Looking Back: A splendid Fayette horseman


By John Leland - For the Record-Herald



The Governor’s Cup presentation to A. G. Gordon and family members in 1963. Left to right: Gene Schmidt, chairman of the Ohio State Fair; A. G.’s daughter, Edna Naylor; Virginia Gordon, wife of A. G.’s son Harold; the trotter Van’s First; driver Eddie Boyer; A. G. Gordon; his daughter Donna Boyer; and James Rhodes, governor of Ohio.


Accepting the 1950 Governor’s Cup trophy, left to right: Rose Song with A. G. Gordon up; his daughters Donna Boyer and Marjorie Christian; A. L. and Esther Rhoads; and Donald Zoller, Ohio’s Secretary of State.


A young farmer-horseman named Audra Guy (A. G.) Gordon moved with his wife Ellen from Greene County to Fayette County in 1917 and began operating a farm on Robinson Road. He was soon raising a few Standardbred racehorses and training them at the Fayette County fairgrounds.

By his own account, A. G. Gordon began training horses in 1908 when he was 18 years old. Although his first horse was a pacer named General Gordon owned by his father, he had a preference for trotters throughout his long career in harness racing.

In the early 1940s, Gordon purchased a farm on the CCC Highway-E and lived for the rest of his life in a red-brick house at Rosepoint, located at the junction of the CCC Highway and the Washington-Waterloo Road.

A. G. Gordon first came into prominence as a Fayette County horseman with a pair of trotters named Tim S. and Lillian Guy, both foaled in 1932. He raced Tim S. and Lillian Guy as 2-year-olds at the Ohio county fairs in 1934, and the two nearly always finished in the money. Tim S. was sired by Peter S. and Lillian Guy by San Guy. Both stallions were owned by the veteran Fayette horseman, Os Briggs.

Gordon sold Tim S. to an Illinois sportsman in 1939, mainly because the brown gelding had become too swift, and thus ineligible, for most of the races being offered in Ohio. Tim S. reached the peak of his form in 1939 when, as a 7-year-old, he trotted the fastest winning race-mile of the year on a half-mile track—2:03½ at Carthage, Ohio.

In 1914, the Governor’s Cup for 3-year-old trotters owned and bred in Ohio was first contested as the annual, premier event of the Ohio State Fair’s harness racing program. For more than a century, many Buckeye State horsemen have wanted to win it.

A. G. Gordon finished second with Tim S. in the 1935 Governor’s Cup and then went on to win the race three times with horses he had bred, owned, and trained. Gordon was in the sulky when his homebred filly Rose Song won the Governor’s Cup in 1950. Shortly before the big race, he sold an interest in Rose Song to local architect and builder, A. L. Rhoads and his wife Esther; the couple later became her sole owner.

Rose Song competed on the racetrack from 1949 through 1954. Her career summary shows 40 races won with lifetime earnings of more than $63,000. Rose Song’s sire was Gay Song, owned by Fairmeade Farms and Green Acres Farms of Wilmington, Ohio; her dam was Lillian Guy.

In the late 1940s, Gordon began schooling his eldest grandson, Eddie Boyer, to be a trainer-driver, and Eddie soon became a skillful driver of trotters and pacers. His colors, like his grandfather’s original colors, were dark blue and orange.

Eddie Boyer won the Governor’s Cup in 1960 with Ava Song, his grandfather’s filly whose dam, Memorial Song, was bred by Gordon. Ava Song’s sire was Averill, a stallion popular with Ohio horsemen in the 1950s.

Ava Song won six races in 1959 as a 2-year-old. In 1960, she finished first in 10 of her 23 races and was five times second and three times third. Ava Song was named Ohio’s 3-year-old trotter of 1960 by the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association.

In 1963, Gordon won the Governor’s Cup a third time with a horse named Van’s First. Driven by Eddie Boyer, Van’s First finished third in the first heat of the classic event and then stormed back to win the final, deciding heat over nine rivals. A month before the Governor’s Cup, Van’s First equaled the track trotting record at the Fayette County fairgrounds (2:06 for a mile) when winning the Ohio Colt Racing Association’s 3-year-old trot at the Fayette County Fair. The record had stood for nine years.

Van’s First was the first colt sired by Demon Van, a trotter belonging to Harold Laymon, a successful and widely known Fayette County horseman. The dam of Van’s First was Susan Algiers, another mare raised by Gordon.

In 1963, Gordon was the only person ever to have won the Governor’s Cup three times with a horse he had bred, owned, and trained. He respected his horses and never used the whip in a race or in training. Rather, he would snap the reins vigorously on the backs of his charges to encourage a maximum effort. A. G. Gordon died in 1968 at the age of 79. He was a highly regarded horseman who made important contributions to the rich history of Fayette County harness racing.

The Governor’s Cup presentation to A. G. Gordon and family members in 1963. Left to right: Gene Schmidt, chairman of the Ohio State Fair; A. G.’s daughter, Edna Naylor; Virginia Gordon, wife of A. G.’s son Harold; the trotter Van’s First; driver Eddie Boyer; A. G. Gordon; his daughter Donna Boyer; and James Rhodes, governor of Ohio.
http://recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_Scan3_001.jpgThe Governor’s Cup presentation to A. G. Gordon and family members in 1963. Left to right: Gene Schmidt, chairman of the Ohio State Fair; A. G.’s daughter, Edna Naylor; Virginia Gordon, wife of A. G.’s son Harold; the trotter Van’s First; driver Eddie Boyer; A. G. Gordon; his daughter Donna Boyer; and James Rhodes, governor of Ohio.

Accepting the 1950 Governor’s Cup trophy, left to right: Rose Song with A. G. Gordon up; his daughters Donna Boyer and Marjorie Christian; A. L. and Esther Rhoads; and Donald Zoller, Ohio’s Secretary of State.
http://recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_Scan5_001.jpgAccepting the 1950 Governor’s Cup trophy, left to right: Rose Song with A. G. Gordon up; his daughters Donna Boyer and Marjorie Christian; A. L. and Esther Rhoads; and Donald Zoller, Ohio’s Secretary of State.

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald

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