Greg Hayter wasn’t about to let a global pandemic ruin the fifth edition of the Vic Hayter Memorial at Clinton Raceway and all the momentum his family has built in the last four years honouring his father and the many things he loved.
When track general manager Ian Fleming suggested they could put the race off for a year, Greg said he wouldn’t hear of it.
“I said, ‘No, no. It carries on as normal,’” Greg said of the August 30 event that supports both the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society and the Stratford-Perth Humane Society. “I think the bigger thing that this has developed into is not so much honouring Vic and his name and the man he was, but more so the things that he enjoyed and his values. That would include horses, that would include the people that either come to the track or the people that work with the horses. Plus, the Humane Society and the (Ontario) Standardbred Adoption Society. All those things were very important to him.
“Not to sound cheesy or anything, but the day started off as a memory to him, but I think it's evolved more into a memory of all the things that he stood for.”
Last year, the Hayter family raised the purse of the race to $15,000 and also paid for lunch for all the horsepeople in the backstretch. The purse has remained the same for 2020 and the free lunch will again be provided for those in the paddock.
“Once again, we're going to treat all the horsepeople to lunch. I think that's important because my father loved the horsepeople and loved spending time with them.”
Vic, who owned many hotels, but is perhaps best known for operating The Arden Park Hotel and Festival Inn in Stratford, Ont., died of cancer in February of 2016. He was 77. Managing his hotel business took up most waking hours, but Vic always made time for Clinton Raceway. He owned Standardbred for 38 years.
“He worked seven days a week, but every Sunday at 12:30 he’d be home to pick up my mother and they’d go to Clinton Raceway,” Greg said when the race debuted in 2016. “Dad was involved with horses since 1978 and even as kids, when we lived in Lucan, we used to always go to Clinton Raceway on Sunday afternoons. The last 15 years or so, mom and him used to go every Sunday and they’d sit right by the finish line.
Sizzlen Hot Herbie, pictured after winning the 2019 edition of the Vic Hayter Memorial Trot.
In 2019, Greg spoke of one day turning the Vic Hayter Memorial Day into a crowd-pleasing harness racing event similar to the famed Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio, which draws more than 40,000 fans annually, or the Vincent Delaney Memorial in Ireland, which is another fan favourite.
A bustling crowd won’t be possible at Clinton this year due to strict COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes, but having just a small handful of spectators hasn’t deterred Greg from the long-term goal, which is one of the reasons the family wanted the race to go ahead in 2020 — to keep the momentum going.
“The ultimate goal of the day is still the same,” Greg said. “I don't know if it will ever get to that. I highly doubt it, but I'm hoping to have it as my own mini version of the Jug one day.”
The August 30 card will begin at 1:30 p.m. and the races can be viewed via www.clintonraceway.com.