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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1980s

Published: September 5, 2020 11:45 am ET

Last Comment: September 10, 2020 9:08 am ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The latest edition of Rewind is the monthly feature Years Ago. This version is all about the decade of the 1980's and Robert Smith has come up with some short stories and old photos from that era. At this time no new tracks were being built and unfortunately a few of the old ones were closing down, but in general harness racing was still very popular and quite successful in all areas. Attendance at Canadian racetracks topped the charts.

1981 - Ken Bogart Memorial Race

In 1981 a special memorial race was held during the annual Shedden, Ont. Fair. It was staged in honour of a local horseman named Ken Bogart who passed away the previous year. Ken and his father Lyle were regular participants at many of the one-day race meets and fairs for decades. On occasion Ken raced at the big tracks but generally restricted his activities to London, Dresden and other small-town venues in the area. Ken was a participant in the first night racing program held at London's Western Fair meeting in 1961. He was a hard worker, a good horseman and was well liked by all who knew him.

"Memorial Winner - Chief's Happy Girl driven by Bill Walker was the winner of the Memorial Pace the last parimutuel harness race held during the Shedden Fair Saturday in memory of local horse breeder and racer Ken Bogart who passed away last spring. Mr. Bogart's wife, Catherine, presented the winner with a memorial blanket. Looking on were Mr. Bogart's parents, Mabel and Lyle Bogart, far right, Eugene Beer, part-owner of the horse, behind the horse and driver Mr. Walker, left of the horse. To his right are daughter-in-law Marilyn Bogart, son Barry, daughter Lisa Hathaway and son-in-law Jim Hathaway. Grand children Kenny and Erin are standing in front." (Photo and text courtesy of Elgin County Archives)

1982 - Racing Tops The Charts

A look back to 1982 shows just how popular Canadian Harness Racing was at that time. Statistics courtesy of Ontario Jockey Club.

1986 - Condren Wins 1986 OJC Horseman Of The Year Award

In 1986 Steve Condren topped the driving charts in both wins and money earned on the very tough OJC Circuit. He drove 1,748 times and visited the winner's circle a total of 307 times. The horses he drove had earnings of $2,379,000 and he enjoyed a very respectable win rate of 17.6 %. At the age of just 29 Condren was already at the top of his game; he had come a long way in a short time. In 1981 he had a phenomenal rookie campaign as he became the youngest driver ever to win 200 races and more than $1 million in purse money in a single season.

On November 1, 1986 Steve reached a new milestone in his career when he topped the $2 million plateau in purse earnings. He became the first driver to ever accomplish this feat on the OJC circuit. A few weeks later he piloted his 300th win of the season becoming the first driver of the year to reach this marker. Some of his more memorable victories of the season were achieved during Grand Circuit week. His wins with Shipps Dream in the Simcoe Stakes elimination and final were among his most productive. Other top class wins came behind Frugal Gourmet and Sir Taurus.

Steve was part of the new wave in harness racing where young horsemen were no longer serving long apprenticeships. Also the requirement to operate a large public stable was becoming a thing of the past. Top trainers turned to young talented drivers who were in high demand and drove in many races each night.

1988 - Records at Orangeville

Sept. 11, 1988 - Racegoers at the Orangeville track on this Sunday afternoon were witness to some history in the making. The fastest mile time in the long history of this Dufferin County track was recorded and also equaled, all on the same card.

With a full schedule of Labatt's Blue O.S.S. events dominating the card, it was a day of great racing. Earlier this same season in July, a new track standard of 1:58 flat was set by Blue Water Chips, but it was well beaten on this day.

First to break the old mark was the sensational three-year-old IVAN trained by part owner Jean Poulin and driven by Dave Wall. The new record time shaved more than a full second off of the old one when the timer was stopped in 1:56.4. This colt beat out W N Dee and Lively Quill in posting a three-length win for owners Poulin, Gerald McCann, Peter Anderson and Harry Loyens. This win put Ivan over the $85,000 mark for the season and his performance also solidified his lead in that year's sophomore O.S.S. performers.

A few races later, the clock was again stopped in an identical 1:56.4 when HAWKEYE RANGER won the Preferred Pace. The five-year-old son of Armbro Ranger out of Armstead Gillian was just over a length ahead of second place finisher Bistro Lobell with Karate Kid taking show honours. This horse was driven by co-owner Barry Drury who shared ownership with Barry Sawyer, thus giving the win to a couple of hometown Orangeville boys. A winner earlier in the year pacing in 1:55.4 at Greenwood, this victory left Hawkeye just about $600 shy of the $ 100,000 lifetime mark.

Long live the memories from the old Orangeville track.

1989 - Grades Singing Triumphs In Breeders Crown At Blue Bonnets

October 1989 - The Breeders Crown event for aged trotting mares had a definite French Connection this year. First you had Blue Bonnets hosting its first ever Breeders Crown event and also had Grades Singing winning the crown. The millionaire trotter was heavily favoured to win her second crown as she returned to the track where she made her debut as a two-year-old in 1984.

Her Swedish owners sent in the mare's personal groom Lotta Bjorkman and also flew in one of their Country's top drivers in Olle Goop. The mare's former owner Gratien Deschenes even made his farm at St. Basile, Quebec available so the mare could relax in familiar surroundings prior to the race. When Sunday night rolled around, everything turned out just fine, ending up in another trip to the winner's circle. Leaving from post two in a field of ten, Grades Singing went on to a resounding victory and in the process set a new record trotting her last half in 57.3 for a mile in 1:57.3. Scenic Regal was second and Kerrys Crown was third.

Fans in attendance at Blue Bonnets were high in their praise of the facilities and the handling of this event which included a paddock between the clubhouse and grandstand.

Quote For The Week: "Putting away your phone and paying attention to those who are talking? There's an App for that; it's called Respect."

Who Is It?

Can you identify this popular driver from the 1980's? A little fuzzy to make it a bit more difficult.

Who Else Is It?

Can you put a name on this horseman from days gone by? (Photo from Ottawa Gazette)

September 10, 2020 - 9:08 amThis week's pictures seemed

This week's pictures seemed to generate some  activity. Both pictures were correctly identified and the old saying "The early bird(s) got the worm" applied. The top photo was quickly identified by Norm Files as Ray McLean, and the lower picture was soon correctly spotted by "Cass" as Curt Baker with the horse Rapid Fire. Thanks for joining in and creating a little fun. The video on Grades Singing was excellent and I hope many of you enjoyed it as much as I did. 

September 7, 2020 - 7:54 amLooks like Bud Fritz and

Looks like Bud Fritz and Keith Waples.

September 7, 2020 - 6:26 amI’m going to take a wild

Bill Harris SAID...

I’m going to take a wild guess on the first one and say Gary Maguire. Might as well take another one on pic 2 and say
Bill Habkirk.

September 6, 2020 - 8:52 amThank you Robert for another

Thank you Robert for another great step back in time. Bottom picture Keith Waples.

September 5, 2020 - 6:18 pmWould the top picture be a

Eric Warren SAID...

Would the top picture be a young Tim Twaddle

September 5, 2020 - 3:37 pmThe driver is Ray McLean

norm files SAID...

The driver is Ray McLean

September 5, 2020 - 1:23 pmThanks Robert, Can't believe

Thanks Robert, Can't believe how popular we were back then and the money bet and raced for!!! Who Else is it = Curt Baker? (spelling) Driver and fiddle player from Cardinal, ON.

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