04/04/2017 2:03PM

Harness: Blair Burgess headlines Canadian Hall of Fame class of 2017


The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the 2017 Inductees.  In this the 250th Anniversary Year of Horse Racing in Canada, a total of 10 horses and people have been elected from a very strong list of candidates.   

Standardbred inductees include Trainer/Driver Blair Burgess and Builder Dr. Gordon Gilbertson along with Mach Three, Elegantimage and Happy Lady.  

Blair Burgess of Campbellville, Ont., has accumulated 1040 wins and earnings of over $27.6 million as a trainer, including two victories in the  Hambletonian (Amigo Hall in 2003 and Glidemaster in 2006),  two in the Meadowlands Pace (Frugal Gourmet in 1987, Real Desire in 2002), plus wins in the Little Brown Jug (Tell All in 2007), the North America Cup (Tell All in 2007), the Kentucky Futurity, the Trotting Triple Crown (Glidemaster in 2006), and a Breeders Crown Championship (Real Desire, 2001).  Blair, son of Robert Burgess who was inducted to the CHRHF in 2011 as a Builder, received an O’Brien Award as Canada’s Trainer of the Year in 2007, while he also trained winners of seven O’Brien Awards, and nine Dan Patch Awards.  Two of his trainees have been named the U.S. Pacer of the Year (Real Desire in 2002 and Tell All in 2007), while Glidemaster was named U.S. Trotter of the Year in 2006.  Burgess- trained horses who earned in excess of $1 million include Real Desire, Glidemaster, Tell All, Western Ideal, Amity Chef, Quality Western and Amigo Hall.

The late Dr. Gordon Gilbertson, DVM, originally from Hagersville, Ont.,  revolutionized an aspect of the Standardbred racing industry when he invented the Quick Hitch, a new style of harness.   He used his extensive experience treating horses as a Veterinarian, and his hands-on experience in training and driving harness horses to fuel his idea to eliminate the use of a "thimble" placed over the shaft ends and wrapping straps around the straight portion of the shaft to secure the horse in the sulky.  In 1980 Dr.Gilbertson secured Canadian and U.S. patents on his new "Quick Hitch" eventually named the "Rondeau Quick Hitch", in homage to where he lived in Kent County.  After much hard work, and several slight modifications, top horsemen in Canada and the U.S.  became converts to the new invention to the point where it became the standard used at racetracks and training centres around the world and is still used today.  

Bred by Karl Magid of Cambridge, Ont., and owned throughout much of his race career by the late Joe Muscara Sr. of Pennsylvania, Mach Three was trained by Bill, Brett, and Shawn Robinson, along with Monte Gelrod.   In 2001, at age two, Mach Three posted a record of 7-2-0 in nine starts, winning the $1.1 million Metro Pace at Woodbine Racetrack in 1:51 4/5. In 2002, Mach Three won the $1 million Meadowlands Pace in a career-best 1:49 and was the first colt to win both of those races.  He had a record of 11-2-2 in 18 starts to give him a career record of 18-4-2 in 27 starts and earnings of $2,376,700.  In a stallion career split between Tara Hills Stud Farm in Ontario and Alabar Farms in New Zealand, he produced 1,300 plus offspring to date, with total progeny earnings of $105.4 million for average earnings per starter of $113,990, including 306 horses with earnings of $100,000 or more.   Mach Three's influence on the Standardbred breed will forever be cemented as the sire of the legendary Hall of Fame racehorse and supersire Somebeachsomewhere ($3.3 Million, 1:46.4 World Record). To date Mach Three has sired five millionaires including Mach It So, Monkey On My Wheel, Solar Sister, Camaes Fellow and the aforementioned Somebeachsomewhere. 

Trotting filly Elegantimage was bred by Diane Ingham and Harry Rutherford of Mount Pleasant, Ont.  Trained throughout her career by Brad Maxwell, and driven primarily by CHRHF member Steve Condren, she was a standout from age two when she recorded three Ontario Sire Stakes (OSS) wins in five starts.  In addition to her OSS victories, she also won the Oakville Trot, Robert Stewart Memorial Final, two Trillium Series events and the Canadian Breeders Championship Final. She won the 1996 O’Brien Award as Canada’s Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year following a season that included 9 wins and 3 seconds in 15 starts for earnings of over $352,000. The Balanced Image daughter continued her dominance at age three, winning eight of ten OSS starts, setting a lifetime mark of 1:55 4/5, and winning the 1997 Canadian Breeders Championship Final enroute to receiving the O’Brien Award in the three-year-old trotting filly division.  During her race career, she posted a race record of 20-7-3 and lifetime earnings of $955,368 in 41 races for owners Hyatt Holdings, Doug Millard, Jerry Van Boekel and Steve Condren Stable, all of Ontario.   As a broodmare, her progeny have earned $986,223 with average earnings per starter of $140,889.  Her top performer was the Kadabra filly, Elegant Serenity, a winner of over $500,000 with a mark of 1:53 2/5.

Happy Lady, a daughter of Most Happy Fella, raced in 1977 and 1978 for owners Myra Masterson of St. Catharines, and Linda Lockey of Ridgeville, Ontario. She was bred by J William Masterson of St. Catharines and though her racing career was brief, she won $528,825 in purse earnings and attained a mark of 1:55 3/5. Trained and driven by the late Jim Rankin, she was almost flawless in her juvenile campaign, winning 15 of 16 races and was named the Two- Year- Old Pacing Filly of the Year by both the Canadian Trotting Association (CTA) and the United States Trotting Association (USTA).    As a sophomore she won 19 of 24 starts and was one of only two fillies to ever win the Monticello OTB Classic.  Her 1:58 4/5 victory in the Lady Maud at Roosevelt Raceway was a stakes and track record.  Year-end honours included Three- Year- Old Pacing Filly of the Year for the Canadian Trotting Association, United States Trotting Association and Harness Tracks of America, as well as Horse of the Year for the CTA.  Tragically on January 10, 1981 at Castleton Farms in Kentucky she perished in a barn fire, along with 13 other mares, while in foal to Bret Hanover.

Representing Thoroughbreds in the Class of 2017 are Builder Eugene Melnyk, Trainer Harold Barroby, and Communicator Curtis Stock as well as horses Quiet Resolve, and South Ocean.

-edited release (Canadian horse Racing Hall of Fame)