I was thumbing through some Harness Horse magazines from the 1950s the other day and the pages of the early year editions were not dotted with results from tracks in colder climes, but rather training reports from where the sun had shined.
The January 25, 1956 edition offered training updates from Ben White Raceway, Pinehurst, Del Mar and Spring Garden Ranch.
Ben White Raceway was literally a living hall of fame with the likes of Del Miller, Harry Pownell, John Simpson, Ralph Baldwin, Billy Haughton and Tom Berry working their craft.
Del Miller had one of the larger stables and seemed to have been training aggressively. A 2 year-old trotter named Devastator tied a season’s mark when he went a mile in 2:33. His roster of trainees clocked that day included 12 trotters and 12 pacers. Almost all of Miller’s pacers were out of Adios mares.
John Simpson also had a large contingent of 2-year-olds. This day he worked 20 trotters and six went miles between 2:36 and 2:43. He also went trips with 14 pacers.
Billy Haughton was another trainer going some stiff miles early in the year and he also had a barn full of 2-year-olds, so many in fact that he was training in trios and quartets rather than just pairs. This particular year was noteworthy for Haughton because he was training a Hambletonian winner thathe didn’t race in the Hambletonian.
Hickory Smoke was in Haughton’s barn as a 2-year-old but raced for John Simpson at three. Hickory Smoke won the 1957 Hambo and defeated Haughton and his entry, Flicka Frost, a filly that was a stablemate before he changed hands. Oddly enough on this day Flicka Frost trained in 2:39.3 and Hickory Smoke went in 2:40.2.
Flicka Frost didn’t fare too well in the two Hambo heats, finishing 10th and sixth, but would later gain notoriety as the dam of two future Hambo winners, Timothy T (1970) and Christopher T (1974).
Pinehurst was hosting Del Cameron, Frank Safford, Earle Avery, Dana Cameron and Townsend Ackerman. Although there were many training miles listed in the article, no notable times or horses were included.
Out in California, where the “surf meets the turf,” Del Mar was headquarters for Joe O’Brien and the powerful Sol Camp Stables. O’Brien boasted a laundry list of students topped by Rosalind Frost, whose full brother was Scott Frost. He also had Razzle Dazzle and Time Me in the barn.
Clint Hodgins and Bi Shively were also stabled there.
Last but not least, Spring Garden Ranch appeared to be the choice of Canadians as Eph L’Heureux, Percy Robillard, Del MacTavish and Larent Bourgon all were stabled there. It appeared that there were more 3-year-olds and older race horses being readied for action there and the times being recorded were fast considering they were on a half-mile track. The older horses were going 2:27 and the 3-year-olds in 2:30.
All the training center’s residents indicated that they were pointing their horses towards various meets starting in April, with transportation arrangement being made for the trek back north and east.
Nowadays the lucrative purses keep horsemen working in the cold for the hard cash. But the legends of yesterday found their fortunes later in the year and took advantage of that schedule to chill in the sun, rather than shiver in the snow during the long winter months.
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