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SC Rewind: Dave Wall

Published: March 27, 2021 12:52 pm ET

Last Comment: April 1, 2021 1:49 pm ET | 18 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind, Robert Smith recalls the long and productive career of one of the sport's most accomplished horsemen of the past 60 years. That gentleman is David Wall --"Wally" to many -- a man who needs little or no introduction to most followers of the sport. Dave has been admired by generations of harness racing fans and everyone else involved with the sport. Now in the twilight of his career he has accomplished about as much as any one person could ever hope to do in one lifetime.

Photo by David Landry

Dave Wall decided at a very young age what his life's calling was going to be and he has never looked back. In fact, just about everything he has decided to do in his lifetime, he hasn't been one to wait around. As an example he and his wife of now close to sixty years got married at a very young age; very young in fact, he was just 16.

A native of Kincardine, Ont., Wall took an interest in horses and harness racing at an early age. He credits a fellow Kincardine horseman, Irwin Hamilton, with much of his early knowledge. In an interview some 45 years ago Dave said "Irwin taught me more than anyone about horses and now he even tells me how to drive them. I have to listen though, he's a smart man." At the age of 14, before he had even fully committed to being a full-time horseman, he became part owner of Wall Tyme Stables along with his father Bill. He wasn't quite sure yet if that's what he would devote his career to but he was leaning heavily in that direction.

Dave's first foray into the breeding and racing game was not exactly an immediate success, teaching him that patience is an important element in this business. He started out with an old broodmare called Dina Wall. Her first foal started out fine but at age four he fell while warming up for a qualifying race and later died of lock-jaw. Her next foal was a game changer named Piper Wall who would become the star of the Wall Tyme stable and was the winner of over $100,000, giving Dave his real start in the business.

Dave Wall in a 1976 picture with his mare Kippy Wall. At this time Wall was already a well-established horseman who operated his own stable as well as being in high demand as a catch driver.

"Wally" started out his driving career around the age of 25. At first he concentrated on racing mainly at his hometown London oval but soon started to branch out. For many years he plied his trade at multiple tracks, often racing at more than one spot in the same day. He was a tireless worker who enjoyed what he was doing so much that it seldom seemed like work to him. He was a regular on the O.J.C. tracks but always enjoyed his time spent in London. After the introduction of the Ontario Sires Stakes in 1974, he immediately became a familiar face at virtually every track in Ontario.

Wall as a young driver at London where he started his long career.

Once some success started to come his way Wally moved his base of operation from Kincardine to Komoka, a small town just north of London. He was even at times referred to by harness writers as "The Komoka Kid." Wall, who credits a mix of hard work and good luck for his success, told reporter Kathy Wade in a 1990 interview "I've had a lot of good owners who have put up with me for quite a while and things have worked out." He has provided employment for a lot of people over the years between his farm and racing operations.

As far back as 1990 and then not quite 45, Wall was already piling up milestone wins and lifetime achievements. In late March of 1990 Wally recorded his 4,000th lifetime victory when he reined General Tyron to victory at Mohawk Raceway. Earlier that day he had scored two victories at London's Western Fair Raceway to bring the milestone closer. His victory moved him into a very special category as only two other OJC regulars -- Steve Condren and Doug Brown -- had scored that many wins. In typical Wall fashion he said in the winner's circle "This is great, funny though I told my wife and kids not to come tonight because I didn't think I'd get it."

When The Meadowlands track opened in 1976 a number of young Canadian-based horsemen accepted the invitation of legendary Windsor race secretary Joe Defrank to move their base of operation to this new and exciting spot. A number of them did make the transition and rose to national prominence. At that time Dave was at about the prime age (30) to make the move if he chose to do so. He certainly had the talent and ability to compete and succeed against the very best the sport had to offer. He chose not to move to the U.S. in favour of competing on home soil where he was already enjoying success in the new O.S.S. circuit. In later years he told a reporter "I just never saw myself in that setting; I'm more of a country boy who has always felt more at home back here in Ontario."

The old saying that "Timing is Everything" certainly applied to the career of Dave Wall. When the Ontario Sires Stakes program was introduced in 1974, Wall was just 28 years of age and well-established as a driver and developer of young horses. He soon found his way into the heart of the program and with his involvement came success. He trained a number of outstanding youngsters and better yet owned quite a few. When he wasn't driving those from his own stable he was highly in demand as a catch driver for others.

Heather Hanover with Dave Wall driving is shown winning in track record time at Flamboro Downs in this 1979 photo. The mile in 2:00.3 established a new track record for two-year-old pacing fillies at Flamboro and also at the time was the fastest mile time that season for a freshman pacing filly in North America over a half-mile oval.

It's a happy winner's circle scene shown here following a victory by Heather Hanover (finish shown above) at Flamboro in 1979. At the horse's head is Dean Wall, next person is Bob Stewart, Dave Wall, Jack Lang presenting the trophy to owner Dr. George Boyce accompanied by his wife Bunny. On the far right is Dave's father Bill Wall.

The list of great OSS performers Wall was involved with over the years would take forever to compile. During the 1990's Dave won the Lampman Cup awarded to the program's top point earning driver on two occasions, 1994 and 1998. He made O.S.S. history in 1978 when he drove Springer in the first sub-2:00 mile recorded by a two-year-old performer in the program's history for owner Dr. George Boyce. Springer had a banner year in '78 winning almost $112,000 in purse money. Interestingly Dave didn't tally the first ever O.S.S. mile in two minutes or less by a three-year-old pacer but he was in the race and finished third to Aileens Tour who paced in 1:59.2. His mount in that 1977 race was Rock N Wave, a horse he rated as his all-time favourite from a pretty stunning list. Little wonder he became known as "Mr. O.S.S."

Wally did prove that he could compete successfully anywhere on the planet when he drove the great trotter Goodtimes for owner John Bax. Part of their 1999 travels took them all the way to Sweden where they garnered a third-place finish in the Elitlopp and in 2003 he was back with Northern Bailey in that same race.

“I always give Dave the credit for Goodtimes lasting so long,” Bax once said. “Goodtimes was very good at taking care of himself and Dave was very good at taking care of Goodtimes. And the combination made him last until he was 12 years old. He made a minimum of $100,000 for eight consecutive years -- I think that might be a record -- and I have to give Dave all the credit for that, because he knew when he was good and when he wasn’t good and he raced him accordingly.”

Wall's great versatility with horses of both gaits has been constantly in evidence down through the years. In 1985, he piloted his trainee Staff Director to victory in the North America Cup and in 1991 he and Odds Against claimed the Canadian Pacing Derby title. Wall drove Goodtimes to glory in the 1999 Maple Leaf Trot, the same year he and Odies Fame teamed up to capture both the Fan Hanover and Breeders Crown finals. This of course is just a very short list of the many fine horses he handled over the years. At one point he enjoyed 15 consecutive years in which he netted more than $1 million in purse money on the OJC circuit alone. In 1995 he hit $2.6 million.

Twin B Playboy was just one of the many outstanding performers Dave handled during the 1980's.

One person who has known "Wally" for a long time and watched him on and off the track over the years is Dr. Bob Boyce, a well-known London, Ont.-area veterinarian. Also for many years Bob's father Dr. George Boyce had horses in the Wall Stable. In a recent conversation Bob said the following:

"I started my Veterinary practice in the fall of 1975 in the old barn at Western Fair Raceway. It wasn't long before I was doing work for the Wall Tyme stable AKA Dave and Cheryl Wall and family. Over the years as well as clients the Wall family became friends. I remember all the good horses they had from Jumbos Dynasurge to Super Glo, to Sea to Sea, to too many more to mention plus their great horse Staff Director. I don't think I have ever met any harder workers than Dave and Cheryl, totally dedicated to their horses and their occupation. As time has gone on the horse numbers in their stable have dropped dramatically but their success over the long haul cannot be discounted. Congratulations on a great career and let's hope there are some thrills yet to come."

During the long career of Dave Wall he has accumulated a list of honours and awards that are the proverbial "mile long." Still his greatest achievement is not symbolized by a trophy in his showcase or a plaque on the wall. Being well liked and admired by your peers is an honour that will last forever.

Wally has been an important part of the face of Canadian harness racing for a very long time. His work ethic, his honesty, integrity and all around "good guy" status has made him a favourite with everyone he has met along life's way. Never one to decline a chance to compete in charity fundraising and promotional events he even ran his own golf tournament for many years. The proceeds always went to some horse person in need. Dave has had a great supporting cast down through the years, starting with his father Bill and his wife Cheryl and then his daughter Dawn and sons Dean and Brett.

I will close with a personal recollection of David Wall. I have never officially ever met Wally but I did sit beside him once for close to an hour and not a word was spoken....We were in Church attending a funeral.

Quote For The Week: "If you're going through hell, keep going." - Sir Winston Churchill

Who Is It?

How many people can you identify in this 1979 picture? (Barrie Examiner photo)

Who Else Is It?

Can you identify this rock star wearing a drivers uniform? Let us know who you think it is.

April 1, 2021 - 1:49 pmThis week's pictures drew the

This week's pictures drew the correct answers with the exception of the gentleman holding the horse in the Barrie photo. The identities are as follows:
Top photo - Horse is Jumbo Dynasurge being held by Bill Wall; Hon. Earl Rowe makes a presentation to driver Dave Wall while Clint Hodgins joins in the winners circle festivities. As mentioned by Marv Chantler in a comment,  Messrs. Rowe and Hodgins were long time friends dating back at least to the 1930's. At the time of this picture Clint was in the area as he had just spent some time in a London hospital. Bottom - Not too much of a challenge on this one... It was Doug Brown lovingly referred to as "The Captain". Thanks to everyone for your comments and picture guesses. It was gratifying to see the many heartfelt comments received on this week's Rewind saluting Dave Wall.

March 31, 2021 - 12:15 pmI was always told Dave was

jarvis rich SAID...

I was always told Dave was one of the best half mile drivers ever. Sheldon Rose best comment I have read in years.

March 29, 2021 - 6:01 pmI often wondered how Dave

I often wondered how Dave made it to check in at the paddock office in time as he is one guy that everyone wanted to say hi to and check in with, adding minutes to his walk from the parking lot to the office. Always a smile, a greeting and on special occasions he would share some of his wisdom with you. He has employed and helped more people in his time than can be imagined, done so much for so many, never wanting anything in return other than the chance to buy a hat and to play another hand. He once told me, you can't win if you're not in! An absolute legend and great person. Cheers Wally

March 29, 2021 - 2:10 pmWally and the Captain... ahh

Wally and the Captain... ahh those were the days. Greenwood, road trips all over Ontario... be truthful: "Which one of you played gin better?"

March 29, 2021 - 12:37 pmDave is and always has been a

Tim Bates SAID...

Dave is and always has been a class act. From my time as a groom in the 1980's with Leroy Revington, he always greeted me with a smile, to getting my second lifetime start at WFR as a trainer, he helped me identify a breathing problem in one trip. I also had the pleasure of going to high school with his son Dean - just as much class.

March 29, 2021 - 9:55 amThe Honourable Earl Rowe was

The Honourable Earl Rowe was great friends with Clint Hodgins.
I believe that the Gov and Clint, and of course Doug Brown who
cut out his early career with many wins at Barrie Raceway in 1973-75.

March 28, 2021 - 10:08 amGreat article on one of the

Great article on one of the most accomplished horsemen in his time, watched him handle his mounts at Windsor, London, Greenwood where I raced a horse or two, he was a very knowledgeable handler of any mount he was to drive. His honesty and performance was undeniably his greatest attribute to the world of one of the greatest sports I love. Great article Robert sure hope you have some more information about more of this sport's Greats. I have a few in mind.

March 28, 2021 - 7:20 amThe following note was

The following note was received from Dr. Bob Boyce and with his permission I am posting it here.
"Robert, one of your best. This Rewind will be read and appreciated by a lot of people. Thanks for all your efforts to preserve our racing history. Keep up the good work.
Bob Boyce"

March 27, 2021 - 8:39 pmVery good article on Dave

Gerry Drew SAID...

Very good article on Dave Wall - you will never find a nicer guy.

March 27, 2021 - 6:56 pmAnother great column and

John Vance SAID...

Another great column and another thank you. I thought the gentleman doing the presentation may have been the honourable Earl Rowe and of course the rock star is Doug Brown. I do look forward to these Rewinds. Take care everyone.

March 27, 2021 - 6:47 pmWithout doubt,top all around

john crake SAID...

Without doubt,top all around horsemen in Ontario.

March 27, 2021 - 4:35 pmThe "rock star" is none other

Joe Riga SAID...

The "rock star" is none other then Douggie Brown. If you don't know that you don't know Canadian Racing. Douggie is a legend in harness racing.

March 27, 2021 - 3:25 pmDave and my dad had a great

Dave and my dad had a great year with his good little trotter Catcha Sparktogo.
Kevin Davidson did the training.
They won 7 straight, including the Preferred, at Woodbine the year he was 4.
Won almost $110,000 that year.
The rock star is Doug Brown.

March 27, 2021 - 3:20 pmDoug Brown is this week's

Tom Foley SAID...

Doug Brown is this week's picture. Great article on Dave Wall. He has had a great career. Thanks for the weekly stories and pictures Robert. Always enjoyed!!

March 27, 2021 - 3:03 pmDave wall for sure, not sure

Dave wall for sure, not sure of the other three gentlemen. Bottom photo Doug Brown.

March 27, 2021 - 1:53 pmRock star is Nick Boyd

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Rock star is Nick Boyd

March 27, 2021 - 1:26 pmThe first picture is Bill

kent benson SAID...

The first picture is Bill Wall holding the horse and Dave Wall the driver. The second picture is Doug Brown

March 27, 2021 - 1:13 pmDefinitely know the famous

Louise Urie SAID...

Definitely know the famous Rock Star who hails from North Oshawa definitely one of Canada’s Best: Doug Brown!

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