view counter
view counter

SC Rewind: Breaking The Barrier

Published: August 12, 2017 10:53 am ET

Last Comment: August 15, 2017 9:03 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith takes readers back some 58 years ago to July 22, 1959. He recalls the details and the excitement that made up one of the greatest happenings in Canadian harness racing history. It is an often told story, but certainly one well worth looking at and hearing about at least one more time.

July 22, 1959 - Mighty Dudley and driver Keith Waples write a entire chapter of Canadian harness racing history as they cross the Richelieu Park finish line. The four-year-old son of Dudley Hanover with part-owner Keith Waples, 35, in the sulky, scored the first ever sub 2:00 mile in the long history of the sport in Canada. The time of the mile was 1:59.3. This happening elevated harness racing in Canada to a new level. (Harness Horse)

​As recently as 1959, Canadian harness racing had yet to experience a mile faster than two minutes. It had been talked about and anticipated for many years, but somehow it had never happened. A valiant try was made four years previous to this when in October 1955 Adios Harry was invited to Blue Bonnets but as reported in a recent Rewind, his attempt to pace a mile in two minutes or less was in vain. Coming into this series the fastest mile on Canadian soil was 2:00.4 and belonged to a U.S.-owned horse named Diamond Hal who set the record in 1955. For his efforts Canadian-born driver Joe O'Brien of Alberton P.E.I. was rewarded by Richelieu management with a cheque for $2,500.

During the months of June and July 1959 a very special series of races called "The Canada Pace Series" had attracted the sport's best and as the weekly features were contested the coming of a 'miracle mile' grew closer and closer. Many observers felt that it was just the proverbial 'matter of time' and indeed it was. The same group of horses and drivers battled it out and by month's end a lot of terrific racing and great memories had been made. While it was a once-in-a-lifetime happening it was also reminiscent of the tremendous racing that was almost commonplace back then. It is interesting to note that Montreal's great race days were usually on Sunday afternoons; this series was held under the lights and all on mid-week evenings. Needless to say the crowds were still huge; Montrealers loved to see great races and these were some of the best.

The following is a recap of the last four races in the Canada Pace series, all held at Richelieu Park. There were five in total with a cumulative purse of some $61,000.

The Richelieu Park marquee as it appeared in the 1950's; a familiar site for racegoers of the day (Courtesy of Dean Hoffman)

First race held on July 7, 1959

On this evening a large group of horses faced starter Harold Wilson and they had to be divided into two divisions. Following the eliminations, the top five from each heat raced in the final. At stake was a purse of $10,800. In the opener Sir Winston Pick, Canada's top three-year-old, won the first in a relatively slow 2:04.2 for Roger White; second was Devastator with Mighty Dudley third. In the second elimination Chief Maid scored an impressive win over her rivals in a clocking of 2:02.2 with Great Adios second and Adioscot third. In somewhat of an upset Champ Volo was eliminated from the final based on his 6th place finish despite having Marcel Dostie in from Yonkers for the drive.

When the top five from each elim faced off it was once again Chief Maid and Benoit Cote first across the line in an even quicker 2:02 flat. This was her eighth win in just 11 starts on the season. Second spot went to Scotchlite with Mighty Dudley third. Sir Winston Pick who showed so well in the opener was no match in the final and finished a distant seventh. Others who fared better were Great Adios 4th, Captain Wright 5th, Devastator 6th followed by Adioscot, Nola's Pence and Worthy Willow. A week later another leg was scheduled.

Chief Maid, an outstanding pacing mare of the 1950's is shown here in the winner's circle following one of her many victories during the 1959 season. She was forced to continually race against all of the best male horses on the tough Montreal circuit and on many occasions beat fields made up of mainly geldings and stallions. During the 1959 season as a five-year-old, she made a total of 18 starts and was returned a winner on 11 of those tries to go along with three seconds good enough for earnings of $36,652 raising her lifetime bankroll to $68,494. The bay daughter of Chief Long - Woodlawn Maid took a sparkling record of 2:00.4 to place her among the sport's elite performers. Pictured from left Raymond Lemay, Hubert Soucie, driver Benoit Cote (just 25 years of age), Chief Maid, owners Mr. And Mrs. Cleremont Vellieux and far right Paul Dansereau. (Harness Horse)

Second race held on July 14, 1959

A week later again a shortened field of just five starters (with the scratch of Sir Winston Pick) contested the next leg and it carried a purse of $10,800. This time speed was again the order of the day and Chief Maid set all of the early pace only to be collared by Mighty Dudley and Keith Waples with Great Adios and Jules Giguere finishing third. Chief Maid retained the lead until the final sixteenth when the crafty Waples swept up on the outside to grab the lead and hang on to win.

The winning time set a new track record of 2:00.2 eclipsing the existing standard by two-fifths of a second. The fractional times were :29.2; :59.4; 1:29.4 and the mile in 2:00.2. All of this great action began to build interest in the next week's encounter. Little did anyone realize just how big an evening it would turn out to be.

Third race held on July 21, 1959

​Winning driver and horse Keith Waples and Mighty Dudley are joined in the winner's circle by Richelieu Park race secretary Georges Giguere (left) and co-owner Jacques Giard. It was a history setting evening as Mighty Dudley stepped off Canada's first ever two-minute mile in history.

This turned out to be quite a battle and certainly a race that will go down in the record books as one of the greatest of all time by any standard. In a bulky ten-horse field Mighty Dudley scored from the second tier. A great old video of the race captures the excitement much better than I can describe it.

This was the race that all Canadian racing fans and horsepeople alike were awaiting and finally it arrived. Accounts of the race appeared in newspapers across the land and made the news in mediums that did not always report on harness racing. The management of Richelieu Park as a token of their appreciation presented driver Keith Waples with a cheque for $2,000. For days and weeks people talked about and to this day most longtime followers of the sport still remember the name Mighty Dudley and his pilot Keith Waples.

In typical Keith Waples fashion he never embellished his accomplishment nor that of the horse. He often in the years that have followed stated that in effect Might Dudley was a very good horse but not a great horse. In an oft-used quote he said "Mighty Dudley was a good horse, but he couldn't beat the top horses out at that time, like Bye Bye Byrd or some of those." He did say in later years in true Waples fashion that he wondered what he had done with the $2.000 cheque.

Final race of the series held July 28, 1959

On this date the final leg of the series was contested and with it came the largest purse of $18,000. After the previous week's record-shattering performance by Mighty Dudley and the epic mile put in by Chief Maid, it was difficult for anyone in the crowd to think that another horse could be a factor. As so often happens in this sport upsets occur with regularity and with them bigger payouts at the mutuel windows.

A crowd of 12,000 watched as Scotchlite, an unheralded seven-year-old gelding owned by the Del Rosa Farm of Montreal and driven by "Frog" Redden, humbled the pre-race favourites Chief Maid (2nd)and Mighty Dudley (3rd). Allowed to go postward at odds of 17-1 the winner paid a handsome $36.10 for a two dollar wager. His time was pretty respectable too as he stopped the clock in 2:00.2. Those who were thirsty for yet another sub 2:00 mile saw one of the greatest races of the season but not a new track record.

It is interesting to note that it took almost two years before the next sub-2:00 mile was achieved and that was a very famous day as well when Adios Butler and Eddie Cobb toured this same Richelieu track in 1:58.2. In September of 1962 Royal Ronald with Claude Watters up notched a mile in 1:59.3. Another year passed without a sub-two minute mile and in mid-October of 1964 Bengazi Hanover and George Sholty gave Blue Bonnets the honour of their first. While Mighty Dudley broke the barrier, he did not exactly open up the flood gates.

Somehow I don't think that people sit around the fireside and tell stories anymore but if they did, this period in time would make some pretty interesting tales. For a five-race series a group of ten or so horses battled it out and the results were about as good as it gets. I didn't get to see Mighty Dudley race but I did get to meet him long before he became so famous.

This is yet another example of the tremendous legacy that Keith Waples has left us. I hope that folks too young to recall this event will enjoy reading about it and that for those of us who were around at that time that you will once again realize what a great moment in our sport's history this epic event turned out to be. Two-minute miles have become so commonplace in the years that followed but back then it was a very big happening.

Who Is It?

Two for the price of one in this week's Who Is It.​ Can you put a name on these two gentlemen?

August 15, 2017 - 9:03 amJim Wallace is the correct

Jim Wallace is the correct answer for Both as pointed out by at least a couple of very astute readers of Rewind. Although both gentlemen bear the same name and were born and raised in Central Ontario, they did not meet up with each other until around the time this picture was taken. One was from Strathroy; the other from Crediton. And by the way they were not related. The gentleman on the right lived at Dauphin Manitoba for many years and was best known for his participation in five mile races in Quebec (Perhaps the subject of an upcoming Rewind ?).
Many thanks to all who responded.

August 13, 2017 - 3:00 pmOn the left Jim Wallace,

Sandy Best SAID...

On the left Jim Wallace, London ON, on the right Jim Wallace Dauphin MB. A fine pair of lads.

August 13, 2017 - 12:04 amI helped the Jimmy Wallace on

Darryl Mason SAID...

I helped the Jimmy Wallace on the right with his stable at the fair's in Manitoba and drove a few horses for him in the late 1980's. Jim always had a interesting story from days gone by and his wife Betty always had time for a chat.

August 12, 2017 - 11:49 pmThey are both Jim Wallace.

Darryl Mason SAID...

They are both Jim Wallace. The one on the left is James M Wallace and the one on the right is James A Wallace.

August 12, 2017 - 7:14 pmI can't help but admire Keith

I can't help but admire Keith Waples posture in the race bike in the first photo. It's a classic photo.

August 12, 2017 - 5:27 pmThe taller one looks like Jim

Jack Darling SAID...

The taller one looks like Jim Wallace and the other one looks very familiar

August 12, 2017 - 4:42 pmThanks again Robert Smith.

Rick Karper SAID...

Thanks again Robert Smith. The Mighty Dudley race has marked the rest of my life.

August 12, 2017 - 4:20 pmThey look like Buddy Gilmour

Dale Leiska SAID...

They look like Buddy Gilmour and Shelly Goudreau to me.

August 12, 2017 - 2:24 pmNot sure about the gentleman

Dave Brydon SAID...

Not sure about the gentleman on the left but I'm sure the fella on the left is Jimmy Wallace, I worked for Mr Wallace and his wife Betty in Manitoba, he'd often tell us stories about racing at Richelieu Park and the famous 5 mile race there.

view counter

© 2018 Standardbred Canada. All rights reserved. Use of this site signifies your agreement and compliance with the legal disclaimer and privacy policy.

Firefox 3 Best with IE 7 Built with Drupal