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SC Rewind: Dresden Over The Years

Published: July 12, 2014 9:06 am ET

Last Comment: July 13, 2014 10:41 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind remembers one of the sport's oldest and best loved small town tracks located in Dresden, Ont. with a collage of old photographs to help rekindle the memories.

For part of three centuries now, harness racing has been held at the historic old Dresden Fairgrounds located in South-Western Ontario in the former Kent County. The quaint grounds and the speedy half-mile track have been a huge part of harness racing history as well as that of the area.

In today's Rewind I have assembled what I hope are some interesting facts and a few old photos relating to Dresden, both as a once-a-year venue and in later years as a Raceway.

A Few Random Highlights from Dresden's Long History

1938 - Over a two day period as part of that year's Fair, 12 heats of harness racing were held. Hal B Direct won all six heats in which he was entered. Owned by Jos. T. Saint of Wallaceburg, the record-setting gelding was driven by young Alfred Moore of Sarnia. The fastest mile of the six trips was clocked in 2:12.

1948 - Horses owned by Petrolia interests completely dominated this year's summaries of the two-day race meeting. The following horses with owners shown in brackets were all multiple heat winners. The Petrolia based steeds took a total of 10 wins out of the 13 held. Winners were Sam Hy (W.J. Hyatt), Alice G (Nate Neely), Lee Hy (Orton Neely), Pine Ridge Doddie (James & Cecil Stone). Present at these races from far away Arnprior was Dr. John Findley with his trotting filly Sheila Lee finishing 2-2 in a $500 stake.

1956 - A popular winner today was the young mare Coronation Derby, the property of Southwold horseman Stan Williams. A rousing ovation was received as the pair returned in front of the stands, following a hard fought victory over second place finisher Argyel Duke from the Campbell barn. Time for the mile was 2:14.1. In the headline event, Clinterpart, driven by N.H.L. referee Jack Mehelenbacher, won the Two-Year-Old Supertest for owner Fred Saint. In second spot was Mr. Miller Abbe for Windsor owner Bruce R. Fulmer.

1962 - Colt racing on Labour Day weekend was a long standing tradition at Dresden. This year two events sponsored by the Supertest Oil Co. were featured. The three-year-old pacing event went in two divisions and the first went to Dapper Grattan and driver Marshall Moore. In the second division, Jack Herbert was the winner behind Oro Lee Herbert. In the two-year-old trotting event Niagara Chance was the victor for owner Max Webster. The winning driver was Almer Holmes (who just recently passed away) and the groom for the day was young Brian Webster. Another Webster colour bearer, Armbro Dorie had a 3-2 standing in the race won by Niagara Chance. The day included 12 great heats of racing.

1966 - Racing under the lights debuted on July 23, 1966 creating a landmark happening at this track. On opening night, local horseman Ellis Dell of Becher scored four wins, and the following week he won another five. The inaugural night meeting lasted eight weeks, all on Saturday nights, drawing some 20,000 fans who wagered over $320,000. It was a gratifying first season and paved the way for several decades of first-class racing.

1976 - At the conclusion of season two, young drivers received awards from the Molson's Brewery for their efforts. Walter Weese was awarded the trophy for best percentage. Top in points earned was 29-year-old Rodney Duford.

1977 - May 9, 1977. A devastating fire ravaged the track's backstretch, killing 15 horses, destroying a large amount of equipment as well as a 64 x 100 foot barn. Hardest hit was horseman Chuck Fraleigh of Wallaceburg, who lost six head and a pet goat. His stable, which had been 12 years in the making, was wiped out in a matter of minutes. A faulty motor on an exhaust fan was believed to be the cause of the blaze. This was not the only fire at Dresden, but perhaps the worst.

1977 - A local product, Lyle Grineage, scored five wins on a single program on July 29, 1977. He was later recognized for his efforts and presented with a commemorative gift by Dresden Raceway officials George Deacon and Jean Lekavy.

1979 - Sept. 7, 1979 - The world famous horse Rambling Willie paid a cameo visit to Dresden Raceway. At the time he was nine years old and still racing and was the holder of numerous world records. His earnings to date then amounted to $1,562,807 and counting...

1981 - New track records were established for both gaits this season in the aged category. New Departure recorded a mile in 1:58.4 on the pace for driver Fred List while trotter Red Banner scored in 2:05.1 for Ron Bannerman.

1983 - Dave Wall led all drivers in the percentage department and on one card won a phenomenal seven races earning the Molson's Award. Laurie Rogers led all non-driving trainers while Terry Kerr was the leading driver in points with 910 accumulated over the 64 date season. The Little Saratoga Pace went in two divisions with Airborn Darcy (Ted McFadden) and Centre Stage (Steve Bossence) each recording a victory.

1987 - A very special night was held to recognize a group of 13 veteran area horsemen who had all contributed to the early years at Dresden. Each person had a race named in their honour and most drove the lead horse for the post parade. Those honoured were Lyle Bogart, Duncan Campbell, Ellis Dell, Wilf Duford, Fred Goudreau, Bill Habkirk, Stu Howard, Ross Johnston, Gordon Lawrence, Levi "Jiggs" McFadden, Alfie Moore, Marshall Moore and Stan Williams. Also included was the Hall of Fame horse Claybrook Van.


Ellis Dell left chats with SC Rewind's Robert Smith at the 1987 Dresden Reunion. Dell won an amazing nine races on the first two nights that races were held under the lights in 1966. He was one of the winningest drivers in the early years. Two sons Elwin and Allen were also horsemen.

 

Left: In the 1950's Miss Betty Shaw of Dresden led the post parades on her beautiful palomino as part of the pageantry of the Dresden Fair race program. Right: Teddy McFadden, 6, in the foreground supervises as Fred List helps harness the horse Stewart Volo, owned by the Howard Bros. of Chatham. Partially obscured behind the horse is his father "Jiggs" McFadden. Fred's father Harry List was also a well known horseman of this era. This photo was taken during the 1955 Dresden Fair races.

 


A field of horses head down the track during the 1957 race program. Some of the old agricultural buildings are visible in the background as well as the wooden grandstand filled with race fans. In later years the grandstand was demolished and a new one erected across the track.

 


Driver Glen Tiffin is shown in the winner's circle with Honest King as part of the start up of night racing at Dresden in 1966. His wife Marlene who groomed the horse is joined by owner Edgar Comeau (in plaid shirt) also of Dresden. Prominent in the background is the old judge's stand which was part of the original structures.

 

July 13, 2014 - 10:41 pmBrings back a lot of

Brings back a lot of memories. I spent a lot of my childhood at the track cleaning stalls for my uncle Dennis McFadden and working in the paddock on races days distributing and removing saddlecloths and head numbers. Race days were a family affair with my grandparents Len and Mary McFadden, aunts, uncles and cousins. Thanks for this story.

July 13, 2014 - 2:27 pmIt was a different World

It was a different World then. Perhaps a better one!!

July 12, 2014 - 5:01 pmI was never back to race at

John Findley SAID...

I was never back to race at Dresden for exactly 50 years l948-l998. Again with a two year old filly trotter and again I finished 2nd this time in a Sires Stake.
Keep up the good work Bob, I sure enjoy the old stuff.

July 12, 2014 - 4:58 pmIn the early 80s Friday

jim cauchon SAID...

In the early 80s Friday nights and Sunday afts ....god those were good times. Thanks to everyone involved there ..week in week out
Jctoronto

July 12, 2014 - 11:33 amRobert, Thank you for

Robert,
Thank you for sharing
My passion for racing, started with my parents and Dresden Raceway.


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