25 Years Since Haughton's Passing

Published: July 11, 2011 01:58 pm EDT

This Friday (July 15) will mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of a giant of the industry, Billy Haughton, who lost his life in 1986


Meadowlands Racetrack Statistician Bob 'Hollywood' Heyden has been crunching numbers once again, and here's just a sampling of the impact Haughton had on the industry --- with the emphasis on the 'firsts' that the icon had in so many big races.

• Billy is the only horseman to both train and drive a winner in a race valued over $1.5 million. He drove McKinzie Almahurst in the 1981 Woodrow Wilson, which had a purse of $1.76 million (the fourth richest harness race of all time). He trained the winner of the richest harness race ever contested, the 1984 edition of the Woodrow Wilson, which carried a whopping $2,161,000 purse and was won by Nihilator (it should be noted that the race marked the first time Haughton did not drive Nihilator; who was eight-for-eight with Haughton at the lines heading into harness racing's richest race; then the switch to Bill O'Donnell).

• Haughton won the 1978 Meadowlands Pace with Falcon Almahurst, which at the time was the richest harness race ever contested ($560,000).

1978 Meadowlands Pace - Falcon Almahurst - 1:55.1

• Billy won the richest Hambletonian --- are you ready --- five times. That's right, five different times he won the Hambletonian in the single biggest purse ever offered in the sports signature race:

  • 1974 - $160,150 - Christopher T
  • 1976 - $263,524 - Steve Lobell
  • 1977 - $284,151 - Green Speed
  • 1980 - $293,570 - Burgomeister
  • 1982 - $875,000 - Speed Bowl
  • (Note: Of these five winners he trained, Speed Bowl is the only one Haughton didn't drive)

• Billy trained the winner of the first $100,000 Hambo Oaks (Pagan Princess, $100,000, 1979).

• Billy's late son, Peter --- The race named for him (Peter Haughton Memorial) was and is the only race in history for two-year-old trotters which has gone for $1 million (1984, $1,000,000, Another Miracle; 1985, $1,000,000, Express Ride).

• Billy trained the very first Sweetheart winner (Cool Heel, 1979).

• Haughton won the very first Merrie Annabelle (Rosemary, 1977).

• Billy won the very first Canadian Trotting Classic --- and he beat the boys, too --- (Keystone Pioneer, 1976).

• Haughton won the richest-ever Yonkers Trot, twice (1976, $202,006, Steve Lobell; 1977, Green Speed, $239,000).

• Billy/Tommy Haughton hold the record for the richest race ever where father-son finish 1-2 while driving in a trotting race (1980, Hambletonian, $293,570, Burgomeister over Final Score).

• On three occasions, Billy trained the Kentucky Futurity winner at the co-highest purse ever offered in the race ($100,000 --- 1976, 1978, 1980).

• Haughton won the first-ever Cane Pace (1955, $71,040, Quick Chief).

• Billy won the first-ever Adios (1967, Romulus Hanover).

• Haughton won with his filly Naughty But Nice in the very first year of the Breeders Crown (1984).

• Billy triumphed in a division of the Tarport Hap in its first year (1977, Future Fame).

• Haughton won the very first Meadowlands Pace elimination with Crash in 1977.

• Billy's win with Falcon Almahurst in 1978 was the last year that the Meadowlands Pace was contested in heats on the same night

• Haughton won the richest-ever Messenger Stakes three times:

  • 1956 (first year), Belle Acton, $71,500
  • 1967, Romulus Hanover, $178,064
  • 1968, Rum Customer, $189,018

• Remember that Billy Haughton was 56 years old when harness racing's first-ever $1 million race was contested. Niatross owned the night. Guess who was second? Haughton with Storm Damage, driving for Jerry Smith.

• Billy won the 1968 Triple Crown with Rum Customer. That was the only year that harness racing had both a Trotting and Pacing Triple Crown winner (Nevele Pride).

• The last pacer to retire as both the fastest and the richest ever was a Haughton trainee (Nihilator, 1:49.3, $3.2 million). That 1:49.3 was the first-ever sub-1:50 race mile in the sport's history; and that came in Billy's final full year as a trainer (1985).

• Billy was the leading money-winning driver in North America 12 times. The only driver in history who has surpassed that, to this day, is John Campbell (he did it 16 times).

• One final note. Very late in June of 1986, I bumped into Billy Haughton in the drivers' room. I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he would do the following week's 'Talk to the Stars' program. He said 'yes.' That was the week before his accident at Yonkers.

(Bob 'Hollywood' Heyden)



WOW! Here is a name I know very well.... When I was a child I went to some tracks(especially vernon downs as I live near there with my aunt and uncle who worked for Billy Houghton. Peter used to babysit me. I know I have Peter and Billy's autograph along with others.

Very classy human beeing and great family. Interesting, watching the replay to see how the driving styles have changed. Everybody is straight up in the bike.

One of the three pioneers of racing BILLY HOUGHTON, STANLEY DANCER, and last but not least, JOHN CHAPMAN. I had the pleasure of working for Chappie as we called him. What a down to earth person. Maybe one day we will remember Chappie.

Did Final Score come second in the 1980 Hambo? I'm sure he won a Heat but maybe jumped it off in the final? I'm sad to say, I'm old enough to remember it quite well but I could of course be very much mistaken.

Either way, Mr Haughton - the Master.

Since you have a racing columist quoting stats and stuff but no one seems to know the famous Pacer back from the years 1969 thru 1970 era of champions and at the time I was at the track in New York state at Vernon Downs where racing in those days was very exciting and competitive. Horseman ran heats and trained in heats those days. However, My questions is have you ever hear of the Pacing Champion colt by the name of "Columbia George" cause he was a sight to see-he could run and that he did well.

In reply to by stormcat55

Yes I remember him, trained and driven by Roland Beaulieu and he was from a great crop of 3 y/o's that year. Keystone Pat with John Hayes, Most Happy Fella and Stanley Dancer and Bruce Nickells had Kentucky.

I believe that Columbia George set a new track record at Greenwood during Grand Circuit week and it was 1.56.4
My, how things have changed.

One of a kind. The greatest horseman and most unique human being it has ever been my pleasure and privilege to have known.