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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s

Published: November 1, 2014 9:35 am ET

Last Comment: November 1, 2014 4:55 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind, Robert Smith takes a look back at some of the events and people in the sport during the decade of the 1970's in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago.

1971 - Jack Reid Memorial Trot Held at Orono Fair

Sept. 11, 1971 - Favoured by lovely fall weather, two days of racing were held as part of the tradition-laden Orono Fair -- which traces its roots back to 1895 at this location. In a special tribute to remember one of the community's finest horsemen of the past, the "Jack Reid Memorial Race" was contested on the Saturday. Carded as an Invitational Trot, it drew a field of eight starters who went two heats; one a 9/16 mile dash with the second at one mile.

After Betty Frost took the opener for Hilliard Stiner of Claremont, the second heat at one mile went to Hoot Valley, who had finished third in the dash and was thus declared the overall winner. The seven-year-old trotting mare, owned by John R. Ball of Baltimore was driven to victory by Frank Alexander. A number of rather well-known horses were in this event including Ricadel for Nelson Cochrane and Vans Pride C, then 14 and in his final season, for Gerald Robinson. Jack Reid sent out a number of talented performers, many of which bore the "Meadowview" name after his farm located near Orono. The late Mr. Reid's son Charles continues to raise and race a small but highly successful stable of trotters. Charlie is extremely proud of the 130 colts that have been raised at the Meadowview Farm since his father's passing in May of 1968.

Pat Reid, daughter of Mr. Reid makes a trackside presentation of a lovely cooler to the connections of Hoot Valley, winner of the 1971 Jack Reid Memorial Race at the Orono Fairgrounds. Pictured from left is Phil Alexander next to his parents driver Frank and Audrey Alexander.

1972 - Marcel Dostie Honoured by Blue Bonnets Raceway

January 6, 1972 - A gathering of approximately 100 people, including horsemen, press types and many others gathered at the Blue Bonnets Track to honour the best of 1971. Foremost among those being recognized was a local perennial favourite, Marcel Dostie. The popular horseman was the recipient of a prize of $ 1,500 as well as an oil painting presented to him by President Raymond Lemay on behalf of the Blue Bonnets track. This was Dostie' s second such honour making him the first repeat winner.

Dostie led all drivers in the percentage category at three different meetings during 1971. Second was Benoit Cote with Mel "Muffy" Turcotte finishing third. In the dashes won category, Serge Grise was presented with a cheque for $1,000 for his efforts in the past season that saw him win 130 races. An announcement was made that all drivers who scored a "hat trick" during the season would receive a Master's Golf style jacket. Also in the coming year, several new awards were being offered such as 'groom of the month' and 'horse of the month.'

At that time a great deal of concern was being expressed at the lack of Quebec-bred horses to supply the big Montreal tracks. Mr. Lemay spoke about the situation and lamented that if the current trend continued, it might soon be difficult to conduct racing at the present level.The current percentage of Quebec breds had dropped to around five per cent, well below the figure of 25 per cent that existed a few years previous.

As Dostie accepted his award he stated proudly that in spite of the drop in Quebec-bred competitors he had experienced a very different scenario. He said "90 per cent of the horses in my barn were bred right here, coming from the Mirons, the Angus Farm, and the people at Drummondville ."

1973 - Armbro Nadir Has Phenomenal Year

One of the greatest single season performances by a three-year old in the pre-O.S.S. era was turned in by Armbro Nadir in 1973. Owned by Guelph veterinarian Dr. Donald Davis, the swift Airliner colt was trained and driven throughout that season and his entire career by 31-year old Nelson White and groomed by Larry Bird, both natives of Harwood, Ont. Their season resembled a whirlwind tour that touched down in four provinces, traveling as far East as Montreal and late in the fall the marathon ended in California. The highlight of the season occurred in August when White piloted the colt to a breathtaking victory in the $130,000 Prix d'Ete at Blue Bonnets, pacing the fastest mile in Canadian history. He was parked the entire race in a 10 horse field and covered the mile in 1:56.1. At the wire, all of the starters were visible in the win photo; just one second separated the winner and the last place horse. And all of this speed was accomplished even after losing a shoe early in the contest! A crowd of just over 20,000 fans wagered a phenomenal $1,056,555 that day. Known by all of his fans and followers as "Ralph", this horse was truly a crowd pleaser and proved that wherever he raced.

Armbro Nadir is joined in the Prix d'Ete winner's circle by driver Nelson White and his wife Debbie. Throughout the entire 1973 season a rather large throng of supporters followed the colt regardless of where he raced. At season's end the horse won virtually every honour available.

1974 - Barrie Raceway Open All Winter

Officials at Barrie Raceway have announced the schedule for the upcoming winter season which will see racing held on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings each week. This track, which was constructed with cold weather racing in mind, first opened in late fall 1973 thus making this the second winter season. It contains all of the 'perks' available to make both the on-track participants as well as the viewing audience as comfortable as possible, whatever the weather outside may be.

A partial list of current officials:
Gen. & Public Relations Manager - Earl Rowe Jr.
Race Secretary - Marvin Chantler
Announcer - Wayne Reed
Paddock Judge - Lorne Hoskins
Parade Marshal - Nancy MacEachern
Starter - Leary Claypool
Gate Driver - Don Varcoe
Track Sup't. - Paul Kalnins

Left: Marcel Dostie; Right: Earl Rowe, Jr.

1976 - High Wheelers On Display At Flamboro

July 11,1976 - Shades of the "old days" were on display at Flamboro Downs as a special exhibition race was held here to honour the past. A group of local drivers, all wearing period costumes and driving their horses hitched to high wheeled sulkies, put on quite a display. The old type sulkies which were in use up until around 1892 created a great conversation piece. The race winner was a trotting mare named Sis Worthy owned by Muriel and Mike Kuzub and driven by Brian Webster. Oddly she seemed to like the "new" rig and her handlers noted that the noise of the old fashioned rig seemed to spur her on as in previous starts she had faltered near the end of a mile. I have been unable to come up with a complete list of drivers but somehow think that besides those pictured perhaps Carman Hie, George Zirnis, Bill Megens and Paul Matthews may have also been involved.

Driver Harold Stead proudly parades Claybrook Josie owned by Mel Willis


Race winner Sis Worthy and driver Brian Webster display the old time theme

November 1, 2014 - 4:55 pmI remember the good old days

jim morgan SAID...

I remember the good old days at Orono Fair grounds.We used to go to the races on Friday nights then drive to the cottage after the races.With the drivers Derek Newman,Gerald Robinson and Jerry Robinson they were the fan favorites.Every week we would go and visit the drivers and horses in the barns and the drivers would always remember you by your first name.If anyone has more pictures of the Orono Fair races I would love to see them.


Jim Morgan

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