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SC Rewind: The Peninsula Stakes

Published: November 24, 2018 10:57 am ET

Last Comment: November 28, 2018 9:45 am ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's 'Rewind,' Robert Smith recalls the Peninsula Stakes, a once popular series of colt races that provided racing for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits at a time when opportunities were quite limited. These races helped to fill a void that existed back then.

For a very long time the two main events each year for those who wished to race colts mainly in Ontario were the C.S.H.S. Futurities and the Supertest Stakes. Beyond these two annual events, colt developers were left to either be fortunate enough to have a colt race in their area or worse yet race against older and usually more experienced horses. The latter was often the course that was followed. The chances of having a colt ready and in top form for just one or two events in a season was a challenge to say the least.

In the mid 1950's, a group of enthusiastic horse loving individuals from Southwestern Ontario decided to put together a new series of colt races. Since these "baby" races would be staged mainly at a number of Niagara Peninsula tracks, then a suitable name seemed to be "The Peninsula Stakes." Some of the people involved from the start were Allan Dickenson, Max Webster, Jack Kenney, Alex and Tom McDonnell, Tal Woolley, Harry Biggar, Vic Young and Bill McDonnell served as Secretary. Most often the meetings were held in the rec room at the home of Jack Kenney of Ancaster. All of these fellows were eager to see more opportunities for colt racing as it would not only encourage people to become involved, it would also compensate them for the mounting expenses of breeding, raising and training of young horses. They all knew the value of increased opportunities and were willing to pitch in; after all, that has been the path to many success stories in life and in horse racing.

In 1956 the groundwork was laid for the inaugural Peninsula Stakes races to be held in the fall of 1957. That first year there would be a race for both two-year-old trotters and pacers, but they would not be separated by gender. The purse would be made up of nomination and sustaining fees and a portion from the home track. The location chosen for the introduction was the Beamsville Fairgrounds and the date was September 6th for the trotters with the pacing colts the following day. A total of just four trotting colts and fillies started for a purse of $1,100. This sum might not seem large, but consider that the purse for overnight events was still stuck in the $100-$200 range in some places.

In the opening heat Rose C Lee was the inaugural winner for veteran driver "Ancaster Bill" Harvey and owners H & B Stable, of which he was co-owner with Andy Bell. The time was 2:32. In the second heat, Homestead Dan was home first for owner and driver Osler Burrison of Cobourg, Ont. in a slightly better time of 2:29. Based on the best standing for the day of 1-2 Rose C Lee became the first ever Peninsula Stakes winner. One bright spot was that with such a small field, each entrant received a cheque.

Pictured above is Homestead Dan and his owner and driver Osler Burrison, winners of the second heat of the inaugural Peninsula Stake. The photo shows a lot of post race activity with minimal identification. The man at the far left holding the blanket is believed to be Harry Biggar of Vineland, Ont., a longtime horseman who was involved with these races. Any further identification would be welcomed. (Photo courtesy of Nelson White who carried this old photo in his wallet for many years which perhaps explains its condition)

Homestead Dan went on to be a season's champion at the age of three while racing mainly at the two big Montreal tracks in the Jack Gordon stable. At two, he had just one win and that was in the Peninsula Stakes. Absent from his victory that day was his groom Nelson White who was back at home attending to his school work.

The following day September 7th, seven pacing colts and fillies faced the starter for a purse of $1,125. The winner in straight heats was Gay Dip, a two-year-old son of The Diplomat out of Glendale Annie. The young stud colt was owned by Robert A. Park of Hanover, Ont. and smartly driven by Clarence Young, a man noted for always having a toothpick in his mouth and a smile on his face. The first heat was clocked in 2:23 and the second in 2:25. This day marked the only winner's circle visit for the season for this pair as Gay Dip made just eight starts as a two-year-old and banked $695 for his efforts. Thus began another important albeit small part of the history and development of Ontario colt racing.

In 1960, after three years at Beamsville the annual races were relocated to Ancaster as part of their fall fair in late September. By this time the program had gained some momentum and more colts raced for larger purses. As the results would show, it was also an opportunity for young drivers to display their talents as well as young horses starting their careers.

Above photo shows the winner's circle presentation following a win in the 1960 Edition of "The Peninsula Stakes" at Ancaster. The winner was Germika with co-owner Ron Feagan in the sulky. At left is Jack Kenney of Ancaster and on the right Mrs. Thos. McDonnell presents the trophy to Ronnie Feagan with Allan Dickenson on the far right. The cooler was courtesy of Les Ehrlick.

September 24, 1960 - In the trotting division for a purse of $1,900, Intrusion was the winner for owner Ken MacKinnon of Owen Sound and driver Bill Simmons in 2:17.1 giving them the nod over Lee Who and Paul Seigner of Walkerton. In the pacing division for $2,800, a large entry of 15 youngsters forced elimination heats. In the opener, Negley Hal, a U.S. bred gelding, was the winner for young owner, trainer and driver Peter Thibaudeau of Markdale in 2:12 flat. In the second elimination a young 18-year-old named Ronnie Feagan won with his own Germika co-owned by Joe Keelan. When the top five finishers from each heat faced off in the final it was Germika, a gelded son of Mighty Atom, besting Negley Hal in 2:12. A consolation race that had just three starters who did not race in the final saw driver Gary Campbell a winner with Princess Dillon owned by Max Roland of Ridgeville, Ont. The purse was $100. Just four years into the program, it was clearly being well accepted by all.

A few more race winners are listed below by year and with some connections noted:

  • 1958 - Trot - Harry Riddell 1-1 (E Shearing); Owen Lee 2-2 (Peter Thibaudeau)

  • 1959 - Pace - Royal Nimble 1-4 (Almer Holmes); Nola G. 1-1 Dead Heat; Irish Forbes 3- 1 DH (Gordon Lawrence)

  • 1961 - Pace - Junior Atom 2-1 (Almer Holmes), Jenny Herbert 1-2 (Wm. Herbert), Johnnie Lee Hal 1-3 (Leonard Martin)

  • 1962 - Pace - Adios Dominion (Don Rushton) 1-1 Owner Ken Galbraith

  • 1963 - Trot - Sis Herbert 1-3 (Wm. Herbert) Flemingtons Betty 3-1 (Bert Madill)

  • 1963 - Pace - Kawartha Leo 1-1 (Jim McIntyre) Owner Denton Johnson. Consolation $500 won by Armbro Erin (Harold McKinley)

  • 1964 - Trot - Dream Acres Guy 1-2 (Roy Lawson); Bucky Herbert 6-1 (Wm. Herbert) Purse $3,900

  • 1964 - Pace - Keen Freight (Ed Arthur) 1-1 Owner Dr. Geo. Boyce Purse $5,200

Niagara Chance in Ticket Raffle

The Peninsula Stakes lasted long enough to have a few memorable sidelights attached to them. One year perhaps around 1961, the Association offered a yearling trotting colt as a raffle prize. The plan of course was to raise money to assist in the Association's activities and to hopefully elevate the purses. The colt was named Niagara Chance, sired by Moray and was donated by Maxwell Webster. The youngster was transported to numerous locations as a travelling advertisement and to encourage ticket sales. As it turned out, the person who held the winning ticket was not interested in owning the colt so Mr. Webster "purchased" the colt, giving $1,000 to the lucky ticket holder.

The colt was raced extensively by Mr. Webster and his then trainer Almer Holmes and turned out to be very successful as a trotting performer, winning a number of Stakes events including the two-year-old Peninsula Stake in 1962. Later in his career he also raced on the pace for Brian Webster. What a unique way to name a horse!

The Stakes program lasted for a number of years and soon attracted most of the major Ontario colt performers and developers. Well-known colts from the stables of such noted trainers as Ed Arthur, Bill and Jack Herbert, Russell Miller, Dr. John Findley, Ken Galbraith, Jim McIntyre and many others were winners. While it prospered for a number of years well into the 1960's, the program gradually waned and the inability to secure a major sponsor contributed to its eventual discontinuance. Also at this time the O.J.C. began to introduce more stakes for young horses as part of their annual schedule. All in all it was a very successful program and many colt developers benefited from these races.

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify the well-known horseman pictured above?

What Is it?

As a slight diversion this week I have posted a picture of an item instead of a person or a horse. Can you identify what this item is? Photo courtesy of Gary Foerster. As always the correct answers will be posted during the coming week.

November 28, 2018 - 9:45 amThis week's person photo was

This week's person photo was correctly identified as the great Quebec-born horseman Jimmy Larente who drove so many fine horses and also recorded the first sub 2:00 mile in Ontario history when he drove Good Time Boy in 1967 at Greenwood.
The "mystery" item was also correctly identified as a starter's horn, bull horn, megaphone,etc. This particular one belonged to one of the all time great starters of yesteryear - Jack Climie of Tillsonburg Ont. The starter used it to communicate with the drivers and announce the race. Our sport's technology has advanced just a bit since back then.
Thanks for your answers.

November 27, 2018 - 5:56 pmHomestead Dan was three year

Garth Gordon SAID...

Homestead Dan was three year old Canadian trotter of the year in 1958, winning several stake races. As an aged horse in 1959, 1960 and 1961 he won several F.F.A. Trots in Montreal. He was without a doubt the best horse my father ever got to train. Osler Burrison bought Homestead Dan and his mother for $75. Dan was a weannling at the time. Then sold his mother for $40 making the purchase price of Dan $35 - not a bad investment. The mystery photo is Jim Larente. He was a top driver in Montreal in the fifty’s and sixty’s. And had a very nicely kept stable.

November 24, 2018 - 1:34 pmWild guess as to first

Tom Foley SAID...

Wild guess as to first picture. Ross Curran?

November 24, 2018 - 1:18 pmFor sure, this is Jimmy

For sure, this is Jimmy Larente, son of Paul-Émile Larente and brother of Pauline Larente-Bellefeuille, former racing judge with the Racing Commission of Quebec.

In french we call that a mégaphone, same spelling in english.

November 24, 2018 - 11:21 amThe second picture is a

The second picture is a Megaphone or sometimes called a Bullhorn

I know the first gentleman but I am absolutely atrocious at putting names on faces.

November 24, 2018 - 11:19 amMaybe Jim Larente? Might be

Gord Brown SAID...

Maybe Jim Larente? Might be used by a starter?

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