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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1940s

Published: August 11, 2018 9:52 am ET

Last Comment: August 16, 2018 7:01 am ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith remembers some happenings, names and other interesting facts from the decade of the 1940's. The usual inclusion of a few old photographs helps to set the tone of the times.

The decade of the 1940's was an eventful one and combined with a lot of other things going on connected with WW II, it was a most memorable time. Night racing became a reality in 1940, the starting gate came into widespread use by 1946 and was officially introduced in Canada in May of 1947. Several new racetracks sprang up in the U.S. and the sport grew by leaps and bounds in Quebec and the Maritimes. Harness racing was a huge spectator sport and in certain areas of the Continent also provided one of the few legal gambling opportunities for the general population. Racing at the small towns continued to be the backbone of the sport.

1942 - Robert Smith Passes In California

(As reported in the Sept. 1942 issue of The Canadian Sportsman)

Robert Smith, cordially known as "Sweet Marie 2:02 Bob Smith" passed away at his Los Angeles, Calif. home on August 18, aged about 75 years. He was a native of Philadelphia, Pa. where his family amassed a comfortable fortune as coffee roasters. As a comparatively young man his health failed and his father gave him $1,500 to go to California. Family and friends agreed that his days were numbered as he had been afflicted with tuberculosis for several years. In short order the reverse of their thoughts occurred as Mr. Smith improved in health and he became interested in harness horses through the suggestion of a chum named Will Durfee.

He soon earned a name as a clever amateur trainer and driver to such an extent that he leased a trotter named Sweet Marie then 10 years old. She had been matineed some around Los Angeles, although never fully sound. He brought her back east and by careful training she became the leading stake trotter of her year taking a record of 2:02 at Columbus, Ohio. For the past decade or longer Smith had been engaged in buying horses for parties in Australia and New Zealand, shipping some of the best horses of recent years.


Sweet Marie 2:02 (Harness Horse)

He was a keen judge of horses and a successful business man whose passing will be regretted by countless friends.

Note: Not a relative to my knowledge.

1944 - Waples Stable Has Successful Season

J.L. "Jack" Waples and his eldest son Keith from Victoria Harbour, Ont. had a pretty busy but productive season back in 1944. They had a couple of pretty consistent performers that they raced throughout that season across Central Ontario. They started the calendar year off at Mitchell, Ont., and when the summer and fall season was completed they headed to Dufferin Park, that fabled spot in Toronto. In the meantime they touched down for the day at quite a few different spots. By the way young Keith did not turn 21 until December of that year.

Their two steady performers that year were a black gelding named Black Prince 2:08 1/4 and a bay mare Lady Harvester 2:11. The following is an alphabetically arranged list of towns where they appeared. Coldwater, Collingwood, Elmvale, Goderich, Lindsay, Listowel, Markham, Mitchell, Picton, Port Perry, Schomberg, Strathroy, Stratford, Sunderland, Tillsonburg, Woodbridge. It is possible they also raced at a few other locations that were not recorded.

When Keith won all three heats with Black Prince on Sept. 14 opening day at Lindsay, he was one of several winning drivers that received a $5.00 bill as a bonus. Also Lindsay Mayor Chas. Lamb donated a beautifully inscribed cooler and $10.00 for the fastest heat of the meeting to Harry Ingles. His prize-winning ride came behind Grattan Lee in the Free For All on closing day as they stopped the watches of timers Chas. O'Neill and James Issac in 2:10 3/4. Second in each of the three heats was Black Prince, back in action after a rest of one day. Purses for all events was a generous $300 ($1370.00 in today's equivalent value)

I have been unable to find out if Keith still has that five spot tucked away in a secret area of his billfold!

1946 - Blue Again Wins The Canadian Pacing Derby

Back in August of 1946 the 11th edition of the Canadian Pacing Derby was held at Fountain Park in the small Waterloo County town of New Hamburg. This race was fast becoming not only the Province's headline event but also one that was making all Canadians proud. This year's event drew the largest crowd in its two decade history and also resulted in a new speed record which would stand for as long as this race was held at New Hamburg.

On this day the U.S.-bred and Canadian-owned Blue Again was a convincing three-heat winner as he prevailed over The Count B who had won the event the previous two years and would come back again the following two years to resume his dominance in this annual classic.

In 1946 BLUE AGAIN was the winner in three straight heats. His fastest winning time of 2:04 1/2 was an all-time Derby record which stood as the best of all 22 races held at New Hamburg. The winning driver, shown here, was Harold Wellwood, then 40 years of age. Harold's winning mile set a new track record and netted him $50, a prize that had been unclaimed for many years. Blue Again was owned by R. W. Leatherdale of Windsor, Ont. (LFP Photo)

After the record setting mile Harold allegedly said "I'm never going to reset my stopwatch because it's unlikely that I'll ever go this fast again."

Harold told me an interesting story to do with the $50.00 prize he received that day. Once the hoopla and excitement of that day had subsided Mr. Leatherdale, the horse's owner, showed up at the stable. Along with the winning trophy he had a somewhat crumpled envelope that he showed Harold. He said "I also got 50 bucks for breaking the track record!" Harold politely said "Thank you very much; if you check the words on the envelope it says "To The Driver" who breaks the record. Reportedly Mr. Leatherdale, who was not universally known for his generosity, reluctantly handed over the prize. By the way, today's value of $50 is equal to $710.64.

1948 - Dr. Stanton Tops Free For All List


Dr. Stanton the famous "rags to riches" performer is shown in action with owner and driver Lindley Fraser in the sulky. A $500 purchase he went on to national stardom in the late 1940's and early 50's.

At one time horses were classified by their lifetime earnings. The categories went from 30 Class which meant that a horse had won at least $100 career. In the top category were those who had earned $ 64,000 and above and they were listed as "Free For All." Every other horse fell somewhere in between. These designations were quite important and were often used to include or exclude horse's eligibility from certain races.

At the conclusion of the 1948 racing season only six active pacers were on that F.F.A. list, with just one Canadian-owned steed. That prestigious standing belonged to the phenomenal aged pacer Dr. Stanton, owned, trained and driven by Lindley Fraser of Forest, Ont. Buoyed by his earnings from that season which amounted to just over $ 50,000, the seven-year-old gelded son of Bonnycastle had lifetime earnings of $70,800 (approx. $802,000 in today's dollars).

Dr. Stanton raced entirely in the U.S. that year and for that matter spent most of his lengthy career racing there with the exception of a few starts at Thorncliffe Park in Toronto and also at the Canadian Pacing Derby in New Hamburg, both in 1950.

1949 - Fair Season Starts In Eastern Ontario

Sept. 12, 1949 - Two of Ontario’s oldest Fall Fairs, those at Williamstown (First held in 1812) and Vankleek Hill, will hold the spotlight next week. The Williamstown show, from Monday to Wednesday, is in its 145th year, while Vankleek Hill’s exhibition, thirty years younger, will follow on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A feature at this year’s exhibition at Vankleek Hill will be the new grandstand, just completed and which is to be formally opened tonight. It replaces the old stand destroyed by fire last October and will have seating accommodation for 900. Harness racing will be an attraction on Friday and Saturday.

The Free For All at Vankleek Hill was won by a U.S. bred horse Delaware Gazette, sired by Chief Abbedale, owned and driven by Gaston Lanthier from Oka, Que. The quickest mile of 2:13 belonged to Texas Mack for owner Joseph Larocque of Chute - A - Blondeau, Ont. with August Larocque in the sulky. Two owner-drivers, Leo Lalonde of Curran Ont. and Alex Gordon of Cornwall accounted for five wins during the two day fair races.

Who Is It?

Can you identify this gentleman, a longtime participant in Canadian harness racing?

Where Is It?

Can you identify the location of this once popular backstretch?

Watch for the correct answers during the coming week.

August 16, 2018 - 7:01 amThis week's photo was

This week's photo was correctly identified by several people as Andy Avery. The picture of the backstretch scene was indeed at Trois Rivieres (or Three Rivers) as submitted by Mr. Goddard. Those uniquely designed stables provided living quarters on the upper level but of course are now gone.

Note to Jim Morgan; your old Lindsay programs sound very interesting hang on to them. Thanks for your answers.

August 13, 2018 - 5:59 pmThese stables were at the

ron goddard SAID...

These stables were at the racetrack in Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

August 11, 2018 - 10:39 pmGreat stories once again

jim morgan SAID...

Great stories once again Robert. I have 2 race programs from Lindsay Exhibition. One is from 1920 and one from 1922.

August 11, 2018 - 4:32 pmGood stuff Robert. Didn't

Good stuff Robert. Didn't know there was maybe a richer Robert Smith than you??? Mystery man, my good friend Andy Avery?

August 11, 2018 - 1:58 pmAndy Avery

Gord Brown SAID...

Andy Avery

August 11, 2018 - 1:42 pmAndy Avery

W Doug HIe SAID...

Andy Avery


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