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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1980s

Published: May 1, 2021 9:28 am ET

Last Comment: May 7, 2021 4:10 pm ET | 15 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind is another edition of the monthly feature Years Ago. This time all of the short stories, old photos and memories are based on the decade of the 1980's.

A great time in the history of Canadian harness racing and for that matter wherever else it was staged. Fans were attending races in large numbers, many new people were becoming involved and above all horses were travelling at speeds previously thought to be impossible.

1980 - Final Hambletonian Held At DuQuoin


The Haughton family on far right receives the Hambo trophy following a victory by Burgomeister. It was a day marked by much emotion by the family, as explained in this piece. (Courtesy of Hambletonian Society)

On August 30, 1980 the final Hambletonian to be held at DuQuoin, Illinois entered the history books. This annual event, which dates back to 1928, was moved here in 1957 from Goshen, N.Y. It enjoyed 24 consecutive years at this spot in Southern Illinois hosted by the Hayes family at what was referred to as "The Duquoin State Fair." This was a fairly remote area of the country surrounded by vast cornfields and open spaces. As Sports Illustrated writer Doug Looney put it at the time, DuQuoin "is reached by driving to the end of the world, then turning left."

The final Hambo at this spot turned out to be a victorious day for the family of Billy Haughton, but also a very emotional and sad event. The winning horse was Burgomeister owned by the Estate of Peter Haughton and Marcello Fiorentino, the former being the late son of Billy and Dottie Haughton who had died tragically in a car accident a few months prior to this time. The two eliminations were both won by Haughton entries, the first going to Final Score handled by Tommy Haughton and the second went to the eventual winner in rein to his father Billy.

In the final Burgomeister prevailed over his rivals while the other Haughton entry Final Score made a break midway through the race and finished a distant seventh; definitely not a factor in the outcome. Following this year the famed Hambo was moved to The Meadowlands racetrack where it remains some 40 years later. An old chapter was closed and a new one began.


Driver Billy Haughton returns to the winner's circle showing grief on his face after winning the 1980 Hambletonian with Burgomeister owned by his late son Peter. (Courtesy of Hambletonian Society)

In summing up the day harness writer Peter Lawrence wrote "Burgomeister's victory left no dry eyes at the track."

1982 - Dresden Raceway Report

September 1982 - As the season winds down at "Little Saratoga" racing continues with four cards each week. In the driver's race Terry Kerr, a 28-year-old horseman from Glanworth, Ont., leads in all categories. Currently his closest rival in points is Lyle Grineage and Fred Goudreau. In the average and wins column Kerr had a huge lead as shown in the chart below. At season's end awards were presented by both Molson's and Bulova Watch Co. to the leading drivers. Still driving were a few veteran reinsmen who were part of the original driver's colony when night racing started here back in 1966. See Trivia Question Below.


Track Records

A number of new or equalled track records were established this year with the oldest surviving record dating back just two years to 1980. Impressive among this year's new speed tabs was the mile in 2:01.2 set in late July by the two-year-old colt Bitter Batter. The son of Strike Out was driven to victory by Jack Warner who co-owns along with Bill Ellerington and Leon Paul. Veteran driver Fred List, a local product, holds three current track records including the all age pacing record of 1:58.4 set in 1981 by New Departure owned by Lyle Grant of Straffordville. Many years ago Fred's father Harry List was a popular driver in these parts. I have always wanted to find a picture of Harry but so far have not been successful.

1983 - Ideal Wilco Wins Presidents Cup At Scarborough Downs In Maine


Ideal Wilco and Rene Poulin appear in the winner's circle at Scarborough Downs after taking the 1983 Presidents Pace in record time. Photo courtesy of Northeast Harness News

The 1983 edition of the rather prestigious Presidents Pace race was won by an Ontario-bred horse named Ideal Wilco driven by Rene Poulin. At one time this race attracted mainly local horses from the New England area and carried a much smaller purse. In recent years the calibre of entrants had risen and along with it the purse had also steadily risen to $20,000.


Photo courtesy of Northeast Harness News

An excerpt from the Scarborough Downs archives read as follows:

"The roar of the crowd will never be forgotten, as trainer Jean Camirand's four-year-old provided the biggest President's Pace thrill, while pacing away from the likes of Truman, Animal House, Omaha Lus, Mountain Nitro and Gawain Butler, while eclipsing My Bill Forwood's former standard of 1:58.4. In the winner's circle driver Rene Poulin graciously accepted the 'Ten Foot' trophy, while mixing freely with the Maine fans, who had indeed witnessed a special moment at the harness races, a Downs, and State of Maine record, a mile in 1:57.3."

Ideal Wilco enjoyed a very productive and profitable two years in the O.S.S. as both a two- and three-year-old racing for Doug Courtney's Wheeling By Stable of Grand Bend, Ont. At two the grey son of Smog was virtually unbeatable for a time as he won his first nine races while setting several track records in the process. He was voted the two-year-old pacer of the year in Canada. After his three-year-old season he was sold. At this time Ontario bred horses were gaining in quality and popularity each year.

1987 - Laag Becomes Fastest Grey In History


Laag is shown in full flight for 'The Magic Man', driver Bill O'Donnell. Their mile in 1:51.3 in the Jersey Cup at the Meadowlands set a new record for grey horses

In 1987 Laag became the fastest grey harness horse in harness racing history. Although only a very small percentage of standardbreds are registered as grey (some say as low as 1%) they are always of special interest. At this time a gentleman named Albert Adams, executive vice-president of Almahurst Farm in Kentucky, had a special affinity for greys. He along with Earl Laviana owned Laag. The success of this horse placed him in special territory and helped to fulfill a lifelong dream of Mr. Adams to own such a great horse of his favourite shade. His dream dated back some 25 years to when he had been a groom at Almahurst.

In 1987 Laag became the first grey to pace a mile in 1:51.3 and only one of six horses of any colour to pace that sharply. Prior to this time the only grey horse to pace in under 1:55 was a mare named Watering Can who took a three-year-old record of 1:54.2. At this time she was a member of the Stoner Creek broodmare band.

Around this time Mr. Adams suffered a tremendous personal loss when the dam of Laag, a mare named Tinsel (who was also the dam of Trim The Tree ), died unexpectedly at the young age of 16. He had purchased her as a yearling for just $8,000 when another grey mare named Competent sold well out of his price range. She was a dream come true and he had recently turned down an offer of half million dollars for her.

Adams said, "I'm obsessed with the colour. To my eye there is nothing more beautiful than a grey horse racing to the wire."

Quote For The Week: "Why can't every day be either Sunday or Payday?"

Who Is It?

Here is a big task for our picture experts. Back in the late 1970's a horsemen's hockey team made up of mainly Ontario Jockey Club personnel was organized. The team which was attired in red jerseys adorned with a horseshoe, were undoubtedly open to all challenges but played numerous games against an Oshawa-based team organized by fellow horseman Doug Brown. Reports say that the Oshawa team was built around their superb goaltender.

The pictured team reportedly included a large contingent of "near great" hockey players, most were of NHL calibre according to scouting reports. Any team that has members known as "Thumper", "Animal" and "Swoop" has to be just naturally deep in talent.

P.S. - Don't forget to name the referee too.

Who Else Is It?

Can you put a name on this well-known horseman as he looked a few (and by few, close to 40) years ago.

Trivia Question From Dresden:

In 1982, three decades after Dresden Raceway started holding night time racing in 1966 at least four very senior drivers (most from the original colony) were still driving there on occasion. To qualify as an answer for this question these gents had to be born prior to 1920. Can you name them?

Note - I have four people in mind as I spotted their names while looking through some old 1982 programs but there may be more.

Be sure to check back during the coming week when the correct answers to the trivia question and the hockey photo will be revealed.

May 7, 2021 - 4:10 pmBill Hicks is the man in the

Bill Hicks is the man in the striped suit keeping law and order. Just wanted to make it official that he was the official! I can't help John Hill  with the missing names but somebody probably will.
Does anybody remember when hockey refs wore neckties as part of their on ice attire? 

May 7, 2021 - 9:52 amI think there are two hockey

John Hill SAID...

I think there are two hockey players not identified.
The fellow between Joe Heath and Garth and the one between Lou Grainger and Rick Curran

May 6, 2021 - 4:05 pmAnswers on this week's

Answers on this week's Quiz
On the hockey picture I am going to defer Garth's answers as he was a member of that illustrious team. If he missed any names I'm sure they were covered elsewhere. As always thanks to Garth for his interesting stories.
Who Else Is It? was to the amazement of no one Rheal Bourgeois.
Dresden Trivia - The four drivers from Dresden that I had in mind were the following showing their age at that time, with birth year in brackets: They were all listed as driving at that time.
Bill Habkirk - age 66  (1916)
"Jiggs" McFadden - age 68 (1914)
Ellis Dell - age 67 (1915)
Stan Maguire - age 64 (1918) 
Thanks to everyone for your input.

May 6, 2021 - 1:38 pmGarth you mentioned

Gord Brown SAID...

Garth you mentioned everyone's nickname but yours. I'm gonna say the C stood for Chippy!

May 6, 2021 - 12:23 pmI remember Rheal Bourgeois

I remember Rheal Bourgeois driving in Dresden quite often around 1982.
As for the other drivers, I would say Jiggs McFadden, William Habkirk, Stan Maguire, and Lorne Deighton. Possibilities include Ellis Dell, Wilfred Duford, Cec Coke, maybe Ross Johnston, Morris MacDonald, Gordon Lawrence, Alex McDougall??? Hard to remember if they were born before 1920 and drove after 1982. I’m pretty sure Fred Goudreau and Neil McRann weren’t old enough.

May 6, 2021 - 11:39 amThe Toronto postmen had a

Garth Gordon SAID...

The Toronto postmen had a couple of teams that we played against. And there was another team called the musicians. Doug Brown had a team with his brother Gordon playing goal. Gordon reminded me of Johnny Bower. Doug also had a high flying right winger Paul MacDonell that reminded me of Guy Lafleur. We used to play most of our games at the Leaside arena. Pete and Frank Mahovlich’s father Pete Sr had a little sports store there. We would buy a few things off of him and he would sharpen our skates. We never won too many games but we won all the fights thanks to Ben Wallace and Bill Dolby and Tom Murray standing behind Thumper up in right hand corner. I am surprised that no one guessed Dave Green standing to my left. I am the one with the “C” on because no one else wanted it. Dave had a good horse called Bridger that one the Maple Leaf Trot 2 or 3 times. In front of Dave is Rick Curran, Ross’s cousin. The goalie to the far left is Philip Bailey he worked for Ken Webb at the time. Without him we wouldn’t have won any games. Beside him is Dave Serle, who worked for Bill Carroll.

To Jim Morgan, you called him Lou but we called him Guy Lapointe after an all star defenceman that played for the Montreal Canadiens. Clark played defence and he liked that name. Missing from the photo is the late Ken Pollard who played defence with Clark and a guy by the name of Jay Blackwood that later became the racecaller at Calgary for a number of years. He had a wicked slap shot. And Hector Clouthier would put on the O.J.C. Sweater once in a while. And when he did our chances were pretty good at winning. Hector was a very good player. There were two goalies that we would call up from the minors every once in a while. Gary Kingshott and Ron Waples Jr. Great memories thanks once again Robert.

Who else is it? It’s up early in the morning hard working Rheal Bourgeois.

May 2, 2021 - 6:04 pmAnd yet another great story

jim morgan SAID...

And yet another great story Robert. We need your stories to keep us from going insane. Lol. Thanks to John Hill for pointing out Clark "Lou" Grainger in the hockey picture. It will be 3 years this December that we lost Clark. I miss him and think about "Lou" everyday.

May 2, 2021 - 5:08 pmLast image is of everyone's

John Horchik SAID...

Last image is of everyone's friend and great guy, Rheal Bourgeois.

May 2, 2021 - 1:49 pmWho is it-Front row, 3rd from

John Hill SAID...

Who is it-Front row, 3rd from left Barry Drury, 4th Lou "Clark" Grainger, goalie Tom Artandi
Standing, referee Bill Hicks, Ben Wallace, William "Dobsey" Dolby, Frank Parisiene, Joe Heath, white helmet Randy "Gorf" Cudney, trainer in toque James "Thumper" Thompson.

May 2, 2021 - 10:44 amTake a run at the hockey

Steve Jewitt SAID...

Take a run at the hockey team: back row left to right Ben Wallace, Bill Dolby, Frank kernel Parisian, Garth Gordon, Randy Cudney Referee the Honourable Bill Hicks Trainer Jimmy Thumper Thompson front row Barry PEE wee Drury and I would say the second goalie is Tom Artandi. Sorry for the spelling. Sonny

May 2, 2021 - 7:28 amI loved the annual horsemen’s

I loved the annual horsemen’s hockey tournament. Referee Bill Hicks, Ben Wallace, Bill Dolby, Frank Pariesene, Joe Heath, next three don’t know, Randy Cudney, Jimmy Thompson. Front row first two don’t know, Barry Drury, Harold Stead, next two don’t know and Tom Artandi. Great memories.

May 1, 2021 - 4:47 pmThe Last Photo is Rheal

The Last Photo is Rheal Bourgouis.

May 1, 2021 - 3:17 pmNo question. That is none

No question. That is none other than Rheal Bourgois

May 1, 2021 - 10:35 amWho is it? Rheal

Eric Sherban SAID...

Who is it? Rheal Bourgeois
Trivia from Dresden - I'm guessing Jiggs McFadden is one. Guessing others could be Family names Campbell, Lawrence, Kopas?

May 1, 2021 - 10:13 amthe second picture is Rheal

kent benson SAID...

the second picture is Rheal Bourgeois


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