SC Rewind - Years Ago: 1980s

Published: January 1, 2022 01:29 pm EST

This week's edition of Rewind is the first of 2022. It is the regular monthly edition of 'Years Ago' and features items from the decade of the 1980's which takes us back some 40 years or so.

As usual a variety of people, horses and happenings are included along with the customary old photos.

1980 - Standardbred Show At C.N.E.

On Tuesday August 22 the "Ex" held their annual Standardbred Line Classes with Judge Maarten Van Tright in charge of the show ring. Harness racing people won the majority of the awards offered for the five classes as well as the Championships. The results are displayed below.

(Photo and results courtesy of the Standardbred magazine)

1982 - Many Canadians Racing At Wolverine

At this time quite a large number of Canadian stables were racing at Wolverine Raceway just outside of Detroit. The purses were good and the opportunity to race over a mile track was inviting to some. The race secretary carded numerous races for young horses and they were often held during daylight hours before the night program began.

Check below for a winner's circle photo and see how many people you can identify. The winning horse had a catchy name that has more to do with culinary terms than the usual naming process. A clue could be that this colt's name might be an answer to a waitress or waiter's question when asked what your salad dressing selection might be. The name is shown below.

1984 - Swan Song For Sure Skipper

In the waning days of the 1984 season a horse named Sure Skipper was closing out his long career in grand fashion. The 14-year-old Meadow Skipper gelding, who started racing back in the previous decade for Ohio interests, was making the most of his days while racing at Rideau Carleton and other Eastern Ontario tracks for trainer driver Ted Huntbach.

The following item appeared in the January 1985 issue of Northwest Harness News along with the photo shown above.

The winningest harness horse in North America at press time is a 14-year-old pacing gelding named Sure Skipper, who is doing his racing in Ontario as he winds up his racing career. Sure Skipper has recorded an amazing 29 victories this year, five ahead of his nearest rival, the Maritime champion Winner’s Accolade. Sure Skipper seems to be living on the theory that he better do as much as he can before January 1, when he faces mandatory retirement. The son of Meadow Skipper has started no less than 46 times during 1984, and as he is currently riding a five race win streak, and it seems likely that he can add a few more tallies before becoming a pensioner at the first of next year. Among Sure Skipper’s victories this season was a win in the $6,500 final of an early closing series at Rideau Carleton. In that race Sure Skipper paced the mile in 2:00 3/5 — knocking four full seconds off his previous lifetime best, set in 1973 when he was three!

1986 - Twin B Playboy Sets Record At Buffalo Raceway

Back on April 25, 1986 a horse with all Canadian connections and credentials made a pretty impressive trip across the border to Buffalo Raceway. Twin B Playboy, a then four-year-old son of Armbro Omaha out of J Ds Happy turned a lot of heads that evening as an entrant in the $40,000 Graduate Series.

About two hours before post time, trainer Dennis Duke was informed that the horse's regular driver Dave Wall would not be able to make it to Buffalo to fulfill his driving assignment. As it turned out, the necessary change was somewhat minimal in that the 26-year-old Duke, who was most familiar with "The Playboy", assumed the driving duties. In the matter of a very short time, the young trainer turned driver recorded his greatest performance as a reinsman.

The field was stacked with heavyweights as such household names as Falcon Seelster and Chairmanoftheboard were among the starters. While Duke was anything but over-confident, he felt as though his chances were good except that he was concerned about the short turns of the Buffalo half mile oval.

As the race began, the heavy favourite Falcon Seelster with Tom Harmer at the controls shot to the lead. Already a world record holder he was the horse to beat. Falcon was at the half in :57.2 with Chairmanoftheboard in a close second position. Nearing the 3/4 pole Twin B Playboy began to challenge the leader and after drawing alongside he faltered slightly. Then with a last second surge he shot for the lead as the favourite tired under the torrid pace with "Playboy" the winner just ahead of fast-closing Morning Joy in rein to another Canadian teamster, Steve Condren.

The winning time was an amazing 1:55.4 a new record for the horse and the fastest mile in the 44-year history of Buffalo Raceway.

Twin B Playboy was owned by Frank Milne of St. Catharines and Gary Lariviere of Ridgeville, Ont. and was groomed by Wayne Milligan. He was purchased for a modest $17,500 as a yearling from the McNiven family-owned Twinbrook Farms located at Embro, Ont. The Twinbrook operation has turned out a number of productive individuals over the years. They are known more for the quality of their stock rather than trying to turn out large numbers.

With this victory Twin B Playboy's season's earnings went up to $48,549 and lifetime over $452,000. Not a bad investment!

Twin B Playboy and driver Dennis Duke are shown in a winning effort at Flamboro Downs in this 1986 photo (the Standardbred photo)

1988 - Howard Portelance Scores Win No. 1000

Howard Portelance was a regular at both Connaught Park and Rideau Carleton Raceways for many years. Back on March 2, 1988, the then 32 year old reinsman scored his 1,000th career victory. The picture capturing the milestone is shown below as it appeared in The Canadian Sportsman a short time later.

In the years that followed, he made a lot more trips to the winner's circle and on December 18, 2008 Howard chalked up win No. 3,500! On that occasion, he was driving a two-year-old gelding named TOLD ON YOU stopping the Rideau Carleton timer in 2:00.1 with a length to spare over his closest pursuer. Portelance expressed an especially good feeling following the win as it involved local owners Brian and Stephanie Cassell and trainer Robbie Robinson, and also occurred in his hometown.

In a post-race statement Portelance emphasized the team work involved in getting to the winner's circle so many times over his 35-year career. He said "Harness racing is a team sport, beginning with owners, grooms, trainers and finally the driver...but the horse and driver are the only ones seen in the photo crossing the wire - it took a team to get me there."

Howard hailed from a true racing background as both his mother Jackie (née Sharpe) and his father Henry were professional drivers and were participants in the sport throughout their lifetimes.

Quote For The Week: "Nothing is a bigger waste of time than regretting the past and worrying about the future." - James Meredith

Who Is It?

Let's start the new year with an easy one or at least it would seem to be. Can you correctly identify each of these two fine gentlemen shown in the above photo?

Who Else Is It?

Picture From Wolverine — see above item regarding 1982: The winning horse in this 1982 photo was named Oil N Vinegar. Can you identify any of the other folks in the winner's circle? (Abahazy Photo Collection)

Be sure to stay tuned when the correct names of today's pictures are revealed during the upcoming week.




This week's correct picture identities were as follows:
The top photo was Wm. Rowe on the left and Pat Crowe on the right, both very well known personalities.
In the lower photo taken at Wolverine Raceway the horse was Oil N Vinegar and the people from left to right were Groom unidentified, owner Hanley Dawson, Rick Steward (driver), Greg Wright Sr. (very well known driver) and Mike Marroco (not certain of spelling).
Thanks again for the well wishes and helpful information .

1980 was the last year they had Standardbred line classes at the Exhibition
We showed at the Royal Winter Fair the same year. Thanks for the memories Robert

Who is it? William Rowe and Pat Crowe.
Who else is it? Driver looks to be Rick Steward who worked for Greg Wright Sr. for many years and I believe that is Greg Sr. to the right of Rick.
Another interesting note was the results from the C.N.E. line classes, in section #3 was a mare called Porcelain, I purchased a foal from this mare in Harrisburg for $5,000.00 and went on to be a pretty good race horse. She was a daughter of No Nukes.

"Happy 2022 to you Robert" Who is it= Wm. Rowe and Pat Crowe.
Who Else=2nd from right=Jerry Duford and driver Harold Stead?