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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s

Published: April 2, 2016 8:45 am ET

Last Comment: April 5, 2016 4:32 pm ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind, Robert Smith takes a look back at some of the personalities and events from the decade of the 1960s in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago.

1961 - Hey, I Know You!

The above photo shows technician Bernard McEnaney (left), horseman Dale Dufty (centre) and Tech. Murray Graham Bridges (right) as the horse Little Johnny Can receives a lip tattoo at London's Western Fair Raceway. The horse's owner was Roy Inch of St. Thomas, Ont. [LFP photo]

In 1961, the practice of tattooing was adopted by Canadian authorities and a crew of technicians started at Old Woodbine in Toronto and eventually went out to various locations to begin the huge task of tattooing each horse. At this time, Ontario was the only province to adopt this system but eventually all of the others followed suit. While its primary aim was to provide a safeguard for the public, it also soon became a useful tool when horses crossed the border as well as numerous other functions aiding in a horse's identification.

Tattooing was first introduced in the U.S. a couple of years previous to this time to give positive identification to harness horses as a precautionary measure to guard against the use of ringers which is a term used to describe the substitution of one horse for another. In the old days of racing, it apparently happened with some regularity, especially when a horse came in from a 'foreign' jurisdiction. This set up made any improper juggling of horses almost impossible. Thus began a major step in the identification of horses beyond a simple registration.

1964 - Racing On The Upswing at Brunswick Downs

Racing at Brunswick Downs in Moncton, N.B. is undergoing a renaissance, due largely to the improved racing and the many innovations introduced this season to increase both the comfort and knowledge of the fan.

In the "Monctonian", an Invitational Pace which is annually one of the season highlights in the Maritimes, Willie's Adios, a six-year-old son of Greentree Adios, paced in 2:03 2/5 to reduce the track's pacing record of 2:04 which he had set in the same race the year before. The trotting record of 2:08, established in 1947 by a trotter driven by Joe O'Brien, was equalled by the seven-year-old Dean Scott gelding, Little Quinton, driven by Walter McLean and owned by Arthur Legere, a local horseman.

An increase in purses has attracted better horses. During the first 36 nights there were 50 miles in 2:10 or faster. Other enticements offered Moncton's sports fans have been a "Get Acquainted Night," pony races between heats with some of the town's celebrities as drivers, running races, and a general face-lifting to the grounds and grandstand. A great deal of the credit for the new approach which has been successful in raising both attendance and handle belongs to the youthful Prince Edward Islander Ingham Palmer, Jr., the track's manager, race secretary, announcer, public relations director, and program director among other minor positions. [Information and photo from Harness Horse]

Willie's Adios after winning the "Monctonian" in 2:03 2/5 for driver Dave Pinkney. Presenting the trophy to winning owners Mr. and Mrs. Eric Whebby is George Gay (extreme left) who in 1947 made the presentation in the inaugural edition of the event, now one of the foremost tests in the Maritimes.

1966 - Benoit Cote Opens Public Stable

​One of Quebec's most popular and accomplished horsemen, 32-year-old Benoit Cote, has announced his plans to open a public stable next spring. His 15 years in the sport have been well spent, learning from some top individuals starting with his father Alf in his native Quebec City. After working for the Roland Marquis stable for a while he then moved to the employ of Gerard Veilleux where he conditioned the likes of Chief Maid. Following a four-year stint he then became the head man with the Hubert Soucie owned Richelieu Farm.

While he enjoyed the association with the Soucie Stable he felt that his driving abilities were less in demand as they moved more toward the breeding aspect of the sport. After consultation with Mr. Soucie who encouraged him to start his own stable, the decision was made. He will continue to catch drive the Richelieu Farm horses whenever possible. Even beyond Benoit's horsemanship is his popularity among racing fans and his fellow friends on the backstretch.

Benoit recently turned down a lucrative offer to join a large U.S. operation based on the concern for his family which includes his wife and three youngsters. He stated "My place is in Quebec, close to my family."

1967 - Peterborough Awards Night

Oct. 21, 1967 - An enthusiastic crowd numbering around 350 horsemen and their families along with followers of the sport gathered at the Rock Haven Restaurant to celebrate the past season at Morrow Park. Drivers awards were handed out to veteran Cliff Hie of Cobourg who attained a U.D.R.S. average of 0.532 and Ray Lowery (pictured at right) who led all teamsters in trips to the winner's circle with 23 wins in 92 drives. Just one week prior to the banquet the season closed and Lowery finished the final night's card by winning the last three contests. The last of his victories came behind the venerable old performer Johnny Nick, a 14-year-old warrior well known in the area. "Johnny" had a great season in his final year of eligibility at the Raceway level and picked up 10 victories.

Officials from the Driving Club were extremely pleased at the increases over recent years in both wagering and attendance. With an average attendance of around 1700, the mutuel handle reached $986,454 or an average of about $46,000 per card. Rumors are circulating that a new grandstand could be in the works and if this happens an even greater appeal should be experienced.

Also in attendance for the evening was Peterborough's Mayor Joseph Behan, Cobourg Mayor Henan as well as Gordon Pepper, C.T.A. Publicity director, Tobe Harris representing the O.H.H.A., and judges Ernie Fox and Warren Paterson. Bill Gilders was on hand to file a report to the racing journals.

1968 - Honest Lady Enjoys Success on Major Circuit

Dresden-area farmer and horse owner Edgar Comeau had to be pleased at the performance of his four-year-old mare Honest Lady in 1968. After a good late season showing as a three-year-old which saw the daughter of Honest Jerry win four of six starts and take a record of 2:08 at the London track, she was placed in the stable of Jack Gordon. This meant competing on the tough O.J.C. circuit. After winning a qualifying start in early May, she soon adapted to the bigger ovals and quickly piled up victories at all three tracks, taking her season's best at Garden City where she stopped the timer in 2:03.3.

Honest Lady breezes home a winner in 2:05.4 at Greenwood Raceway on May 18, 1968 for her first win of the season and a new lifetime mark. Her winning time was just a few ticks slower than the Preferred Pace that day won by Tanya Herbert in 2:05.1.


Honest Lady and driver Jack Gordon appear in the winner's circle to close out the 1968 spring meeting at Greenwood.

Note: In last month's "Years Ago" a 'mystery' photo was displayed in an effort to determine the driver's identity. Unfortunately no conclusive answer was submitted as five different names were offered. My thanks to those who submitted possibilities. I will continue to search for a proper identity.

April 5, 2016 - 4:32 pmIn my formative years in

murray brown SAID...

In my formative years in Montreal at Blue Bonnets and Richelieu Park, Benoit Cote, Roger White and Jacques Hebert, together with Keith Waples personified everything that was wonderful about Harness Racing

April 5, 2016 - 11:40 amI remember Benoit Cote as the

Garth Gordon SAID...

I remember Benoit Cote as the private trainer for the Drummondville Stable. He wore their colours: blue and gold. I am only going by memory but the years I remember are from 1955 to 1962. I have three stories. The first was Chief Maid with Ben driving & Senator Sprangler with Phil Dussault driving finishing in a dead heat in 2:00 4/5 at Richelieu. It was a world record at the time. I was there. The second Ben cut the mile with Chief Maid when Mighty Dudley won in 1:59 2/5. He was mad at himself for getting down to the half too fast. The third was one Sunday afternoon at Richelieu, Ben trucked in three horses for the Drummondville Stable and won all three. A perfect gentleman a great horseman and a Hall of Famer.

April 5, 2016 - 10:46 amIt is nice to see my mother

Garth Gordon SAID...

It is nice to see my mother and father together. They were not together to often from 1953 to 1970 when my father died of a heart attack. My mother stayed home on the farm and did not travel with my father to the different tracks as a lot of wives did. The fellow holding the horse is Jim Murphy. He worked for my dad for a number of years as well with me. Later on he had his own stable. I bought him his first horse from Jack Kopas for $12000, his name was The Hammer. We were racing at Garden City Raceway. He put him in a 12000-15000 claimer, he put him in for 15000 and he had the 8 hole. The Hammer could really leave. Jim bet a lot of money on him. I was driving. He was on top before we got in to the first turn by two and won going away paying $58 to win. Jim took my family to the Lord Nelson Restaurant the next night. We had appetizers, steak, wine, dessert and after drinks Jim told me later on with the money he made betting & the purse money he almost had him paid for. Great memory.

April 2, 2016 - 12:12 pmI remember loading Honest

john tiffin SAID...

I remember loading Honest Lady in the trailer when she left for Jack Gordon's, I was 5 or 6 years old, crying my eyes out.

April 2, 2016 - 11:34 amIn the winners circle with

Charlie Reid SAID...

In the winners circle with Jack Gordon is his wife Florence, and holding the horse is Jimmy Murphy, originally from Kingston

April 2, 2016 - 10:08 amOne of the classiest people

One of the classiest people in the sport of harness racing. That captures the life and times and the very essence of Benoit Cote. If Ben had decided to move south of the border in his youth he would be in the same league as Stanley Dancer, Billy Haughton and Herve Filion. He was that good. Benoit decided to stay in his native Quebec yet still fashioned a hall of fame career. On occasion when Ben did venture south of the border they knew Benoit Cote was in town !!

I remember one time Del Miller could not be at Blue Bonnets to drive Delmonica Hanover and was asked what driver he was sending up to Montreal to drive Delmonica. He said "why would I send anyone else when I have the opportunity to ask Benoit Cote to drive my mare?" Mr. Miller was proven right because Ben drove Delmonica Hanover and set a world record!

Benoit still looks the same as he did 30 years ago. It is my pleasure to meet and speak with Ben every year at the Hambletonian.

Great coverage Robert. Our sport needs to remember the past and celebrate it.

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