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SC Rewind: A Special Mother

Published: May 7, 2016 8:36 am ET

Last Comment: May 7, 2016 9:56 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith offers a special salute to all of the great mothers we have known over the years as we observe Mother's Day this Sunday. He also recalls a great equine 'mother' who was a central part of one of the truly great families of mares to ever grace our sport.

I would like to extend a very Happy Mother's Day to everyone in the Rewind audience on this special day. We all owe much to our own mother and also to many other great women who have been part of our extended families and thus had an effect on our upbringing and well-being. I was privileged to have a wonderful mother who of course has long since departed but I thank her for her love and understanding and apologize for not paying closer attention to her words. To my wonderful wife, I am forever indebted for her dedication to motherhood and also our daughters who have learned from her caring example.

​Dalyce Blue and owner-driver Dr. John Findley (then at age 34) receive a sterling silver tray from Race Secretary George Giguere at Richelieu Park in November 1958.

​Back in August of 2012 the great mare Dalyce Blue was officially enshrined in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in the "Legends" Category. An honour well-deserved and undoubtedly a bit overdue. Horses that are bred, trained, driven and owned by the same person for an entire lifetime are pretty special and also somewhat of a rarity nowadays​.​ This is a story I believe worth telling and a horse worthy of remembering for a variety of reasons. I feel personally a bit privileged to have had many good "chats" with Dr. John Findley about this wonderful mare​; a few of the tales I may have even heard twice!

One of the truly great and memorable trotters of a half century ago is still well remembered by veteran race fans; she is unlikely to ever be forgotten. Her name, Dalyce Blue was​ a "special" name in a long succession of well thought out monikers by her breeder, owner and most often driver, Dr. John Findley of Arnprior, Ont. The good Doctor, who is now a spry ​91 ​years young, named some of the foals of the mare Sheila Lee after beauty queens or at least the inspiration for their names came from that direction. The idea all came about many years previous to this when "Doc" was met in the winner's circle at Connaught Park by Dalyce Smith (no relation) as part of a promotional event. He asked permission of the then "Miss Canada" to incorporate her name and the idea caught on. Obviously the colts didn't get the same treatment getting names like Arnprior.

Dalyce Blue was a foal of 1956, the result of a mating between Ezra Blue (a sire that Dr. Findley still raves about) and a Madawaska Farm mare called Sheila Lee that raced with distinction on the trot for the Findley Farm dating back to the days of Thorncliffe Park. Dalyce was the mare's second foal and a good one she was, following in the footsteps of her full sister​ ​​Cathy Diggles -- ​a Futurity winner and another outstanding ​trotting ​pupil from the Findley Stable.

​Dr. Findley recalls that sometimes the best decisions you make are not always necessarily well planned. ​His first plan was to breed Sheila Lee to a well-known horse of the day called The Diplomat, a pacing horse with a trotting-based pedigree. Due to circumstances beyond his control this was not possible and the choice of Ezra Blue was made and he has never regretted it for a moment.

The young​ ​Dalyce started her racing career in 1958 at age two and did it with the style and class that would mark the remainder of her career. Brought along slowly in the Findley camp, she made her career debut on July 25th at Arnprior winning both heats of a $200 Purse event. After racing at several locations, she finished out what was then considered a very good freshman season, winning eight of her nine starts and putting over $3,000 in the Findley bank account. Her speed record was 2:09.4 taken on her last start at Richelieu Park, a time that made her the first two-year-old Canadian-sired trotter to take a record under 2:10. A bit earlier she had also trotted a mile in 2:10 flat at Montreal.

She went on to a lengthy career racing on both sides of the border in colt and aged competition​, earning a lifetime total of $90,000. She was even an entrant and money winner in the 1961 Maple Leaf Trot...I believe driven by Keith Waples when Dr. John was injured​. ​She competed as an entry along with stablemate Peaches Atom (John Hayes Sr.)​ in the race won by Tie Silk. When Dr. John talks about this special mare, he does so with a special passion in his voice for not only what she did for him but also what he learned from being around her.

The picture accompanying this piece at the top has a "cute" story attached to it and I hope I have it correctly recorded. The track management at Richelieu Park had decided to honour Dalyce Blue as well as another outstanding performer that season: Homestead Dan, a three-year-old owned by Osler Burrison of the Rice Lake area who had both recorded excellent mile times for their age and gait. The plan was to present a silver tray to each following an upcoming race. In the case of Homestead Dan, it was announced when this would take place and perhaps the Montreal fans knew with certainty that if "Dan" and driver Jack Gordon were already scheduled into the winner's circle it might be a good time to bet him. Well, as most people know, things are not always predictable in a horse race and as fate would dictate Homestead Dan made it to the winner's circle but NOT as the race winner, just to collect his silver tray. The Montreal race fans were some upset and were not too shy in displaying their displeasure.

Thankfully when it came to Dalyce Blue's turn, Richelieu Park management decided to hold the ​ceremony before the race, not following despite the rock solid assurance from Dr. Findley that he would win the race​ ​(​which he did )​. In this case everything went "according to script" and the presentation took place in a friendly setting.

Dalyce Blue Wins The Suffolk Downs Three-Year-Old Trot - 1959

In September of 1959 Dalyce Blue was shipped to East Boston, Mass. to Suffolk Downs, a rather unusual spot as it was known mainly as a thoroughbred track. This year a Standardbred meeting was offered and the Stakes program was a most lucrative one. On opening night Dalyce Blue was an upset winner in the headline event, trotting home in 2:04.3 to take the major share of the $28,400 purse. She ​beat a select field of 10​ that included Sara Black, who was considered almost unbeatable that season as she won 12 of 15 starts. Also included in the field was Tie Silk, a horse that later became well known to Canadian fans.

Additionally Dr. Findley won another event on the card with​ ​​Leezof​f thus making him the meeting's temporary leading driver. In notching the win, Dalyce Blue became the first Canadian-sired trotting filly to ever win a colt race beating an "Open" field​ (meaning both colts and fillies). At the same time her sub-2:05 mile made history as the first Canadian-sired filly to do so at age three. The Suffolk Downs track was a one-mile track. ​Despite competing for lesser purses through much of the year, Dalyce earned an unbelievable total of $36,021 during her sophomore season. Early in her career she proved her versatility as she competed against older horses and at times even pacers.

Dr. Findley related a humorous story that apparently followed the stunning defeat by Dalyce Blue over heavily favoured Sara Black. "In those days news travelled pretty slow. When Robert Walker (driver of Sara Black) returned to Roosevelt some grooms from his stable came out to greet him and to presumably get the details of the latest win. They soon learned that she did not win and when asked who did win, he replied, "Something sired by Ezra Blue!"

​The winners circle festivities at Suffolk Downs in Boston, Mass. following a stunning victory by Dalyce Blue

Once the racing career of Dalyce Blue was over, last racing at the age of seven, she went on to a highly successful career as part of the broodmare band at Dr. Findley's Madawaska Farm. Following her first foal​, Greenmantle (by Philip Frost), being​ The Black Douglas a top class trotter of the early 1970's who gained career earnings of over $ 270,000, and als​o ​​C​​rimson Duchess (pictured below) a successful colt performer. All were raced in the Findley Stable. ​

​Pictured above is Crimson Duchess (Duke Rodney - Dalyce Blue) with Dr. John at the controls

Although ​Dalyce Blue was foaled at the Findley farm in 1956, her life story began many years previous to this. Way back in 1916 John Findley Sr. travelled to the Old Glory Sale in New York in search of racing talent to bring back to his home in Arnprior nestled in the Ottawa Valley. His original intention was perhaps not fulfilled but he did bring home a well-bred trotting mare named Minnie Watts. She in turn foaled Miss Chilcoot who the senior Findley later sold. Many years later when she had reached the age of 20 or so young John repurchased her for $100 plus an additional $40.00 to have her shipped home.

Despite the lateness of her life cycle at the age of 21 Miss Chilcoot foaled a mare called Sheila Lee who as outlined above became the dam of Dalyce Blue. In the fullness of time a total of eight generations of horses descended from the original purchase back in 1916. Truly a story of unequalled proportions and a testament to the importance of mothers, be they human or equine.

I think it only appropriate to salute a "Mother Horse" on this special weekend that we celebrate Mother​'​s Day.

May 7, 2016 - 9:56 amNice Touch remembering all

Nice Touch remembering all our "Mother's" on their SPECIAL day. I know mine was very Special and just loved going to the Races. And maybe even betting a few dollars. LOL

Keep up the great work Robert.

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