SC Rewind: First Ladies World Driving Series

SC Rewind: Ladies World Driving Championship
Published: February 24, 2024 11:12 am EST

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith recalls the first World Driving Series in the sport of harness racing that was solely for female participants.  His story covers the details of this first ever event. 

Back in 1969, some 55 years ago,  the first ever Ladies World Driving Championship series was held.  It brought together a fairly large group of very accomplished female drivers from three countries.  It was the first of many such competitions, several with slightly different formats, that have been held down through the years.  

This novel event was an International affair in more than one respect in that it not only included participants from a few different countries but it was also held in two different lands;  The U.S. and Canada.  

The three-city format started with a visit to Brandywine Raceway in Delaware.  The next stop was Monticello Raceway in New York state.  A total of 16 distaff drivers were entered, representing three different countries, Italy, Canada and the U.S. They were split into two teams, Team Italy and Team North America.  The N.A. contingent had six U.S. and two Canadian representatives. The two opening legs had already drawn quite a bit of interest in this unique event.  Prior to the series there was some skepticism about having parimutuel betting on what some might have considered almost an amateur event. That feeling was soon dispelled.  

With a bit of a hiatus between the U.S. and Canadian schedule,  several participants from the Italian contingent spent a considerable amount of time at the Blue Bonnets track.  While there,  they left a very favourable impression upon many observers on the backstretch.  A couple of the ladies were accompanied by husbands who were also harness drivers and they too drove while in Canada.  They were both regular drivers back in their home country.   One of the Italian drivers was not only a talented harness driver but also a superior court judge back in Italy and in fact was the only female judge in the entire country. 

When the racing action switched to Montreal's Blue Bonnets Raceway for a Sunday afternoon affair,  each of the drivers had at least one point to their credit.  Leading the way was U.S. driver Bobbe Huntress, a native of New York state and someone very familiar to Canadian harness racing, especially in Quebec.  She had raced earlier in her career at Connaught Park as well as Richelieu and Blue Bonnets.  

Bobbe Huntress leads the Ladies World Driving Championship

Ladies World Driving Championship point totals

Above was the list of participants and their point totals as they headed into final action at Blue Bonnets. Totals are shown for races at Monticello and Brandywine. 

Her 13-point lead was very slim as just one point behind her were a pair of Italian drivers each with 12 and fellow U.S. competitor Carol Gosman had 11.  In team points the N.A. group held a similar edge in points 74-69.  The competition was stiff and the outcome would surely be decided during this afternoon of racing.  

After their scheduled races were completed the overall individual winner was Loredena Moretti of Italy. She accomplished the feat when she drove the trotter Licking Speed to victory in a splendid 2:06.  Bobbe Huntress, the U.S. driver who led going into the final, had bad racing luck and failed to garner any more points.  While Ms. Moretti was the individual winner with 17 points,  Team North America won the group title with a scant one point lead at day's end. 

Raymond Lemay, chief officer of the Blue Bonnets track was thrilled with the outcome of the event.  Admittedly when he first learned of the competition he was not as excited as he later became.  As it turned out the crowd of 18,062 was the third largest ever at Blue Bonnets  and the mutuel handle of $860,000 was the best of this season. His concern was that it might be considered as only a publicity stunt by fans of harness racing.  Once the competition started at Brandywine his concerns were erased. 

Loredana Moretti wins the Ladies World Driving Championship

Loredena Moretti of Italy reaches the finish line with the trotter Licking Speed and is greeted by her husband Dr. Mario Moretti after winning the Ladies World Driving championship at Montreal's Blue Bonnets track.  (Montreal Gazette archives)

Quote For The Week: "Life is not like a box of chocolates.  It's more like a jar of jalapenos." - Larry The Cable Guy quote 

Who Is It #1 

Who Is It photo question

Can you correctly identify this driver who was a participant in the competition featured in today's Rewind? 

Who Is It #2 

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you correctly identify this driver who was a participant in the competition featured in today's Rewind?  Clue: This person had a daughter that became an accomplished driver as well. 



The "Who Is It # 1?" photo was correctly identified by several people. That was legendary lady driver Mildred Williams representing Canada.
The "Who Is It # 2?  photo was also correctly identified as June Weller, a very accomplished driver who was also the mother of driver Jayne Weller Boughner. June was originally from New York State where she began her career with the horses at a very young age. In later years Miss Dillman married Ohioan Jay Weller and relocated to the Buckeye State. At one time she held several world records as well as track records. Mark McClennan was correct on both. Thanks folks! 

1 Mildred William

2. ??????

Mildred Williams
June Weller

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