SC Rewind: 1971, A Vintage Year

Published: November 27, 2021 11:25 am EST

This week Robert Smith takes readers back in time, an even 50 years ago to 1971.

That year was referred to as "A Vintage Year" by the late Bill Galvin, long time harness racing publicist. His piece includes a number of old photos and short stories about a few of the people and horses who were involved in making it a special year.

Quite a few years ago I received a priceless "gift" from the late Bill Galvin. Although I believe it was his only copy, he sent me a book titled "Golden Horseshoe Circuit Factbook -74" which he had put together back in 1974. Several times after that he contacted me to look up items found in the book as he could not find the answers to his questions elsewhere. A number of times I offered to return this prized book to him but each time he declined saying he wanted me to have it. Today with his memory in mind I am pleased to have it.

On page 116 he displayed the heading "1971 A Vintage Year". He stated that 14 individual world race records were established during the spectacular 1971 campaign including the 1:54 4/5 all-time competitive mile turned in by U.S. horse of the year, Albatross. In the paragraphs below I have chronicled just a few of the performers that made 1971 such a great season for harness racing across the land.

The Following List Shows A Number Of Divisional Winners For Canada 1971

Note: At this time which was prior to the introduction of the O.S.S. and also the standardization of awards, not as many categories were listed. The awards were presented by the C.T.A. with voting done by the race secretaries of member tracks.

Two-Year-Old Pacer
Strike Out - Owned and often driven by John Hayes of Oshawa and Bob & Conrad Shapiro of Montreal. This future Jug winner by Bret Hanover had to battle it out for this honour with another great colt performer Silent Majority. This colt had a phenomenal year and in the process earned a hefty $155,627. In 19 starts Strike Out won 14 of them and finished second three times taking a season's best of 1:58 flat at Indianapolis while winning the Fox Stake which included a bulky field of 15 starters. Part owner John Hayes drove in most of his early season starts before Buddy Gilmour took over. In his final start at Pompano in late December Bruce Nickells was in the bike.

Three-Year-Old Pacer
Rob Ron Tarios - Owned and bred by Dr. Steven Egan of Brooklin, Ont., the homebred son of Meadow Battles won 13 of his 20 season starts and earned $71,471. Racing out of the Keith Waples stable this classy performer recorded a season's best clocking of 1:59.2 and set a new sophomore track record at Garden City of 1:59.4.

Aged Pacer
Super Wave - Owned by Dr. Geo. Boyce of London, Ont. trained and driven by Jack Kopas was named Canada's aged pacer and the top harness horse of 1971 by Canadian race secretaries. The five-year-old, a winner of just over $481,000 career, was retired to stud duty at the end of the season. During his four-year career this horse was the winner of countless awards each year and took a lifetime mark of 1:57 at Brandywine Raceway. This season he had ten wins in 2:00 or less and was separately timed under that time on seven other occasions. A $5,500 yearling purchase, the son of Shadow Wave would have to be one of the best bargains in the history of the sport.

Two-Year-Old Trotter
Garma Fiery - Owned by Gary and Irma Gristhemwaite of Paris, Ont. and driven by Larry Walker. This filly was undefeated in stakes competition, taking all of the major events for her age and gait.

Three-Year-Old Trotter
Star Song - Owned by Mrs. Elgin and Chas. Armstrong of Brampton, Ont. This royally-bred youngster by Stars Pride out of former Armstrong trotter Selka Song was trained by Delvin Miller and often driven in her local engagements by Harold Wellwood Sr.

Aged Trotter
Fresh Yankee - Owned by Duncan MacDonald of Sydney, N.S. This great mare, now aged eight, continued her stellar career and was again named aged trotter, an honour she also captured in 1970. Her career earnings topped the $1 million mark thus joining Une de Mai and Cardigan Bay as harness racing's only millionaires. During this season an amazing string was broken when Fresh Yankee finished third in the second heat of that year's Titan Cup. This broke her string of finishing first or second in 55 consecutive starts. That is a most remarkable feat when one considers the company she was meeting during that span.


Fresh Yankee is shown with owner Duncan MacDonald of Sydney N.S. (file photo)

Horseman Of The Year
Wm. Wellwood, a 31-year-old horseman then a resident of Clarkson, Ont., was voted horseman of the year for the fourth straight year. He led his rivals most of the season in both wins and money earnings. On October 19th at Garden City he reached the 200 win mark for the season. At year end his purse earnings topped $326,000.

Albatross Named U.S. Horse Of The Year

Albatross was named the top overall horse as well as the best three-year-old in the United States by the U.S.T.A. and the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Sold for $1,250,000 after the end of the 1970 season by owner Bert James of Windsor, Ont. to a U.S. syndicate, the three-year-old pacing colt drew 141 of the 191 votes cast. During the 1971 season he won 21 of 25 starts and twice raced in 1:54.4 at Lexington to set a new all-time speed record. His season's earnings were $558,009.

Herve Has Record Season


When Herve Filion reached the 500 win plateau late in the 1971 season he received a congratulatory telegram from then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. On hand to celebrate the occasion was Albert Trottier, brother Denis Filion, Herve and another brother Gilles

In 1971 a then 31-year-old Herve Filion shattered all driving feats for a single season. He amassed 543 victories (which broke his own record of 486) and earned $1,915,945 in purse money surpassing Billy Haughton's old record of $1,654,172. Filion who was described by the press as "untiring" shot his lifetime win total to 3,640 trips to the winner's circle.

List of Random Highlights From 1971

• Nansemond and Herve Filion won the Jug in record time defeating Albatross who was barred from wagering
• Speedy Crown captured that year's Hambletonian with trainer Howard Beissinger also driving for the Crown Stable Inc.
• Fifteen 2:00 miles were recorded that year on Canadian soil. That combined with the record high of 16 the previous year of 1970 was proof that the speed revolution as only 64 "miracle miles" had been recorded in Canadian history dating back to 1959 when Mighty Dudley scored the first ever at Richelieu Park
• Kentucky (Bruce Nickells) won the '71 Canadian Pacing Derby defeating Super Wave and Laverne Hanover at Greenwood
• Grandpa Jim (Richard Farrington) won his third Maple Leaf Trot in a row defeating Luther Hanover and Fresh Yankee
• High Ideal had a stellar three-year-old season for owner Wm. Ellerington winning 10 races from 25 starts, banking $86,000. Trained by Russell Miller the son of Bret Hanover was handled by several drivers including Greg Wright, Ron Waples, Keith Waples, Andy Hardy and Joe O'Brien who time trialled this fellow in 1:55 at Lexington.
• Steady Star and driver Joe O'Brien set a new all-time speed mark of 1:52 in a time trial at Lexington's Red Mile, a record that stood for some 18 years

Quote For The Week: "Try to learn something about everything and everything about something." from Thomas Huxley

Who Is It?

Who is this fellow shown departing the paddock and headed for the track? Might as well identify the horse while you're at it. (Hoof Beats photo)

Trivia Question: The gentleman pictured above listed a rather unusual colour description on the racing program as part of his driving outfit. What was that word?

Who Else Is It?

Who is this fellow who was prominent during the 1971 season? (Hoof Beats photo)

Bonus Photo

This picture appeared in a July 1971 edition of Harness Horse magazine. How many people can you identify and don't forget to include the young lad on the far left? The presenter on the far right is Tom Garriock. (Harness Horse photo)

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Comments

This week's pictures again failed to fool the experts. When people can identify a horse correctly when shown only a small portion of its tail, they have to be considered pretty darned good. The correct answers were as follows:

Who is it? The person was John Hayes Sr. and Strike Out. He was wearing his distinctive colours described as "Cerise and Green". The unusual colour I was seeking was Cerise which is described in the dictionary as "a deep reddish-pink color, closely identified with fuchsia and rose red." Cerise takes its name from the French word for "cherry", as noted by Mark McLennan.
Who else? was of course Jack Kopas .
In the bonus photo from left to right was Ricky Curran, Keith Waples winning driver of 1A - Prince Ezra, trainer Ken Carmichael who finished 7th in the race driving stable mate Ezra's Twinkle (an early breaker) and the presenter Mr. Garriock. J.C. Cameron of Smiths Falls was the winning owner in this race, the Simcoe Futurity Trot with a purse of $15,162 at Garden City Raceway. Thanks Folks!

Thank you Robert. This was the year I entered the industry. Others have already answered so I will leave my guesses out.

The Senator, John Hayes, colors green and cerise, horse Strike Out; Jack Kopas; Maybe Ron Waples, Keith Waples, Ken Carmichael, I don't know.

1) John Hayes Sr
2) Jack Kopas
3) I can only name Keith and blame an old man's memory when the others are named. I really enjoy these articles Robert. John Vance

The "Who is it" of course is John Hayes Sr.

I had to cheat a little to find that elusive colour.... went back into some of my 1970's programs to find that it is "CERISE"

Who is it. John Hayes probably with Strike Out. His colours were listed as Green and Cerise.
The bonus photo is Ricky Curran, Keith Waples, Prince Ezra and Ken Carmichael. Ken drove the other half of the J. C. Cameron entry.

John Hayes Sr. - his colours were green and cerise [cherry]
The horse might be Strike Out,
Jack Kopas
Keith Waples, Kenny Carmichael - the kid might be Randy Waples?
Other thoughts:
Dr. John Findley had a pretty good 71, but didn't catch any of the year-end awards:
Moon Magic tangled with Rob Ron Tarios
The Black Douglas began his career
Canny Choice tangled with Super Wave and a great bunch of older pacers in those years
These were some of the best horses he ever had, and always acquitted themselves well.
All 3 of them earned well over $200K lifetime

First Who Is It Hector Clouthier

Second Who Is It John Kopas

Third Who Is It Ron Waples Keith Waples

Hi Robert !!
1. John Hayes, Strike Out and Trivia: colour Cerise? 2. Jack Kopas. 3. Bonus: Rick Curran, Keith Waples and Ken Carmichael. Keep Safe Everyone!!!