productive season as Mr. McIntyre and his up-and-comer made a total of 58 starts, most of them at fairs and small-town race meetings in Eastern Ontario. They won a total of 42 starts, finishing second nine times with just one third-place finish. His earnings for the year amounted to $2,007.

Soon after this Jim sold his slick pacer who went on to race for many years in the stable of Russ Caldwell, campaigning at the big Raceways such as Saratoga, Blue Bonnets and Richelieu Park. He raced in every year of the decade except the last one, 1959. He never came close to his win total of 42 in one season but as purses grew he increased his earnings in several successive years. His owner in later years while in the Caldwell barn was Thomas Lennox of Spencerville, Ont.

1951 - Gardner Stables Have Successful Day At Leamington

Huron Express in rein to Bill Gardner fronts the field as they head to the half-mile marker at Leamington fairgrounds. Take notice that there was no hub rail which was somewhat unusual in those days. (Gardner Family scrapbook)

Oct. 17, 1951 - Canada's most southerly racetrack played host to a fine afternoon of harness racing as part of the Leamington Fair. This was the third race day of the season at this popular location. Entrants from several locations shipped in for the day and as the action ended members from the Gardner Stable of Goderich were among the most successful on the ten-heat card. To open the day Princess Betty and driver Bill Gardner took one win in the Class 30 event after finishing out of the money in the first heat which went to the two-year-old filly Bernice Blue owner driven by Billy Nevills of Appin, Ont.

In the main event of the day the Free For All Pace & Trot, Huron Express owned by Gardner & Woods of Goderich and driven by Bill Gardner took all three heats and the major share of the $500 purse. The pair are pictured above in front of the old wooden grandstand at Leamington. (Gardner family scrapbook)


A proud Billy Nevills of Appin, Ont. appears with his two-year-old filly Bernice Blue a winner at Leamington. Sired by Blue Again the miss had made seven starts that season with earnings of over $1,300 which made her owner rather proud. A close look at the picture shows the owner is dressed for the day complete with a necktie.

1952 - Malcolm Hanover Wins "Harness Horse Of The Year" in Western New York

For the second year in a row a Canadian-owned horse has been voted the top performer on the Western New York circuit. This year's star is the seven-year-old pacing stallion Malcolm Hanover, owned by Mr. Ken MacKinnon an Owen Sound automobile dealer. This horse had a very successful 1952 campaign that saw him win a total of 17 races in 32 starts. This combined with several second and third-place finishes was good enough to earn almost $23,000 for his season's work.

The previous year Mac Bingen another Canadian performer took down this same award for owner T.E. McCool of Pembroke, Ont. and trainer-driver Floyd Milton. This award was just in its second year and involved races held at both Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs. From the opening of both tracks dating back to 1940, Canadian horsemen were well represented each season and usually several were among the top drivers.

In the voting by sportswriters Malcolm Hanover received 41 of a possible 65 first-place ballots far outdistancing his nearest rival Anthony Hanover (20 votes) a trotter from the T.J. Zornow stable and driver Levi Harner.

Malcolm Hanover is shown with his trainer and driver Bill Simmons of Weston, Ont. (Harness Horse)

1957 - Neil Curran Wins Connaught Drivers Title

Courtesy of Ottawa Citizen

Oct. 1957 - With the conclusion of the 77-night long season at Connaught Park the top dash-winning driver was decided in a close finish. Neil Curran, a young horseman from Smith Falls, Ont., won two races on the final evening to give him 54 victories and the nod over Curt Baker of Iroquois who ended up with 51 winning tallies. As Curran entered the winner's circle following his second win of the evening in the fifth race, an announcement was made that he was officially the new dash-winning champion. A huge ovation erupted from the crowd in appreciation for the many fine drives he displayed over the course of the long season.

The Connaught meeting which started June 1 and saw 77 programs spread over five months was blessed with unusually good weather. Racing was held four nights per week and only one card was cancelled due to rainy conditions. On closing night, beautiful fall weather attracted one of the season's largest crowds that bet $53,267. Popular among fans was the offering of quinella betting on three races each evening.

1957 - Late Season Action At Blue Bonnets

As the 1957 racing season was winding down at Montreal's Blue Bonnets a number of Ontario horses were seeing success. Among the recent winners was The Monarch C racing out of the Del MacTavish stable from Lachute, Quebec. This horse who was then seven years old (even though the clipping shows six) had a most productive season that year. He went to the post 20 times and was returned a winner on seven occasions as well as two seconds and three third-place finishes. He was owned by two gentlemen from Wheatley, Ontario: Jack McIntosh, who winter trained him, and John Baeker. His season's earnings of $6,029 raised his lifetime total to $12,362. His fastest mile of the campaign a mile in 2:05, was also his lifetime best and was taken at Blue Bonnets back in mid-July.

(From the Ottawa Citizen)

Quote For The Week: An elderly couple were asked what they did with the huge amount of produce harvested from their garden. The wife replied "We eat what we can, and what we can't we can."

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify this Canadian-born driver as he celebrates his 2,000th career victory in 1985 at Vernon Downs?

Who Else It It?

Can you put a name on this gentleman from yesteryear?

Stay tuned for the correct answers.

Note - I had an inquiry recently from a Rewind follower who asked "Where do you see the correct answers?" They are always included in the comments section, usually later in the week.

October 10, 2019 - 1:32 pmThis week's picture was

This week's picture was indeed Lloyd "Fuzzy" Gilmour, one of four driving brothers as he was honored at Vernon Downs in 1985. Lloyd left us in 2017. In the lower photo our Quebec expert Pierre Grise was correct in identifying Paul Emile Larente who was shown with the trotting mare Betty Todd at Saratoga way back in 1948. He was the father of Jimmy Larente Thanks for joining in. 

October 9, 2019 - 12:04 amReally great to see my Uncle

Chuck Curran SAID...

Really great to see my Uncle Neil getting a little love on here.
As always, enjoying these posts from SC Rewind.

October 8, 2019 - 6:57 amIn regards to the previous

In regards to the previous post, as his wife I would hope that Jan would know that it's LLoyd. She is the good looking blonde standing next to him.

October 6, 2019 - 9:11 pm#1 picture definitely Lloyd

Jan Gilmour SAID...

#1 picture definitely Lloyd Gilmour.

October 5, 2019 - 4:40 pmLloyd Gilmour, aka Fuzzy

Eric Warren SAID...

Lloyd Gilmour, aka Fuzzy

October 5, 2019 - 1:34 pmTop maybe Lloyd Gilmour

Gord Brown SAID...

Top maybe Lloyd Gilmour

October 5, 2019 - 1:28 pmNo. 1 ??? No. 2 May be Mr

No. 1 ???

No. 2 May be Mr Paul-Émile Larente

October 5, 2019 - 1:23 pmTop picture is Lloyd Gilmour.

Top picture is Lloyd Gilmour.

October 5, 2019 - 12:42 pm#1 Lloyd Gilmour

Sheldon Rose SAID...

#1 Lloyd Gilmour

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