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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1970s

Published: August 1, 2020 10:35 am ET

Last Comment: August 6, 2020 10:52 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind is another monthly edition of Years Ago; this time centred on the decade of the 1970's and a few of the events and people involved back then. This was a prosperous time in the history of harness racing across the globe. Robert Smith has assembled a few old stories and pictures depicting the times. New tracks were still being built, crowds were huge and all elements of the sport were 'humming'.

1970 - Wm. Wellwood Joins The "Million Dollar Club"

Many people have heard the old saying "I'm working on my second million; the first one was too hard so I gave it up." In the case of horseman Wm. "Bill" Wellwood, he actually made it to the $1 million plateau before starting on the second. The 30-year-old horsemen, then residing in Clarkson, Ont., entered the charmed group on December 7, 1970 as he piloted the trotting mare Miss Oak to a second-place finish at Greenwood Raceway. His new "membership" coincided with his second Horseman of the Year title on the Golden Horseshoe Circuit.

William earned his first trip to the winner's circle way back in 1959 as a 19-year-old when he scored a victory in his first career start at Buffalo Raceway behind the pacing mare Royal Aileen. Bill entered the racing business after graduating from High School in Merlin, Ont., when he went to work as a groom for his Uncle Harold Wellwood who lived at Stratford. He learned his lessons quickly and thoroughly and stayed with his uncle's outfit until 1966 when he opened his own public stable. From this point he progressed each year and eventually owned either all or a part of many of the good horses he developed. His decades of participation on the tough O.J.C. circuit saw him win many titles first as a driver and later as a trainer and overall accomplished horseman. His accomplishments place him in a very special category.

1974 - Armbro Nadir Happy To Be Back At Blue Bonnets

A view of Armbro Nadir (7) and driver Nelson White reaching the finish line a winner in the 1973 Prix D'Ete at Blue Bonnets

June 9, 1974 - The huge Sunday afternoon crowd of over 10,000 race fans at Blue Bonnets were happy to see one of their favourites back for the first time in nearly a year. Apparently the horse affectionately known by all as "Ralph" was equally happy. Armbro Nadir (aka Ralph) had toured this same track in world record time a year previous to this as he won the prestigious Prix D'Ete in a clocking of 1:56.1. On this day his time wasn't quite as fast but it was an impressive mile in 1:59.4.

Following the race Ralph's trainer and driver Nelson White shared a few of his thoughts on the day and the horse with reporter Rich Bercuson of the Montreal Gazette. White chuckled "you know there's an old saying 'courses for horses'. All that means is that horses like some tracks better than others. Well, Ralphie apparently loves this track." White was at a bit of a loss to explain why but theorized it simply by saying "He's just always loved it here but it was good and hot out there today and that's what studs like; they always race better in hot weather."

Nadir's performance was the fourth two-minute mile in Montreal up to this point in the 1974 season. White added "The fans here are different; they love to see that two-minute mile no matter who does it."

1976 - Coke Stable Takes Both Legs Of Don Mills Trot

Nevele Clown (1) scores a close victory to notch his first win of the 1976 season for driver Wes Coke and Toronto owners The Glori Bell Stable (Can. Sportsman)

Feb. 28, 1967 - Saturday afternoons at Greenwood were always a big attraction even in the dead of winter. On this date with 11,550 fans in attendance, members of the Wes Coke Stable took home a good share of the purses offered that day for the featured trotting stakes. In the opener Nevele Clown, a four-year-old son of Speedster, was first home in a time of 2:04 to beat out Butch Cassidy N driven by Brent Davies. Tusco Hanover, another entrant from the Coke stable, finished fourth for driver Bud Gilmour which netted almost $4,000 for the stable in this division alone.

In the second division Wes watched from the paddock as Keystone Gyro scored a two-length victory with Bud Gilmour handling the driving chores. The win was accomplished a bit easier than anticipated when favourite Dart Camp made an early break and ended up finishing near the back of the pack. Second place in this division went to The Bailiff who won an opening leg for Reg Lipsett. On this day Charlie Lawson took over the driving duties for a vacationing Lipsett. Ralph The Rover was third. It was a rewarding day for Ida and Sam Ross and Archie Sopman of Toronto, owners of both Keystone Gyro and Tusco Hanover.

See below for a trivia question related to the winner Nevele Clown.

1978 - The Passing Of Elgin Armstrong

Elgin Armstrong and his familiar cigar pauses for a photograph while attending the races (Hoof Beats photo)

Dec. 1978 - Longtime harness racing personality Elgin Armstrong passed away recently at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the age of 81. He was the senior partner in the world-renowned Armstrong Bros. operation located in Brampton, Ont. Elgin and his brother Ted, who passed away just 15 months prior to this, were the founders of one of the world's greatest breeding establishments and certainly the tops in Canada. Over their many decades in the business they raced, raised and bred several of the sport's finest performers.

They started their involvement way back in the 1950's and gradually built their horse business into one of the largest and most successful in history. They along with Elgin's son Charles also owned and operated a huge construction business which built many of the roads, bridges and highway infrastructure projects in Canada and elsewhere. A short list of their greatest stable stars would include 1953 Hambletonian winner Helicopter, the incomparable Armbro Flight and Armbro Omaha, winner of the Little Brown Jug, Prix D'Ete and Messenger stake all in 1974. Throughout their long existence they were the "class" of harness racing and forever will be remembered as such.

Elgin Armstrong and his wife Vivian are joined by his daughters Isabelle (I believe) and Ruth on the right (Hoof Beats)

1978 - Windsor Drivers Support Easter Seals Effort

A group of Windsor drivers made a sizable contribution to the local Easter Seals drive for crippled children by donating their earnings to the fund raising campaign. In cooperation with the Raceway who matched the horsemen's contributions, they were able to present a cheque for $1.200 to the effort. The whole idea was spearheaded by drivers Bill Hicks and another in the picture below. Hicks remarked that "all of the drivers were asked to get involved and that the response was unanimous. The horsemen here are a great bunch and we are happy to support community projects that help the people who support the racetrack."

The Easter Seal Pace was won by a three-year-old filly named Hallies Tip, owned by a trio of Michigan sportsmen and driven to victory by Keith Quinlan. He remained in contention throughout the mile and made his move in the final 300 yards to gain a 1-1/2 length margin over Big Boy Bill with Ken Hardy in the sulky with third spot going to Brilliant Bonnie driven by Richard Carroll.

Members of the local Windsor Rotary Club and their guests were in attendance at the track that evening but were unaware of the unsolicited pledge which of course was very much appreciated.

A picture is shown below of a number of the people involved in this event. It is part of this week's photo Quiz.

Quote For The Week: With the major league baseball season just getting under way, why not have a quote from Yogi Berra? "It's always nice to win the home opener, even if it's on the road."

Who Is It?

Can you identify the first three people from the left in the back row as well as the two drivers in front? Shown in front is little Miss Gwen Reid who served as "Tammy" in the 1978 Windsor Easter Seals Campaign. The two gentleman in the rear on the far right were Vince Janisse and Bill Waugh of the Windsor Rotary Club (Harness Horse Photo)

Who Else Is It?

Can anyone identify any of the subjects in this photo taken many years ago at Mohawk Raceway? The presenter holding the trophy is the former Mayor of Milton, Anne MacArthur. I have no further names so here is a job for our picture experts (Milton Historical Society)

Trivia Question: Where does the name Nevele originate and what inspired it?

August 6, 2020 - 10:52 amThis week's pictures and

This week's pictures and trivia question sparked some interesting discussion. In the top picture taken in 1978 at Windsor everyone was correctly identified when Robert Harris pointed out Ross Roselle. In the back row from left to right - Tom Lachine, Carman Hie, Bev Kingston and Rotary officials. Front row from left is Ross Roselle and Ken Hardy with "Tammy" Miss Gwen Reid.
 In the lower picture taken trackside at Mohawk with the former Mayor of Milton the driver has been identified as Larry Walker. A couple of other "experts" contacted me suggesting that it was Larry.
The answer to the trivia question was Eleven spelled backwards which results in Nevele, the Stanley Dancer brand, the unanimous reply. Thanks again for taking part in the weekly brain twizzlers.

August 2, 2020 - 6:08 pmThe Windsor pic looks like

The Windsor pic looks like Joe DeFrank on the right and Marv Chantler on the left my best guess.

August 2, 2020 - 10:56 amMr. DeShane is in error. The

murray brown SAID...

Mr. DeShane is in error. The Resnick family never owned the Nevele Hotel. The Nevele Hotel was owned by Ben and Julius Slutsky and was located in Ellenville, New York. Louis Resnick was the owner of a large electronics firm with his brother which was also located in Ellenville. The Resnick family had nothing to do with the Nevele Hotel. The Slutskys and Lou Resnick were partners in the ownership of Nevele Pride. I am not certain of this, but I do not believe that Julius Slutsky was an attorney.

August 2, 2020 - 9:33 amits Ross Roselle & Ken Hardy

its Ross Roselle & Ken Hardy

August 1, 2020 - 5:38 pmTrivia question- The word

Trivia question- The word Nevele is eleven spelled backwards. The name originated as Nevele Acres in Nevele, New York. The Nevele Hotel was owned by the Louis Resnick family and sold to Julius Slutsky a high-priced lawyer. He bought the great Nevele Pride who was trained and driven by the legendary Stanley Dancer. After Nevele Pride's illustrious racing career, he was sold by Slutsky to Stoner Creek Stud for a then record $3,000,000.00.

August 1, 2020 - 1:09 pmIts eleven spelled backwards,

Eric Warren SAID...

Its eleven spelled backwards, from the Nevele Hotel

August 1, 2020 - 12:33 pmNevele is eleven spelled

Nevele is eleven spelled backwards. The name comes from the Nevele Country Club in Ellenville, NY owned by the Slutsky Family.

August 1, 2020 - 11:42 amThe driver in the picture

The driver in the picture looks like Larry Walker
I think Nevele came from eleven, which was the road or township line Dancer's farm was on.

August 1, 2020 - 11:34 amCarm Hie, Bev Kingston, Ken

Gord Brown SAID...

Carm Hie, Bev Kingston, Ken Quirie, Ken Hardy.
Bottom Larry Walker

August 1, 2020 - 11:25 amWho is it? Windsor Raceway

David Darocy SAID...

Who is it?
Windsor Raceway General Manager Tom Lachine, Carmen Hie and Bev Kingston in the back row and in the front row are Ray Remmen and Ken Hardy,
Who else is it?
Just think I recognize the driver as Larry Walker.
Nevele acres in Ellenville, New York.

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