Looking Back: ‘Time’s Square’ — a great pacer

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald

McKinley Kirk and Time’s Square at the Red Mile racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky

McKinley Kirk and Time’s Square at the Red Mile racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky

Eddie and Mary Frances Kirk pose with Time’s Square at the Dec. 18, 1955 party.

Eddie Kirk, a native of New Holland, moved from his hometown to Washington Court House with his wife, Mary Frances, and their young son, Jim, in 1945. He opened Kirk’s Furniture Store on Columbus Avenue the following year. Eddie Kirk became a harness racing enthusiast at an early age by going to the races with his uncle, McKinley Kirk, a nationally acclaimed Fayette County owner, breeder, trainer-driver of Standardbred racehorses, who developed four world champions.

In 1951, at a Delaware, Ohio horse sale, Eddie purchased a yearling pacer named Time’s Square, which his uncle had bred at his farm near New Holland. Time’s Square’s dam was Pauline Abbe, a daughter of McKinley Kirk’s mare Belle Mahone, whose daughters and granddaughters produced many outstanding racehorses. The sire of Time’s Square was Victory Song, a Kentucky-owned horse who set a world’s race record for trotting stallions in 1947. Victory Song was a trotter but his sire, Volomite, sired extreme speed at both the trotting and pacing gaits.

McKinley Kirk trained Time’s Square for his nephew and drove the horse in most of his races. As a 2-year-old in 1952, Time’s Square won six heats and paced a 2:03.4 mile in a time trial at Lexington, Kentucky’s Red Mile racetrack. In his 3-year-old form, he won 11 of 27 starts and reduced his record to 2:00.4 in a race at the Red Mile.

As a 4-year-old in 1954, Time’s Square finished first in 11 of 22 starts; he placed second in six heats and lowered his record to 1:58.4 in a race over the three-quarter-mile track at Vernon Downs in New York State. He missed being named Ohio’s Harness Horse of the Year for 1954 by a single vote in balloting by Buckeye State members of the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

Time’s Square reached the peak of his form as a 5-year-old in 1955 when he won 13 of 25 one-mile heats. He paced the fastest mile of his career in 1:58.1 in a race at Lexington and won five heats in times ranging from 1:58.1 to 1:59.4. These were notably fast miles in an era when a mile paced or trotted in two minutes was the benchmark of Standardbred excellence. Time’s Square’s outstanding performance in the summer of 1955 resulted in an invitation for him to compete in the $75,000 American Classic for aged pacers at Hollywood Park near Los Angeles in November 1955.

The American Classic was the richest event ever staged for free-for-all pacers. It was raced in three one-mile heats with one heat contested in each of three successive weeks. Driven by McKinley Kirk, Time’s Square finished fourth in the first heat; he was third in the second heat before winning the third heat on Nov. 26, 1955 in the swift time of 1:59. With a 4-3-1 summary, Time’s Square became a co-winner of the American Classic with a horse named Hillsota, whose three-heat summary was 1-4-3. Time’s Square was voted Ohio’s Harness Horse of the Year for 1955. At the end of 1955, he shared with April Star, a gelding pacer, the distinction of being the fastest Standardbred racehorse bred in Ohio (1:58.1).

As Time’s Square was returning to Washington Court House from California by train, plans were underway to honor him and his connections with a “Welcome Home” dinner, much like the one Fayette County horse lovers had held for Jerry the First and Eddie Cobb after the pair won the $50,000 Golden West Pace at Hollywood Park in November 1949. A buffet dinner party took place at the Washington Country Club on Sunday evening, Dec. 18, 1955. Time’s Square was there in a stall set up in the country club’s solarium. His presence prompted the Record-Herald to quip that the event must have been the “first and only time a horse ever was host at a dinner party which he attended himself—right in the dining room.”

Eddie and Mary Frances Kirk stood beside their fleet sidewheeler and greeted his 198 guests, many who were from out of town. The country club was decorated in McKinley Kirk’s racing colors of red and white. In front of Time’s Square’s stall was a red and white floral horseshoe sent by Corwin Nixon, the manager of Lebanon Raceway. On a table nearby rested the American Classic trophy. Displayed on the wall near the stall were photographs of Time’s Square’s many triumphs. The evening’s program included motion pictures of the American Classic races and two of Time’s Square’s winning efforts at Lexington’s Red Mile.

Time’s Square raced two more years before Eddie Kirk retired him at the end of 1957. Over a period of six years, he paced 133 heats and won 52 of them. He finished either first, second, or third in 64 percent of the heats he contested. Nine of his winning miles were clocked in 2:00 or better. His lifetime earnings totaled $129,101.

Time’s Square performed stallion duty at Pickwick Farms in Bucyrus, Ohio and at Fair Chance Farm outside Washington C. H. on the CCC highway east. Horsemen who worked with him remembered his good manners and gentle disposition. Although Time’s Square produced no exceptional colts or fillies, he was the pride of Fayette County racing fans 65 years ago. In 1955, the Record-Herald called Time’s Square “Fayette County’s most outstanding equine citizen.” The compliment was appropriate and richly deserved.

McKinley Kirk and Time’s Square at the Red Mile racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/12/web1_Time-s-Square-at-Lexington.jpgMcKinley Kirk and Time’s Square at the Red Mile racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky

Eddie and Mary Frances Kirk pose with Time’s Square at the Dec. 18, 1955 party.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/12/web1_Time-s-Square-Party-Dec-18-1955.jpgEddie and Mary Frances Kirk pose with Time’s Square at the Dec. 18, 1955 party.

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald