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SC Rewind: Ladies In Silks


Published: May 8, 2011 11:49 am ET

Last Comment: May 14, 2011 3:23 pm ET | 17 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind, Robert Smith chooses an appropriate topic for Mother's Day as he reminisces about some of the many great ladies who have graced our sport, both past and present.

A few years ago one of the great jewels of our sport's past was brought out and her memorable career recalled; her name was Mildred Williams. Thankfully she is now remembered each year by a series of races named in her honour. I did not ever see Mildred handle the reins but from what I have read, and even more importantly heard from those who knew her, I know I would have liked this gracious lady. Sometimes even a picture tells us a lot.

Down through the years there have been a lot of great "horsewomen", if that is the correct word who have donned their silks and helmets (and soft caps) and displayed their talents to appreciative audiences. Many were also mothers. Over the past few weeks I have been jotting down the names of those who I have recalled and there certainly will be many that I have missed. I have been fortunate to see many of them in action and have read or known in other ways about many more. Just last year I saw quite a show put on by Riina Rekila in a couple of OSS events.

I have assembled a few recreated write ups as they may have appeared at the time to show how involved many of the memorable distaff performers from years ago actually were. I recently came across what I think is an appropriate quote for this week "A woman's place is in the home, the homestretch".

August 7, 1952 - Harness Racing fans at Toronto's Thorncliffe Park this afternoon witnessed somewhat of a rarity as two female drivers entered the winner's circle on the same program. In the opener Mary Lou O'Connor from Warwick Downs, Rhode Island scored a victory behind Spencer's Betty. Three races later Miss Jackie Sharpe piloted six-year-old Waskada Lad home first in 2:14.4 for owner James C. Sharpe of Beechy, Sask. One race later, Miss O'Connor notched her second win of the day. These are not the only two lady drivers to win at this track as Mildred Williams has also been a visitor to the winner's circle, all captured by the camera of Michael Burns.

Miss Jean Walker of Owen Sound has a nice three-year-old trotting filly named Peggy P Prologue on the go this year and is doing some of her own driving. On June 25th at Owen Sound she was first and second, bowing in the second heat to Hannah Dean driven by Shirley McLean of Port Elgin in 2:19. On September 10th she travelled much farther East to Orono and had a 1-3 standing, identical to another trotter - Valera, who was awarded the overall victory based on the fastest heat of 2:15. The winning driver of Valera was Viola Walker who just happens to be Jeanie's mother.

Mrs. R. T. "Vivian" Crichton of Rockwood, Ont. has completed a near perfect season with her four-year-old grey mare Della's Hal T and they have now returned to winter quarters. Unraced at 3, the pair have made several appearances at local Fairs and recorded double heat victories at Arthur and Caledon and a single at New Hamburg. Their best time and new lifetime record of 2:16 was achieved at the Caledon Fair on September 8 over a field of seven trotters and pacers.

August 11, 1985 - All ladies were granted free admission on this evening and track official Dan Gibson said "We had about four times as many women in the crowd as we normally get ". It is doubtful anyone went home disappointed as Danielle Duquette trainer for the Jean Paul Charron stable in Montreal paid a visit and drove in all 10 races. She was victorious in five or exactly half of them, which is believed to be a North American record for a single race card.

The following is an alphabetical list of female drivers that I know of who have made public appearances in the sulky. They may have appeared in exhibition races or other competitions as well as being full time drivers and are from both Canada and the U.S. As always, please feel free to add anyone I have missed as this is a very short list.

Joey Ayotte, Margaret (Campbell) Bowra, Mrs. Cliff Bradley, Tracy Brainard, Karin (Olsen) Burgess, Jeanette Byer, Karen (Bennett) Carroll, Mary Carroll, Kelly Case, Colleen Chappel, Stacy Chiodo, Casie Coleman, June Coyle, Vivian Crichton, Ann Curran, Donna (Field) DeGrow, Brenda Duncan, Danielle Duquette, Bea Farber, Sandra Fisher, Lucille Fleming, Grace (Rowntree) Gould, Carol (Hukill) Gosman, Retta Herrington, Krissy Hie, Karen (Fekete) Hudon, Gro Formia, Wilma Harris, Hilda Heydt, Cindy Horner, Bobbe Huntress, Jacqueline Ingrassia, Janet Irvine, Susanne Kerwood, Connie Kolthammer, Ann Karin Larsen, Andrea Leon, Clare (Haley) Macdonald, Tammy MacKay, Cherie Martin, Shirley McLean, Amber McPhee, Marsha Noonan, Mary Lou O'Connor, Jackie (Sharpe) Portelance, Riina Rekila, Alma Sheppard, Jean (Walker) Thibaudeau, Viola Walker, Tammy Watt, Jayne Weller, June (Dillman) Weller, Marjorie (Hodgins) Wellwood, Paula Wellwood, Mildred Williams.

In closing I would like to offer my personal best wishes and a Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers in the reading audience. We should indeed be grateful to our mothers for all they have given and have done for us. Their untiring sacrifices often go unnoticed and unrewarded and that's why we have a day like today. Imagine life without being taught how to tie your shoes, tell time, cook an egg and know right from wrong? If your mother is still living, give her a hug and express your love and gratitude while you can. Just think for a moment of the many things she has taught you and shaped you along life's way. A very special thank you to the mothers in my immediate family, especially my loving wife and two daughters who bring so much light to every day. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

A mother holds her children's hands for a while and their hearts forever. (Author unknown)

May 14, 2011 - 3:23 pmMary L Shallenberger

Will Boggs SAID...

Mary L Shallenberger

May 10, 2011 - 7:33 amJayne Weller, Barb Lewis,

Jayne Weller, Barb Lewis, Devan Miller, Karon (Cook) Compston, Rachel Kaneoka, Mandy Jones, Nicole Harness

May 9, 2011 - 4:20 pmThanks to everyone who has

Thanks to everyone who has added to the list and made this an even better tribute to many special people . I share the "pet peeve" of Mr. Nethery regarding the failure to display names on pictures but unfortunately some photos do not come with proper and full identification and this is one . I can identify 4 in the group and hope that someone may be able to complete the job . This was taken at a U.S. Track (perhaps Buffalo).

In the back row, the two ladies dressed the same in black and red silks flanking the male host are mother and daughter Jayne and her mother June Weller from Republic Ohio. On the far right in the back is Carol Gosman also pictured elsewhere .In the front row on the far left is Ohioan Janet Irvine (I on her sleeve) . If anyone knows the balance ...perhaps you can let us know .Also thanks for your kind comments.

May 9, 2011 - 2:56 pmMr. Smith, Thank You for

Mr. Smith,

Thank You for taking the time to do this piece. Like so many of us, we are proud of our Mother's accomplishments. There is no doubt in my mind - reading through this article, she (Jackie) would have considered herself in the company of some great ladies! I tip my helmet to all the ladies that do a great job within our industry.

Howard Portelance

May 9, 2011 - 1:21 pmGreat job Robert. Here is

Ron Sinclair SAID...

Great job Robert. Here is one lady who I think you forgot.. Edna Tracey.. drove tracks thoughtout Western Canada as well as some Mid West USA.. From the Tracey family . Father: Hugh sons: Ed, Pat, & Don. There are more ladies that drove and some currently driving in Sask. & Manitoba, but my memory escapes me..

May 9, 2011 - 12:43 pmHay! A couple of more

A couple of more ladies missing from the list --
Tabatha Canarr and how did we forget Sue Marie Gangell?

May 9, 2011 - 9:00 amHello. Love all your


Love all your articles Robert. Thank you so much.

There are a lot of wonderful ladies mentioned here. But I do remember a little lady who started driving at the end of the Morrow Park era in Peterborough or it may have been the beginning of Kawartha Downs. Not sure of the year but her name is 'Elaine Burke' a.k.a. 'Burkey'.

Karen McBride

May 9, 2011 - 6:13 amYesterday (May 8) at Rideau

Yesterday (May 8) at Rideau Carleton, three female drivers were schedule to catch drive and one of them (Mélanie Plourde) won her race from gate to wire. The other two were: Ann Karin Larsen and Marie-Claude Auger. Another regular lady in silk at the Albion road oval is Anne-Marie Turenne.

André Audette

May 8, 2011 - 10:26 pmYou could add Anita Valstad,

norm files SAID...

You could add Anita Valstad, Paula Campbell, Christina De Forest, Charlotte Hockman, Susan Looney and Kim Fabiano.

May 8, 2011 - 8:46 pmGreat job Mr.Smith.Love

Great job Mr.Smith.Love these articles.A few more talented female drivers whom I have had the privelige to watch and/or drive against:

Helen Morrisey,Phyllis English,Marie Brooking,Nadine Heidt,Marie Stone,Sharon Graham,Annie Butts,Cassandra(Todd)Uppall,Rebecca Todd,Brooke Nickells,Misty Miller,Laurie Poulin,Deb Manning,Edna Tracy.

May 8, 2011 - 6:08 pmMy favorite Lady

jack rice SAID...

My favorite Lady driver...... Maria Rice

May 8, 2011 - 5:58 pmYou can add Georgette

Guy Lefebvre SAID...

You can add Georgette Plouffe to your list ,sister of Yvon, Doris and Jacques who I raced against at Connaught Park in the late sixties and seventies.

May 8, 2011 - 5:44 pmRobert, Very much enjoy and


Very much enjoy and look forward to reading your article each and every weekend. The first female driver I witnessed was Marion Borland at Western Fair.

Personally, we all know Herve Filion and John Campbell top the charts on the male side. Would you have stats or the most wins, or for that matter all their wins on the female side??

May 8, 2011 - 5:08 pmVery interesting article.

Very interesting article. You can add the name of Georgette Plouffe of Angers, Qué. Miss Plouffe drove at Connaught Park in the 1960's

André Audette

May 8, 2011 - 3:04 pmAs always, fascinating stuff

As always, fascinating stuff Robert. Having been at Western Fair on Friday night, you can add the name Tracy Procop to your list as she drove one of her own. In conjunction with the National Drivers Championship there was mention of drivers getting their feet wet in pony races. At one time there was quite a circuit here in Ontario, and almost every meet had a Powder Puff race, which was often the most competitive of the night. One of the most spirited competitors was Jean Feagan of Goderich, who with her husband Ben went on to race several standardbreds and I know Jean did a good part of the training, but I don't think she ever drove. A pet peeve - pictures with no names. When I see pictures like the one attached to your column, I want to know who they are. All too often on the SC website we get pictures from various events with no names. For those of us who follow racing from the grandstand, we don't always get a chance to meet the folks involved, and so when there is a picture it's nice to put names and faces together. Completely off topic, but in the same ballpark, I've enjoyed pouring over recent Western Fair programs with old pictures on the cover as they get set to mark 50 years of racing. I keep thinking looking at the crowd shots that I should find someone I recognize!

May 8, 2011 - 2:42 pmRobert you missed a few

gwen small SAID...

Robert you missed a few ladies I reacall Jean McLeod The great Bobbie Hundress and Flamboro's own Linda Duncan. Also Carolee Roland. Thanks, Gwen.

May 8, 2011 - 12:46 pmHi! Great article! You

Great article! You can add Carol Lee 'DiDi' Roland and Bobbi Jo Martin to your list, to name two that I either drove against or watched drive! I'll probabably think of some more!
And when I drove against Mary Carroll she was "Mary Phillips" driving "Earl Hanver" at Listowell and I can remember the pony tail hanging out the back of her helmet!!

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