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Doug 'Sonny' Rankin Passes

Published: October 8, 2021 2:23 pm ET

Last Comment: October 9, 2021 9:48 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The harness racing community has lost one of its longstanding members as Standardbred horseman Douglas “Sonny” Rankin passed away on October 6, 2021, at the age of 76.

Born in Frenchvale, N.S. to the late Donald and Peggy (MacDonald) Rankin, he lived in Sydney with the love of his life, the late Carol (MacNeil) Rankin.

Racing and horsemanship were Sonny’s forté. He was around horses all his life. His father was a prominent horseman and Sonny learned from him. Rankin was part of a family that would become synonymous with racing excellence in the Maritimes and across Canada.

His career as a trainer and driver for Public Stable began in 1957 when he was just 11 years old. He won the ice race in Dartmouth that same year. At age 15, he began driving under the United States Trotting Association and a year later placed second at the Nova Scotia Invitational with Ebens Ace. By age 18, he had 106 wins which put him in a 14th place tie with the legendary Joe O’Brien. His favourite horses over the years were Pellaire Doin Boy, Hilltop Splurge, Armbro Kagey, Sunny Meadows, Duddys Dancer, Donmar Lindsay, Apparition, Shadydale Deb, and Highway Yo Heaven.

Sonny was a thinking driver who won many races coming down the rail. Dr. Paul Hogan, formerly of the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission, said that Sonny had an “uncanny ability to see and understand a race.” A driving accident leading to a serious back injury ended his driving career in 1991, but not before he would register 15,032 starts, 2,554 wins, 2,345 seconds and 2,186 thirds, leaving him with a UDR of .307 over 30 years.

Sonny continued as an owner and trainer before spending time in the judges' stand. He returned to the track to race his fillies and colts. Carol Alice, Nameisonthehalter and Three Pink Bows brought him much happiness and success. Before his passing, Sonny discussed his excitement to start training his next colt.

Sonny was inducted into the Cape Breton Horseman’s Hall of Fame. In 2019, he was honoured and inducted into the Cape Breton Sports Heritage Hall of Fame. His was nominated by Carl (Bucky) Buchanan who referred to him as “the approachable expert” and called his contribution to harness racing in North America and beyond as “outstanding.”

Sonny should have been a vet. He was who you called day or night if your mare was foaling, or if your horse was lame or had any problems. He always came and willingly shared his expertise and empathy with a generous spirit.

Sonny loved music, dancing, and spending time with his friends and family. He had a joke and a smile for anyone he met. When telling or hearing a joke or story, he would rub his hands together with excitement for the punchline, but if he was rubbing his head, it was best to turn and walk the other way. Sonny brought joy to many and his infectious laugh will be greatly missed.

He is survived by his children, Colin, John (Lori), Cathy (Lawrence Reginato), and Debra Rankin and stepson Ralph (Sandra) Matheson; his grandchildren, Shannon, Colleen, Jordon (Kristen), Jerid, Jaxon, Paige (Taylor), Tyler and Kristin; and his great-grandchildren, Rhielle and Raylynn. He is also survived by his sisters, Theresa (Albert) MacMaster, Donna Rankin-Neville, Darlene Costello, Marylou Rankin Denton and his brother, Donnie (Joan) Rankin; his sisters-in-law, Brenda (MacCormick) Rankin and Sandy Rankin; the mother of his children, Carol (Andrews) Rankin, and many nieces and nephews. Sonny was pre-deceased by his brothers, Joe and Cahill "Callie" Rankin, as well as his brother-in-law Rick Costello.

Visitation for Sonny will be held on Wednesday, October 13, from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. and from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at T.W. Curry Parkview Chapel. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 14 at Our Lady of Fatima, Sydney River. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia.

“A true horsemen does not look at a horse with his eyes, he looks at his horse with his heart.” - Unknown

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the family and friends of Doug 'Sonny' Rankin.

October 9, 2021 - 9:48 pmHere's my story. When growing

Randy Getto SAID...

Here's my story.
When growing up, my brothers and I had sports hero's. My hero wasn't Bobby Orr or Darryl Sitter, my idol was Sonny Rankin. Whether running around the yard or riding the bike, I was Sonny driving Hilltop Splurge or Scotter Baron.
Grew up watching Sonny win many races and would listen to many discussion on who was the best Rankin driver. My vote was always with Sonny.
Had the opportunity to race against him, and during one race, he gave me a tongue lashing for forcing him three wide. My horse didn't come out of race well and I needed advice. Quite scared, I took the horse to Sonnys barn. HE examine him, gave me a diagnosis.Refused any money and told me a joke when leaving.
The last person you wanted to see next to you on the track, but the the first person you'd seek out when the race was over. RIP SONNY.

October 9, 2021 - 10:15 amMy thoughts and prayers are

john king SAID...

My thoughts and prayers are with Sonny's family at this sad time. Sonny was a good man and a great horseman, he will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. Rest in eternal peace Sonny old buddy, God Speed .

October 8, 2021 - 10:11 pmSad news. Condolences to the

John McQueen SAID...

Sad news.
Condolences to the Rankin (and extended) family.

October 8, 2021 - 4:16 pmNever met Sonny, but met his

Never met Sonny, but met his dad at Truro one Sunday - we had a mutual friend.
A dedicated horseman - He brought a horse from C.B. one Sunday, started 11th in an ll horse field, scoring only six wide at Truro before the track was rebuilt.
It was a stake, and his colt made a break before the start.
What a heartbreaker - but Sonny kept at it for several years after that, until his accident.
The Rankins are a harness racing family, through and through.
I saw an old picture once, when the entire field was driven by Rankins.
That picture in the story was on the cover of the Cape Breton Magazine - I think I still have the copy I bought back then.

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