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SC Rewind: Albatross Makes History

Published: July 25, 2020 10:04 am ET

Last Comment: July 29, 2020 3:52 pm ET | 14 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith takes readers back some 48 years to 1972. The occasion was the visit of the great Albatross to Windsor Raceway to compete in the 1972 Continental Cup. This $25,750 race was part of the new stakes series as the border oval held its first ever summer harness meeting. After seven years of winter-only racing, the track was doing well during the summer as well.

This large poster was on display at Windsor Raceway for many years recalling a special record setting night in the summer of 1972. This great old picture survived the track's demolition and is still on display at a local establishment.

The 1972 season was a 'whirlwind' tour for Albatross as he blazed his way across the Continent thrilling huge crowds at every stop. His season spanned a full 10 months, starting on March 11th at Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and then ending on December 11th when he won the $100,000 American Classic at Inglewood, California. That season he went to the post 26 times and was returned a winner on 20 occasions, coupled with 4 seconds and 1 third. His only finish out of the top three was a fourth-place finish at Brandywine on July 22nd. This was his last season on the track as plans were already set for his next career as a stud.

The trail of Albatross that season saw him race at 16 different tracks with multiple appearances at several. Listed in alphabetical order the places he appeared were as follows with bracketed numbers shown where he visited more than once. Batavia Downs, Brandywine (3), Buffalo Raceway, Delaware Ohio, Freehold, Greenwood, Inglewood (2), Livonia Mich., Maywood Park, Liberty Bell (4), Roosevelt (2), Saratoga, Sportsman's Park (3), Vernon Downs, Windsor Raceway (2), and Yonkers Raceway.

When trainer/driver and now part owner Stanley Dancer and Albatross arrived in Windsor, things may have looked pretty 'rosey' to the casual observer but behind the scenes a lot had been going on in recent weeks. The owners of the great horse had been spending as much time at their lawyer's office as they had at the races. This all came to a head just before the Windsor race and Dancer could not have been any happier or more relieved at the outcome.

Upon his arrival in the border City Dancer revealed to Windsor Star sports reporter Jack Dulmage what had recently transpired in dealings involving himself and the owners both past and present. Earlier in the year after three straight losses by Albatross (one at Windsor in the Provincial Cup) things got pretty serious. "Those three losses resulted in a telegram being sent to Dancer by the syndicate that owned the horse. "They FIRED me," said Stanley. Never one to stand on the sidelines, Dancer was quick to react and defend his own reputation as one of the top two or three horsemen in all of harness racing.

The firing didn't last long. Dancer summoned his lawyer who summoned some more lawyers. In a matter of a few days during which time Dancer prevented the horse from being moved from his stall at Liberty Bell Park in Philly, he was back in full charge. The other good news was that the syndicate that owned the great Albatross was in new hands. Out completely was former Windsorite Bert James who was the original owner. It seems that Dancer got tough. "I wasn't going to be told how to train and drive the horse," said Stanley. The other good news that the famous horseman shared was that he now owned 4% of the richest harness horse currently in action and perhaps more importantly that "James doesn't own one hair on his body."

The Continental Cup drew a rather short field of just six starters but there was one entrant that was expected to offer some pretty stiff competition to Albatross, the obvious favourite and main drawing card of the featured tenth race. That fellow was Nansemond, who had the great Herve Filion in the pilot's seat. This horse had upset Albatross in the Jug the previous year at Delaware but on this night he provided little challenge to the super horse and eventually finished a dismal fourth.

The entire race was controlled by Albatross as he took an early lead and was never threatened. The fractions were amazing given that the weather was very cool for late June (58 degrees F.) and there was also a pretty brisk wind. Albatross set all the pace, reaching the quarter :28.1; half in :58.3, 3/4 in 1:28.2 and home in 1:56.3 after a final quarter in :28.1. Track man Ken Myles had the oval in excellent condition despite the fact that the track had been hampered by the tail end of a storm attributed to Hurricane Agnes. Bruce Nickells, driving Kentucky, enjoyed a perfect trip and had plenty of horse left for the stretch drive but the task was too great. After the race he said "I gave my horse a few clucks but when I looked up Dancer was still in command and no one was ever going to catch him." Jack Bailey and Bye Bye Max. who raced in third the entire mile, closed quickly to grab the second spot; Kentucky was third.

The crowd of 7,312 were treated to a special evening and were thrilled to be on hand to see a new Canadian record set and of course a new Windsor track record that had been on the books for an amazing five years. Race organizers were wise in their scheduling as the big race was the tenth and final of the card. After all who was going to leave without seeing perhaps the sight of a lifetime? The track took a minor loss as they experienced its first ever minus pool when $1,044 was lost as the prohibitive 2-5 favourite romped to victory. The handle was $ 425,000 and change.

Note - In 1998, Albatross died at the age of 30 at Hanover Shoe Farms of complications from heart failure and colic. He was buried at the Hanover Shoe Farms horse cemetery.

Race Night Notes - Greg Wright, who grew up almost within sight of the Windsor Raceway, became the track's winningest driver early in his career and remained so for many years. On the evening of the famous mile by Albatross he had two winning drives that night. He just narrowly missed a trip behind the gate in the big race when famed horseman Herve Filion was very late in arriving for his drive of Nansemond. The young Wright, just 26 at the time, had been chosen as a possible substitute, but when Filion arrived at the last minute by private jet (which he was known to frequently do) Herve handled the driving duties as scheduled.

His night's work was most unproductive and he departed within seconds of jumping off the bike back to Brandywine Raceway in Delaware. One of Nansemond's co-owners, Virginian Bill Camp did stick around and said "That was the best race mile I've ever seen and I've watched many good ones. There is no disgrace to be back in the pack behind that horse tonight."

A couple of other drivers still with us who tallied victories on that memorable card included Jerry Duford, who won the featured Trot with Dillon Song, and Bev Heywood, who took the fourth race with Quick Mission. Bev, who has made his home just a few minutes away from the track for many years, put a smile on a number of fans in the crowd when his winning effort resulted in a win payoff of $37.00 and started off a quadactor that resulted in a whopping $12,766.

The clocking of 1:56.3 shown in the background told most of the story of the win by Albatross in the 1972 Continental Cup at Windsor. The old track record of 1:59.4 set in 1967 by Philip Brian was erased as Canada's fastest ever mile was established by Albatross (Windsor Star)

Quote For The Week: "It's amazing how much things can change in just one 2019 we tried to stay away from negative people, now in 2020 we are trying to stay away from positive people."

Who Is It?

Can you identify these two fellows from about 40 years ago. Let us know if you have them figured out (Hoof Beats)

Who Else Is It?

Can you put a first and last name on this young lad (2) in a photo from about 38 years ago? No clues offered. A few people might recognize the second place finisher as well (Abahazy photo collection)

July 29, 2020 - 3:52 pmThis week's pictures produced

This week's pictures produced some interesting results. The top picture was correctly identified as horseman Jim Miller on the left with owner Mel Barr of Ottawa on the right side.
The lower picture produced some predictable results due to somewhat of a "look alike" and a close relative. From the first ten replies came ten correct answers for the last name but just one that stated the right first name. As a young lad growing up I worked for a man who used a lot of witty sayings and when someone correctly answered a question he invariably had a standard line . Following his example I will say to Rick Hodgins "Go to the head of the class" for being the first to recognize Robert Campbell. Rob is a first cousin of John Campbell as their fathers were brothers with Jack being John's father and Rob's Dad was Ray. The horse had an interesting name, Argyel Scrambell (almost Campbell) sired by Scram. And yes the second place finisher was driven by Bill Gale. Thanks for joining in. 

July 26, 2020 - 11:35 amSecond picture is along the

Second picture is along the rail is Robert Campbell with Argyle Scramble, finishing second was Bill Gale.

July 26, 2020 - 10:01 amWho else is it? Robert

David Darocy SAID...

Who else is it?
Robert Campbell driving horse #2 and William Gale driving #6 at Wolverine Raceway.

July 26, 2020 - 8:20 amRick Hodgins is right. It’s

Bob Belore SAID...

Rick Hodgins is right. It’s Rob Campbell, John’s cousin.

July 25, 2020 - 3:16 pmThe second photo is John

The second photo is John Campbell and the second place finisher is Bill Gale

July 25, 2020 - 1:12 pmPat Zappia said: First photo

Pat Zappia said: First photo is Jim Miller and Mel Barr, Second photo is John Campbell (inside) and Bill Gale (outside)

July 25, 2020 - 12:30 pmWho else is it? John

Bert Clish SAID...

Who else is it? John Campbell and Bill Gale

July 25, 2020 - 12:24 pmWho Else Is It? John Campbell

Who Else Is It? John Campbell

July 25, 2020 - 11:59 amThe first photo is Jim

Norm Brunet SAID...

The first photo is Jim Miller, which I had the fortune of working for back in 1974 out in California.
The 2nd picture I believe is Jim Campbell and finishing 2nd is Bill Gale.

July 25, 2020 - 11:58 amRob Campbell & Bill Gale

Rick Hodgins SAID...

Rob Campbell & Bill Gale

July 25, 2020 - 11:24 amJim Miller, Hugh Grant, John

Gord Brown SAID...

Jim Miller, Hugh Grant, John Campbell, Bill Gale.

July 25, 2020 - 10:43 amJust a guess: Jim Miller and

Just a guess:
Jim Miller and Mel Barr

For sure:
John Campbell and Bill Gale

July 25, 2020 - 10:29 amThe 2nd picture is John

Tom Foley SAID...

The 2nd picture is John Campbell #2 and Glen Gurnsey #6

July 25, 2020 - 10:24 am#2 is John Campbell and Bill

Johnny Kish SAID...

#2 is John Campbell and Bill Gale on #6

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