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SC Rewind: Canada's Centennial

romulus-hanover.jpg

Published: July 17, 2010 11:02 am ET

Last Comment: July 17, 2010 3:31 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Robert Smith recalls some of the events and happenings from 1967, Canada's 100th Birthday.

For those of us who were old enough to remember 1967, one might recite the words of the old Frank Sinatra song, "It was a very good year." We all learned a new word and it was used extensively throughout the year. The word was CENTENNIAL and it was a year long celebration of our Country's first century of existence 1867-1967. The ultimate ongoing celebration was Expo 67 held in Montreal from April to October.

The theme was everywhere; people dressed in period costumes, parades were held, major decorations were everywhere and virtually every Company or business did something commemorative. If your product was large enough to display a Maple Leaf and a Centennial logo, it was probably on it somewhere. Gas stations gave out specially marked beverage glasses, many ads mentioned it and in general it was a part of everybody's life. The Canadian Mint even issued special coins and bills which were put into general circulation; no loonies or toonies in those days. I still have a few coins and recently heard that a quarter might fetch 25 cents if you could find a willing buyer, so keeping them all these years has been a great investment and similar to others I have made.

As you might imagine the sport of harness racing joined in and staged some special events as well. Several tracks held races in honour of the year long event. Also in the years that followed, evidence of the milestone remained as several horses were named in honour of the year. A few that bear mention would include Centennial Bob, Byrd, Chief, Maid, Miss, Joe, Judge and many more combinations. At least one ingenious person, Alex Abraham of New Waterford N.S., saw fit to beat the rush and named a horse Centennial Prince back in 1965. He raced as a two year old in 1967 and took a record of 2:21.4 at the Sydney track.

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 27 a great day of racing was held at the Blue Bonnets Track in Montreal. The featured race of the day was appropriately called ‘The Centennial Invitation’. Many observers described it as the greatest single card of racing ever staged in Canada up to that point in time. A 10 race card was featured with purses totaling $77,000. The times ranged from the slowest at 2:04.1 to the fastest at 1:57.1. The average time for the day was an unheard of 2:01.3, a statistic never before attained. The card featured eight pacing events and two on the trot.

The day's races were all of the highest caliber, with three special races carrying sizeable purses. In race 3 a Preferred Pace with a purse of $5,000 Score Time, owned by Allen Leblanc of Quebec City and driven by Roger White, stopped the timer in 1:59.2 indicating that speed was the order of the day. In the sixth race driver Duncan MacTavish scored his second win of the afternoon behind St. James Street in 1:59.4 having won the previous race with Dusty Kay Gold in 2:01.

The eighth race was the Featured Centennial Invitation and drew a total of eight starters for a purse of $50,000. With a purse of that size on the line, several U.S. invaders made the trip Northward. Favoured by sunny skies and warm weather, the track was in excellent shape and Romulus Hanover in rein to the sport's top teamster Wm. "Billy" Haughton blazed home in 1:57.1 to take the top prize for Farmstead Acres of Glen Head New York. Romulus Hanover was a winner of 15 races and over $277,000 that season. Officials at Blue Bonnets expressed doubt that the mile time recorded this day would be broken for some time to come.

The co-featured ninth race was carded as an Open Pace carrying a purse of $7,500 and this time the winnings stayed on Canadian soil. H A Meadowland driven by 25-year-old co-owner Ron Feagan, was home first but just missing the two minute mark in 2:00.3. Ron, one of the up and coming drivers of this era, shared ownership of this speedy four-year-old with his grandfather George Feagan both of Goderich, Ont.

As the day ended those in attendance were a part of Canadian Harness racing history. The audience was announced as 27,040 and they put Canada's first Million Dollar Day into the records with long lines at the betting windows all day long. It was a proud day for Canadian harness racing and one that should not ever be forgotten.

Centennial Invitation Pace Results
Purse - $50,000
Mile Time - 1:57.1

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

July 17, 2010 - 3:31 pmNo use wearing a stopwatch

No use wearing a stopwatch today because Jody or Mark would be blowing by you so fast the hand would stop.

July 17, 2010 - 1:48 pmA driver wearing a

A driver wearing a stopwatch.
Wish more of them would/could read one today.

July 17, 2010 - 12:57 pmJust wondering how many

Bev Heywood SAID...

Just wondering how many people can identify something in this photo that appears very seldom in photos to-day

July 17, 2010 - 12:04 pm2:21 and 4. Those were the

2:21 and 4. Those were the days!!But you know, whether they go in 2:21 or 1:48, if they are all together at the wire, it is, in my opinion, amongst the most exciting moments in all of sport


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