Happy Birthday Keith Waples

Keith Waples
Published: December 8, 2013 10:41 am EST

To honour one of the greatest horsemen in the history of harness racing, the Standardbred Canada website concludes its five-part series on the legendary Keith Waples on his 90th birthday.

Penned by writer Robert Smith, this is the fifth and final exclusive SC web feature on one of racing's most revered individuals.

A Few Highlights

September 1948 - Lindsay, Ont.

Three days of racing highlighted the annual Lindsay Fair. Harness racing each day drew large crowds and the winning drivers were each awarded a $5.00 prize, a special feature of this fair for many years. Keith Waples, 24-year old driver from Midland, was the most successful driver as he piloted the winners of seven heats over the three-day meeting. Bonnie G Can, owned by Mert Storey of Peterborough, won five of the six heats in which she was entered as part of Waples' victories.

August 3, 1953 - Stratford, Ont.

A huge crowd was on hand today to watch a full afternoon of excellent racing at the Stratford Fairgrounds. Organized under the direction of local hotel owner and horse fancier Dave Pinkney, the race card drew some of the finest horses in the Province. The featured event of the afternoon was the Supertest Three-Year-Old Trotting Stake. With a field of six entrants facing the starter, the winner in convincing fashion was Ben Boy superbly handled by Keith Waples. Racing for a purse of $ 3,030 the young son of Van Riddell won all three heats, each with plenty to spare. The winning entry is owned by Mrs. Ruth Wray of Schomberg, Ont. The mile times recorded were 2:14.4; 2:12.4; 2:15.

Ben Boy in rein to Keith Waples captures the third and deciding heat of the 1953 Supertest Three-Year-Old Trotting Stake at Stratford, Ont. A huge crowd and the old stables are in view of the track. [London Free Press]

September 8, 1957 - Connaught Park; Aylmer, Que.

Racing fans in the Ottawa Valley this season are seeing what might be the best three-year-old pacer ever in action. Champ Volo, bred and raised by Joseph Smith of Ottawa, has been on a winning streak of major proportions. Trained and driven by Keith Waples, the youngster won the Zone 9 Futurity, pacing the mile in 2:09.1. This race featured both trotting and pacing colts and one of the trotting entrants, Cathy Diggles and driver Dr. John Findley, provided some of the early opposition and finished second. Champ Volo, racing as an entry with stablemate Ben Direct (Ross Curran), rewarded his backers with a measly $2.10 across the board as 1-20 favourites. Following the race, Mr. Smith and driver Waples were joined on the track by Scott Burchell, Mayor of Perth; Bert Soper of Smith Falls; and John Thompson of South Mountain. A large trophy and a blanket were presented to the owner, the latter by last year's winning owner Mr. Hugh Proudfoot. Two driver protests were entered following the race but were to be referred to the C.T.A. for future review.

August 5,1966 - Rideau Carleton Raceway; Ottawa, Ont.

What seems like the perfect combination resulted in a win and a new track record here this evening in front of a crowd of 4,890 fans. Noted colt developer Russell Miller of Dutton, Ont. and master reinsman Keith Waples have joined forces this season with an outstanding two-year-old named Blaze Pick. Racing in the Canadian Juvenile Circuit series, which moves from track to track, the chestnut son of Gene Abbe shattered the old record by a full three seconds as he logged the mile in 2:03.2 erasing the previous standard of 2:06.2. Finishing second in the mile was Monty, driven by Brian Webster. Blaze Pick's owners Russell and Jean Miller made a trackside appearance to accept the winner's trophy. Their record setting colt has earned almost $18,000 on the season, with his share of the $4,890 purse for this event.

September 21,1972 - Delaware, Ohio

On a warm September afternoon that year, the Canadian presence at the Little Brown Jug rose to a new level. A super horse named Strike Out became the first ever winner of the fall classic to be totally Canadian-owned and trained. The son of Bret Hanover was owned by the partnership of John Hayes Sr. and Bob and Conrad Shapiro of Montreal. Earlier in the season, a series of events -- including John Hayes' health problems -- led the owners to have Keith Waples take over the horse's driving assignments. The decision turned out to be one of the wisest ever. Strike Out won a number of top three-year-old events, among them The Little Brown Jug and at this point in the season had won 16 of 21 starts. With the second heat going in 1:56.3, a new world mark was set as the one established by Bret Hanover in 1965 was lowered by two-fifths of a second. In the opening heat, a first quarter was paced in 27 seconds, the fastest opening panel in the 27-year history of the event. When asked after the race if he was worried, Waples said calmly "Any time they go the first quarter in 27 seconds, you have to be worried."
A crowd of 45,000 fans looked on as 49-year-old Keith Waples showed his talents to the entire world of harness racing, taking both heats of the $104,916 event. It was his only Jug victory.

On this special occasion I extend my personal best wishes to Keith and his loving wife Eileen as well as their children Barbara, Karen, Donna and Gord as well as their large extended family.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! and above all, Thanks for the Memories.

Previous Features

- A Star Is Born
- Admired, Respected
- The Miracle Mile
- Records Galore



There's never been one like him. There will never be another like him. A great, great driver and an even better person. Happy Birthday Keith.

On behalf of my father and our entire family, I would like to thank Robert Smith for the excellent article. Thanks as well to the staff at Standardbred Canada for running it on their website for the past few days.

Dad truly appreciates Robert’s research skills and would like to thank everyone for their comments and best wishes for his birthday.

Karen Hauver

Thank you Robert Smith for a most enjoyable trip down memory lane. Happy birthday Keith Waples.

A reporter for the now sadly defunct Harness Horse Magazine interviewed "Senator Hayes" before the Jug. He asked him what driving instructions he had given Keith Waples. Hayes replied " I told him to turn left and keep on going"!!

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