Thoroughbred Legend and Trainer
John Walker was Joseph E. Seagram’s first trainer when the Waterloo, Ont., stable began in domination of the Canadian racing scene in the 1890s. His most notable achievement was winning the Queen’s Plate a record six years in a row, beginning with Victorious in 1891, followed by O’Donohue, Martello, Joe Miller, Bonniefield and Millbrook.
Victorious, the best horse he ever trained for Seagram, followed his Plate victory with wins in the Breeders’ Stakes and the Dominion Day Handicap in the space of seven days at Woodbine. Walker campaigned Victorious with success in New York, defeating some of the leading handicap horses of that era. Each summer he would journey to Saratoga with the Seagram stable, setting up a training base for close to 100 hired hands and win against the leading U.S. stables.
Walker won the first running of the Breeder’s Stakes in 1889 with Helen Leigh for Seagram. He won almost every major stakes event during the 1880s and 1890s. Year after year Walker was praised in the press for his patience and diligence in correcting the ailments and minor injuries of his runners. His successes with Seagram enabled him to obtain a job as head trainer in England for Lord Derby in 1897. He returned to Canada in the early 1900s and trained for several owners, including Robert Davies’ Thorncliffe Stable. He had great success in 1910 with Davies’ fillie Frolic, who captured the Stanley Produce and Maple Leaf Stakes.