Looking Back: A Fayette County stallion remembered

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald

Bobby Burns was not the only horse to bring distinction to Fayette County as a sire of trotters and pacers 100 years ago. Another noteworthy Fayette sire of Standardbred racehorses from a century past was Wallace McKinney, first owned by Charles W. Mark, a farmer-horseman who operated his Glendon Stock Farm near Jasper Mills.

In 1905, Mark purchased Wallace McKinney as a 2-year-old at a horse sale in New York City. The price was $1,500. Bred by W. P. Book of New Castle, Pa., Wallace McKinney was the son of McKinney (2:11¼), a leading trotting sire of his era, and Leonor (2:24), the dam of two 2:10 performers when a mile trotted or paced in two minutes, 10 seconds was the benchmark of Standardbred excellence. An injury prevented Wallace McKinney from being raced to any extent, and his fastest official time was a pedestrian 2:26¼ mile taken when winning a race on a half-mile track.

To be registered as a Standardbred racehorse 100 years ago, trotters and pacers were required to travel a mile in “standard times” no slower than 2:30 for a trotter and 2:25 for a pacer.

Wallace McKinney was the progenitor of 98 Standard performers: 28 were trotters and 70 were pacers. (Bobby Burns is credited with 32 trotters and 105 pacers.) Although Wallace McKinney was a trotter, 71 percent of his registered offspring were laterally gaited racehorses.

He was bred primarily to mares owned by persons who lived in Ohio. One perceptive observer of the Fayette County harness scene described Wallace McKinney’s colts and fillies as the “poor man’s pacers because they came to their speed quickly and cost very little to develop.” Wallace McKinney sired three trotters and 17 pacers who took records of 2:10 or better. Many of his sons and daughters could trot or pace a mile from 2:11 to 2:15, enabling them to consistently earn some purse money at Ohio’s county fairs.

Wallace McKinney’s fastest performers were the pacers Toney Mac (2:04¼), Kate McKinney (2:04½), and The Deuce (2:04¾). Toney Mac was bred by C. T. Zimmerman, a farmer who lived near Sabina; the horse was developed by Charles Swisshelm, a veteran Buckeye State trainer who lived in Hillsboro. Toney Mac took his lifetime mark of 2:04¼ at the Lexington, Ky., mile track when winning a heat of a $1,000 pace in October 1921.

The breeder of Kate McKinney was Andrew Cline, a well-known Jasper Township farmer and a friend of Charles Mark. Cline’s gray mare was foaled in 1908 and took her lifetime record of 2:04½ in July 1916 at the mile track in North Randall, Ohio. She was driven by the Fayette County horseman, Wert Mallow. William “Doc” McMillen of London, Ohio, trained and drove The Deuce for an owner who lived in Alliance, Ohio. The Deuce paced the fastest mile of his career in 2:04¾ at the Ohio State Fair in 1925.

The fastest trotter sired by Wallace McKinney was a gelding named Esty Mac. His breeder was Austin Estabrook, the manager and chief auctioneer of the Consolidated Fruit Company in Cleveland. Known to his wide circle of friends as “Auctioneer” Estabrook, the Forest City sportsman had his trotters and pacers trained by Wert Mallow in Washington Court House.

Esty Mac was a small gelding. He raced poorly as a 2- and 3-year-old, and in 1926, Estabrook sent him to the fall horse sale held annually at the Chicago stockyards. There, Walter Hemphill, a trainer from Fairbury, Ill., purchased the son of Wallace McKinney for a mere $75 and made him a top-notch racehorse. In 1928, Esty Mac raced well on the half-mile tracks of Illinois and established a new track trotting record at Decatur (2:10¼). In September 1929, the little gelding garnered his fastest lifetime mile of 2:06½ in a time trial over the two-lap oval at Huntsville, Ala. And on July 31, 1930, at Eureka, Kansas, Esty Mac trotted the fastest three heats ever clocked on a half-mile track in the Sunflower State. The swiftest of his three winning dashes was timed in 2:06¾.

Charles Mark died suddenly in 1916 at the age of 52. Thereafter, Wallace McKinney was owned first by Clarence Waddle of Sabina and then by Scott Strong, a Clinton County farmer-horseman who lived near Sabina.

Wallace McKinney died in April 1928 at the age of 25. He is another Standardbred horse whose contributions to harness racing helped make Fayette County the “Lexington of Ohio” 100 years ago.


By John Leland

For the Record-Herald