So we’ve been doing some ‘people stories’ over the last few weeks here and a question that I’ve thrown out there, for some, has been ‘What is your earliest memory of The Raceway?’.
So I got to thinking about that question for myself… And it’s really not that long ago, but it is before ‘my time’ at The Raceway. He was ‘The Beast from the East’ and that would be Firms Phantom who, at the time, had matched the longest win streak (28 in a row) for a pacer in harness racing history… *Cam Fella (The Pacing Machine) would retire with 28 consecutive wins in 1984. It would be November of 2001 and he would try to keep that long win streak going in his Ontario debut. That debut would take place at Western Fair Raceway and I can remember there being plenty of hype surrounding this start - so much hype that I believe Race Night on The Score may have started early on this night. Well all hopes would fade quickly, though, after the three-year-old pacer broke stride early in the race and would not recover. In the end it would be Voo Doo Vine winning the Preferred 2 event over The Masters and Just Bert, with Firms Phantom finishing seventh. That’s my earliest memory of The Raceway - kind of a downer I know, but it is what it is…
Of course I had never been to London, until the late summer of 2013, so any Raceway memory before then - would be a memory from watching a race on TV. I’ve got another one though, but this one comes out much better - on my end anyway…
I had just wrapped up a race meet at Northlands Park, in Edmonton, Alberta and was waiting on a new announcing gig, up in Grande Prairie, for the summer of 2008… It was a Friday night card at Western Fair Raceway and I got to playing a few races, before I’d actually pick up a program and flip on over to Race 10 - to see it’s the Molson Pace Final - going then for a purse of $280,000.
A great looking race that I wanted to see and a great looking race that I wanted to bet. Popping off the program page was Tigerama - fresh off a 1:50.4 track record, in London, the week before. The one thing I was betting though - was for him to get beat. Now don’t get me wrong - I wasn’t ‘hoping’ for this horse to get beat - I was only ‘betting’ this horse to get beat. He was a heavy fave on the rail in his elim win and would be a heavy fave from an outside post in this final… I knew the only way this race would pay - would be for him to be off the ticket. For me - there was just way too much early speed for any outside post starter to overcome it - so my ticket was going to be a Superfecta Box 1-2-3-4-8 and hope for the closers.
“They’re off and pacing,” said track announcer Frank Salive. “And Tigerama is a big early presence!”… And he was - though he would park three-wide to an opening quarter in 26.2 and I was thinking, then, that we were in pretty good shape…
With a quarter mile left to go I was looking at my ticket and thinking come on closers - come on with a bomb… Into the stretch we’re looking good and then at the finish all I hear is Salive saying “It’s an upset for the ages!” and that’s what I needed to hear, but was Tigerama off the ticket?
Trevor Henry had won it aboard 8 Eagle Luck - the longest shot on the board at 25/1… 2 Grand Bend Turbo (Mike Sumner) was second and 1 Silent Swing (Rob Shepherd) finished 3rd… I needed the 4 Rare Jewel (Chris Christoforou) to edge out Tigerama for fourth and he just got up… My 8-2-1-4 Superfecta was good to go - paying $790.87 on a 20-cent play and that, my friends, is an early Raceway memory, for me, that’s not such a downer.
2008 Molson Pace www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUoX0socq9E
Shannon ‘Sugar’ Doyle
Announcer - The Raceway