Looking Back: Who was Annie Burns?

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald

Annie Burns with Dick Wilson

Annie Burns with Dick Wilson

Foaled in 1895, Annie Burns was a gray Fayette County trotter that competed on the racetrack from 1898 through 1901. Her sire was Bobby Burns, the county’s dapple-gray stallion who, in the 1890s and 1910s, became one of America’s leading sires of Standardbred racehorses. Her dam was Silver Tail, whose grandsire on her dam’s side was Imp Leamington, a Thoroughbred stallion from Ross County.

Annie Burns was owned and bred by W. E. Taylor, a farmer, livestock dealer, and lifelong resident of Fayette County. Taylor was born and raised in a large brick house on the Circleville pike.

Annie was a notorious “bad actor” that frequently broke stride in her races. Nevertheless, she achieved considerable success during her four-year career as a racehorse. All of her races were multi-heat affairs with each heat trotted at a distance of one mile.

In 1897, Taylor sold a half interest in Annie Burns to Edwin Clough, a horseman who lived in Chillicothe. The following year Clough drove the 3-year-old filly at four county fair meetings in Ohio and Indiana, where she failed to win a heat. Early in 1899, the two owners sent Annie to Dick Wilson, a respected trainer-driver in Rushville, Ind., who campaigned his horses for the big money available at the mile-tracks in the eastern and central states.

With Dick Wilson in the sulky, Annie Burns competed in nine races in 1899 as a 4-year-old. Her best performances were two second-place finishes at Louisville, Ky., and three fourth-place finishes at Hartford, Conn.; New York City; and Providence, RI. In 1899, as in 1898, she never won a heat.

Annie Burns showed a spectacular reversal of form in 1900 after Wilson entered the 5-year-old mare in 14 races, all of them on mile racetracks. The purses of these races ranged from $1,200 to $10,000. On July 18, 1900, Annie competed in the classic $10,000 Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Stake at Detroit. It was the richest, most prestigious race of her career. The Fayette County mare won the third and fourth heats of the M&M by slim margins. In the sixth and deciding heat, she went badly off stride an eighth of a mile from home and galloped to the finish line. Her dash summary was still good enough to collect second-place money.

After winning a two-heat race at Cleveland in late July, Annie Burns was victorious in three lucrative races in August and September 1900. On Aug. 20 at Readville, Mass., she won a $5,000 stake with a 1-1-9-3-1 summary. Next, on Sept. 4, in a $2,000 event at Hartford, eight dashes were trotted before Annie finished first in three heats needed to win the race. She took her fastest lifetime mark of 2:10½ in this race. Three weeks later at Terre Haute, Ind., the gray mare was awarded first-place money in an unfinished stake for $5,000. She won the first two heats of this contest in 2:12¼ and 2:10½ (equaling her best time) before the race was cancelled after an hour of heavy rain.

In spite of frequent erratic behavior on the racetrack, Annie Burns raced well enough to earn $10,025 in 1900 and became the year’s leading money-winning Standardbred racehorse. Some good luck, combined with the fact that she had competed at the major meetings which paid goodly money for second, third, and fourth place finishes, was partly responsible for her earning such a large sum.

Annie Burns went lame after her 1900 campaign and started only three times in 1901. She performed poorly and was retired from the racetrack. Annie started in 30 lifetime races and won four of them. She finished second in four races; she was three times third and six times fourth in nine other races. Her lifetime earnings totaled $11,050.

In 1903, Taylor and Clough sold Annie Burns to George Ketcham, a Toledo, Ohio horseman, for $750. As a broodmare, she produced no outstanding colts or fillies.

Annie Burns was the first harness horse bred in Fayette County to achieve nationwide distinction on the racetrack. Many more trotters and pacers from the county have followed Annie Burns in gaining national recognition. They include but are not limited to Major Mallow, San Guy, Tim S., Jerry the First, Times Square, Speedy Count, and Jerry Gauman.

Annie Burns with Dick Wilson
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2016/12/web1_Annie-Burns-1900.jpgAnnie Burns with Dick Wilson

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald