William 'Bill' Robinson Passes

Published: December 11, 2020 01:16 pm EST

One of the most prolific trainers in Canadian harness racing history, William 'Bill' Robinson of Caledonia, Ont. passed away on Friday (Dec. 11) at the age of 74.

Robinson didn't come from a horse racing background, getting involved with racing after going in on a $1,500 claiming horse with a bunch of friends with working at a local Firestone factory. He eventually quit working at the factory to become a trainer and enjoyed tremendous success.

After developing horses the likes of Dream Maker and Lime Time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Robinson ranked among the Ontario Jockey Club circuit's top conditioners throughout the later part of that decade and continued that success into the 1990s. As a trainer, Bill Robinson's horses earned more than $54.8 million, captured 2,738 races in 8,998 starts. Fifteen horses he trained won over $1 million dollars each, with three colts winning more than $2 million in a single year.

Horses successfully campaigned under Robinson's tutelage included Hall of Fame inductees Mach Three ($2,376,700) and Precious Bunny ($2,281,142) along with O'Brien Award winners Riyadh ($2,763,527). Presidential Ball ($3,021,363), Art Major ($2,723,217), Cams Card Shark ($2,498,204), Dragon Again ($2,343,428) and 1997 Triple Crown winner Western Dreamer ($1,812,176) and recent millionaire Nickle Bag ($1,240,110).

Robinson-trained horses have won numerous divisional honours in Canada, with O'Brien Award winners the likes of Pacific Rocket, CHRHF inductee Ellamony, Stout, Paling Avenue and Armbro Keepsake.

Robinson was a four-time Winner of the O'Brien Award for Trainer of the Year in 1993, 1994, 2002, 2003, and two of his horses won the O'Brien Award for Horse of the Year: Precious Bunny in 1991 and Cams Card Shark in 1994. He was also the winner of the USHWA Award for Trainer of the Year in 1993.

Bill Robinson trainees Cams Card Shark, Dragon Again, Nickle Bag and Riyadh

Horses trained by Robinson captured the majority of harness racing's major stakes events, and on multiple occasions. Robinson-trained horses have won the North America Cup (4 times), Meadowlands Pace (3), Little Brown Jug (3), Jugette (1), Breeders Crown (3), Confederation Cup (3), Canadian Pacing Derby (4), US Pacing Championship (3), Adios (2), Art Rooney (3), Provincial Cup (3) Messenger (3), Windy City Pace (3), Nassagaweya (5) and Maple Leaf Trotting Classic (1).

Bill will be greatly missed by his partner of 29 years, Katrina, and their daughter, Jennifer, sons, Brett and Shawn and their mother, Caroline, grandchildren, Taylor, Blake and Jake, sister, Mary (the late Chuck Martin) and his nephew and nieces: Mark Martin (Maxine), Kim Kichinko (John) and Tracy Kichinko (Michael). Bill was pre-deceased by his sister, Margie (the late Ray Norton).

The family would like to thank Dr. Alan Gunning for his exceptional care and support of Bill, Dr. Katherine Phillips and the third-floor staff of West Haldimand General Hospital, and the many wonderful PSWs and nurses who helped care for him at home. Your attention to his care, and kindness to the family — during an exceptionally challenging year — was very much appreciated.

Cremation has taken place. Given the current pandemic, no visitation or service is planned at this time. A celebration of Bill’s life will take place next year. In the meantime, the family would appreciate friends sharing their stories and personal memories via email, at millerfuneralchapel.ca or here on the Standardbred Canada website. If so desired, donations to the following charities, in Bill’s memory, would be appreciated: West Haldimand General Hospital, the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society, the Parkinson Society.

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the family of Bill Robinson.



Thank you, Bill, for mentoring me and giving me 25+ years of employment.
I started working for Bill part-time at his small stable in Caledonia when I was 15 years old. He later moved the stable to Ancaster Fairgrounds, where, at that time, I dropped out of school at 16 and started working full time. I have never looked back.
I remember my first and only time training with Bill; he put a helmet on my head (that was too big), told me to tighten up the chin strap, and said, “OK, kid, we are going to train these two together. “
I was driving a horse called “What-A-Booboo,“ and he had a trotter, “Boothill Chrissy“ (I think). He told me to keep the horse on his helmet till halfway down the lane and then to come alongside him to finish the mile, so I did, but my horse was grabbing on so hard I didn’t think I could stop him. Bill yelled at me to run him into the fence but luckily, the horse stopped before hitting the fence (whew!)
I think we went a mile in 2:25 or 2:35; it seemed so fast... Haha!
When we got back to the barn, Bill said, “what did you think of that kid” I told him it was kinda scary. He just laughed and said, “you did OK.“ Later, he told me that my strengths were inside the barn as a groom (LOL!), but that was OK with me.
The rest is history.
Thank you for all that you taught me, for the opportunities
and all the great memories.
We have lost a kind and generous person, a great boss, and a great horseman.
RIP Bill.
Our condolences to the family,

Pam & Peter & Adam

On December 11, 2020, Harness Racing lost a legend. Not only one of the greatest horsemen and trainers in Ontario, but a major contributor to the success of our Ontario Sires Stakes program here in Ontario. From Dream Maker back in the 70's to the great Mach Three in the 2000's, he trained and raced most of the top Stallions that molded our OSS program, making the Ontario Sires Stakes and Ontario Sired yearlings the most envied and sought after progeny in the business.

He endured some harsh criticism throughout the years, and a few witch hunts as well, but none that changed him as a person. One can not dispute the fact that his horses were as healthy and strong racing in December as they had been in the spring of the same year, add to that the success in their stallion careers! You would be hard pressed to name a stallion that Bill Robinson trained & raced who did not follow his racing career with an equally successful career as a stud. No Duds!

I sincerely hope now, that Bill will get the recognition he so rightfully deserves, & that most of us in the industry want to see him receive, induction into the HALL OF FAME, even if it is posthumously!

Rest in Peace Bill.

Following the recommendation of our father, we formed a 20+ year Standardbred racing partnership with Bill. Thanks to him we travelled to racetracks throughout North America and came to love Standardbred Horse racing. We have many wonderful memories including a Triple Crown victory with Western Dreamer and realized the dream of our parents by winning the Confederation Cup with Stout.

Beyond the good times and success we shared with Bill, we always appreciated his good humour and generosity. He always welcomed our friends and especially our children to his farm and the backstretch. He always took time to show them the horses and answer their questions.

The Daly Brothers- Matt, Pat, & Dan

I think Bill was a true gentleman and a very good person. He allowed my brother Don and I to get in the photo of Precious Bunny when he won the Meadowlands Pace even though he did not own the horse. It was the most kind gesture we ever had happen to us. He even suggested that we should stay at the now Marriot hotel there in the swamp. I will never forget how kind and good Bill was. RIP Mr Robinson

Thanks, Mr Robinson for being so kind to me when I worked for you in the early 90's for nine years. I knew Bill as a young girl when my dad stabled with him at the Caledonia fairgrounds. At that time we did not know you were going to be so successful and what a life you had in the harness racing industry. There definitely was never a dull moment - you always had a joke to crack. Your heart was as big as you. I was so proud working for you. I remember getting home from the races late and Bill would be on the track on the conditioner getting it ready for the next day. I was lucky enough to see you in March at hospital and I will always remember our visit.

R.I.P Bill I will miss you!

Bill Robinson was a very kind, likeable, generous guy. Bill always drove Chevy trucks and always had them looking spotless, along with his horse trailers. Back in 1992 there was a new race bike that came on the market called the “Cheetah” - every driver wanted one but nobody could get one because they were sold in the U.S. One day at Greenwood Raceway Bill Robinson pulled in with his truck and trailer with 10 brand new “Cheetah” race bikes that he had bought and paid for himself in the U.S. and let the drivers, including yours truly, have them at his cost. Bill was a great trainer. He did things different than the rest of us. He kept his horses at a farm. Trained them different, warmed them up different, made them comfortable by letting their heads down and hopples out. And when you beat Bill in a stakes race, which I very seldom did, he would be the first guy to shake your hand and congratulate you. You were the best 'Big Guy'. Rest in peace. My sincere condolences to the family.

Bill accomplished a great deal and was respected by all in the racing industry. He was a man amongst men. Condolences to the Robinson family.

From Doug MacGregor
To the Robinson family, I’m very sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. Thanks for the memories. RIP Big Bruiser.

Condolences to the entire Robinson Family. Bill was a better man then he was trainer. Having had horses with Bill for over 35 yrs, there never was a problem. He'd try a horse for a couple of weeks and tell you straight up, good or bad. Harness Racing lost a good man. RIP Old buddy, Morris the cat is there waiting for you, let the BS fly.

With the passing of Bill Robinson yesterday our world lost a great one. My condolences to Katrina, Jenny, Brett and Shawn. What a lot of people may not realize he was even greater at being a friend and just an every day good guy. Rest in Peace Bill, see you along the way.
Your friend, Gerry.

What a great trainer and better man! Your family should be proud of your great accomplishments! Our family did business with the Robinson family for nearly 30 years and during that entire time never so much as had harsh words. In the racing business we have met and seen many fine trainers and wonderful people - but none better than the Robinson family. Bill was perhaps the most misunderstood person in our sport. I am glad to see so many great comments [ Bill would have enjoyed reading them ] Bill, you are finally at peace - ENJOY

Shakespeare said "The evil that men do lives after them. The good is often interred with their bones".
Please let that not be the case with Big Bill. There was a whole lot more good in the man than there was evil.

Amazing man with a heart of gold. Many drivers owe our careers to him. My condolences to the family, R.I.P.

Best there is.... the best there was... the best there ever will be.. We bought the best horse we ever had of him..he was helpful and just a great guy.. it’s always easy to hate a true winner.

Bill Robinson was the most dominant trainer of his era.
A gentle giant who didn’t want to win every race, just every race he was in.
A few years ago when I heard he had become ill, I led the charge to try to get him into the Hall of Fame.
Sadly, I failed. I still believe he deserves to be there.
As a broadcaster, my most memorable TV production of the Little Brown Jug, was in 1993 when Bill Robinson provided most of the drama. Yes, a harness racing TV show with drama, thanks to Big Bill.

In reply to by mywifeisnotstable

Don - great story. I'm glad u told it because only the negative was talked about. I seen him do things like that for many ppl but it's people like you who have to tell the great human he was. I know (I won't say who) but families with kids he supported a lot of the times, just for the kids, but he would never talk about it or brag - he just was special. U know how they say don't ever met your idol because they never as good as you expect. Well in this case he was everything and more. Thanks Don.

I remember the day Bill Robinson called me and asked if I was still looking for a job... I told him I sure was. I’m so glad he called me that day, I loved working for him. He was a great man, I learned a lot from him and he helped me out when I really needed it. He had a heart of gold.
R.I.P Bill Robinson

I only spoke to Bill twice.
Once, to ask him if he would try a struggling horse I had. He said sure he would try.
When I returned a week later, Bill said he tried but could not do anything to help that particular horse.
I asked Bill what I owed him for the week. He said nothing at all since he wasnt able to help. That was 15 years ago, and it's still a nice memory of a great trainer, and an even better man.

Comment sent from Sara Anderson:

I met Bill Robinson through a friend. I didn’t know him as a horse trainer who was accused of everything under the sun, as I was told after meeting him. Every time we stopped by his stable he was kind, quiet and struggling with his health. He had a positive attitude. He supported his community locally with jobs, sponsored sports teams whenever called upon. Helped out a lot of people who worked for him when they were short and probably never got any of it back. I was told he also helped out a lot of his competitors.

The first day I walked into his stable, which was my first time at a harness trainers farm, I was expected to be a little dirty and have some odor. I could have eaten off the floor. And as I walked thru the barn every horse looked happy and healthy.

I was also informed he would never bother anyone and I could see this. He was a big man but was soft as butter. I don’t know any other of his family members, just Bill and I was later told to call him Bruiser. To Bill and his family, May He Rest in Peace.

Sara A. [Six Nations]
Keep on Keeping On

My condolences to all of Big Bill's family. Amazing trainer who was ahead of his time. And even a better person.

I remember as a kid going by his farm and being amazed. I knew one day I had to see what it's like to be the best ever. I was lucky enough to spend 7 years stabled there and what a lot of people don't know is that he is not only the best of all time period, he also was the best person I ever met. It was clear to me that operating and training a farm of good horses was a lot of work but nobody talks about his huge heart his desire to be the best. Many times getting back late from racing, at 1am sometimes, he would be on the track. He loved his track. And when I got few hours sleep and returned he was still on there. After, he would walk by and say "Mehlenbacher don't tell anyone my secret, let them think I'm whatever," he said "that track is the secret" and I remember slowly my horses got better and better. He would help anyone with anything. I just wanted to say he was always the most determined and smartest trainer ever and I learned more from him then everyone put together. People are right, he shouldn't be in regular hall of fame. They need to make a super hall of fame for him. Grapes said once in hockey there are players, stars, superstars, and then there is Bobby Orr. Well RIP William Robinson. He was just that good. I've seen it all, and he was all horsemanship and brains. Going to miss u my friend.