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Rewind: The Story Of Johnny Bing

Published: April 20, 2019 10:35 am ET

Last Comment: April 26, 2019 11:59 am ET | 15 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind column Robert Smith recalls the long and colourful career of a horse named Johnny Bing. His rugged demeanor and stamina helped him enjoy a very long lifetime on a lengthy list of raceways, both large and small. His list of accomplishments may be considered mediocre by today's standards but a half century ago he was a standout, known and admired by many fans of racing. I hope some people still remember him.

Hard working people and hard working horses have long captured the fancy of nearly everyone involved with our sport. When you give your best, try hard and stick to the task it's hard to go wrong. A horse with the catchy name of Johnny Bing was that kind of horse. I think his memory is worth reviving.

Johnny Bing a foal of 1962 was the son of Capetown (who once a part of the Armbro farm roster), and from the trotting mare Ramona Grace, who had a record of around 2:06. He was a bit of a late bloomer on the racing scene but was busy at other activities such as siring his first foal named Jimmy Bing at age two. Unraced as a two-year-old, the still young fellow did not make it to the races until September of his three-year-old season which was 1965. That year at the Belleville Labour Day weekend races he made his first career start. With his owner, trainer and breeder Don Chatterson of Brighton, Ont. in the bike he won his first start. The time was 2:16.1; the purse was an even $100.00. Not a king's ransom but the start to a pretty productive career. A week later he went on to another win at Belleville, followed by a further trip to the winner's circle at nearby Warkworth during its annual race day.

It was then time for a step up and he was taken to the late fall meeting at Mohawk. He closed out the 1965 season with a total of nine starts which yielded five wins, one second and two thirds. His first year bankroll was just a $2.00 bill (no toonies in those days) short of $800.00. He ended up taking a respectable mark of 2:10.1 with Rejean Boily in the sulky at Mohawk. At the age of four he went on to a four-win season for Mr. Chatterson, two with Carman Hie driving. He lowered his best time to 2:07.

At the age of five the horse was sold to a gentleman by the name of Robert D. "Benny" Peters who then listed Weston as his home base, later of Havelock. He handed over a reported $3,000 to become the proud owner of the then up-and-coming Johnny Bing. I believe he would go on to be his only owner in a lifetime that lasted some 24 years. At this point another important part of this remarkable horse's career emerged. Owner Peters hired a young 25-year-old trainer and driver named Guy Larush to handle his new purchase and the balance of his modest stable. Their names remained "paired" pretty much from then on as many years of successes followed. Their first year together set the stage for the future as together they tallied nine wins and season's earnings of almost $10,000. Johnny also took a new lifetime record of 2:03.4 at Rideau Carleton that year.

Johnny Bing and driver Guy Larush shown in a winning effort at the old Garden City track in 1970. This was but one of his 68 lifetime victories.

In 1970 at the age of eight Johnny's career appeared to be over when he broke a sesamoid bone. His handlers feared he would never return to the track but after over a six-month layoff he returned in 1971 and enjoyed his best season ever winning over $28,000 that season. His rise in class meant that he raced against much of the best aged talent in competition at that time. He met and defeated the likes of Armbro Intrigant, Commander Del, Caroldons Knight, Swinging Time, Canny Choice, Armbro Knox and Non Stop to name just a few. He won nine races that year and scored victories at six different tracks: Greenwood, Mohawk, Garden City, Rideau Carleton, Kingston and Orangeville.

That same year of 1971 saw Johnny take his lifetime record of 2:03 competing in an event at Garden City in mid-July that carried a purse of $5,500, the richest event he ever won. Perhaps his finest lifetime performance came at Rideau Carleton in mid-June when he won the $3,000 Labatt's Invitational. In a statement about that race Guy Larush said "that night Johnny paced a last half in :59.1 and beat Swinging Time and Canny Choice in 2:03 and a piece. They just couldn't get to him that night and there he showed he was a two-minute horse."

In early October that season Johnny scored his final victory of the season at Orangeville as he took the featured race that day an Invitational Handicap for a purse of $1,200 stopping the clock in 2:06 flat. Two races earlier Guy Larush also scored a win with Johnny's son Jimmy Bing in 2:07 flat. In between, the Invitation handicap trot was won by Protector Donledo driven by Nelson White in 2:08 flat. Perhaps fractions were not being recorded that Sunday afternoon.

Larush (pictured at right) also stated some pretty lofty comments at the time of the horse's passing in 1986. "Johnny was always better on a five-eighths track because he would touch his knees a bit plus was always good in the mud. The only complaint I ever had with him was that he was tough to get back racing after a layoff. I still say he was the best horse I ever drove." Johnny's dam Ramona Grace turned out to be quite a productive broodmare as she left not only him but also his half brother R Yankee Wann, sired by Yankee Chief, who was at one time the fastest and richest Canadian bred standardbred as of his passing in 1970.

At the end of the 1976 season Johnny was officially retired at Kawartha Downs where he had often raced and won. That final season he was still the profile of durability as he started 42 times. Despite the lateness of the season as it was November 27th, a crowd of over 2,100 cheering fans showed up for his send off. In a special non-wagering race Johnny faced two of his sons and two daughters. As fate would have it he finished second to his son Jimmy Bing, a double-gaited performer that he had I believe often raced against. At the finish of the race the judges detected that Jimmy was pacing while his listed gait at the time was trotting. Larush and Johnny were moved up to the win spot by the judges, needless to say much to the delight of everyone in attendance.

Ruth Peters (owner), Johnny Bing, Guy LaRush (driver-trainer) and Jim Feltis making the presentation to the connections in Johnny Bing's retirement race on November 27 at Kawartha Downs (Can. Sportsman)

Johnny Bing, the 14-year-old pacer, surrounded by friends in the winner's circle after winning the retirement pace at at Kawartha Downs (Can. Sportsman)

On April 5, 1986 Johnny Bing passed away in his stall at the farm of his long-time owner Benny Peters. He was 24 years old at the time and had been retired from racing for 10 years. He went to his eternal reward after thrilling many people during an era when fan favourites were in vogue. In a career that spanned parts of two decades he went to the post an amazing 338 times, coming home a winner on 68 occasions to go along with 52 seconds and 56 third place finishes. His career earnings stood at $116,116; not too bad for a $3,000 investment. It is a nice time in history to remember.

Note: I would like to acknowledge the assistance of well-known harness racing journalist Harold Howe for the research he provided in an article published in the Canadian Sportsman back in April 1986.

HAPPY EASTER to all in the reading audience as we celebrate a late Easter this year. It is a wonderful time of year as we see the magic of nature with the return of green grass and the warmth of the sun. It can't come too soon.

Where Was It?

Can you identify this once well-known timepiece and where it was located? I wonder if anyone knows where it now is (I don't). The answer of what it is will be given during the coming week.

April 26, 2019 - 11:59 amSpecial note to Ron

Special note to Ron Males:
Johnny Bing raced at Warkworth Ont. on Sept. 18, 1965 in a two heat race which carried a purse of $ 120.00. In the first heat he won with owner Don Chatterson up. In the second he finished third to Gymbow Grattan owned and driven by Donald Towns of Roseneath. On that day Freddy Pick won the Free For All driven by Ken Harnden who also drove Direct Fire then a 12 year old to a two heat victory in the Invitation Trot & Pace. As you undoubtedly know both of these horses had the same ownership the O'Connell's of Roseneath.

April 25, 2019 - 8:44 pmRemember theses horses very

ron males SAID...

Remember theses horses very well, but don't remember Johnny racing in Warkworth. He raced in Campbellford I think... and yes, Guy was a great driver and drove for us many times. Those were the good ole days

April 24, 2019 - 2:07 pmThis week's picture was the

This week's picture was the beautiful old clock tower at the site of Old Woodbine and later Greenwood Raceway. I have no idea of its history and just hope that somewhere it still exists.
Thanks to the many people who commented on this week's Rewind; it seems that Johnny Bing captured the fancy of many people from a wide ranging area. The sharing of your thoughts added a very important dimension to the story.

April 23, 2019 - 6:01 pmIt certainly was Dale.

It certainly was Dale. Wonder what they did with it. Hope it is in a museum. Remember those days so well and so fondly. Guy drove many horses for us at Kawartha Downs. He left us too soon but Judy is still here.

April 21, 2019 - 10:15 pmThank you Robert for a

Thank you Robert for a another walk down memory lane..Johnny Bing...Benny and Ruth Peters and Guy and Judy Larush were a big part of how I was raised ...a race track brat who grow up in the barns and backstretch of local race tracks in Ontario...I had such a feeling of pride to see my father Dons name in this many small time breeders trainers and owners and drivers never get remembered without wonderful articles like this one..keep up the great work I look forward to ever Saturdays article...

April 21, 2019 - 7:49 amGuy LaRush and Johnny Bing

Guy LaRush and Johnny Bing were a formidable team every time they lined up behind the starting gate. If there ever was a "people's horse" in the Ottawa Valley it was Johnny Bing. He did not have "blue blood" breeding but his heart and determination carried him to many wins throughout his remarkable career. Of course Guy LaRush should be given a lot of credit for Johnny's success. Guy was an excellent horseman and along with his beautiful spouse Judy made a positive impact on the sport of harness horse racing.

Robert, thanks for this heart warming story.

April 21, 2019 - 6:55 amFondly remember Johnny Bing

pat dillon SAID...

Fondly remember Johnny Bing and Guy LaRush. Guy was a gentleman and always took the time to talk to you. I agree with the previous comment that more afternoon racing would be welcome. As a young kid growing up, afternoon racing gave me an opportunity to attend the races. It's important to allow our next generation of fans the exposure of this great sport.

April 20, 2019 - 4:26 pmIt was on the roof at

Dale Leiska SAID...

It was on the roof at Greenwood raceway on Coxwell and Queen St in Eastern Toronto

April 20, 2019 - 3:47 pmGuy LaRush was a fan

Guy LaRush was a fan favourite at Kawartha Downs. Also Blaise MacDonnell, Jerry Robinson and Junior West. A few new drivers Doug Brown, Gord Brown, Tony Kerwood, and Paul MacDonnell would go on to drive some of the greatest horses in Standardbred racing history. I fondly remember working right beside a young Tony Kerwood at General Motors Car Assembly Plant in Oshawa, Ontario, on the cushion line, for I believe 3 days. I am so thankful Tony decided to give up General Motors for a life in harness racing. Tony's dad Frank, Ron Luke and I watched Niatross win the Little Brown Jug. Those were great memories.

April 20, 2019 - 3:05 pmThis article sure tugged at

This article sure tugged at my heart and my pride. I loved all the Bings and all the people connected with them. I groomed both Johnny and Jimmy, but had Jimmy longer and he is maybe, my all time favourite horse. He qualified on the trot one night before the races at Kawartha Downs and raced on the pace in the fourth race that night!!! I even remember his tattoo # 9152E . Believe me that is something for me to remember because everyday was pretty foggy for me back then. lol Robert, THANK YOU for this article.

April 20, 2019 - 1:39 pmGreenwood Raceway. The clock

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Greenwood Raceway. The clock at 1 pm is probably post time for the first race. Afternoon racing was great and it should be something that the power in charge should implement again for standardbred racing.

April 20, 2019 - 12:54 pmGreenwood Raceway.

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Greenwood Raceway.

April 20, 2019 - 12:51 pmI remember Johnny and Jimmy

jim morgan SAID...

I remember Johnny and Jimmy Bing and Guy Larush from the old Bellville Raceway and Kawartha Downs. Guy also trained horses for my uncle Albert Defosse. Thanks Robert, I enjoy reading about the Bellville and Kawartha days.

April 20, 2019 - 12:41 pmMy all time favorite horse...

My all time favorite horse... AND WHATTA HORSE!!!! Johnny, Judy and Guy raced for me wherever I worked, Connaught Park, Rideau, Orangeville and Western Fair... In my first draw as race secretary at WFR. I wanted to start my tenure with a bang, so I called Guy and asked him if he would bring him him to London for my grand opening. Guy said "of course."
Guy was a very good horseman and even a nicer man, and he was lucky enough to have a great partner [Judy] who trained Guy as well as Guy trained Johnny. Johnny could race on the front end, from the middle of the pack, or trail the field, and pass them all in the stretch.
It truly was a pleasure to read the story, and remember a GREAT horse and a wonderful time for harness racing.

April 20, 2019 - 12:12 pmI remember Johnny Bing, Jimmy

Bob Boyd SAID...

I remember Johnny Bing, Jimmy Bing and Guy La Rush.
Guy told me when Johnny was in the trailer and they were turning onto the road for the Peters
Farm Johnny would start kicking in the trailer, he knew he was home!
Jimmy Bing (Johnny’s son) would race on the trot one week, and the pace the next week!

The Clock Tower picture is from the old Greenwood Racetrack.
I think

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