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Rewind: Cam Fella Wins The Messenger

Published: November 28, 2020 10:25 am ET

Last Comment: December 3, 2020 9:51 am ET | 12 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith takes readers back in time to some 38 years ago. The year was 1982 and a horse nicknamed "The Pacing Machine" Cam Fella and his trainer-driver Pat Crowe were having quite a year. Only rarely do we get to see what a horse the likes of Cam Fella brought to the sport. Thankfully quite a bit of that year was captured by various means, allowing us to relive it again and again.

Cam Fella glides to another win for driver Pat Crowe during the 1982 season. That year as a three-year-old, Cam scored an amazing 28 wins. A look at the crowd shows just how popular harness racing's top performer was.

In 1982 a couple of guys named "Norm" (Clements and Faulkner), the co-owners of this horse, couldn't stop smiling to save themselves. They had shelled out a "nice piece of change" to purchase a promising three-year-old colt in hopes of having a good year. Fans travelled by the busload to see this dynamic duo of Cam Fella and Pat Crowe wherever they appeared. To pick out one race of the 28 that this horse won that year and say it was the best would be an impossible task. To avoid that calamity I just picked one that not only featured the wonder horse but also included a ton of Canadian connections all in the same event. (See summary below)

On the evening of October 16, 1982 the entire world of harness racing had its eyes focused on Roosevelt Raceway. It was the scene of that year's Messenger Stake, the third and final jewel of Pacing's Triple Crown. While there would be no triple Crown winner that year, there was yet another great race brewing for Cam Fella. His connections had skipped the Little Brown Jug but decided to invest $25,000 to throw their hat in the ring for both the Cane and now The Messenger. At this point in time they already knew that it was a wise move as back on June 19th "The Pacing Machine" had won the Cane in convincing fashion. They had high hopes that the next $25,000 investment would work out as well.

A field of 12 were entered for this year's Messenger, thus requiring eliminations. The fact that for one price of admission you could see three-year-olds of this calibre race three times on the same evening was a dream come true for many in attendance. With one of them being Cam Fella, the experience was even greater. When the final was contested the fans were truly focused on the outcome of the race but no one held a winning ticket as it was a non-betting affair.

Cam Fella's 1:57.3 in his elimination heat equaled the Roosevelt Raceway's record for three-year-old colts, set by Jonquil Hanover in 1977. Off at odds of just paying 30 cents on the dollar the understandably heavy favourite was certain to create some low mutuel payoffs. But in an unpredictable upset in the second elimination that did not come true. As it turned out there were a lot of happy Canadians in the stands after the two elimination races. A busload of Toronto fans who came down to watch Cam Fella got a bonus with the triumph of 9-1 choice Sokys Atom over Icarus Lobell in the second race. Sokys Atom, an Albatross colt, was owned by the Soky Farms of Toronto and driven by Doug Brown.

If they chose to play a Canadian double, the happy visitors started the evening with a $94.20 windfall. Although Icarus Lobell returned only $2.60 for $2, Sokys Atom fattened the double pot and paid off $20 to win as well. If Icarus Lobell had won the second race, the daily double payoff would have matched the lowest ever at Roosevelt Raceway, $3.40 in 1944. And for most of tonight's second elimination, that seemed a good possibility. Sokys Atom went a terrific mile in the second elim for Doug Brown and ended up defeating Icarus Lobell by six lengths.

As expected, Cam Fella and Pat Crowe captured the 1982 Messenger Final, repelling challenges from Armbro Aussie, Merger and a late charge from Icarus Lobell for the 1:59 victory. For his evening's work Cam Fella earned $90,852 for a season total of $789,724. This was the most money won that year by any active Standardbred (the leader, Fortune Teller, retired with $1,313,375) and enabled Cam Fella to pass Lemhi Gold ($722,575) for third place among both thoroughbreds and standardbreds. Perrault remained the top thoroughbred with season earnings of $1,197,400.

In the Messenger eliminations and final, a total of nine Canadian-born drivers participated in at least one of the three races. A fourth place finish in each of the eliminations by Glen Garnsey and George Sholty was the best any non-Canadian driver could do that night. When Pat Crowe had two entries in the final he opted for the drive behind Cam Fella (quite a choice) and called upon yet another Canadian, Bud Gilmour, to handle Armbro Andy. It is unlikely that you would find this many Hall of Fame members all in the same race.

Chart courtesy of U.S.T.A.


Driver Pat Crowe casts a glance at his nearest rival as a huge crowd at Roosevelt Raceway watches him guide Cam Fella to victory


Cam Fella poses with Norm Clements (left) co-owner, Pat Crowe trainer-driver and Norm Faulkner (right) co-owner. This 1982 photo followed the announcement that he had just been named U.S. Horse Of The Year. Unfortunately I am unable to identify the dog at the left who seems quite interested in the proceedings.

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Who Else Is It?

Anyone for corn on the cob? Can you correctly identify this young fellow and maybe the horse he is holding? Chances are if you recognize him you know the story.

December 3, 2020 - 9:51 amBoth of this week's pictures

Both of this week's pictures were closely related to the main subject and posed no difficulty in identifying them. In the upper photo was Norm Clements co-owner of Cam Fella and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky on the right. In the lower photo was noted horseman Doug Arthur along with Cam Fella, taken on the day this horse was sold to the "Two Norms". I am indebted to Gary Foerster, then editor of The Canadian Sportsman as it was he who took this historic photograph, probably sensing that future greatness was in store for this horse. Thank you Gary for your foresight and for capturing this great moment in time.
The answer to Gord Brown's question posed to me (which I had no idea of the correct answer) was Bill Sharpe, identified as one of only three drivers to handle "The Pacing Machine". Thanks to all.

December 2, 2020 - 3:12 pmIts all good, Brownie never

Peter Oliver SAID...

Its all good, Brownie never drove him, I think what happened at some point in Cam's career Pat C was delayed, and they named Brownie on him but Pat showed up, I'm thinking Prix d'ete.
Man I loved going to Montreal to watch that race!

I saw Cam race 3 times, at Rideau Carleton for the Frank Ryan where I caught the whip and got Pat C to sign it (I still have it and a Cam button) Blue Bonnets where he won the Challenge Cup against Its Fritz, Armbro Aussie etc, and his final race at Greenwood, where a friend and I grabbed the big CAM FELLA FAREWELL banner which I kept for 30 years. I also made a cameo in the Cam Fella movie that day (I'm the guy in Cam Fella hat being interviewed at Greenwood at his last race). I also saw him go a training mile at RCR when he was touring after stud duty... He looked great!
Still my all time fave horse, although the "Beach" was a beast too!
Keystone Sandra was another Fergie champ... dam of Karril, Kayellen, Kandu, Kiev Hanover etc

Cheers to all!

December 1, 2020 - 3:53 pmThanks to Peter Oliver for

Thanks to Peter Oliver for your astute observations and for your kind words. It is always nice to hear from readers; it reminds me to always be as accurate as possible because people like you ARE actually paying attention to detail. My choice of the word "skipped" was made with the full knowledge that Cam Fella's connections did not have the option of supplementing their horse in the Jug  as was the case with the other two  events mentioned. When I looked up the meaning of the word "skipped" Google suggested that there are at least 75 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions and related words for "skip". Surely one of those could save "my bacon". And yes I was aware that the breeder of Merger was John Bowie Ferguson who at the time listed his address as Winnipeg, Manitoba.

About your recollections of the Prix D'Ete 1982 edition, I don't believe that Doug Brown drove Cam Fella that day. I am always subject to correction though.

December 1, 2020 - 12:49 pmAlso of note Cam won the

Gord Brown SAID...

Also of note Cam won the Valedictory Final as a two year old and beat eight three year olds.

December 1, 2020 - 12:27 pmBill Sharp is correct as ONLY

Gord Brown SAID...

Bill Sharp is correct as ONLY three people have drove him!

November 30, 2020 - 8:31 amDear Robert Smith, Just a

Peter Oliver SAID...

Dear Robert Smith,

Just a couple of clarifications, Cam Fella did not skip the Jug, he was ineligible and no supplements could be made. After Merger won the Jug his connections challenged the Norms to a match race, but they said we will see you at the Messenger. Note Merger was bred by John Ferguson, an Albatross out his great race and broodmare Lady Kin Hanover.

Also Doug Brown drove Cam in his elim at Prix d'ete as Pat Crowe was delayed.
Bill Sharp drove him in qualys as well

Ps Love your column, great stuff!!

best regards,
Peter Oliver

November 29, 2020 - 2:36 pmRobert to answer Gord's

Robert to answer Gord's question I believe that the only three people who drove Cam Fella were Doug Arthur, Pat Crowe & Bill Sharpe.

November 29, 2020 - 7:27 amWm. Sharp Jr. was third

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Wm. Sharp Jr. was third driver

November 28, 2020 - 10:04 pmGord, I'm pretty sure it's

Gord, I'm pretty sure it's illegal for me to answer Rewind questions but since you're such a special guy I'll  take the risk. I have the same problem I always had at school; I have the right answers but the questions are wrong. I am going to take a wild guess on the first two, Pat Crowe and Doug Arthur. As for the third I have no idea, but I know if I had a horse of this calibre I would want only the best driver sitting behind him, so I will say Gord Brown as the third. Thanks for creating a little fun! 

November 28, 2020 - 1:57 pmThe first pic is Norm

kent benson SAID...

The first pic is Norm Clements and Wayne Gretzky. The second pic is Cam Fella and Doug Arthur

November 28, 2020 - 1:36 pmLooks like Norm and Wayne Who

Lloyd Spinks SAID...

Looks like Norm and Wayne
Who else: Doug Arthur and Cam Fella. Cam was only one of Doug's many babies who were very good
* Good memories * Thanks

November 28, 2020 - 12:59 pmNorm Clements, Wayne Gretzky.

Gord Brown SAID...

Norm Clements, Wayne Gretzky. Cam and Doug Arthur who by the way should be in the Hall of Fame! I have a question for you Robert, only three people drove Cam Fella, who were they?

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