SC Rewind: Remembering Derbys Gent

SC Rewind: Remembering Derbys Gent
Published: April 13, 2024 10:00 am EDT

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith takes readers back in time to 1974,  an even 50 years ago.  He recalls the magical year of a horse named Derbys Gent.  Starting the season as an unraced three-year-old, this horse went undefeated that entire season on a number of Ontario tracks. His lone outing in which he tasted defeat took place on U.S. soil.  Read on to enjoy a detailed recap of this unusual season from a half century ago. 

When the 1974 racing action started, a horse that would end the season as one of the most talked about performers in recent years was a complete unknown.  His name was Derbys Gent, a homebred son of Derby Time out of an unraced mare Claybrook Carol.  He had never been far from his home near Parkhill, Ont. He had been broken and received his early lessons at the Parkhill track, well out of range of any media coverage.  

When April of that year rolled around things were about to change.  This horse was bred and owned by the same family throughout his entire 26 years on earth. Bill and Ann Cadman of Parkhill, Ont. remain as part of that original family.  They have been very helpful in the past thanks in large part to their old fashioned scrapbook.  

The following is a chronicle of the 1974 season for Derbys Gent 

  • April 17 - Wins first lifetime start in a qualifier at London. Time, 2:08.1.
  • May 4 - First lifetime win for a purse at Woodstock. Time, 2:10.
  • May 16 - Win #2 at London.
  • May 22 - Win #3 at Barrie. Time, 2:05.1.
  • May 30 - Win #4 at London. Time, 2:06.
  • June 7 - Win #5 at London. 
  • June 15 - Win #6 at London.
  • June 24 - Win #7 at London. Purse, $1,900.
  • June 30 - Win #8 at Kingston. Takes season best time 2:00.2 in $4,907 OHHA Stake. 
  • July 10 - Win #9 at Owen Sound. 
  • July 14 - Win #10 at Clinton in OHHA Stake.
  • July 27 - Win #11 at Dresden.
  • Aug. 2 - Win #12 at Goderich.
  • Aug. 10 - Win #13 at Hanover. Time, 2:02.2.
  • Aug. 17 - Win #14 at Hanover. Time, 2:01.2.
  • Aug. 23 Win #15 at Goderich. Time, 2:01.2. 
  • Aug. 30 Win #16 at Elmira.
  • Sept. 5 - Finished 6th at Northfield Park in Ohio -- Only defeat of the season.  Three-Year-Old Invitation, $20,000 purse. 
  • Sept. 29 - Win #17 at Orangeville. 
  • Oct. 5 - Win #18 at Kawartha Downs. Time, 2:01.
  • Oct. 12 - Win #19 at Barrie Raceway.  OHHA Final. Time, 2:03.2.
  • Oct. 23 - Win #20 at London. Invitational. Time, 2:02.
  • Nov. 1 - Final season start - Win #21 at Windsor. Time 2:01.2. Autumn Sophomore Series. 
  • Driven by Norm Campbell in every start of 1974.
  • Winner of all nine OHHA sponsored three-year-old stakes that season.

The above summary captures the entire 1974 season.  If I can count (don't bet on it) it looks like he raced at 14 different locations; some multiple times.  This horse went on to a very long and successful career. He raced at many of the sport's largest racetracks of the day and acquitted himself very well.  He held numerous track records and had the distinction of recording the first ever 2:00 mile at London. That happened in 1975 when a 20-year-old John Campbell reined him to victory in that year's Labatts Pace. 

Derbys Gent wins the 1975 Labatt Pace

In 2018 a Rewind was devoted to the entire career of this memorable horse.  I have "borrowed" a short excerpt from it and reprinted it below. This was written by Ann and Bill Cadman, proud owners of Derbys Gent. 

"We were fortunate to see most of his races and yes it was a thrill. Now looking back at all the pictures and scrapbooks of clippings and I am much older I am realizing what a gem we had in this great horse. He was our first. Since then we have had many, many horses. Some made it to the track, but lots didn't. None as notable as Derbys Gent. He cut such a swath through southwestern Ontario and he had such a great following. The grandstands would be filled and a mob on the track at picture taking time. We have letters of congratulations from people we didn't even know, including the Kingston newspaper thanking us for bringing him to their city. One of his biggest fans was Harry Eisen who wrote a daily column in the London Free Press called "Mostly About Horses." Derby was often his subject and he never failed to give him praise. Harry followed our horse throughout his racing career."

A Few Items From "The Derbys Gent Scrapbook"

Derbys Gent wins at London

Derbys Gent headed to victory at London during the 1974 season.  Driver Norm Campbell was in the sulky for every one of his 22 starts and 21 wins during that memorable season. 

Derbys Gent in the winner's circle at London

Members of the Cadman family and friends join driver Norm Campbell and Derbys Gent in the London winner's circle in 1974 following one of his many wins. The co-owners Wm. and James Cadman are to the right of driver Campbell.

Derbys Gent program line

A program line from August 23, 1974 when Derby set a new track record of 2:01.2 at Goderich in a special Invitational race. This start marked 15 wins in a row without a defeat.

Derbys Gent scrapbook page

A view of a page from the Derbys Gent scrapbook 

Quote For The Week: "Everyone needs to take a chance once in a while. If you don't, nothing ever happens." - Attributed to Walter Tauro, acknowledged as the world's oldest kidney transplant recipient at age 88 in 2023 

Solar Eclipse Comment: This past week on April 8th, it seemed that everyone was totally focussed on one single event - The Eclipse.  It somehow seems that there might have at some time in history been a horse by that name.  And there was.  Back in the 1960's a horse named Eclipse C raced at many Ontario tracks.  A foal of 1957,  the bay gelding sired by Atomic Bomb - Stella S.  was owned by Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Remus of Arnprior, Ont.  I seem to recall that this venerable fellow was most often raced by Everrit Norris of Perth, Ont.  and also spent time in the barn of — who else — but Dr. John Findley also of Arnprior. 

Who Is It? 

Who Is It photo question

Can you identify the driver in this photo taken back in 1965? Clue: he still has family who may tune in on occasion to Rewind.  The gent on the right was the owner and he too has family remaining.  Can you tell us where this photo was taken?

Who Else Is It? 

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you identify the person pictured above? He starred in several sports during his youth, including hockey and football. He later became a Phys. Ed. teacher but eventually turned his interests to training and driving standardbreds on a full-time basis. He passed away a number of years ago in 2007.



Our experts were required to work a little harder this week but still prevailed. Garth was correct on the Who Is It? photo. That was Petrolia, Ont. native Cecil Coke as winning driver. The photo was taken at London (Gord Waples got it) in 1965. The horse was Cedar Crest Maid owned by veteran horseman Nate Neeley also from Petrolia who was standing next to Cecil. The young boy was not identified. At the horse's head was "Shorty" Powell, Mr. Neeley's brother in law, who drove several Neeley horses at one time.
The Who Else? photo was identified by several as Bill Troy from North Bay, Ont. A special thank you to Tracey Troy, his daughter for taking time to add a comment. Thanks as always to those who enjoy joining in.

This picture was taken at Western Fair Raceway. The driver is my Father, Cecil Coke. The gentleman standing beside my Dad is Nate Neely who was a respected horseman, also from Petrolia, and Grandfather of horseman Larry Ainsworth. Thank you Robert for sharing this photo.

Let’s try Ken Kerr

We are still waiting for a correct answer on the Who Is It? photo. Perhaps a clue or two will be helpful. This Ontario based gentleman was a very well known individual who was involved as an owner, driver and trainer for at least 40 years I would guess. He raced in Michigan, at Connaught Park, Old Woodbine, Jockey Club tracks, London and many places in between.
He has an alliterative name which means that his first and land last name both start with the same letter. A nowadays example of that  might be Jody Jamieson or Mark MacDonald as an example. If this doesn't help we may have to carry it over to next week.

That is Bill Troy, my dad. He loved all sports, but horse racing was the sport he loved the most. Thank you for sharing that.

I believe that’s Bill Troy.

That photo looks like London , and the who else is it. none other than the Orangeville Raceway star , Bill Troy

Ray Elleker? Bill Troy. When Derbys Gent came to Kawartha it was like royalty!

Lived in London back in the early 80's and read Harry Eisen's column all the time. It was always informative.

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