This week's edition of 'Rewind' takes readers back to the decade of the 1990's in the monthly offering of Years Ago. Robert Smith has assembled a few old photos as well as some short stories on the people and happenings from back then.
A calendar oddity - February 2020, now in progress, contains five Saturdays (and five Rewinds). According to my own research this edition of the calendar format has not occurred in the last 28 years which was 1992. And by the way, it won't happen again until 2048 and 2076 thus just three times in this century. So happy to be here for at least one!
The decade of the 1990's was not an especially kind one to harness racing in many ways. The rapid encroachment by other legalized forms of gambling such as Casinos and Lotteries gave new forms of entertainment for a large portion of the population and attendance at racetracks dwindled. Perhaps hardest hit were the smaller tracks known as the "B" Circuit. It was a serious blow as these tracks served as training grounds for developing not only young horses and horse people, but also new fans. The security that racing once enjoyed had been slipping away for some time and was now in full evidence.
Several smaller operations such as Leamington, Goderich and Orangeville fell by the wayside while many others faced a similar fate. In an attempt to survive the crisis a number of measures such as simulcasting were introduced to generate more income and provide a better product. The Ontario Teletheatre Network which aligned several small tracks in the southwest region of the province was formed at this time.
Not all of the smaller tracks experienced huge losses in revenue but they were forced to adapt to the times for survival. For example, Clinton Raceway continued to post respectable numbers in attendance and mutuel handle. The fact that Clinton was able to survive in such a climate was a testament to good management and also showed that the people from that area continued to have an interest in the grassroots of the sport.
The following item appeared in the April 1993 issue of Northeast Harness News published in Maine. It showed that Ontario-bred horses are among the best and certainly capable of competing and being successful virtually anywhere that harness racing is held. This horse started his career as a star in the O.S.S.
A Trotter's Trotter - BY BOB LIEBERMAN
After reading an article about the great trotter, Worthy Bowl, passing away at age 14, in Lucan, Ontario at Seelster Farms, I noticed a very familiar name on the Foxboro program. Jayport Worthy Vic has seen a handful of owners in his time, but is now quietly trotting away at Foxboro Park. Since his arrival from Yonkers and his subsequent start on November 7th, he was claimed on November 15th for $3,500. by the 35-year-old experienced veteran, Steve O'Toole and groomed by his talented assistant Nancy Longobardi. Steve trains a number of horses, but none like the trotter Jayport Worthy Vic. This 10-year-old black gelding has seen the highs and the lows with lifetime earnings of $552,183. He leads most Worthy Bowl offspring in this category through 1992. From the top Stakes races to the claimers, he has always given his best effort. In the last three years he has had 92 starts with 45 'in-the-money' finishes including 21 wins and earnings of $150,000. He has continued his winning ways by starting off 1993 with a victory. His lifetime mark was set as a six-year-old in 1:57.1, and his desire to win still prevails, even if the legs are slowing down a bit. Trainer O’ Toole sums it up nicely, stating, "We will race him as long as he stays sound. I can see why this horse has had such a successful career....his breeding and desire to win outweighs any negatives." To add a final note, on March 12th in 23 degree weather, Jayport Worthy Vic won in 2:03 by a length, in a hard-fought stretch duel. Here's hoping the old boy stays trotting!
Jayport Worthy Vic, setting a track record at Flamboro Downs in an O.S.S. event as a two-year-old in 1985
The year 1994 marked the sixth year of the now famous O'Brien Awards. The ceremony to honour the outstanding performers of the 1994 season was held at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel on the evening of January 21, 1995. Listed below are the two finalists in each category with the eventual winner shown by (W).
Doug Brown with Royel Millennium
Doug Brown (shown above) was the recipient of "Driver of the Year" award at the 1994 O'Brien Awards gathering. It marked the fifth time in the past six years that he had won this same trophy. Brown had a seat behind many of the top horses of the day and worked with trainers of the best stables in the sport.
Elegant Killean (W)
Rabbi Of Racing
Stand Alone (W)
Hardie Hanover (W)
Cams Card Shark (W)
Arrive At Five
Village Jiffy (W)
Emilie Cas El (W)
Dell Ridge Image
Eager Seelster (W)
Imageofa Clear Day (W)
Bye Tsem (W)
Lifetime Dream (W)
Driver Of The Year
Doug Brown (W)
Trainer Of The Year
Bill Robinson (W)
Overall Horse Of The Year - Chosen from all of the finalist nominees
Emilie Cas El
1996 - The Passing Of Delvin Miller
In August of 1996 family and friends bid a fond farewell to Delvin Glenn Miller, a man known and loved throughout the entire world of harness racing. He was 83 at the time of his passing and had remained very active until shortly before his death on August 19th. Often referred to as "Mr. Harness Racing" Delvin was an ambassador for the sport around the world. He travelled to wherever racing was held and competed at tracks on several Continents. He was seldom seen without a smile on his face.
In October of 1996 the front cover of Hoof Beats carried a photo of Mr. Miller with his beloved Adios, a horse that he owned for many years and one that revolutionized the sport. So monumental was his passing that noted writer and harness racing author Dean Hoffman wrote a fitting tribute to this great man's life; it covered an amazing 10 pages. Hoffman, then editor of Hoof Beats, was a very close personal friend of Delvin.
I was blessed to have a several year friendship with Delvin, during which time we often wrote letters (not emails) back and forth and usually his contained old pictures and other memorabilia. I also visited him at his Florida training site on a number of occasions. He was a truly humble man who despite his successes in life never forgot anyone. One line from Hoffman's tribute read "He became the single most influential person in this sport this century (20th), a legend who towered above all others."
Quote For The Week: "If it wasn't for the last minute nothing would ever get done."
Who Is It?
At one time Roosevelt Raceway had everything, even its own hockey team -- the Roosevelt Flyers. How many people can you identify from the above photo? A word of caution - I do not have a list of those pictured and can only identify a couple so whatever anyone can come up with will be appreciated. I am told that quite naturally a number of Canadian fellows are in the picture. Name one or name them all but above all have fun trying.
Who Else Is It?
Can you put a correct name on this young lad? An extra question: What did he do besides drive horses which has always kept him pretty busy?