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SC Rewind: A Night At Leamington

Published: August 26, 2017 11:23 am ET

Last Comment: August 30, 2017 4:43 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind, Robert Smith recaps a night of racing from just over 28 years ago at Canada's most Southerly racetrack and also one of its oldest. By retrieving an old Leamington program from August 18, 1989 he is able to recreate the evening's ten race card much like the old racing journals did for a lot of years. Many familiar names of past and present times appear.

The following write up is based on the actual results from the Leamington Raceway. All of the facts, figures and other details are as accurate as I can now replicate them.

With the call to the post at 7:30 p.m. an excellent card of ten races got underway, marking the eighth race day of the season. The race secretary for this meeting is Reg Gordon. As a special incentive to attend this evening's races the track management was giving away a Free Leamington Raceway hat to all entrants that paid the $2.00 admission. In response to that generous offer, a crowd of just under 1,000, counted at 988, passed through the turnstiles (except I don't believe there were any of those contraptions).

In the opening race, for non-winners of a pari-mutuel race lifetime, the winner was Baron Teco, a two-year-old son of Teco Hanover owned by Victor McMurren and Bill Matlack, both of nearby Essex with Bill listed as trainer. Doing the driving was Gord McDonnell. Finishing second was Solid Foundation for Scott McIntosh and third place went to Pretty Face driven by Tom Murtagh. Time for the mile was 2:06.1 with a purse of $850. In the second half of the daily double completing a 2-1 winning combination was Open Line driven by Scott McIntosh for the ownership of John Shanahan (who is also the trainer), Gary Watson, David Piper and Richard Pickle. In for second was Exhausted handled by Tom Murtagh and the show spot was taken by Chief Ryder trained by Ian Hyatt and driven by Tammy Watt -- one of the few female drivers on the circuit. A time of 2:01.3 was the season's best to date for the winner who was scoring his fourth of the year.

Backstretch work goes on behind the scenes as a horse gets a post race bath. ‚ÄčOthers stood by and chatted with friends and colleagues (D.M. Smith photo)

In the third it was Country Cooler with Tom Murtagh up for the Carlini Bros. of Windsor in a time of 2:05. Second was Goin Irish (Scott McIntosh) and Ripping Travis third for Gerald Johns. The fourth race was a trotting event, the only one on the card, which drew six starters. Favoured in the early betting was Dream Builder (Bob Lackey) an 11-year-old son of Dream Of Glory who had won three at this oval for owner and trainer Jerry Moffat. However in the final outcome it was Senor Chance the winner for Bev Kingston, trotting the mile in 2:06.2 to gain a length advantage over Dream Builder, Dovers Blazer was third with co owner Phil Edwards in the bike.

The fifth race, a conditioned event for a purse of $1,000 saw a full field of eight face the starter Gary McDonnell. First home was Perkins Motor, a six-year-old Happy Motoring mare scoring her first win of the year with Derek Riseberry in the bike for owner Spyros Koukogannis of Windsor who also trains. Following her was Brets Odyssssey (Tammy Watt) second and Old Hickory Express driven by Dave Downey for owner Tom Reid of Wheatley. Time of the mile was 2:02. In the sixth it was a repeat of the horses from the third race but a separate draw for post positions. It was a repeat for Country Cooler and Tom Murtagh; this time in 2:03.1 with Ripping Travis second and Sparkys Panache third for owner driver Bob Lackey.

The seventh race drew a small but select field of six for a purse of $1,200. Didnt Dodgem making his first start at this track was the winner in a quick 2:02.3 for owner Al Rosati of Amherstburg and driven by Tammy Watt. Up for second was Toddy Time Cloud (Murtagh) and the show spot belonged to Dovers Revenge owned by Terry Young and driven by Riesberry.

The smaller Raceways have always been a haven for "Railbirds" and Leamington was no exception. This group of "Birds" included, from left: Reg Mullholland, Hector Armstrong, Robert Smith, Wm. James and George Rogers. (DM Smith photo)

The eighth race was the feature of the night with just five entrants going for a purse of $1,600 for winners of over $5,000 in 1989. In the morning line the four year old Quality Hill was listed as the 8-5 choice based on three straight wins coming into this event. Two triumphs were at Dresden, the other at this oval. The gelded son of Sydney Hill is owned by Larry Pollard of nearby Harrow, Ont. and races out of the stable of Bob Lackey, the meet's leading teamster. Coming into the race his season's best time was 1:58.2 taken at Windsor. In a hotly contested race the winner in a bit of an upset was Dixies Freedom with Gord McDonnell driving for Larry Pajot and Wm. Matlack, the latter the trainer. Second was Glens Dynasty for Tom Murtagh and Hi Land Nero (Kevin Blanchard), the current track record holder third and Quality Hill fourth in a mile time of 2:00.2. Hopeful of a win in this one was Nordic Dancer, a recent claim at Flamboro for $12,000 now owned by Ray Wiper of Blytheswood and driven by his brother Rick but he was a late scratch and did not start.

In the ninth High Le Tar was a longshot winner for owners Smit and Harris with Rick Wiper doing the driving. Second spot went to Bless You Boy (T. Watt) and Timely Bid was third for Phil Edwards in a mile timed in 2:04.2. The tenth and final contest was won by Silent Sin owned and trained by Tom Bain of Woodslee Ont. and driven to victory by Derek Riesberry, who was scoring his second of the evening. The place position went to F J Kris for Gord McDonnell and show honours went to Hallview Promise owned by Roy Knight of Kingsville and driven by Dave Downey. Mile time was 2:04 for the $800 - $1000 claimers. Finishing sixth in this event but worth mentioning was the venerable old campaigner Truly Truckle 1:59.1, a lifetime winner of $124,254 but now at the age of ten relegated to the lower claiming ranks.

The mutuel handle for the evening was $81,963 up sharply from the previous Friday night's handle of $69,376.

At The Wire: Frank Salive is the race announcer here with Jan Fulmer the chart caller and promotions and advertising handled by Jeanette Mulholland and Maureen Myers. Larry Gibbons, who is a regular driver here, is also on hand with his wife Colleen on race nights with their mobile tack shop to supply the horsemen's needs.

On the backstretch: Coming into the night's action Derek Riesberry holds the lead in driving wins with 11 trips to the charmed circle with Bruce Richard close behind with nine and Bob Lackey third with seven. Lackey leads all trainers in wins with five and also in the money category with a meet leading $ 5,388. Tom Bain holds down second spot with $3,009 and four wins to his credit. In third spot for money earned is local conditioner Reg Mullholland who has $ 2992 to his credit. Judges for the current meeting are Arnold Belore, Bill Pennington and Glenn Campbell with the paddock judge Terry McKibbin. The track vet is Dr. John McInley.

A Closing Note: It is nice to see that harness racing is still being held at the Leamington fairgrounds. It is one of Canada's oldest surviving tracks and has seen races held in parts of three Centuries. In the mid 1950's the current track was constructed when the old existing one had to be relocated further back from the Highway when the town's first arena was built in 1954. When the new track held racing that summer the first race held on the new surface was won by a horse and driver with connections to today's racing. Margaret H Direct owned by Allen Drew of Merlin, Ont. (uncle of Greg and Dave) and driven by Cecil Coke started the modern era. The first track record of 2:10.2 was set that day by Stuart Volo owned by Howard Bros. of Chatham and driven by Harry List.

A list of Leamington track records as of August 1989

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify this person? The answer will be published during the coming week.

August 30, 2017 - 4:43 pmThis week's "Who Is It ?" was

This week's "Who Is It ?" was indeed Gary "Sam" Feagan of Goderich, younger brother to Ronnie Feagan. Thanks for your submissions.

Wes Coke was in touch to report that despite being rather young at the time, he recalls being at the Leamington track that day the new racing strip was opened in 1954 and seeing his father Cecil Coke win the first race as described. He also added his vote for Gary Feagan as this week's Who Is It?
Wes related that he very much enjoys the weekly Rewind stories. Thank you Wes.

August 28, 2017 - 11:04 amSure is Gary (Sam) Feagan

Bev Heywood SAID...

Sure is Gary (Sam) Feagan
Worked together at Old Woodbine for Hugh McLean in 1961.
Younger brother of noted top driver Ron.
Good guy who always had a smile.

August 26, 2017 - 7:32 pmGary Feagan

Gary Feagan

August 26, 2017 - 12:55 pmI recall that track record

Jeff Porchak SAID...

I recall that track record for three-year-old colt trotters not lasting much longer. Jayport Raider and Wilcos Gold both won OSS events at Leamington later month in (I believe) 2:03.1 or that range. Thanks for the look back, Robert!

August 26, 2017 - 12:56 pmLooks like Gary Feagan

John Hill SAID...

Looks like Gary Feagan

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