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SC Rewind: Historic Day For Herve

Published: December 16, 2017 9:36 am ET

Last Comment: December 20, 2017 4:24 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In the week's Rewind Robert Smith presents another story in the monthly 'Golden Memories' series. His current piece recalls an amazing afternoon in late 1971 when Herve Filion won seven of 10 races at Windsor Raceway. As most people know, Herve left us earlier this year on June 22nd to be exact. He was 77 and had done a lot of 'livin' during that time. His trail of amazing accomplishments will be with us for as long as stories are told and this is but one.

Golden Memories - Herve Wins Seven At Windsor

This framed photo ​that captured all of the action from Herve Filion's record setting day in 1971 hung in the Windsor Clubhouse for several decades until the Raceway was demolished in 2015. It was undoubtedly sold at the track's dispersal auction. (Author's Collection)

On the afternoon of Sunday, December 26, 1971 Windsor Raceway invited a special person to help celebrate Boxing Day. However unlike most invited guests, Herve Filion wasn't there to be indulged and pampered, he was there to work. The afternoon's card featured a fuller than usual lineup as it consisted of 10 races. Herve had a drive in every one! When the patrons left the parking lot that afternoon I think most were still shaking their heads in amazement at what they had just witnessed.

With a crowd of 9,509 wildly cheering fans on hand, the second largest to ever assemble at Windsor Raceway, Herve Filion was primed and ready for what everyone hoped would be a big day. Just how big was yet to be determined. The crowd just missed being the largest ever at Windsor by just a scant 54 persons. It was however the largest ever on a Sunday at the border oval to that point in time. They set a new total betting record of $642,756 bettering the old one by some $5,000. Other betting marks fell in the exactor, triactor and quadactor pools as well.

Herve wasted precious little time capturing the opening race on the card with a 6-5 shot named Air Show. From here the man from Angers, Quebec and a member of harness racing's best known family of driving brothers showed why he had already been in the winner's circle a record 534 times during this year alone. He went on to win the first four races before being denied a victory in the fifth as he finished fifth with the race going to The Flier driven by young Jerry Duford.

His 'drought' didn't last long as he was right back in the charmed circle in the sixth race with another chalk horse, Pastime Blue winning at 4-5 and paying $3.70. In the seventh My Scotch Song gave him win number six. This thrilling victory tied Filion's own record of six wins on a single card, something he had done twice in the past 34 days; once at Freehold and again at Yonkers. It was a record he shared with Mike Novick Jr. (set at Windsor Oct. 6, 1969), Ed Myer, Bob Farrington and Jimmy Cruise. Farrington and Myer both set their records at Freehold while Cruise had his big winning day at Roosevelt way back in 1956.

In the eighth he had to settle for a third place finish driving the heavily favoured Cissy T Adios while Timely Joy was the winner. Time was running short for him to break the existing world record with just two races left. Each time the horses paraded all eyes were glued on one driver; each fan hoped with all hope that the amazing Herve could get the job done at least one more time.

As the field for the ninth race entered the track a buzz was in the air. This was the feature of the afternoon "The Fleur de Lis", an Invitation Trot for a purse of $5,000. Filion's mount for this race was Dynamite, a horse well known to most in the Windsor audience. He had speed to burn but often the son of Bud Mite had disappointed his backers when his sometimes erratic behaviour took over. This horse was from the very modest stable of Gene Marchand who trained a small but fairly successful stable and did his own driving. I can recall his father Jules, a long-time horseman on the OJC Circuit best remembered as the trainer of a very good horse named Gentry Yates.

Filion and Dynamite make history

Despite being known to frequently make breaks leaving, Dynamite was hustled away with confidence by Herve and immediately gained command of the field. He led the entire mile until past the three-quarter pole when Incentive and Richard Hackett briefly grabbed the lead, but Filion urged him back into command which he held with a half-length advantage over the fast-closing Claybrook Van who finished second with Jerry Duford in the bike. The mile clocked in 2:07.3 was the day's fastest but then who was paying attention to times?

The huge crowd went wild as they cheered for Filion and Dynamite as the record setters returned to the winner's circle along with a very proud Gene Marchand. Raceway executives joined in the record-setting festivities as they presented a Windsor Raceway cooler to the owner. Victory number seven on the day was a new world's record. And so it would end as the afternoon's last race was taken by Bye Bye Buck (Greg Wright) with Johnnie Craig (Jerry Duford) second and the 3-5 favourite Chabeda Barrett driven by Filion third. Herve's latest performance was now complete.

The seven victories on the day gave him 541 for the year and 3,458 lifetime, and his total Sunday purse earnings of $7,341 raised his season's take to $1,759,535. All were extensions of his own records. With his productive Sunday schedule at Windsor now in the books, he was just two drives short of 2,100 for the year. This he would accomplish very soon. Shortly after the last race was completed at Windsor, he was headed eastward to near his birthplace where he would compete in another 10 races at Connaught Park on Monday. He was a busy man!

"Herve Filion came in a cloud of dust and left in a cloud of dust; but what he left behind will never be forgotten by Windsor Raceway." That is how the sport's page of the Windsor Star's December 27, 1971 edition read as written by columnist Alan Halberstadt. On Boxing Day afternoon "Hurryin' Herve" as he was sometimes called put on a show for the Windsor crowd that most in attendance knew might not be matched for a very long time. Although Herve stated after the races were completed that "all records are made to be broken," he knew this one would last for a while.

With Filion already on a record tear he pretty much took the day in stride. When asked at what point he realized that he was in the process of setting another world record he simply said "I knew at the start of the day that I couldn't win 11 races because there were only 10 on the card!" This was vintage Herve. He craved the spotlight; he loved the challenge, and never grew tired of doing what he did best.

Who Is It?

Can you identify the person in this week's photograph? The answer will be given during the coming week.

December 20, 2017 - 4:24 pmThe man pictured in this

The man pictured in this week's "Who Is It ?" was Roy Lawson of Midland Ont. with Red Chief C. a Jimmy Chief gelding he raced with moderate success in the late 1950's. In 1958 he took a mark of 2:11 at Old Woodbine and won 7 races that season racing at places like Orr Lake and Coldwater Ont.

If I properly understand the logic of Doug Hie I would guess that we can now be assured that there IS at least ONE steer in Texas!
​Thanks to those who submitted their answers.​

December 16, 2017 - 9:56 pmRoy Lawson

Roy Lawson

December 16, 2017 - 1:52 pmIf that isn't Roy Lawson

W Doug HIe SAID...

If that isn't Roy Lawson there isn't a steer in Texas.

December 16, 2017 - 10:44 amRheo Filion.

Rheo Filion.

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