SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s

SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s
Published: March 2, 2024 10:50 am EST

This week's Rewind is the regular monthly feature 'Years Ago' and this time the decade of the 1960's is featured.  While it might not quite sound like ancient history it has been 60 or so years since all of this happened.  Robert Smith has found some hopefully interesting tales and old photos to recall the times. 

1960 - New Track Record For Richelieu Park 

Hugh Proudfoot, Keith Waples and Georges Giguere

C.T.A. Pres. Hugh Proudfoot (left) presents a trophy to winning driver Keith Waples. Richelieu race secretary Georges Giguere is on the far right  (Montreal Gazette Archives)

Aug. 29, 1960 - The huge Saturday night crowd at Montreal's Richelieu Park witnessed a new track record for three-year-old pacers.  The record setting horse, Sampson Direct, was unknown to the fans but the same could not be said about the winning driver.  When regular driver Lou Huber, Jr. could not be in Montreal he decided to contact a local reinsman to fill in.  He not only found an able substitute, he chose one of the track's top drivers in Keith Waples.  Lou had to be in Duquoin, Illinois to take part in the pre-Hambletonian festivities.  

After all this was the gentleman Keith Waples who just the previous year had authored Canada's first ever sub-2:00 mile.  On July 22nd, 1959  he toured this very oval with Mighty Dudley in the "miracle" time of 1:59.3.   Entering the Beaver Pace on this occasion with a purse of $17,800,  Waples was established as second choice in the betting behind another U.S. invader, Betting Time, driven by Clint Hodgins.  

Hodgins wasted little time in grabbing the lead as the race started and was never headed throughout much of the mile.  When the field reached the three-quarter pole Waples made his move.  As they raced the last 100 feet or so Waples grabbed the lead and claimed victory for owner K.D. Owen of Houston Texas.   Betting Time finished second.  Time of the mile was 2:01.2 which erased the existing mark of 2:02.4 held by Sir Winston Pick. A crowd of almost 9,900 people, the largest of the season,  wagered $360,000 on the card.  

1962 - Harness Racing Will Be A Feature At Shawville Fair  

As an added attraction at the Shawville, Que. Fair this year, the local Driving Club will be raffling a yearling filly on Saturday, Sept. 8. This raffle was chosen as a means to raise funds to rebuild the racetrack and barns in hope of improving the races at the fair.  Club secretary Brent Horner has announced that "Cheerful's Choice", the filly to be raffled, will be on display during the fair.  She was purchased by the Club from Bill and Brent  Horner. The filly was sired by Fred Hanover, who has a record of 2:04 and her dam is Cheerful Abbe who sports a lifetime best of 2:08.  Anyone wishing to purchase a ticket can do so at the fair. 

This year's main attraction will be The Fred Fraser and Son Construction Stake.  It is a 2:30 class meaning that it will be for "green" horses who have just begun their racing careers.  To date 10 horses are paid up in the event. Two elimination heats and a final for a total purse of $1,470 will provide racegoers with plenty of good competition.  Many prominent owners from the area will be in action on the Friday and Saturday cards. 

Race organizers believe that the two-day event will be the best ever seen in Shawville. 

Note - The above described Stake Race had three different winners;  one in each elimination and the final.  Kitty Whitty (Don Burke) in the first,  Byrd Killean (Osler Burrison) in the second.  The final was won by Marian Special owner driven by Yvon Plouffe of Gatineau, Que.  

Blacksmith Harper Rennick stands proudly in front of his Shawville, PQ shop started by his father in 1914. Young Harper left school at the age of 17 to carry on in his father's trade. (Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives)

1966 - Windsor Raceway Honours Leading Drivers 

On the evening of December 17th Windsor held its final program of the fall meeting.  With attendance and betting totals showing some healthy increases the raceway closed for the Christmas break. 

At the end of the 1966 season a number of drivers were in contention for the driver's awards that the track offered.  This all-weather track built to host winter time racing was just in its second year of operation but already becoming a major racing centre, attracting both fans and horse people from many parts of Canada and the U.S. While two Canadian-based drivers -- Pat Crowe of Orr Lake, Ont. and Wes Coke of London (via Petrolia) -- were in contention for top driver awards, when the final stats were tallied  three U.S. based teamsters won top honours (See Quiz question below).

1969 - Overcall Takes International Pace; Blaze Pick Second 

The six-year-old Overcall handily took the $50,000 International Pace at Yonkers in early June and set a new world record for the 1-1/2 mile distance.  The clocking of 3:02 3/5 erased the existing record set by Tarquinius in 1967.  Second in the field was Blaze Pick, owned by trainer Russell Miller of Dutton, Ont. and his wife Jean, and handled by Keith Waples.   Third was Twinkle Hanover N of Australia.  

With regular driver Del Insko in the sulky, Overcall was never threatened throughout the race and won easily by 8-3/4 open lengths.  This was his fifth straight victory of the season which later saw him go undefeated for 1969 as he won all 21 of his races.  The horse had a very busy schedule that year which included a trip to Toronto's Greenwood Raceway and a victory in that year's Canadian Pacing Derby.  The purse for that event reached its highest point to date when $41,800 was up for grabs.  

An article in the New York Times following the race read as follows: "YONKERS, June 5 -- Overcall paced the fastest mile and a half over any sized oval in 163 years of recorded harness racing history tonight en route to an easy victory in the $50,000 International Pace at Yonkers Raceway."

Overcall and driver Del Insko are shown in a winning effort. The son of Capetown won all of his 21 starts during the 1969 season and was retired to stud duty after being syndicated late in the season for one million dollars. (Photo courtesy of Can. Sportsman)

Blast From The Past 

The following short item appeared in a year-end summary that appeared in the Harness Horse magazine dated Dec. 9, 1969. This item appeared in a 2019 Rewind in response to a comment by reader Tim Bates at that time.  Not included was another tidbit added by Mr. Bates who mentioned that Bill Loyens was  driving alongside to spur the little Trotter on. 

"At Western Fair in London, Ont., a yearling trotting gelding, Fireside Brandy, for LeRoy Revington of Lucan, Ont., was time trialed in 2:22 1/5, faster than the previous world record for a yearling trotting gelding on a half-mile racetrack."

Note : 55 years later I wonder if that record has ever been challenged?  

Quote For The Week: "It has been said that a racehorse is the only animal that can take several thousand people for a ride,  all at the same time." 

Who Is It? 

Who Is It photo question

Can you identify this famous driver who enjoyed a very long career in the sulky?  To my knowledge he is still with us and since he was born in 1931 he will celebrate birthday no. 93 and maybe has already.  Let us know who you think it is.  

Who Else Is It? #1 

Who Else Is It photo question

(Courtesy of Windsor Star archives)

Can you correctly identify the three drivers pictured here?  They are part of today's photo quiz and were also featured in the item above related to 1966.  Give it your best shot.  

Who Else Is It? #2

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you name this gentleman who was a three-time winner at the 1962 race day at Shawville, Quebec as described above.  One clue,  he was not a winning driver in the Stake race.  

Who Else Is It? #3

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you name this horse and driver,  a popular duo in the late 1960's? 



The "Who Is It #1? " photo was correctly identified by several people. That was legendary U.S. horseman Del Insko, photo taken back in the silk hat era. 
The "Who Else Is It #1?  photo was correctly identified as the Windsor Raceway driver trio of Bud Foster, Gerry Bookmyer and Tom Merriman 
The "Who Else Is It # 2?  photo was veteran horseman Bill Pyke who hailed from Cornwall  and often raced at Connaught Park and Rideau Carleton as well as at the fairs
The "Who Else Is It #3?  photo was identified by several as the young trotting sensation Camper with his trainer and driver Wm. Habkirk. A broken bone ended this horse's racing career but he did sire some colts I believe. Thanks folks!

#3 Bill Habkirk and Camper. Also, Fireside Brandy was a very famous horse in Lucan and area at the time. He was stabled in Leroy Revington's barn behind his house right on the edge of downtown on Lucan's Main St. Leroy would have to drive him across the street ( hwy # 4 ) to the Lucan fairgrounds track to jog and train him.

#1 Bud Foster, Gerry Bookmeyer & Tom Merriman.

Who is it? Del Insko.
Who else is it? #1. Bud Foster, Gerry Bookmyer and Tom Merriman.
Who else is it? #2. No clue.
Who else is it? #3. The nice trotter Camper and William Habkirk.

Del Insko
Art McIlmurray, Gerry Bookmyer, and ?

BTW, Kitty Whitty was driven by Dave Burke as I recall - a nice chestnut mare, if memory serves,
I saw her race several times

Bill Habkirk and Camper - a guess

Who is it???
Del Insko

Who else is it??? #1
Bud Foster, Jerry Bookmyer, Tom Merriman

Who else is it??? #2

Who else is it??? #3
William Habkirk and the horse is Camper

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