SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1990s

SC Rewind - Years Ago
Published: April 1, 2023 11:51 am EDT

This week's edition of Rewind is the regular feature 'Years Ago' that starts off each month.  This time Robert Smith has gathered up a few old pictures from the 1990's and created some short stories that relate to what was going on back then which was 30 or so years ago.  

1990 - Barely Visible Wins Presidential Series At The Meadowlands 

Barely Visible

As the new decade arrived a horse with all Canadian connections got off to a pretty good start.  In the 12-year history of the Presidential series at The Meadowlands, no horse had ever swept all of the legs.  That all changed on Saturday, January 27 when Barely Visible, driven by Canadian ace Bill O'Donnell, won the race in a stunning 1:53.3 with an almost four-length margin over Direct Current.  Keystone Raider was a nose back in third spot.  Rumpus Hanover, racing for P.E.I. owner Ian Smith was fourth, driven by Jim Doherty and trained by Dale Pinkney.

This marked the ninth straight win for this five-year-old gelding owned by Antonio Chiaravalle and trained by another Canadian, Bill Robinson.  His last defeat came way back on October 1, 1989. With the 1990 season barely a month old,  Barely Visible was the fastest and richest horse of the new decade and had a lifetime bankroll of $575,600. He was second last fall in the fastest race mile ever in Canada when Matts Scooter stopped the clock in 1:51.  

1990 - Canadian Sportsman On The Move 

By 1990 the iconic Canadian Sportsman publication was celebrating its 120th anniversary and the folks in charge were not sitting by idly.  A quote from a story in the Feb. 6, 1990 issue of that great old favourite stated it best.  "Over that 120 years The Sportsman had seen a lot of booms, depressions, wars, good and bad governments and above all horses." 

In 1990 The Sportsman moved for the fifth time in its history to its present home in the village of Straffordville located in Elgin County's Bayham Township.  Previously dating back to 1870, they had been located in Toronto, Grimsby, Woodstock and Tillsonburg.  The new location was fully capable of launching a new look for the 1990's.  

Laura Hawley

The above picture taken at the new location of The Sportsman shows 10-year employee Laura Hawley at what was then a fairly new fixture, a desktop computer.  Laura was from Brownsville, a small community about ten miles from the new location. She was in charge of circulation,  a very important function at the paper.  As recently as 1990 not a lot of people were not yet familiar with the daily use of a computer.  

Gary Foerster and Bruce Johnston
Editor and vice president Gary Foerster (left) and president Bruce Johnston discuss some copy for an upcoming issue of the paper. 

1993 - Canadian Invader Takes Maine's Top Trotting Event 

Blue Bonnets shipper Kin O Classic took centre stage at Scarborough Downs on Sunday, July 18, capturing the State of Maine’s top trotting event, the $20,000 Legislator Trot. The speedy daughter of Armbro Classic came from mid-pack to circle the field with a rousing stretch drive by veteran Mike MacDonald, for a mile in 1:59.2. 

Owner G. Hughie Murphy of Augustine Cove, Prince Edward Island picked up the winners' cheque of $10,000 as the hardhitting five-year-old added win no. 10 to her 1993 record. She has now earned over $59,941 in 1993 while finishing in the money in 17 of her 22 efforts. The mare, who now has $170,622 in lifetime earnings, was bred by Roderick MacLeod of North Wiltshire, P.E.I. She took a new life mark of 1:58.2 at Blue Bonnets this year, but was overlooked by bettors who let her get away at 7-1. She paid $16.00, $8.00 and $6.20 across the board.  

Kin O Classic
It was a happy winner's circle gathering at Scarborough as track officials and a number of people connected with owner Hughie Murphy celebrated the victory by Kin O Classic.  The winner received a very nicely lettered cooler as well as a rather large trophy to mark the occasion.  (Photo and text courtesy of Northeast Harness Newspaper)

1995 - Roosevelt Into Final Demolition 

April: The once famous Roosevelt Raceway which opened to harness racing in 1940 is undergoing final demolition. Once cleared and when approval is received the 172-acre track property will become the site of a major development.  A newspaper report quoted veteran horseman Jimmy Cruise who raced there for many years.  "It's all flattened out, except for the grandstand." Cruise, who lives in Old Westbury, continues, "But that will be going down soon."
Founded by George Morton Levy who died in 1977, Roosevelt ushered in the mobile starting gate and the great era of nighttime harness racing...but lost the race against time and change.  Below are a couple of quotes from some people who were asked to comment on the closing of this iconic and memorable place. 

Gene Pownall, a member of the original driver's colony said "In those early days there was quite a horse shortage" and  interjected, "We were racing for $210 per dash, and there were only 64 head to pick from. They had five races per card with five-horse fields and the dashes were 9/16 and 3/4 miles. With the horses racing twice a week, if they had mile distances the horses would have blown up. The horsemen were racing whatever they could get their hands on." 

Glen Gibbons, an early race secretary, stated,  "I wrote the Messenger and Billy Haughton won the first one in 1956 with Belle Acton. That mare was owned by George Landers of Kittery, Maine, who was so happy to win the race that he gave his Cadillac to the groom." 

Early starting gate at Roosevelt
Above scene shows a very early picture of morning schooling races being held at the then fairly new Roosevelt track.  This was one of many innovations introduced at this once grandiose track.  (Photo courtesy of Northeast Harness News) 

Quote For The Week: "If it thunders on April Fool's Day, expect good crops of corn and hay." - Anonymous

Who Is It? 

Who Is It photo question

Can you identify this young driver? He gave up driving many years ago but he has enjoyed considerable success of late as an owner and trainer.  Name him if you can.  Come to think of it, he has had a bit more than "considerable" success.  

Who Else Is It? 

Who Else Is It photo question

Can you identify this person? Let us know who you think he is. 



In reply to by ashleyduford

Who Is It ? - The "young" driver pictured this week was Jack Darling, taken at Florida's Pompano Park following a win with Reymur Lorne in January 1989. He was not only the driver but also the trainer and owner of this trotter .Time of the mile was 2:01.2. Also in the picture was Jack's wife Ann and their two children as well as Jim Houlihan and Gramma Houlihan according to Lorna Davis (who I suspect may be family). Not to be overlooked is Greg West who was holding Lorne as per Ashley Duford. Based on very reliable information , this was Jack's last driving win at Pompano. 
The "Who Else Is It?" photo was correctly identified by all responders as the "ageless" Wm. Megens, truly an amazing gentleman who has been involved in the sport for a very long time.
Thanks so much for the comments, they are very much appreciated.

the first picture is Jack and Ann Darling and kids Uncle Jim Houlihan and Gramma Houlihan.second picture is Bill Megans