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SC Rewind: Remembering 50 Years Ago

Published: July 1, 2017 9:26 am ET

Last Comment: July 1, 2017 7:12 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith reminisces about the year of 1967; 50 years ago. His story is a series of short recaps of interesting and important happenings recorded during that memorable year which marked Canada's Centennial. Today's piece also coincides with Canada Day as we celebrate 150 great years as a Country.

A great shot of the top ten money-winning drivers from 1967 ​who won over $1 million in purses as a group racing on the very competitive Golden Horseshoe Circuit.

Fifty years ago most Canadians were in a rather festive mood and the feeling lasted all year long as the Country's Centennial Anniversary 1867 - 1967 was observed. It was a giant birthday party of sorts as Canada turned 100 years old. There were a lot of things going on across the Country in all walks of life; the same was true in the world of harness racing. The sport was definitely headed in an upward direction, not too much seemed impossible. It is now a half century later and a lot has happened since.

Canada's Greatest Race Day - The Centennial Invitational Pace

A proud Billy Haughton, then aged 44, appears in the Blue Bonnets' winner's circle following his huge victory with Romulus Hanover in the $50,000 Centennial Pace. The race was the largest happening in the sport on Canadian soil up to that time. Many records were established that lasted for years.

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 27, 1967 Canada's greatest race day to that point in time made headlines across the Continent. A huge throng of die-hard harness fans jammed into Montreal's Blue Bonnets track with an official attendance counted at 27,040 -- the largest ever recorded for a harness meet. It was a day like none other before it and as history would prove it took a long time to equal or surpass it. From a weather standpoint it was bordering on perfect and as each race was run off old records were shattered and new ones set. A quote from the Ottawa Journal summed up the day by saying "They seemed to break a record every time somebody visited the hot dog stand or sipped a cooling brew."

The race which was the largest purse ever to that point in time drew the best horses on either side of the border with one notable exception which was marked by the absence of Cardigan Bay who at one point was expected to be in the classy lineup. The absolute favourite was the only three-year-old in the field: Romulus Hanover. Piloted by Billy Haughton for the Farmstead Acres Farm, he lived up to his prior billing. The fleet-footed son of Dancer Hanover paced his way into the Blue Bonnets and Canadian record books as he scored a mile in 1:57.1 shaving a full second off the existing record set by Timely Knight just two weeks earlier.

Records tumbled in every direction as a new single day betting record of $1,061,358 was set as well as a single race total of $117,115 was also recorded. The previous single day mark at Blue Bonnets was $915,00 set the previous October. Following the race the cashiers windows were busy places as the heavy favourite paid a paltry $2.30 to win. Another highlight of the day was the fact that no less than three sub-2:00 miles were recorded, a feat not previously accomplished. The other 'miracle miles' belonged to St. James Street (Duncan MacTavish) in 1:59.4 and Score Time (Roger White) in 1:59.2. Eight of the ten winners on the afternoon's card took new lifetime marks.

The final order of finish was as follows:

1. Romulus Hanover
2. True Duane
3. Good Time Boy
4. Song Cycle
5. Timely Knight
6. Pocomoonshine
7. Golden Blend
8. Dancing David

It was a big day as Romulus Hanover is greeted in the winner's circle by a group of dignitaries eager to congratulate driver Billy Haughton on his record-setting victory. Those present for the occasion were, from left: Raymond Lemay, John Fisher (Centennial Commissioner), Billy Haughton, J. Louis Levesque, Michael MacCormack and Paul Dansereau.

The following few items were happenings from 1967. They are intended to provide a variety of names, faces and other interesting 'tidbits' from that time period now 50 years past. Most are accompanied by old photos; always a great way to make memories more real.

On October 14, 1967 Keith Waples then 43, paused for a while to hold up a sign following his 200th win during that season. The milestone was passed when he won the opening race that evening at Garden City behind the trotter Armbro Echo. His lifetime total was 1,783 at the time and eventually rose to an official total of 3,206. Observers believed that many more were not recorded in the early days. In 1967 he drove the winners of 252 races, with 246 at home, an all-time record for a teamster racing almost solely in Canada.

One of the top performers of the 1967 season was Garma Alert, a three-year-old trotter campaigned by veteran Owen Sound horseman Allan Walker for owners Gary and Irma Gristhenwaite of Dundas, Ont. Late in the season the filly made a trip to Lexington where she won the Walnut Hall Cup as part of her successful journey to the Red Mile. This race was first held in 1897. Her mile record for the season of 2:00.1 was taken at Lexington. Beyond driver Allan Walker (and probably Viola) I do not have names for the others in the photo (Harness Horse)

Fair racing was still popular at this time. While winner's circle photos were not often taken at these affairs there were some exceptions such as at Morrow Park, the home of the Peterborough Fair. Shown above following a win by Quinte Lad is owner and driver Phil Stewart then of Woodbridge, Ont. At the horse's head is young fellow named Joey.

History was made on several fronts during 1967. For the first time the top ten drivers on the Ontario Jockey Club Circuit recorded over one million dollars in cumulative earnings. Pictured above, from left: Allan Waddell, Brent Davies, Keith Waples and Ron Feagan.

Perhaps the year's biggest story in Ontario was written on July 29th when the Province's first ever sub-2:00 mile entered the record books at Toronto's Greenwood Raceway. Good Time Boy with Jimmy Larente in the sulky stopped the timer in 1:59.4 to write that important piece of history. We always remember who finished first when a record is set but who chased him home that day? Finishing second and third was an entry from Wm. and Jack Herbert's stable. Dean Herbert (Jack Herbert) was second and Replica Herbert (Wm. Wellwood) third.

In February of 1967 the previous year's top driver in Canada was awarded a silver tray as "Horseman of the Year". In the above photo Herve Filion, who was about to reach his 27th birthday, receives his award from Raymond Lemay of Blue Bonnets Raceway in Montreal.

Killean Acres in Ingersoll was then a relatively new operation. Their main stallion was Frisco Byrd standing at their home farm and they were part of a syndicate that owned Majestic Hanover 2:04.1, standing at Loch Arden Farm in Pennsylvania. As part of the observance of Centennial Year, farm owners Jack and Don McNiven named a few foals with names that reflected the year. They were Canadian Killean, Sir John A. Killean and Century Killean.

On August 25th history was made at Blue Bonnets when Canada's first ever two minute trotting mile entered the record books. On that date driver Duncan MacTavish piloted Nevele Dell in exactly 2:00 flat for owners Gerald Block and Fred Laxer.

The year 1967 marked just the third year of operation for the newly opened Windsor Raceway. It was built to accommodate winter racing and was also strategically located to attract horse people and fans from both Canada and the U.S. The photo below shows a Canadian and a U.S. driver competing at the top level at that time.

The December 1967 driver awards presentation honoured the top dash-winning driver Gerry Bookmyer of Sycamore, Ohio who had 14 wins and the top percentage teamster, 'Smiling' Fred Goudreau of Dresden who recorded a .410 average. Each received a set of their driving colours as an award. (harness Horse)

One of Canada's top horsemen at this time was Roger White who competed mainly at the Montreal tracks but is shown here in an appearance at Goshen, New York. By the end of 1967 he had driven five of the 20 race miles recorded in two minutes or under in Canadian history to that point in time (Harness Horse)

A number of the smaller race spots staged special race days to celebrate Centennial Year. The above ad advertises such an event scheduled at Sunderland, Ont.

HAPPY CANADA DAY! - 150 Years of Growth And Prosperity

July 1, 2017 - 7:12 pmGreat job Robert. I know I'm

Great job Robert. I know I'm getting old when I know everybody that your speaking of or featuring pictures of.
Phil Stewart. I remember Phil well from my short stint as a Race Secretary at Barrie Raceway when we opened on December 19th 1973. It was a big opening. Too bad it didn't stay that way. Our lessor, the Barrie Agricultural Society didn't help.
Keep up the good work Robert

July 1, 2017 - 4:36 pmThank you! I love your rewind

Dan Fraleigh SAID...

Thank you! I love your rewind articles!!!!

July 1, 2017 - 11:36 amGreat article Robert, and

Great article Robert, and brings back a lot of memories. The young guy is Joey Rootsaert, his dad Herman was a partner of mine. Joey and his about one year older brother Shawn looked after Quinte Lad and when we raced wouldn't let me near him until I got on the bike. "Laddie" loved racing at Peterborough and Orono and he loved the mud which was usual at Orono. I raced at Sunderland many times on the July 1 date and at their fair. They always had a stake like in the ad and I almost won it one year with Randy Hal Direct for Marge Patterson and John Fogarty but he blew a shoe and bore out and Dr. John Findley beat me. We used to tie up in Lorne Brethour's barn (Murray's dad) next to the fairgrounds 'cause he had hot water! Always had a great BBQ after the races, too!

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