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The Legend Of Ron Pierce

Published: March 17, 2020 10:46 am ET

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You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. The phrase tends to ring true most of the time. The thing is, those that paid attention to driver Ron Pierce during his long tenure in the race bike knew what they had. Harness racing had an absolute ace in the sulky, a gem of an interview… and one heck of an afternoon chaperone.

While reminiscing about the much revered harness racing publication The Canadian Sportsman, which ceased publication in 2013 after an incredible 143-year run, former editor Dave Briggs admitted that the story that was “the most fun” was about Pierce for the August 3, 2006 edition.

“The quick story is, that because he’s an outdoorsman, we wanted to do an adventure story with Ron Pierce,” said Briggs. “So, we went down to New Jersey, and it was either going to be hunting or something fishing related. Somehow we ended up with, ‘let’s go out on the boat and to the Jersey Shore and I’ll go scuba diving and catch some fish.’

“So this whole day was just surreal, and at some point after, Dave (photographer Dave Landry) lost half of his equipment ($7,300 worth) in a water hole, chairs went diving, we did the whole thing, we took some pictures. It was great.”

Love him or hate him, it’s probably safe to say harness racing will never have another Ron Pierce. He took 9,570 trips to the winner’s circle, steered his drives to $217 million in purses, and, over the years, created an absolutely legendary persona. As a character, Pierce wasn’t over the top, but instead relatively stoic, and his demeanour left many wondering what they were going to get, and when, on any given occasion.

Pierce was forced to retire in 2016 after neck and back injuries simply became too much to overcome. He told Trot Insider at the time that he had hoped to race until he was 60. He was forced to pack away his driving gear at the age of 58. The legend lives on, though, and as Briggs went on to explain, the quirky afternoon with Pierce didn’t simply end after the boating escapade, either.

Briggs went on to explain that, “Afterwards, we were sitting around having lunch, and [Pierce] says, ‘Well, we’ve got to go back to my house. My two boys are motocross guys and I’ve built the whole motocross circuit in the back yard of my little farm.’

“So, we go and swim in Ron Pierce’s pool – he gives us some swim trunks. That was surreal enough. He’s got a shark head hanging over his pool – of course he had caught it himself. You don’t believe half of the stuff that this guy does until you see it yourself.

“And then, the whole deal was, ‘I want you guys to get this one photo. My son is going to go and jump over my head.’ …. [Ron is] going to stand under this motocross jump and his son is going to jump over his head on a motocross bike. He had to talk his son into doing it because his son probably didn’t want to kill his father. I think he was about 13.

“So, Ron strips down to his shorts. He’s got no shirt on and he goes and stands under this jump. He kid does it and Dave’s firing away and got this great shot. So, just for memory purposes, it was just such a memorable day to spend with Ron Pierce.”

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