Looking Back:An outstanding Fayette Trotter of the ’30s

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald

Tim S. at Lexington, Ky. with A.G. Gordon up

Tim S. at Lexington, Ky. with A.G. Gordon up

Tim S. at North Randall, Ohio, trotting his fastest career mile

A notable Fayette County racehorse of the 1930s was Tim S., a brown gelding trotter bred, trained, owned and driven by A. G. Gordon, a prominent Fayette County horseman.

Foaled in 1932 on a farm that Gordon operated on Robinson Road, Tim S. was a Fayette County home-bred in every sense of the word. His sire was Peter S., a stallion owned by the veteran Fayette horseman Os Briggs. His dam was Betty Evans, an unraced mare that Gordon purchased from her breeder, Ed Sever, who lived a short distance west of Washington Court House. Betty Evans’s sire was Oliver Evans, a stallion belonging to Val McCoy, still another well-known Fayette horseman.

In 1934, Gordon raced Tim S. as a 2-year-old at the Ohio county fairs, where the juvenile trotter achieved a credible record by winning four multi-heat races and finishing no worse than third in three others. The following year at the Ohio State Fair, Tim finished second in the 1935 edition of the Governor’s Cup for 3-year-old trotters bred in Ohio. His 1935 campaign ended with five races won and four second-place finishes.

After a lackluster performance in 1936, Tim S. regained his winning form in 1937. Competing now as a 5-year-old, he trotted his fastest career race mile in 2:03¼ when winning a heat of a $2,500 stake race at the mile track in North Randall, Ohio. His driver in this race on July 7, 1937 was Wayne “Curly” Smart, a legendary Buckeye State trainer-driver of trotters and pacers.

In September 1937, Gordon took Tim S. to the Lexington, Ky., Grand Circuit meeting and entered him in the Transylvania Stake for all-age trotters. Tim finished third in the Transylvania won by Rosalind, arguably the best female trotter of the 1930s and the winner of the 1936 Hambletonian, harness racing’s most prestigious race. In one heat of the Transylvania, Tim S. was timed separately in 2:00 for the mile heat he trotted over Lexington’s mile racetrack.

A horse show was held in front of the grandstand at the Fayette County fairgrounds on the evening of Monday, Oct. 4, 1937. The show’s announcer was Howard Allen, the popular secretary of the Fayette County Automobile Club.

A high point of the horse show came when Harry Kelley, Tim’s African-American caretaker, paraded his charge in front of the grandstand as the audience cheered and clapped. A. G. Gordon passed Howard Allen a note, which read: “Tell the crowd that much of the credit for Tim’s performance should be given to Harry Kelley, who has taken care of him since he was a weanling.” Kelley was a generation older than most of the men training horses at the Fayette County fairgrounds in the 1930s. He was a consummate horseman who taught local trainers many tricks of the trade.

Tim S. performed well in 1938, finishing either first, second or third in 56 percent of the heats he trotted in competition.

Then, in the early summer of 1939, Gordon sold Tim to an Illinois road contractor, who lived in Bloomington, Ill. Gordon parted with his stable star only because the 7-year-old gelding had become too swift, and thus ineligible, for most of the races being offered in Ohio. The new owner sent the Fayette County homebred to Harry Fitzpatrick, a top notch trainer-driver, who schooled his horses at the Illinois state fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill.

Tim S. reached the peak of his form in 1939 when he won nine of 13 multi-heat races and finished second in two others. On Sept. 15, 1939, he trotted the fastest race mile of the year on a half-mile track when winning a heat in 2:03½ at Carthage, Ohio. His 2:03½ clocking at Carthage was the second-fastest race mile trotted on a half-mile track anywhere in the United States during the 1930s.

In 1939, racing mostly at the Illinois county fairs, Tim S. won 26 one-mile heats on half-mile tracks in times of 2:10 or better. (In the 1930s, a mile timed in 2:10 on a twice-around oval was a benchmark of trotting excellence.) The 26 winning heats that Tim S. trotted in 2:10 or better on a half-mile track was not equaled or surpassed in any year from 1930 through 1939.

Tim’s lifetime record shows 29 races won. He finished first in 83 of the 234 heats he contested; he was second in 30 heats and third in 38 more. Racing at a time of small, Depression-era purses, his lifetime earnings totaled $8,704. Tim S. is one of Fayette County’s great Standardbred racehorses.

Tim S. at Lexington, Ky. with A.G. Gordon up
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2016/08/web1_b.jpgTim S. at Lexington, Ky. with A.G. Gordon up

Tim S. at North Randall, Ohio, trotting his fastest career mile
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2016/08/web1_a.jpgTim S. at North Randall, Ohio, trotting his fastest career mile

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald