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SC Rewind: Sub-2:00 In The OSS

Published: August 24, 2019 9:55 am ET

Last Comment: August 28, 2019 12:02 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's 'Rewind' Robert Smith recalls a very important event in the early history of the Ontario Sires Stakes Program which began way back in 1974. His current piece remembers when the first sub-2:00 mile was recorded in O.S.S. competition; an important milestone indeed. That happening was in 1977, an event of just over 42 years ago. While the O.S.S. races were for young horses they also showcased the driving talents of some young drivers as well. The young driver who authored the first ever sub-2:00 score was just a mere 22 years of age at the time of this epic event.

Headline courtesy of Ottawa Citizen

Forty-five years ago in 1974 when the then new Ontario Sires Stakes Program first started, horses just didn't go as fast as they do today and have for several decades now. Whatever the factors were; improved breeding, superior racing surfaces, better equipment, you name it, the speed was not yet happening. In 1974 the first season of OSS competition the fastest mile logged by any performer was 2:01 and that belonged to the filly Merrywood Sara courtesy a win at Frontenac Downs. In the three-year-old colts and geldings division where normally the quickest miles are recorded, the best mile of 2:03.1 was accomplished by the top stakes performer Terry Parker. Owned by Clint Hodgins then of Orlando, Florida and often driven by Harold Wellwood Sr., Terry Parker was a consistent performer. Likewise, Merrywood Sara, handled by Don Larkin for Grand Bend owner Eric McElroy, illustrated what the new program could do while racing for the increased purses the OSS offered.

Ironically the standout among all three-year-olds racing in Ontario that year was an unheralded gelding named Derbys Gent who hung out a mile time of 2:00.2 while racing at the Kingston track. Unfortunately he was not a competitor in any OSS action. His record at season's end was an incredible 21 wins in 22 starts. His only start in which he did not record a win was at Northfield Park in Cleveland which was his only U.S. start that season. Many of his successes were achieved while competing in O.H.H.A. events which were very competitive but offered lower purses than the newer OSS program.

Two-Minute Speed Finally Arrives

Harold J. "Buddy" Wellwood and Aileens Tour during record setting 1977 season (Barrie Examiner Photo)

Two-minute speed finally arrived in the fourth season of OSS action. On Monday, August 1, 1977, a pretty classy crop of three-year-old colts and geldings descended on the backstretch at Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa. Because of the numbers they were divided into two divisions. In the opener a total of just five went behind the gate with a late scratch of Arrochar Replica, the early favourite. The two co-favourites Thamesview Blaze and Ronald provided a spriited battle. Driver Fred List, who usually raced Thamesview Blaze off the pace, changed his tactics and led all the way just narrowly edging his main foe Ronald, driven by Larry Walker. Time of the mile was a swift 2:00.1.

In the second heat a slightly larger group of six faced the starter with Aileens Tour the overwhelming favourite at 1-9, to the surprise of no one. The sensational three-year-old son of Tour Director had won his last 12 starts and there was no reason to believe that the streak would not continue. Under a heady drive by Harold "Buddy" Wellwood the amazing three-year-old turned in another sterling performance and in the process established a significant piece of OSS history.

The fractions of the record setting mile saw the quarter reached in: 29.4, the half in 1:00.1, three quarters in 1:29.2 and the mile in 1:59.2, the first ever sub-2:00 score in OSS history. The winner was forced to the record mile by a couple of familiar foes: Double Gene and Wes Coke who took second money, while Rock N Wave was third for Dave Wall. This time set a new track record for Rideau bettering the one set by Kojack and equalled in this card's first division's winner which was 2:00.1.

Following the race driver Bud Wellwood reacted in a rather predictable way, true to his style and that of his family and much like his father probably would have done. A reporter for the Ottawa Citizen said that "the new record didn't even bring a smile to Wellwood's face." He said "I'm not fazed by records; if he could have won in 2:04 instead of 2:00 he'd probably have another race in him. Each horse only has so many races in them.

"I'm never confident when I go into a race," said the Jr. Wellwood, "a lot of things can go wrong in a race to stop you from winning it."

Shortly after the record-setting performance by Aileens Tour, in early August the seemingly unbeatable horse mysteriously fell into an uncustomary run of poor performances. After a win on August 11th at Kawartha Downs he made breaks in his next two starts. He finished sixth at Flamboro and ninth back at Rideau. He was looked at by several vets but with no real conclusions he seemed to get back on his winning ways by the end of September without much effort nor with a reason ever found for his uncustomary poor performances.

In his return to form at the last of September he again started a win streak. Whatever was ailing him seemed to have passed as he took home yet another OSS trophy at Barrie Raceway. His time here was much less impressive as he had to only pace in 2:06.1 to take the win over a very poor track with Rock N Wave second. On this day a reporter caught up with the young driver and trainer "Buddy" Wellwood who was obviously relieved at the horse's turnaround.

Up to that point the Junior Wellwood had driven the horse in all of his 13 season's starts for his father and the colt's owner Harold Wellwood Sr. of Stratford. He said "My father and I reached an agreement last year that I would drive him until we got beat. When we finally did get beat we had already made so much money with him that he decided to let me carry on!" Knowing both of these gentlemen as well as I did I would have loved to be present or at least a proverbial "fly on the wall" when that discussion took place.

With the winner's share of the Barrie purse of $6,750 his season's earnings went over the $60,000 mark. It was already a dream season for both father and son with their homebred colt. His dam Royal Aileen was an amazing story herself having provided the Wellwood family with countless great performers following her productive track career. To add to the story, she was completely blind when she foaled Aileens Tour not to mention she was also 22 years old at the time she birthed this champion.

Some 42 years have now passed and a mile in two minutes or slightly less has become so commonplace that this event now seems sort of ho-hum but back then it certainly was not. It was a monumental milestone and one that I am pleased to remember personally and pass along to the Rewind audience.

Quote For The Week:

"It has been said that hard work never killed anyone but the thought of it half killed a lot of people."

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify this once very well-known horseman?

Where Is It?

Can you identify the location of this U.S. track which was one of the first to host racing under the lights? (Harness Horse Photo)

August 28, 2019 - 12:02 pmThis week's pictures both

This week's pictures both drew a correct answer . I was unable to fool the experts even by using a very early picture ( pre moustache ) of Shelly Goudreau . The old grandstand photo was from the very early days at Northville Downs in Northville Mich. Still holding racing !

August 24, 2019 - 1:40 pmTop maybe a very young Shelly

Gord Brown SAID...

Top maybe a very young Shelly Goodreau, bottom possibly Scioto Downs.

August 24, 2019 - 11:54 amShelley gaudreau

Shelley gaudreau

August 24, 2019 - 11:51 amTwo guesses, a very young

David Darocy SAID...

Two guesses, a very young Shelly Goudreau and a very old Northville Downs in Michigan.

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