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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1940s

Published: August 5, 2017 10:09 am ET

Last Comment: August 7, 2017 10:08 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind, Robert Smith takes a rather long look back to the decade of the 1940s as he recalls a number of names and events of the times.

The 1940's, particularly the years following WW II, saw a tremendous growth in every area of the sport. Several new tracks opened, night racing debuted and many people started training and racing horses for a full-time living. During the 1940's a lot of Canadians raced at the U.S. tracks where purses were considerably higher and racing opportunities existed over a much longer portion of the year.

Strathroy Judges Stand - 1940's

In the old days of racing the Judges stand as shown here was an important part of the sport and found in the infield at the wire of every track. Prior to the coming of the mobile starting gate, the Starter was positioned here and officiated over the start of each race. Additionally the timers, the announcer, placing judges and anyone involved with the officiating of the races was "perched" here. They were in plain view of everyone.

As time went on, Judges stands disappeared from the infield and a symbol of early racing was removed forever. Beginning with this era the Judges functioned out of view of the spectators as they moved to the top of the grandstand. [London Free Press photo]

1942 - Richelieu Park Promoter Emile Gauthier Gets High Praise

A series of Sunday matinees at Richelieu Park has attracted most if not all of the best racing talent now available in the Province of Quebec. The purses being offered are far in excess of other areas as indicated by the total of $1,350 announced for the upcoming June 21 program. Headlining that day will be a "grand" free-for-all that will have Tommy Grattan, Dominion Grattan, Chestnut Bars, Better Times and Lawyer Grattan facing the starter Bert Osgood. The post time of 1:30 will be absolutely observed so fans are reminded to arrive early as Mr. Gauthier prides himself in staging races on time.

(Photo from Canadian Sportsman)

1944 - Northville Downs Welcomes Canadians

A view of a huge crowd during the early years at Northville Downs in Michigan (Harness Horse)​

When night-time racing started during the decade of the 1940's it was a huge step in the growth of harness racing. From the time it debuted in 1940 at Roosevelt Raceway in Long Island New York, Canadian horse people were heavily involved. It was logical that when Northville Downs opened -- not far from the Canada - U.S. border -- many of our horse people joined in. The opportunity to race for sizable purses and be stabled in one location was a great drawing card. Take note that a minimum purse of $150.00 was advertised. While that amount might now seem paltry it was the equivalent of about $ 1325 adjusted for inflation and that was for a single heat which was a bonus in those days.

The above ad ran in The Canadian Sportsman in August of 1944 inviting people to participate in this new format of racing. The features Pari-Mutuels - Daily-Double - Photo-Finish were very new introductions (Cdn. Sportsman)

1948 - Lots Of Canadians At Buffalo Raceway

A young 19-year-old Johnny Chapman ​visits the Buffalo winner's circle following a victory behind the great roan Canadian pacer The Count B, owned by James Brown of New Liskeard, Ont. The trophy presenter is Roscoe Holmes, N.Y. State commissioner (Harness Horse)

The backstretch at Buffalo Raceway is heavily populated with Canadian horses and horsemen. Many stables from across the border in Ontario and Quebec are competing here and most are faring very well. One young horseman, Johnny Chapman of Toronto, is just 19 but has been winning his share of races. In addition to those from he and his father's contingent he has also been called on for a number of catch drives.

The Buffalo management recently held a special appreciation party for the owners and horsemen and as the photo shows the Canadian "boys" were among those celebrating by sharing a couple of U.S. brews. Seated in the club room are, from left: Roscoe Holmes; Floyd Milton, second leading driver; owner Guy Morden; James Dunnigan standing; driver Perry Snedaker; driver Lorne Tolhurst and the current meeting's leading driver, Levi Harner (Harness Horse)

1949 - Proximity Wins Gold Cup Trophy At Buffalo Raceway

Known as "The Queen of trotters" Proximity entertained a nation for several years until her final year of racing in 1950. While the mare was U.S.-owned and bred, she had several ties to Canadians, especially her long-term trainer and driver Clint Hodgins. When she came to Town people turned out in droves to watch. In 1950 she even came to Stratford, Ont. for an exhibition mile

In 1949 Proximity won Buffalo Raceway's top trotting event, The Gold Cup. With driver Hodgins unable to be in attendance, the driving assignment was handed to a local New York State driver named "Whitey" Dennison. She prevailed over her seven rivals and a small 'toast' was offered to her and the owners following the race. The somewhat less than gala affair took place in the backstretch paddock.

A toast to Proximity 1:59 3/5 after winning the $7,500 Gold Cup Trot at Buffalo Raceway. Standing from left to right: Ed Pease; Stanley Kopeszynski; Charley Witt; Whitey Dennison, driver of Proximity; owner Ralph Verhurst, holding Gold Cup; Proximity and groom; Gordon Verhurst, co-owner of Proximity, Bob Plaxico; Bud Case; Harold Wellwood; Will Harvey and track president, James J, Dunnigan​ (Harness Horse)


With this week's Rewind begins a new feature called WHO IS THIS?. Yesteryear photos of individuals either currently connected with the sport or from an earlier time will be displayed. Readers are asked to submit their suggestions as to who this person is. A wide variety of subjects will be included and the name of the individual or individuals will be given during the week.

Who is this?

August 7, 2017 - 10:08 amThanks to everyone that

Thanks to everyone that submitted an answer; your interest and participation is appreciated. This week's "Who Is It ?" was Tom Artandi as suggested by a number of those who responded. Please stay tuned for more interesting photos in the weeks ahead.

August 6, 2017 - 4:35 pmOne of my favourites growing

One of my favourites growing up............ Ron Feagan?

August 6, 2017 - 12:45 pmRon Feagan

Bev Snobelen SAID...

Ron Feagan

August 5, 2017 - 6:43 pmRon Feagan?

Dave Webber SAID...

Ron Feagan?

August 5, 2017 - 12:33 pmTom Artandi

Tom Artandi

August 5, 2017 - 11:16 amThe turtleneck gave it away.

Gord Brown SAID...

The turtleneck gave it away. Tom Artandi

August 5, 2017 - 11:14 amTom Artandi

Tom Artandi

August 5, 2017 - 11:08 amIs it Tom Artandi ?

John Hill SAID...

Is it Tom Artandi ?

August 5, 2017 - 10:46 amGreat stories Mr

Bill Sharpe SAID...

Great stories Mr Smith......looks like a very young Ron Feagan!

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