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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1950s

Published: September 2, 2017 9:32 am ET

Last Comment: September 6, 2017 2:44 pm ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith takes a look back to the decade of the 1950s and surveys some of the action taking place at various tracks and even a few sales results from that period in time.

1952 - Michigan's Top Free For Aller Has Canadian Driver


Royal Blackstone leads the field en route to victory for driver Harold Wellwood. Take note of the sheepskin-lined hopples the horse is wearing (Harness Horse)

In 1952, Northville's most prestigious race was called The Michigan Pacing Derby. It offered a then large purse of $10,000. On the evening of Friday, August 1, 1952 the race was held in front of a standing room-only crowd and attracted a total of seven starters. A Michigan-owned horse, ROYAL BLACKSTONE won the race, taking both heats. He was driven by then 46- year-old Canadian horseman Harold Wellwood, whose talents attracted several U.S. owners who hired him as a catch driver. This top flight horse was at the peak of his career at the age of six and during this season he won 12 of 19 starts, all in Free-For-All competition. His season's earnings amounted to $16,875, boosting him to a lifetime bank account of just north of $100,000. The mile times were 2:05.3 and 2:06.1. Royal Blackstone, who sported a lifetime mark of 1:58.3 taken at age five, was owned by Brown Stables of Detroit, Michigan and Mr. Brown was a Ford automobile dealer for many years.

Mr. Brown was so pleased with the driving job done by Harold that he promised to give him (as in FREE) a foal sired by Royal Blackstone when one became available. True to his word, he gave him a beautiful black filly named Royal Aileen, a foal of 1952 out of his mare Gay Isle. This gift horse turned out to be an outstanding race mare and later in her career provided many highly successful colts including Aileens Tour, the first horse to record a sub-2:00 mile in O.S.S. history when Harold Jr. "Buddy" scored the miracle mile in 1977 at Rideau Carleton. Anything else? Yes! Wm. Wellwood's first ever driving win came behind Royal Aileen in 1959. She remained a part of the Wellwood family forever.


Royal Blackstone is in the center of the Northville Downs winners circle following a 1952 victory. From left: Orlo Owen, Publicity Mgr., Mrs. Wm. Brown; driver Harold Wellwood; Wm. Brown owner; and John Carlo of Northville management. [Harness Horse]​

1955 - Sackville Downs Season Closes

Nov. 9, 1955 - With the chill of a late fall day in the air harness racing fans bid adieu to the 1955 season at Lower Sackville. On the final day of racing eight heats were presented to the audience. Leading the way in victories was driver Frank G. Daniels, who was home first four times.

The feature of the day a Free For All Pace for a purse of $450.00 was taken in two straight heats by Josedale Clansman owned and driven by Donald Turner of Dartmouth, N.S. These two wins topped off a tremendous season that saw this six-year-old horse win 42 heats in 98 trips to the post along with 17 seconds and nine thirds. A number of his starts were on the ice going a distance of three-eighths of a mile. He banked $5,912 for his owner as he took a new lifetime mark of 2:07.1.

A partial list of drivers competing at this meet would include (in alphabetical order) these names: Ruffin Barrieau, Wm. Burt, Bertram Cruikshank, Roy Creamer, Harley Harrison, Jos. MacDonald, Clayton MacLeod, Len O'Meara, Archie Llewelyn, Donald C. Rankin, Don Ratchford, Gord Robinson, Elwood Shaw, Cyril Smith, Don Turner, Geo. Turner, Lloyd and Samuel Walker.

1955 - News From Quebec

A short item from Nov 30, 1955 Harness Horse:

Albert Boucher scored the best driving average at the Blue Bonnets meeting, although both Keith Waples and Percy Robillard appeared in the winner's circle at the Canadian oval on more occasions. The regular Montreal season ended October 20. The United Horsemen Association voted Real Bardier as the most gentlemanly driver during the meeting.

1956 - Highlights of Toronto Standardbred Sale

Monday, Nov. 19, 1956 - With a near capacity crowd on hand at the C.N.E. Coliseum a total of 53 horses went through the auction ring in a mixed sale organized by Mr. J.W. Brown of New Liskeard, Ont. The total gross sales amounted to $14,390 for an average of $272 per head. Leading the sale was an Adios filly named Pollyanna that was knocked down to J.E. and C.E. Armstrong of Brampton for $2,500, far outdistancing all other entrants. The next highest sale was $1,050 paid by Harry Ingles of Brighton for the aged trotting mare Ann Elgin who was part of the Wesley Litt consignment. She had been a Futurity winner as both a two- and three-year-old. It is interesting to note that bids in increments of $2.50 were accepted.

The sale contained a varied array of consignments with the majority being aged racing stock and a number of young prospects. Listed below are a few sales that may be of interest to Rewind readers:

► MacDuff's Lassie - Sold to Mrs. Allan Walker, Owen Sound - $ 150.00
► Will's Boy - Barry McManus, Stratford - $165.00
► Richard Van - George E. Duncan, Dundalk - $ 150.00
► Patsy Riddell - George Bennett, Mossley - $ 325.00
► Marsha Lee - Brethour Bros., Blackwater - $680.00
► Dora Hal M. - Jim Moore, Sarnia - $ 425.00
► Herbert Carter - Norm Hardy, Lucan - $ 162.50
► Wee Willie - Frank Conlin, Oshawa - $90.00
► Belle S Chips - Harold Hooey, Orono Ont. - $ 87.50
► Jane Riddell - Allan Walker, RR # 5 Owen Sound - $285.00
► Miss Vera Bars *- Murray Mackey, Parkhill Ont. - $ 115.00
* - Note Miss Vera Bars won the 1940 Canadian Pacing Derby and at this time was 21 years old.

1956 - Prized Horse Humanely Destroyed After Racing Accident

Nov. 10, 1956 - In Saturday night's tenth and final race at Montreal's Richelieu Park, a serious accident disrupted the finish as a total of five horses were unable to finish. In a pile up which caused confusion and chaos among trailing horses, one horse suffered a fatal injury. Hal Grattan Patch, a nine-year-old gelding owned and driven by Jack Gordon of Cold Springs Ont., suffered a broken neck and had to be euthanized by the track veterinarian. Undoubtedly most of the fans had left the premises without knowing the seriousness of the accident.

The son of Hal Grattan Jr. had been co-owned throughout the early part of his racing career by Mr. Gordon and his partner Cliff Hie and currently Gordon was the sole owner. This horse and his full brother Thor Grattan (who was one year older) had been solid performers for the Hie and Gordon partnership for many years. They were originally purchased from John R. Ball of Baltimore Ont. and raced extensively both in their home area as well as at Toronto and Montreal tracks. During the current season Hal Grattan Patch had won three races and added $2,100 to his lifetime bank account which had passed the $11,000 mark. Earlier on the same program Jack Gordon had visited the winner's circle following a victory behind Country Lad in the fifth race but this created a sad ending to the evening and the loss of this horse was a severe blow.

1958 - Aurora Downs In Chicago Set To Reopen


​The horses approach the start as Chicago's Aurora Downs resumes harness racing in 1959

The sport of harness racing in the Midwest received some good news that will provide a major racing venue for the coming 1959 season. The venerable old Aurora Downs in Chicago that dates back to the 1890's will once again host the pacers and trotters. This will be the first meeting since 1951 when an era that saw many great races came to an end. A reported half million dollars has been spent to update and refurbish this once beautiful racing plant to its former glory.

Happy Birthday Dr. John

I do not routinely recognize birthdays (maybe the odd exception for those 90 and over) but a special salute goes out to Dr. John S. Findley who is about to turn 93 having first seen the light of day at Braeside Ont. on Sept. 2, 1924. He is living proof of the old saying "Old age is like everything else in life; to make a success of it, you've got to start young."


Dr. Findley at age 34 is shown with his great trotting mare Dalyce Blue at Richelieu Park in Montreal. He is receiving a silver tray from Georges Giguere in recognition of her fine performance as a two-year-old in 1958. She was Findley's all-time favourite and was the first Canadian bred filly to record a sub-2:10 mile at two and sub-2:05 at age three. Dalyce Blue is a Hall of Fame member along with her owner.

W​ho Is It?

Can you identify this gentleman who appears in a very nice pose. The correct answer will appear during the coming week.


September 6, 2017 - 2:44 pmThe correct answer to this

The correct answer to this week's Who Is It? is Frank Daniels as suggested by Mr. Clish.
Thanks for your comment.

September 2, 2017 - 7:24 pmDr. John Findley is in the

Dr. John Findley is in the Hall of Fame for a reason. He is one of Canada's truly legendary horsemen. As an owner, trainer, driver and breeder he did it all and did it better than most. He was a fierce competitor on the track never giving an inch nor expecting an inch. Dr. Findley drove every race, fairly, squarely, decently, by the rules but to win. He is a terrific role model for anyone who aspires to a successful career in harness horse racing.

Happy 93rd Birthday Doc and thanks for being yourself !

September 2, 2017 - 12:58 pmNovember 11th was a very sad

Garth Gordon SAID...

November 11th was a very sad day after my father had called early in the morning to tell my mother the bad news. We were all dressed ready to go to church. Very seldom we missed church. But we did that day.

September 2, 2017 - 11:41 amIt is nice to see a picture

Bert Clish SAID...

It is nice to see a picture of Frank Daniels of Truro, N.S. Also all of the rewinds are interesting.


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