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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s

Published: November 5, 2016 10:25 am ET

Last Comment: February 25, 2017 12:01 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind takes readers back to the decade of the 1970s in the monthly feature Years Ago. Robert recalls a number of personalities of the day, both human and equine and as usual displays a few old photographs to accompany the accounts.

1971 - Champ Herbert Wins Supertest

The above photo was taken track side at Dresden Raceway on August 14, 1971. On the far right driver Jack Herbert receives a trophy following his win with Champ Herbert, while members of the W. J. Hyatt Society and others are on the left. At this time Mr. Ken MacKinnon of Owen Sound was the President of the Hyatt Assoc. The occasion was the annual three-year-old Supertest Pacing Stakes. The Herberts had tremendous success in the annual colt classics and captured victories in four successive decades, dating back to 1944, the year the Supertest races started. Their operation was unique in that they bred, raised, trained and drove all of their own horses. Needless to say they also named them. They were among the neatest and best organized outfits in the business and even had specially made browbands for their horses, reportedly colour-coded to match their temperament.

Due to the large number of entries that year, the race was contested in two divisions with each going for a purse of $6,148. The winner of the second division was Prima Laddie, a Royal Rick three-year-old owned by Don and Vera Corbett and driven by Don. This meant that all of the silverware returned to nearby London as both division owners resided there. The winning times were almost identical with Champ Herbert, pacing in 2:06 flat and Prima Laddie in 2:06.1.

Shown above in a much earlier photo is Wm. Herbert paying a visit to the stall of Sammy Herbert a stable star of the 1950's. This photo was taken in 1956 when the Herberts were racing at Vernon Downs. (Hoof Beats)

The Herberts, Ruth, Bill and his son Jack, occupied a special and rather unique spot in Canadian harness racing lore for many years.

1972 - Fresh Yankee Sets Canadian Trotting Mark

On June 25, 1972 Windsor Raceway honoured one of its original officials when the "Tal Wooley Memorial" race was held. Tal, who was from Caledonia, Ont., had been a racing official at various tracks for many years and when Windsor opened its doors in 1965 he was named Paddock Judge, a position he held for a number of years. When Rideau Carleton opened in 1962 "Talmadge" was there too.

The race turned out to be a record-setting performance when Fresh Yankee, handled by Joe O'Brien, trotted the mile in 1:59.2 to set a record for Canada's fastest trotting mile. The record remained on the books for many years.

The above photo capturing the record-setting mile hung in the Windsor Raceway clubhouse for many years. When the grandstand was demolished a couple of years ago I believe it was part of the auction that dispersed a number of mementos salvaged from the once popular border oval. I was able to capture a piece of history with my own trusty camera on a visit a number of years ago.

1976 - Connaught Cup Goes To Repeat Winner Royal Ascot N

A huge crowd of 3,606 showed up despite some inclement weather to say Good Bye to the summer meeting at Connaught Park. The patrons were in a betting mood as they pushed a record $289,568 through the mutuels, setting a new record for the Ottawa area. Not bad figures for a Wednesday evening.

The featured event of the evening was the annual Connaught Cup for a purse of $15,000. The pre-race favourite was an Ontario ship-in from the Kent Baker stable named Jambo Dancer. Many in the crowd though had high hopes for the previous year's winner, Royal Ascot N but a couple of people in attendance had some serious doubts about the New Zealand-bred pacer's chances and for a special reason. Among them was owner Gratien Dechenes, who spent a good part of the early evening "pacing" up and down the tarmac himself. The truck hauling the horse down from Montreal ran into mechanical difficulties along the way and did not arrive until just before the fifth race. The big race in which his horse was entered was the ninth.

Thankfully the late arrival did not destroy his chances. The nine-year-old Royal Ascot N driven by Yves Filion, triumphed over the field and returned to the winner's circle to capture his second consecutive Connaught Cup with Jambo Dancer second and Dorado Almahurst third. He rewarded his backers with a $11.20 win payoff. Filion was able to make it a wire-to-wire victory, covering the mile in 2:06 flat, on a "slow" track. Jambo Dancer's driver Charlie Lawson twice attempted to gain the lead; once while leaving and again at the half, but both times he was unsuccessful.

1978 - Horsemen Telling Stories

Above photo shows famed Ohio horseman Howard Beissinger (in the blue silks) standing with his back to the camera. Seated from left to right, Robert Walker, Stanley Dancer and Clint Hodgins. Mr. Beissinger was the winner of many great races, including three Hambletonians in a 10-year span 1969-1978. Take note of the stopwatch in his left hand. (Hoof Beats)

The great art of "Storytelling" is something that has been with us since the beginning of time. It is a universal means of teaching and thus learning, and a great way of passing down valuable information, like family folklore. While not all horsemen are storytellers and not all storytellers are horsemen, the two similarities do often co-exist. I think there is something about the very nature of horse racing that makes it the perfect scenario for people entertaining others by relating their tales of bygone days.

This old photo taken quite a number of years ago shows a familiar scene. One person is standing and he would presumably be telling the story. The others either out of courtesy or interest, are eagerly listening. And then like many other times in life, we see a departure from the norm and something else is happening.

While I have no inside knowledge of what was actually occurring here, it appears as the moral of the story is if your name happens to be Clint Hodgins you are allowed to doze off because maybe you've heard this story before!

1979 - Ron Waples Leads All Canadian Drivers at The Halfway Mark

Ron Waples led the sport in wins and money earnings at the halfway mark in 1979 among Canadian drivers. In 1968 Ron became one of the youngest drivers (then 24) to record a 2:00 mile when he directed Blaze Pick to a 2:00 track record at Mohawk.

July 21, 1979: According to statistics just released by the C.T.A. Ron Waples, a 35-year-old Rockwood-based horseman leads all Canadian drivers in both wins and most money earnings in the first half of the 1979 season. His current win total of 186 races places him well ahead of Ray McLean of Port Elgin, Ont. who is in a distant second with 118 tallies. Next in line is Keith Linton, Dave Wall and Joe Hudon Jr.

In the money category Waples mounts have garnered $597,840. Following him are three O.J.C. drivers: Mel Corbett, Tom Strauss and Doug Brown. The leading driver in the U.D.R.S. category is Westerner Keith Linton who has a nice. 421 batting clip.

Not related to the driver's standings is a short mention of a young trainer who has been doing some driving of late (in 1979). Observers at Rideau Carleton have noticed that Kemptville native John Sheldon recently had a nice win behind Mat Hanover in the Friday $4,000 feature. This horse, owned by J.P. Maloney and Ray Hobin of Stittsville, won his fourth in 15 tries good enough for just over $15,000 this season. While previously known mainly for his training of stock from Dr. Findley's stable, he has shown he can drive a bit as well.

February 25, 2017 - 12:01 pmThe 70's was my heyday. The

John Mann SAID...

The 70's was my heyday. The pictures and videos posted by Robert are fabulous. I didn't know videos existed from that far back. Question for Robert: Do you know of any video (in any format) that exists of the 1973 Prix D'Ete at Blue Bonnets.
Long story, but we drove from Toronto to bet on Armbro Nadir, and have never, ever seen a replay of that race. Would love to see it again!

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