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SC Rewind: 1984 Confederation Cup

Published: May 19, 2018 9:49 am ET

Last Comment: May 22, 2018 4:11 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's 'Rewind,' Robert Smith recalls a special Confederation Cup victory at Flamboro Downs 34 years ago. With this year's renewal close at hand, it is timely to recall this memorable race day in history.

On The Road Again and driver Wm. "Buddy" Gilmour reach the Flamboro finish wire with room to spare as they annex the 1984 Confederation Cup. Prominent in the photograph is the winning time showing all the splits of a record-setting performance. This was a great day in Canadian harness racing.

Way back on Sunday, August 19, 1984, a huge throng of people filled the premises at Flamboro Downs. A tradition already in its eighth year was about to add another chapter to its growing history. It was Confederation Cup Day. The previous seven were "dandies" and this one would surely be as well.

The first ever Cup day was held in 1977, two years after Flamboro opened. It was a great start and the three-heat affair was taken handily by a U.S. invader named Governor Skipper, who went on to win that year's Little Brown Jug. Handled superbly by the great horseman Johnny Chapman, "The Skipper" posted all 1's in his two heats, leading from start to finish in the elimination and final. The inaugural field included some very impressive entrants, both equine and human. It even featured a dead heat in one of the elims.

​Hall of fame horseman Johnny Chapman, originally from Toronto, returned to Ontario to capture the inaugural Confederation Cup in 1977 at Flamboro Downs with Governor Skipper shown above. The first ever Cup carried a purse of $75,200 and included two elimination heats and a final.

​When the 1984 Cup was contested it marked a number of firsts, none the least of which was the initial Canadian race for the sensational Happy Motoring - Bye Bye Mollie colt named On The Road Again. For driver Bud Gilmour it marked his first start in this race, which was billed as the second leg of Canada's triple crown. Also for first time in the Cup's history, the outcome would be decided in just one race; no eliminations this year.

With a purse of $202,500 on the line, just eight other entrants cared to try their luck against arguably the hottest horse on the planet at the time. On The Road Again (referred to as OTRA) was in the midst of a phenomenal three-year-old campaign. He had already earned his owners Gord and Illa Rumpel of Calgary $1.3 million and there was a lot of the 1984 season still ahead.

In addition to the generous purse for the race, Flamboro Downs was offering a $100,000 bonus to any horse that could break the half-mile track world record of 1:54.3 set by Temujin back in 1982. In the way of an update that amount in 2018 dollars adjusted for inflation would be in the neighbourhood of $221,500 today. As it turned out the track did not have to part with the incentive money but the fans did get a speed show like none before it.

As the horses left the gate, Betrayal was first away for Yves Filion. This colt knew a bit about winning as he had won ten straight back home at Blue Bonnets. As the field approached the quarter pole the timer showed :27.4, just as Pat Crowe guided Greener Pastures onto the lead. As they passed the stand Crowe retained command while OTRA was parked out as he had been from the start. At the three-eighths King Towner, in rein to Ben Webster, made a serious break and was soon out of contention. Thankfully his miscue did not affect the rest of the field.

Once the minor confusion caused by the breaking horse was cleared OTRA began his move as they reached the half in: 56.4 and gained command. He controlled the field from that point on reaching the finish line in 1:56.1. This mark established a new Canadian record for a half-mile track breaking the current standard of 1:56.4 which had been set on this very track by Abercrombie in winning the second Confederation Cup back in 1978.

Flamboro's Charles Juravinski on the far right welcomes some very happy owners of On The Road Again. In the centre of the photo are Gord and Illa Rumpel with their daughter-in-law Erin on the far left along with granddaughter Sara

Trailing the winner for second spot was Greener Pastures, a son of Abercrombie handled by Pat Crowe who earned a shade over $50,000 for his owners Norm Clements, Norm Faulkner, Bahnam Yousif and Greg Coleman. In third was Holmes Hanover for New Jersey owners and driver Carl LeCause. Taking the last two money-paying finishes was the Bob McIntosh-trained entry of Mannart Maple Leaf (Dave Wall) in fourth and Lustras Big Guy (Trevor Ritchie) nailing down fifth spot.

Following the exciting victory an elated Buddy Gilmour told reporters "This is home country, I gotta win here." When asked about the missed chance at the $100,000 jackpot for a world record he said "We're more interested in winning, the day was all right for going for it but we don't need it."

Immediately following the race an unusual and perhaps never seen before event took place. OTRA's owner Mr. Gordon Rumpel operated a high-end automobile business back in Calgary, specializing in some rather nice imported vehicles. Once the excitement of the winner's circle festivities had subsided a brand new Audi 5000S was driven onto the track and presented to a very surprised Bud Gilmour. Mr. Rumpel summed up the gesture by saying "for everything he's done for us, from the Rumpel family."

Leading up to this day the then 52-year-old Gilmour had been in the sulky for every one of the colt's eighteen seasonal starts with the exception of one. On that occasion which resulted in not only a win but a track record at Chicago's Maywood Park, Ron Waples had subbed for him. At the start of the season Mr. Rumpel had asked his trainer Harry Poulton about his choice for a driver as it appeared even then that OTRA could be in for a record season. "Buddy Gilmour." The reply was immediate and without reservation.

A smiling Bud Gilmour following his Confederation Cup victory with On The Road Again

This day was a homecoming of sorts for Buddy Gilmour. Originally from the Lucan area, Bud started his career in the sport working for Clint Hodgins and "Ancaster" Bill Harvey. Certainly one of the most talented horsemen to ever come out of Canada, Gilmour had spent the better part of the past four decades campaigning almost exclusively on U.S. soil after starting his career at the fabled Dufferin Park. His visits to Canada were infrequent but certainly much appreciated. The Flamboro track announcer mentioned his name several times during this race; no other driver got a second call.

I recall seeing Bud in May of 2011 when London celebrated their 50th anniversary. Just a very few days later he passed away, almost seven years ago to this very day.

On this day many of his family members and friends were in attendance. In fact 21 charter members of the Buddy Gilmour Fan Club were reportedly on hand in the Flamboro winner's circle. Now 34 years later I wonder if many of them are still in the reading audience today.

My thanks to Barbara Lennox and Heather MacKay for leaving us with an excellent description of this special day.

Who is it?

Can you put the correct name on this gentleman? The answer will appear during the coming week.

May 22, 2018 - 4:11 pmThis week's not too puzzling

This week's not too puzzling mystery photo was Harry Poulton, long time trainer of many fine horses including On The Road Again and Matts Scooter among others. This gentleman is a native of P.E.I. and learned his early lessons from his father Oliver Poulton. Thanks to those who responded.

May 20, 2018 - 8:19 amOnce again, thank you, Mr

Once again, thank you, Mr Smith, for a return in time to one of the greatest drivers in the sport. Harry Poulton.

May 19, 2018 - 2:18 pmHarry Poulton - trainer of On

W Doug HIe SAID...

Harry Poulton - trainer of On The Road Again and Matt's Scooter.

May 19, 2018 - 10:55 amNice to see OTRA and Buddy

Bert Clish SAID...

Nice to see OTRA and Buddy Gilmour featured. Buddy was a top driver. The man in the picture is Harry Poulton. Thanks for story.

May 19, 2018 - 10:08 amHarry Poulton.

Gord Brown SAID...

Harry Poulton.

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