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SC Rewind: Before The O'Brien's

Published: February 13, 2016 9:39 am ET

Last Comment: February 14, 2016 2:41 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

A collage of old photographs and a yellowed newspaper clipping help to tell the story in this week's edition of Rewind as Robert Smith recalls the nature of annual get-togethers long before the O'Brien Awards came along.

​William Wellwood expresses thanks for one of the multitude of awards received during his lengthy career. Year unknown.

The O'Brien Awards and the annual gathering to present them, date back to the 1989 season with presentations in early 1990. This means they have already established quite a history of their own. This evening when the current day practitioners of the sport suit up in their finest togs and take a rare night off, they will repeat an ages old practice of getting together to honour the sport's finest.

Dating back many decades, harness racing people have traditionally held social gatherings to honour and recognize the local stars; both human and equine. I think the word 'banquet' was usually used. These get togethers have been varied in size and format but virtually all of them have had one thing in common. Their main purpose has been to get together, break bread and usually pay tribute to those who have excelled in some way. Today's version may have certain dress codes and list the meal as having so many courses, but the overall objective has not varied too far over the years.

I have selected a few old photographs taken at award nights over the years. They were completely chosen at random. At the end is a well-worn newspaper clipping that recounts the happenings at a horsemen's banquet from well over 50 years ago.

Wm. and Ruth Herbert of London accept the C.T.A. Award for "Aged Pacer of 1964" won by their Dean Herbert. Doing the presentation is George Loveless, Pres. of Western Fair Raceway on the far right.

In this 1981 photo Jimmy "Red" Holmes and his wife Margaret of Milton receive a silver tea service honouring them for their long service. The presenter is Les Ehrlick (left) long time President of the O.H.H.A.

Jan. 1984 - Ron Waples centre accepts an award for "Horseman of the Year" from Beverly Smith, Globe & Mail writer. On the right is Ed Bradley of the Ontario Jockey Club. Waples made an uncustomary speech prior to acceptance and thanked Mr. Bradley for his encouragement over the years. Young "Ronnie" who turned 40 in 1984 received this award from both the OJC and the CTA.

The connections of Programmed the top aged pacing mare from the 1983 season accept their award. From left co-owners Gay and Brian Webster, presenter Alex Duncan, asst. trainer Al Casselman, co-owners Lynne and Ray Bednarz.

This 1973 photo was taken during the CTA Awards night at the Skyline Hotel. Ed Arthur (left) long-time horseman and CTA Zone 8 director presents two silver plates to owner Duncan MacDonald of Sydney, N.S. The awards were for Armbro Nesbit and Armbro Ouzo, both at the head of their class.

Elmira Awards 1990 - Track announcer Ken Middleton Jr. (left) presents the leading driver award to Brian Holmes who steered the winners of 44 races during the 1989 season.

At the 1984 CTA dinner - Harness writer Katrina Schmitz representing The Standardbred magazine presents a crystal decanter to John Medwid of Shelburne, owner of Shanes Mint, two-year-old pacing colt recognized by the OJC.

Gary Revington (left) accepts an OHHA plaque won by his top three-year-old pacer Paul Killean. On the right is Les Ehrlick, former president. The year was 1984.

The C.T.A.'s annual achievement award in 1986 went to Wm. Rowe of Barrie Raceway who is shown accepting his silverware from C.T.A. Gen. Mgr. Herb Shannon (John E. Jones)

The well-worn clipping shown below appeared in the London Free Press sports pages following a horsemen's banquet held at Bothwell, Ont. in 1963. These local Turf clubs helped to keep the sport together and their annual banquet was one of the highlights of the season.

February 14, 2016 - 2:41 pmMac Sewers sent the following

Mac Sewers sent the following :

As always they are very good articles and lots of memories. I didn't personally know some of them but the names are sure familiar. That was back when racing was a family fun sport. At Fall Fairs we raced for $150.00 or $200. but had fun. How it has changed today. Ron Waples looks really young in that picture. The only time he ever drove for me was in Greenwood Aug. 21 1980 .My regular driver didn't show up so Ron was the catch driver. Sunday Chimes was quite a hot mare, but Ron kept her real calm out there, went to the front and never looked back.
Thanks again Robert and all the best to you. Mac

February 13, 2016 - 6:47 pmThanks for using my picture

Thanks for using my picture with the "Programmed" people Robert. Glad they didn't have the breathalyzer there (or anyplace else for that matter). I look as big as the horse itself ! They told me in the hotel room before the awards that I had to wear a tie, so I started the evening off with just a tie and underwear. Working for Stew Firlotte was an honour and being around such GREAT horses as Programmed was a bonus !! My wife Kendra and I owned and raced her great grand daughter, Missplacedart.

February 13, 2016 - 6:39 pmWow. What great pictures.

Wow. What great pictures. These are fantastic Robert. That Bill Wellwood was one handsome guy.
Some fond memories here. I'm old enough to remember them all. LOL.

Keep up the great work!!

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