In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith remembers the year of 1973, an even 50 years ago. It was a great season for harness racing across the map and a year that saw a lot of special happenings. His piece contains a few short write ups and old photos related to the events of that year. He has selected a few topics of interest that would have been in the news back then.
Ontario Sires Stakes To Begin In 1974
In September of 1973 an announcement was made regarding the long awaited Ontario Sires Stakes program which was set to debut early in the 1974 racing season. It was immediately hailed by many observers as the best designed of many of the Sire's Series that had already become a reality in many U.S. States bordering Canada in recent years.
The new program was estimated to be worth an estimated $1,700,000 in the first year. In total 80 stake events would be on schedule with each of the six "A" tracks hosting four events. That list would include Greenwood, Mohawk, Garden City, Windsor, London and Rideau Carleton that would host a total of 24 events. Each one would carry an estimated value of $50,000. The remaining 56 events would be raced over the 14 "B" Class tracks, each one with an approx. value of $9,000.
It was a day that had long been awaited and was now finally close at hand.
Montreal Tracks Continue To Succeed
For the seventh consecutive year, attendance at the two large Montreal tracks, Blue Bonnets and Richelieu Park, surpassed the two million mark. By early December the total attendance had reached 2,069,303 with 17 racing dates remaining before the Blue Bonnets meeting was scheduled to end on Dec. 30.
Over the past seven years the total attendance had reached over 16,300,000. The top year was 1968 when attendance was 2,520,955. The 1973 attendance figure was made up of two groups with 1,680,000 fans attending the harness meetings and 388,000 taking in the runners during a 55-day summer meeting for the thoroughbreds.
Both tracks enjoyed unprecedented successes and the season high for attendance and excitement took place on August 26th when Armbro Nadir captured the annual Prix D'Ete at Blue Bonnets. (more on this at a later date )
Handle With Care Goes Undefeated For The 1973 Season
In 1973 the two-year-old pacing filly Handle With Care set a modern day record when she went the entire racing season without a defeat. Owned by Montreal-based Irving Liverman and racing out of the power-laden stable of Billy Haughton, the young miss went 17 for 17. She raced at 12 different tracks that season. Mr. Liverman, a great supporter of Quebec harness racing, was pleased that his star performer appeared at five tracks located in his home Province. She raced and obviously won at all five. The tracks visited were Blue Bonnets, Exhibition Park Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Jonquiere and Connaught Park. When she raced at Jonquiere, Mr. Liverman hired a small plane to take him along with several friends to see his champion in the making.
In addition to her consecutive win streak, Handle With Care established a number of other records. Her season's total of $141,124 eclipsed the old mark set by Romalie Hanover and her speed tab of 2:00.2 lowered the previous best by a freshman filly. She was named Canada's Horse Of The Year. Above all, wherever she raced she made many new friends.
Shown above is a list of world speed records as they existed in late 1973. It is interesting to note that several records had been set many years earlier with some dating back as far as the 1920's. This was undoubtedly attributable to the fact that odd distance racing was seldom scheduled so the records remained for long periods of time. Apparently NO new records were set during the 1973 season. Sorry the two-mile pacing record for Irvin Paul did not show but it was 4:08 4/5.
Canada's Newest Track Opens
On December 19, 1973 the country's newest track opened when Barrie Raceway welcomed the pacers and trotters for their inaugural meeting. Built under the supervision of the father-son duo of Wm. Rowe and his father The Hon. Earl Rowe Sr., the Raceway was designed with winter racing in mind. As if scripted, the opening night witnessed a driving snowstorm, but a remarkable crowd of 2,045 hardy souls showed up for opening night. Fans filled the new track to capacity, eager to see the area's newest form of entertainment. By 8:15 the start of the second race, track officials ordered the gates closed because the parking areas were all filled.
Ontario Jockey Club Divisional And Other Leaders From 1973
Quote For The Week: With the major league baseball season just getting under way, why not have a quote from Yogi Berra. "It's always nice to win the home opener even if it's on the road." If I've used that one before I hope it was a while ago.
Who Is It?
This driver finished at the top of the driver's list at the 1973 Blue Bonnets spring meeting. Can you identify him?
Who Else Is It?
This horse and driver set a new Greenwood track record in 1973 and won the track's then foremost race. Can you name them both or at least one?
Where Is It?
Can you identify where this picture was photographed? It was taken in 1974, so pretty close to 50 years ago. Let us know where you think it was.
These people all look like they're studying for a final exam! Or maybe trying to pick a winner.