It is always fun to remember and relive happy days from our past. This very happy day took place during the summer of 1976. The date was August 26, 1976. The Wolfe family was racing at the Fort Erie Summer Meet.
My older brother John and I really had no plans to attend the races at the historic Fort Erie Racetrack. On this beautiful summer day. But then suddenly our plan for the day did take a sudden change in direction. As we both wound up at the racetrack to try and try our luck on betting on a few of the races.
By the time we arrived at the racetrack.They were getting ready to run the 5th race at Fort Erie. Lucky for John and I. Astute veteran horse trainer and friend of my mom and dad. Owner-trainer Norm Fletcher was running one of his more reliable steeds. A horse named "Crafty Nantallah". John and I were not very prepared to bet on the races on this day. As between the two of us. We were only able to scrounge together a mere $5. But if your luck is working for you. That that is really all the money you will need at the racetrack. As I recall Crafty Nantallah was a hard knocking and very reliable claiming horse. In which trainer Norman Fletcher was know for. We quickly looked at the racing form and sized up the horses in the field of the 5th race. Crafty Nantallah looked like a winner in the paddock. So we placed a $4 bet on Crafty Nantallah. Two dollars to win, and two dollars to show.. Crafty Nantallah was sent off of odds at 8 to 1. It was 6 1/2 furlong race and a very exciting start of our day at the track. As Crafty Nantallah stalked in great position for the first half mile of the race. Turing into the home stretch Crafty Nantallah would blow by the front running and win the race. Pulling away by 2 1/2 lengths! Our $5 had now grown to almost $25. We were on our way!
The 6th race on the Fort Erie card was also a field of hard knocking claiming horses. Our next wager would be on the old and classy Thoroughbred named "Dream Thoughts". What a perfect name for our next selection. Dream Thoughts was trained by another well respected conditioner working on the Ontario circuit named John Ainsley. Dream Thoughts would be ridden by veteran jockey John Bell. We would place a $20 on Dream Thoughts. $10 to win and $10 to show. Dream Thoughts ran an outstanding race and just got beat in a photo finish by a nose. We still cashed the show bet on Dream Thoughts and made a slight profit on the race.
Now we were going to bet on race 7. It was a a non winner of two 3 year old filly race. Champion trainer Lou Cavalaris was running the Gardiner Farm filly "Princess Matilda". Who was the favorite in the race. Being ridden by leading rider Jeffery Fell. My brother John recalls we bet $10 to win on Princess Matilda. Who won the race. Winning the race with authority. Bringing our bankroll up to $35.
Race 8 would prove to be another very exciting race. Which involved a two year old named "The Third Sign". This two year old colt was also being ridden by leading and champion jockey "Jeffery Fell". Trying very hard to make this an exciting and winning day. John and I wagered $20 to win on "The Third Sign". Jeffery rode "The Third Sign" to an exciting head victory. Which gave us a very profitable day at the track. This was really very unexpected. When the day had begun. The Third Sign paid $7.80. Bringing our bankroll to $90!
Now the finally on this dream day at the racetrack! The 9th and final race on the race card was the prep race for the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.Which is the "Prince Of Wales" Stakes. 1976 Queens Plate winner Norcliffe was the heavy pre-race favorite to win this small but talented field of 6 three year old horses. The race was 1 1/16 on the turf. One of the contenders in the field was from the "Conn Smythe barn and trained by Donnie Walker. Which was their best 3 year named "Lucky Conn". Lucky Conn was being ridden by apprentice jockey Michael Quong. This important race was a very big opportunity for the young career of Michael Quong. Because Michael had not won 5 races in his career yet. Lucky Conn would receive a 10 pound weight allowance. Giving Lucky Conn a chance to beat Norcliffe in this race. That is the way John and I concluded. After reviewing the facts. Reading the racing form. John and I predicted that Lucky Conn would be able to set the pace in the race. Which would be a moderate pace. Again increasing the chances for Lucky Conn to complete the upset of Norcliffe. John and I were confident with our decision and bet $80 to win on Lucky Conn. Which was a lot to wager for two young guys still going to school. But we took our chance made our decision to "Let It Ride"!
The race started with John and I pumped for a major winning day at the track very possible now. Lucky Conn and his rider Michael Quong sprang out of the starting gate. Just the way we had predicted the race would be run. Lucky Conn and Michael controlled the pace in the run down the backstretch. With Norcliffe and Jeffery Fell running in a stalking position. Turning for home Lucky Conn still managed to hold Norcliffe at bay. As the Queen's Plate winner was starting to mount his challenge. To try and win the race. Now the pair had reached 1/8 of a mile pole from the finish line. Lucky Conn still held a slight advantage. But Norcliffe and Jeffery Fell were starting to wear the lead of Lucky Conn away. It now looked like the race was lost and our dream day at the track would end with a narrow defeat. To the Champion Norcliffe. However our dream day was not over yet! Young Michael Quong was not interested in losing this race. Michael just like a well seasoned pro. Changed the whip to his left hand and gave Lucky Conn a couple of good slaps! Lucky Conn responded and fought back! Turning a neck disadvantage. To regaining the lead away from Norcliffe. And in a desperate and thrilling confrontation. Holding on to beat Norcliffe by a nose!!! John and I were beyond happy after this exhilarating win by Lucky Conn and Michael Quong. John and I walked out of the Fort Erie Racetrack with over $550 in our pockets. And lots of joy in our hearts!
This race would be the 3rd win in the race riding career of jockey "Michael Quong". Norcliffe would come back in two weeks to win the Prince of Wales Stakes. From this day on. I would refer to Michael Quong as the Killer! The Giant Killer that is. Michael would go on to a successful jockey career on the tough Ontario Thoroughbred Circuit. Also wining lots of races for the Sheldon Wolfe racing stable!