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The former Canadian city of Aylmer is located on the north shore of the Ottawa River in Quebec and can be reached via Route 148. Today it boasts a population in excess of 55,000, and one of its former residents, Perry Robinson, who lived there in the late 1980s and 1990s, recalls visiting its racecourse at Connaught Park. Although by that stage in its history it was only hosting harness racing, older residents remember the time it staged thoroughbred racing and even possessed a steeplechase track.

Local Patrons L N Bate, Leo Dandurand, Tommy Gorman

The racecourse, initially known as Connaught Park after the Governor General at the time, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, later became known as Hippodrome d’Aylmer, and held its inaugural meeting on Saturday 14th June 1913 when the opening race went to the 3-year-old filly Lindesta ridden by Eddie Ambrose. Ambrose also rode the winner of the principal race of the day, a $1500 race over 9 furlongs, on another filly named Airey. The track, overseen by L N Bate, had taken over the old charter of the Ottawa Jockey Club Association and was determined to make the venture successful. That first day launched a sequence of seven days of racing, although the second day was marred by heavy rain, but that did not prevent Lindesta from notching a second victory. Results from that second day are shown below:-
Monday 16th June 1913
Connaught Park 6 furlongs

1. LINDESTA 1 minute 16 seconds
Connaught Park 5 furlongs
1. PATTY RAGAN 1 minute 2.8 secs
Connaught Park 1 mile
1. CLINTON 1 minute 42.2 secs
Connaught Park 5 furlongs
1. GREEN BRAN 1 minute 2.2 secs
Connaught Park 6 furlongs
1. JONQUIL 1 minute 16.4 secs
Connaught Park 1 mile 1 furlong
1. L M ECKERT 1 minute 56.4 secs
Connaught Park 6 furlongs
1. INCISION 1 minute 15 secs

Even before the Connaught Park track became fully operational its future was under threat from a consortium of horse racing enthusiasts from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto who were drawing up plans for a second track in Ottawa in an attempt to make the Quebec side one of the racing capitals of Canada. Naturally, the owners of Connaught Park did not feel the dominion could justify two tracks in such close proximity, despite the consortium providing assurances that their meets would be held between dates reserved for Connaught Park meetings.

The track continued to hold meetings under the auspices of the Canadian Racing Association throughout the early years of the First World War, but ceased in 1917, re-opening again in 1920 under the presidency of Senator Belcourt and secretary Tommy Gorman. In 1920 the track was the scene of an infamous scam involving a horse named Westy Hogan (or was it Little Boy?) now embedded in Canadian racing folklore. The story is best told by the Winnipeg Tribune, ‘A red-haired man from Detroit arrived at Connaught Park, asking for one of the stalls to stable his horse who he said was Little Boy, and the track were happy to oblige. Little Boy, owned by E C Moore and George Richings of Detroit and trained by Stafford E Doyle of Toronto, was entered into the fifth race of the day on a warm afternoon on Monday 21st June 1920, but just before the off a ton of ‘come-back money’ flowed to the track from off-course bookmakers, reducing his odds from 20/1 to 6, although it only paid 3/1 on the pari-mutuel. Racecourse officials were alerted and became suspicious, with the Judge, Mr Nelson, liaising with the Secretary Joe McLennan. They decided to hold the race up for 10 minutes while further enquiries were made, with McLennan consulting his most trusted turf official about the legitimacy of Little Boy. The turf official stated he was certain that it was Little Boy, with all the correct markings, a scar on his right leg, a small cut on his left front hoof, and two missing teeth, so McLennan allowed the race to start. The horse won the race so easily, some claimed with the speed of Man O’War, that his jockey Callaghan was able to have several cheeky looks back at his toiling rivals, but immediately on passing the post the bookies began to complain, leading Judge Nelson to seize the horse while seeking to contact his owners. They had already left the track in a taxi on their way to Ogdensburg, New York State, having made their way safely across the state border. The horse was impounded in the racetrack stables and the next morning was being hosed down after exercise when its bay colouring suddenly began to disappear leaving a magnificent black stallion. McLennan and his trusted officials immediately recognised the ringer as Westy Hogan who, at that time, could have beaten any horse in Canada over 6 furlongs.' After a prolonged enquiry Judge Campbell found that racketeers had transported West Hogan from New York to Detroit and placed him in stalls at Fair Ground racecourse next to a stall containing an unknown Little Boy.

A top lady artist was commissioned to transform Westy Hogan into Little Boy, creating the long scar on his left foot and going to great lengths to extract teeth to ensure that Joe McLennan and his buddies would be fooled. The team of hoaxers, led by Moore, Richings, and Staff Doyle, hit the USA bookies for over £500,000, and all Connaught Park had to show for its pains was an interned Westy Hogan. The track Stewards summonsed Moore, Richings and Doyle to appear before them at a hearing on 22nd June 1920 but Moore and Richings were long gone by then. Staff Doyle, the trainer, claimed that he was sure the horse which contested the race was Little Boy, but the Pinkerton Detective Agency proved otherwise. The courts subsequently awarded the racecourse legitimate expenses only for boarding, lodging, guarding and feeding Westy Hogan, the horse retiring to stud afterwards and went on to produce many top sprinters’.

The track held the distinction of being the first to initiate the Daily Double in Canada on 3rd June 1931, a bet invented by Leo Dandurand which invited punters to select the winners of the third and fifth races, thereby landing a large dividend for successful punters. Later on, many courses extended the bet to a Daily Treble, morphing into the Jackpots of today for anyone able to go through the card.

The Canadian Racing Association remained at the helm until 1934 when the track became part of the Province of Quebec Racing Association, with Tommy Gorman as President. The history of the track falls neatly into two parts, the first between 14th June 1913 and 5th July 1954 when the 1-mile dirt track staged thoroughbred racing, with frequent steeplechases intermingled, while the second lasted between 1913 and 2008 hosting harness racing on an adjacent 4 furlong dirt track on the 90 acre site. Unfortunately, the prevailing financial conditions challenged the viability of the track and the owner declared it bankrupt in 2008, with the site sold for housing the next year.

Course today The racecourse closed its gates for the final time in 2008 and is now covered by housing.
If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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