SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s

SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s
Published: April 6, 2024 12:55 pm EDT

This week's Rewind is the regular monthly feature 'Years Ago' and this time around it's all about the happenings from about 50 years ago, hence the 1970's.  What an exciting time it was in the world of harness racing.  Robert Smith has located a number of old photos and short stories that highlight happenings from back then.  

1972 - Windsor Driver Reaches Milestone 

Dec. 1, 1972 - A Friday night crowd of 4,455 was on hand for two feature races at the Windsor oval part of a series which had been ongoing for the past few weeks.  In the trotting event of "The Huronian" the winner was a local favourite Claybrook Van.  The eight-year-old gelding, owned by Wilfred Duford of Dresden, was driven to victory by his son Jerry.  The veteran trotter took command at the quarter pole and was never headed as he opened up a two-length lead.  Challenged by both Angelo Pick (Dokey) who ended up third and Keystone Gary (Wm. Wellwood) second, he eventually widened his lead to three lengths at the wire. 

This was Claybrook Van's 11th victory of the season raising his earnings to $54,513 for the year and just over the $125,000 mark for his careeer. His time of 2:05 was pretty good considering the time of year.  He was coupled with Dillon Song as an entry in the wagering but still managed to go off at 3-1 odds.  

Claybrook Van and Jerry Duford at Windsor Raceway

Jerry Duford holding Claybrook Van at Windsor Raceway in 1979

In the pacing division of "The Huronian" it was another local horse Wonderful Gene who turned in a winning effort.  Owned and trained by Bruce Fulmer and his wife Frances of nearby LaSalle,  the three-year-old came from last place at the half to take the lead which he held safely until the finish.  Mike Novick Jr. was in the bike as this youngster took his second win of the series.  In a dead heat for second was Grover C (Sylvester) and Key Creed (Adamsky).  Time of the mile was 2:05.2.  Later in his racing career Wonderful Gene switched gaits and raced successfully for a number of years in the upper classes on the trot in the Gerald Aiken stable and owner Don Morritt of Thorndale. 

In the 4th race yet another local favourite, this time a driver, was in the spotlight.  A young 25-year-old who grew up in the shadow of the Windsor track scored his 1,000th career win.  In so doing he became the third youngest driver to reach this lofty plateau.  Please check today's photo quiz for more about this milestone victory. 

On this same weekend Windsor Raceway officials made arrangements to have 6 TV sets tuned into current football action for track patrons. Three were to cover the Grey Cup game,  while the other three were tuned into the Detroit Lions - Green Bay Packers game.  

1977 - Royal Brat Records 2:00.3 Mile At Flamboro 

Royal Brat

Royal Brat and driver Harold J. "Buddy" Wellwood record a fast mile over the Flamboro track 

June 23 - The Flamboro racing surface and the speed it can produce was again in evidence this evening.  The Downs' present track record holder Royal Brat once again logged a fast mile stopping the timer in a swift 2:00.3. In the evening's feature event, a $3,000 pacing affair, the bay altered son of Linworth Brat - Royal Aileen led all the way, closing in eased-up fashion scoring his first win of the season.  This now seven-year-old homebred was driven by Harold "Buddy" Wellwood and is owned by his father Harold Sr. of Stratford, Ont.  

The Flamboro half-miler was designed and built with speed in mind.  Its banked turns and spiral grading is conducive to generating better times.  A number of horses have already taken new lifetime marks at this track.  Upcoming on September 3rd is the first Confederation Cup and track officials are hopeful for a large number of entries.  It is very possible that a new speed mark will be in the making.  Organizers are bent on making this a classic event.  

1977 - Richest Race Announced

Meadowlands Pace

Early in May of 1977,  The Meadowlands announced that this rather new track would be staging a race with the richest purse in American harness or thoroughbred history.  The race, named The Meadowlands Pace, will be a late closing event for three-year old-colt pacers, to be held the night of Tuesday, July 12, 1977.  The purse is expected to be at least $400,000. The announcement was made by David A. (Sonny) Werblin, Chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Expo Authority.  

The previous richest American harness race was the 1976 Hambletonian held at DuQuoin Illinois which carried a purse of $263,524. In thoroughbred circles,  the richest event to date was the 1968 Washington Futurity at Arlington Park. It went for $385,350.  Interestingly both of these record setting tracks were located in Illinois. 

The Meadowlands Pace heads a new major late closing program that will begin June 30th and go through the month of July.  The first ever Woodrow Wilson Pace for two-year-olds is also on tap and will carry a purse estimated to be in the $250,000 range.  The era of big purses had officially begun. 

1977 - Roses Are Red Equals Canadian Mark 

Roses Are Red

Photo courtesy of The Standardbred magazine archives 

Grand Circuit week at Montreal's Blue Bonnets track was highlighted by a large number of outstanding performances.  One of the many exciting races saw the brilliant three-year-old filly Roses Are Red pace in 1:57 flat.  This time equalled the existing Canadian record held by Skipper Dexter set in 1976.  The seven-horse field featured some of the best sophomore filly pacers on the continent.  

The highly regarded Roses Are Red from the barn of Jack Kopas was heavily favoured and hoping for good racing luck.  After all, this race was being held on Friday the 13th. Just a week earlier this filly had been the victim of being in a bad place during a race at Saratoga.  Another top filly, Kris Messenger, made a break right in front of her ruining her chances along with several others.  Kopas had this on his mind from the get go and made sure he didn't get behind Delvin Miller and Kris. He was also aware of the date which he did not feel would be a factor. 

The plan worked out and Roses Are Red was victorious in the $19,900 event and as mentioned the winning time equaled a Canadian record.  A late close by Ella Hanover and driver Fred Grant made for one of the most exciting finishes of the entire Montreal week of Grand Circuit action.   

Quote For The Week: This week's quote even includes a picture.

Quote for the Week

Who Is It?  

Who Is It photo question

Can you correctly identify this young driver shown holding up a plaque he received following his 1,000th career win?  

Trivia Question: When this fellow reached his 1,000th win he became the third youngest driver to ever do so at age 26 (about to turn 27). Can you name the other two who reached this number at a younger age?  Both were Canadians. One was 24, the other 26 at the time they hit the 1,000 mark. 

Who Else Is It?  

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you correctly identify this gentleman?  He did most of his racing in the U.S. but he was a Canadian by birth.  

Blast From The Past 

Blast from the Past

Here is a page from a Mohawk program dated November 1971. It shows a field of pretty nice trotters and interesting connections.  



Our experts were "Right on the ball" once again and solved both photos. In the upper photo was Gregory John Wright displaying his new plaque for winning his 1000th race lifetime. I did not mention the winning horse but it was J R Rocky from the barn of noted colt developer Russ Miller of Dutton, Ont. This horse was mentioned during a recent Rewind when he was claimed for $21,000 later in 1972 which at the time was a record figure.
Who else? photo was John "Guy" Gilmour who spent a lot of years at Monticello where he was somewhat legendary..
In the trivia question "Young" David Darocy was first in with the the names Herve Filion and Ronnie Feagan as the two youngest drivers to reach the 1000 plateau in the win column prior to Greg. It's hard to have a trivia question that Herve isn't involved in the answer. 
Thanks again to everyone for your interest . 

Just one more story on John Gilmour. He always wore a big old Stetson cowboy hat. I think the trivia question is Ron Feagan and Gil Lachance .

Based on a couple of answers to this week's Trivia question I suspect there might be a slight misunderstanding. If that is true I apologize if the wording caused any confusion. When the Windsor driver in question reached the 1,000 win milestone in 1972 he was the third youngest driver to reach that plateau. Therefore the two previous drivers had already accomplished it. A couple or three names submitted such as Doug McNair, Scott Zeron, etc. are not quite that old I don't believe. Hope this helps.

Ron Feagan and Doug McNair

Doug McNair, Scott Zeron

Doug McNair, Scott Zeron

Who is it is Greg Wright. Who else is it is John G Gilmour brother to William “Buddy” , George trainer of Dexter Nukes and Lloyd Gilmour . In the 80’s and 90’s when I sent my horses to race at Monticello in the N.Y. Sires Stakes John always drove them for me if I wasn’t there. He won a few for me. Thanks Robert for the great memories in those years.

Who is it? Greg Wright Sr.
Trivia Question: Herve Filion and Ron Feagan.
Who else is it? Maybe Lloyd Gilmour.

Greg Wright
Al Bowman?

Greg Wright aka Elvis. Just a guess Ron MacArthur actually no clue. McNair, Jamieson?

#1 Greg Wright, and he was the last Trainer/Driver to win both awards at The Meadowlands. Drove some great horses.

Who else, the one and only, John (Guy) (Sep) Gilmour

Greg Wright. A great driver and one of the top all around horsemen of all time.

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