By Robert Smith

The OSS is celebrating its 50th anniversary season this year with special anniversary dates at tracks around the province where fans will be able to watch OSS Gold or Grassroots races, enjoy giveaways and more. Don’t miss the next celebration date as our tour heads to Rideau Carleton Raceway, where you will be able to take in some OSS Gold Series action.

Rideau Carleton Raceway, which was opened in 1962, was one of six “A” tracks chosen to present OSS action in that first year. An excerpt from an article in the Ottawa Citizen prior to the first OSS visit said, “It’s doubtful whether there has been as much interest in harness racing in the area since the sport was revived around here in 1953.”

On Monday, Aug. 5 ,1974 the Ontario Sires Stakes made their first of four visits to the Rideau track that season. To celebrate the occasion, the season’s largest crowd was on hand as 3,571 fans attended the Albion Road track. The large gathering wagered a healthy $172,771, also a season’s high.

On this day, the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings were in the spotlight, many of the same performers who had kicked off the OSS competition just a month previous to this at the Garden City track in St. Catharines.

With the race divided into two divisions, each with a purse of around $ 27,000, a total of 18 sophomore pacing colts went post-ward. In the opener, a horse with local connections, Paul Bye Pat, was the winner for E.S. Scarff Stables of Ottawa, with Jim Miller driving.

In the second tilt, it was again Terry Parker for owner driver Clint Hodgins with Paula’s Peanut second for Wm. Wellwood in a swift 2:03.4. This group of colts and geldings were quickly becoming fan favorites wherever they appeared.

The wagering on the four visits that first year of the OSS totalled over $552,000, with a daily average of $138,000, well above the $110,000 average for the meeting. It was very clear from the start that the level of competition and the appearance of named colt performers, drivers and stables appealed to the betting public.

OSS Scrapbook Memories

R B Jet is shown with Norm Jones in the sulky. This trotting colt sired by Armbro Jet out of the Hoot Mon mare Armbro Audrey had two great seasons in the early days of the OSS. Starting at age two in 1976, he chalked up 11 wins in 15 starts for $ 82,633 in earnings. The following year he continued to dominate Ontario’s best, winning 15 of 19 starts. He was never worse than third that season as he earned $93,922. He retired as the richest Canadian-sired trotter in history winning almost $594,000. He was owned by his trainer and driver in partnership with Ray Bodi of Lyndhurst, Ont., located in the Rideau area.

In 1983, Brisco Herbert led all three-year-old trotting colts with earnings of $115,000 in OSS action, and $156,620 total. He also became the first trotter to break the 2:00 barrier in the history of the Ontario program. Owned by Ruth Herbert of London and handled by Dave Wall, the new mile record was clocked at 1:59.4 in early August at Rideau Carleton.

The combination of the long-standing Herbert name and that of a then-young trainer and driver Dave Wall proved to be a winning formula.

Armbro Sonnet and driver Joe O’Brien are seen here after notching a win. This filly had an amazing year in 1977, posting several wins in OSS action. In late October they went to Rideau Carleton and set a new track record for three-year-old trotting fillies. Their mark of 2:03.1 erased the former one held by Mia Herbert of 2:05.3. This win ended a six-win streak for Shawland Dawn and driver Larry Walker. This new time was the fastest ever trotted by an Ontario Sired three-year-old trotting filly or colt at this time in history.

A crowd of 2,305 fans were on hand to watch the event, which carried a purse of $39,293. This filly had spent time at the Arnprior farm of local horseman Jim McCormick, who stated after the race, “I think all that Ottawa Valley air had something to do with how well she raced.” This marked just the second appearance at Rideau for Joe O’Brien and his second win having scored the previous season with Armbro Ranger in the Ryan Memorial.

In 1985, Lou Macs Dream, the son of Dream of Glory-Ruthie, trotted his way into the record books thanks in part to his numerous victories in OSS events. Trained and driven by Garth Gordon, this fellow won over $100,000 that season.

This colt was a $28,000 purchase by his owner Walter Emond of Etobicoke Ont. At season’s end, he was the fastest colt in his class with a record of 1:59.3 taken at Rideau Carleton. The Ontario Sires Stakes was then in its 12th year and continued to provide a lot of racing and earning possibilities for Ontario-breds. In 1984, the Gordon stable had the season’s champion three-year-old filly trotter Anken Contessa for owner Ken Ewen of Georgetown, Ont. She emerged as the highest money winner in her OSS category.

Dallas Princess and driver Carman Hie are shown in winning form during the 1986 season. This then-three-year-old filly by Dallas Almahurst rewrote history when she paced the fastest mile in OSS competition covering the first 13 years, with her 1:53.4 mile setting a new standard. At season’s end, she was the highest money earner in the three-year-old filly division with $118,092 banked, leading all pacers, regardless of age or gender, in money won. One of her wins that season came at Rideau Carleton in late September in an OSS event which carried a purse of $ 41,285. In that one, she edged out another top filly, Armbro Eva, handled by Reg Gassien in a winning time of 1:58.2.

Bred by the famed Killean Acres of Ingersoll, this filly was owned and trained by Ed Lahey of Cambridge, Ont. In a recent chat, Carman said, “What I remember about this filly is that she could not leave fast, but she always finished fast.”

Pictured here is N V Worthy and driver-trainer Robert Walker. An outstanding performer for owners Clarence and Norma Varcoe of Alliston, Ont., as a two-year-old in 1986, this young trotter recorded a mile in 2:00 even while he was on his way to being the leader in his class by virtue of his $114,712 in purse winnings.

One of his victories was at the Rideau track at the end of August. Race fans were treated by seeing N V Worthy win one division while Armbro Fame notched his 11th victory in a row with Bill Wellwood in the sulky for owner John Grant of Hornby, Ont. Armbro Fame’s time of 2:01 flat was a new track record, erasing the 2:02.4 set four years previously by Spikenard, also in an OSS event.