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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s

Published: July 4, 2020 10:10 am ET

Last Comment: July 8, 2020 12:10 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith takes a look back at the decade of the 1960s in the regular monthly feature titled Years Ago. This time period was truly the "coming out party" for the Province of Ontario. After years of political wrangling and countless roadblocks Ontario finally gained permission to legally hold nighttime racing. The first such meeting was held at London's Western Fair Raceway starting in May of 1961. Other items of interest pertaining to the 1960's are also included

1961 - London Turns On The Lights

After decades of attempts by various groups and organizations to gain permission to stage nighttime racing in Ontario, the long-awaited first ever meeting took place at London's Western Fair Raceway. On the evening of May 17, 1961 the blessed event became history when the legendary local horseman Wm. Herbert was first across the finish line driving Adieu Herbert to victory in the night's first race. History was made to the delight of many.

The opening meeting was a success and many area horsepeople who had previously been forced to travel much further afield to find racing were able to enjoy staying closer to home. The inaugural meeting lasted a total of six weeks and during that time a number of firsts were recorded. Penny Johnston recorded the inaugural meeting's fastest mile when Gary Campbell drove her to a winning time of 2:05 even in winning the closing night feature on June 24th. The purse of $2,000 for the two-heat Invitational event was considered a pretty good sum back then even though they went two heats.

A trio of pictures from the early years at London are included in this week's "Who Is It?" shown below.

1963 - Peaches Atom Takes Closing Day Feature At Richelieu


Peaches Atom and Dr. John Findley

Sept. 15, 1963 - The Richelieu Park season closed on this Sunday afternoon to an unusually large and enthusiastic crowd. The afternoon's feature was aptly-named "The Au Revoir Trot" which attracted a field of the finest trotters racing anywhere, all in search of a slice of the $5,000 pie. The entrants included a variety of ages and also pitted mares against horses and geldings. The favourites as they went postward was the stable entry of Amulet Hanover and Sprite Kid from the stable of Roger White and owner Allan Leblanc of Quebec City. Also drawing a lot of interest was the three-year-old Choir Boy, a recent competitor in the Hambletonian. An unfortunate break at the start of the race cost the three-year-old and driver Keith Waples any chance at being a contender.

Despite a fine showing by the favoured betting choices, the winner was the fine trotting mare Peaches Atom who was in the midst of her finest season ever. The seven-year-old mare scored her ninth victory in 17 starts which pushed her season's earnings over the $20,000 mark for the second consecutive campaign having earned just over $22,800 in 1962. With trainer and driver John Findley on the bike for owners McBurnie and Altman of Ottawa, Peaches Atom mounted a late challenge and collared Amulet Hanover (White) at the wire with a mile in 2:04 4/5. A number of smiling faces in the crowd included those who held a winning ticket worth $11.20.

1965 - Flaming Jet Is Sighted at Several Racetracks


Flaming Jet appears in the winner's circle at Jackson Raceway with owners Mr. and Mrs. Glen Florence of Coldwater, Ohio and driver Ervin "Speedy" Samples

Standardbreds come in many shapes, sizes and colours but usually well within a certain range. The sight of a white or grey horse is often cause to take a second look but in general most of the pacers or trotters you see look a lot alike. Adjectives starting with the letter "B", i.e. - bay, brown or black describe a large portion of the standardbred population. However like all rules and perceptions, there are always exceptions.

Back in the mid 1960's (as well as other infrequent times) there appeared a horse that is registered as "Pinto" or "PI". While extremely rare there have been a few over the years. Flaming Jet was sired by Directs Jet (listed as bay) and out of the mare Ruth H (no color listed in Sires & Dams Book). Oddly the offspring of this pair among others list four foals, all full brothers or sisters with one Pinto, two bays and one chestnut in colour.


Flaming Jet in rein to Ervin Samples, an unusual looking pacer is shown in a 1965 winning effort at Jackson Raceway in Michigan. That season the four-year-old pinto mare was a five-time winner in 35 starts and took a new lifetime best of 2:07.2 while banking $3,266. From the payoffs shown on the picture she may have been a favourite but not THE favourite paying $26.40 to win. She raced at several Mid-West tracks in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois that season.

1968 - Rare Walkover At London

Most people have heard the term A one-horse race, usually meaning that one particular horse stands out in talent and based on past performance is fairly sure to win the race being discussed. Beyond that usage of the term there have been races contested by just one horse. They are rare but have taken place. Based on a certain set of circumstances and factors allowed by racing rules what is called a "walkover" can occur. A "walkover" results when only one horse in a specific stakes race shows up on the day of the race and he or she 'Walks' or 'Jogs' the prescribed distance to claim the total purse offered.

On October 4, 1968 one such event took place at London's Western Fair Raceway. Deep Run Sugar, owned by Wm. O. "Ted" McLean of Goderich, Ont., won the Two-Year-Old Centennial Trot and the total purse of $3,228 jogging the mile in 2:35. Owner Ted McLean was in the sulky for this rather unusual happening. It was this filly's only start of the year on the trot. I guess you might say it was a "sweet" victory for Deep Run Sugar and her owners Wm. O. and Alma McLean.

Raceways normally have conditions in place to take care of such an eventuality so it is perhaps interesting to note that this may have been the last walkover at a Canadian harness raceway. I am not at all certain if it was the last so if anyone in the reading audience knows of others please share your knowledge.
(Thanks to Wm. Galvin's 1974 Fact Book for this information)

Dominion Day Races

A few days ago on July 1, Canadians proudly observed Canada Day. Originally known as Dominion Day, this holiday was at one time a very big day for harness racing as towns all across the land held a very special day of racing. Places such as Strathroy, Kingston, Orangeville and others in Ontario staged first class racing. Many places in other provinces also held their memorable race days. The day of celebration brought out the best available horses and horse people. Families often brought picnic lunches and gathered well before the first race started.

The above scene shows a huge crowd gathered in front of the grandstand at Strathroy, Ontario waiting to place a bet. Dating back to 1919 races were held without fail on Dominion Day at Strathroy until the annual tradition was finally abandoned in the 1960's as times changed. Check out the suits and felt and straw hats. (London Free Press Photo - author's collection)

Quote For The Week: An older gentleman went to the Dr. and when asked to describe his ailment he said, "I have no energy; all of my get up and go got up and left."

Who Is It?

Can you identify this Chap who was associated with the startup of night racing in London 1n 1961? Give it a try.

Who Else Is It?

You be the judge. Who are these three well-known gentlemen working high up at London? Name them if you can.

Bonus Photo

Who are these two seasoned veterans who were part of London's first year racing under the lights?

July 8, 2020 - 12:10 pmThis week's pictures were

This week's pictures were easy pickins' for Londoner Robert E. Harris. They were as he stated:
Clifford "Chappy" Chapman Jr. - WFR's First Race Sec.
Judges (all former horsemen ) L-R - Wm. Gardner, Floyd Milton, H.O. "Bud" Jerry
Bonus photo - Wm. Henry Herbert and Duncan Rowlatt Campbell - WFR legends and first two Wall of Fame inductees. Thanks

July 4, 2020 - 11:25 am#1 Cliff 'Chappy' Chapman #2

#1 Cliff 'Chappy' Chapman
#2 Wm. Bud Gardner, Floyd Milton, H. O. Bud Jerry
#3 Wm. H. Herbert, Duncan R. Campbell

July 4, 2020 - 10:52 amNo. 1: Cliff Chapman Bonus:

No. 1: Cliff Chapman
Bonus: On the left Mr Bill Herbert


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