When you see Bob "Hollywood" Heyden, Communicators Hall of Famer and "King Of Statistics" for The Meadowlands and almost any other point, walking towards you with his head cocked at a slight but unmissable angle, you know you're about to be asked the hardest harness racing trivia question of your life.
I saw Mr. Heyden at Dover Downs this past weekend, just before the annual meetings and Dan Patch Awards Banquet of the United States Harness Writers Association.
He walked towards me, head at telling angle. I braced myself.
"Jerryconnors, this year Shebestingin and Beeamagician both went faster than any of their three-year-old colt counterparts. When was thelasttime that thathappened?" (Bob's brain is always in hyperwarpdrive, and sometimes the words come out of his mouth as if frantically trying to keep up with the grey matter that had just produced them.)
When defeated, honesty is best. "I don't know, Bob. I could do some research on the computer, but I don't think they have the entire history of season's leaders anywhere. But I'll take a look and let you know what I find."
Walking back to my room, I realized again that the entire history of season's leaders probably wasn't online, but I did think of one thing that WOULD be online - the Trotting and Pacing Guide carries the lists of all the divisional champions from the beginning of such voting. (There are some advantages to once having been the editor of the "T and P," even if it was 28 years ago.) This would not perfectly answer Bob's question - just this past year, Shebestingin's 1:47 was the fastest in her division, but I Luv The Nitelife was voted the divisional crown - but it was all that I had.
My research from those lists showed me that there were eight 3YO trotting filly champions whose quickest time had beaten their counterpart males - Bee A Magician of course, Housethatruthbuilt, Syrinx Hanover, Continentalvictory and C R Kay Suzie in successive years, Whiteland Janice, Peace Corps, and Fancy Crown, with two fillies equaling the male best. (The fillies were voted on separately from the colts beginning only in 1978 - something I sorta knew but had forgotten.)
There were also two ties on the pacing side, and three years when the filly outpaced the colts outright. The amazing thing here is that the pacing feats happened in three consecutive years, 1981-1983, by Fan Hanover, Three Diamonds, and Turn The Tide, and the feat had not been duplicated in the last 31 campaigns on the sidewheeling side!
If Heyden would allow me to substitute "divisional champions" for "season's leaders" (and hey, we were at Dover to honor divisional voting champions at the Dan Patch banquet, right?), I would have a challenging answer for him. See if you can figure the difference in these two true statements:
--In no year did both sophomore filly champions go faster than their male counterparts, and
--In one year both sophomore colt champions did not go faster than their filly counterparts.
If you look above, I didn't mention who the horses were in the "tied" situations: we've already established Turn The Tide was the faster pacing sophomore of 1983, and on the trotting side, colt champand filly counterpart Duenna both froze the timer in 1:56.3 in the quickest outings. So we have a "one-beat and one-tied" situation in 1983, falling in the middle - which is a great place for a trivia answer to locate itself, making it even more challenging.
I reported my findings back to Heyden. "Notgoodenough," Bob answered, notunexpectedly. "I thought you could do better than that." And off he went to a mental galaxy far, far away from the rest of us - or else back to the table where he was sitting with Ellen Taylor; I couldn't tell which.
Bob knows where to possibly get the answers: check places that have a full set of Trotting and Pacing Guides, like the USTA or the Hall of Fame, and see if they published season's leaders back as far as he needs; check with the Horseman and Fair World, which keeps a list of season's leaders, but might not update it after their Christmas issue; or ask sainted David Carr of the USTA to see if a few hundred keystrokes will be able to elicit the answer from the USTA archives. If not, the question will just become mental file card #3,574,826 in the amazing brain of Bob "Hollywood" Heyden, with a red note - "TOBECHECKEDLATER."
And then, lo and behold, on Sunday in the Dover paddock, I lucked into coming across one of the greatest pieces of trivia of all-time.
Not 10 feet apart from each other were two gentlemen who are both members of a very, very exclusive club - they were both the leading dashwinning drivers at tracks that hosted just ONE season of harness racing!
They accomplished their feats 15 years apart. And they both have the same initials!
Anybody want to take a stab? (The answer to come - I PROMISE - in an upcoming column.)
by Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com