Celebrated Canadian harness horseman Bill Davis began his career at Kawartha Downs and worked with another noted horseman, Jerry Robinson, before setting out on his own, a path that would eventually lead him to two O’Brien Awards.
Sadly, Jerry and Bill both passed away within the last year and they are among those being celebrated at Kawartha Downs tomorrow night on the second of two Memorial evenings at the track this year.
Robinson, a well known and respected horseman at the Fraserville track since its inception in 1972, passed away late last year. “I learned a lot from watching him. He was a hard worker and a real gentleman,” said Gord Brown, Kawartha’s leading driver for many years.
One of Jerry’s best horses was the Gene Abbe gelding Sir Edward Pick while more recently he was the driver of Galagher Seelster, a Mister Big gelding who gave him several trips to the winner’s circle. As a driver Jerry had 2,112 victories with $3.2 million in purses.
Just a few months after Jerry passed the Standardbred community was shocked and saddened with the news of Bill Davis’s passing. One of the nation’s top horsemen for several decades, he was 54 at the time of his death. Bill began his career working on horses owned by his older brother, Dan, and then got a job working for Jerry whose racing colours of brown and white he adopted and wore throughout his career.
Bill went out to British Columbia to visit his sister and took the time to visit the track near Vancouver (now Fraser Downs) and got to know a few of the trainers. “Next thing I knew I had a few drives and liked it so I decided to stay,” he noted a few years ago. Bill dominated the competition on the west coast leading to his moniker ‘The Dominator.” Not only was he a top trainer, but he was also one of the leading drivers in Western Canada for several years.
His ability to excel as both a trainer and driver led to his being named Horseman of the Year in Canada for 2003 and 2014. Davis notched 5,477 wins and more than $22 million in purses as a driver while his training stats read 3,466 wins for more than $16 million. Bill’s son, Billy, is one of Ontario’s top drivers and he raced at Kawartha last month in the Ontario Sires Stakes and recorded four victories on the card.
All 10 races on Kawartha Down’s program tomorrow evening are named in honour of people who made an impact at the track but are no longer with us. Also being celebrated are Jerry’s first wife, Judy Brown, Leona and Nellie Wright, Gary and Paul Gassien, Ron Luke, Bruce Adams, Doreen and Eric Brock, Ruby Brown, Billie and Ernie Brown and Roy, Eric and Bill Given.
This is the third last race card of the 2016 season at Kawartha Downs. Races get underway at 7 p.m.