In the first quarter of the 20th century, harness racing was a struggling enterprise in Canada. Thoroughbred racing commanded the public’s attention, and the standardbreds usually found themselves restricted to small towns and the occasional country fair. For Robert Bennett of Horning’s Mills, Ontario, all the charm of horse racing was wrapped up in Standardbred racing, and in particular a pacer he owned, a sturdy chestnut named Chilcoot. Foaled in 1912 at Walnut Farm of Donerail, Ky., Chilcoot began his career in spectacular fashion in 1916 by winning the first race he started and 16 of his 26 starts that first year.
All his wins came in the United States as racing opportunities were limited in Canada. Chilcoot started his amazing string in Cleveland and then won in Wheeling, W. Va., Youngstown and Marion in Ohio, Dawson, Pa., and Ithaca, N.Y. The following year an ailing Chilcoot made it to the races just once, and was soundly trounced. But by 1918 he was back in good health, and responded by winning 15 of 27 races, delighting those few Canadians who were interested in the sulky sport and who were able to follow Chilcoot’s progress through sketchy newspaper accounts. On August 1 he twice sped around the Columbus, Ohio, oval in 2:04-1/4 to make him one of the fastest standardbreds of that time. Later that month the pacer and his reputation roared into Readville, Mass., to chase a $5,000 pot. He didn’t disappoint, winning all three heats with ease. He competed in five heats at Toledo, O., winning a heat in 2:05 3/4, but had to settle for runner-up money.
That set the stage for Chilcoot’s finale, a $10,000 race in Hartford, Conn. With the richest purse he had ever raced for on the line, Chilcoot won two of the three heats in 2:06 1/2 and 2:07 1/2 to finish his racing career in glorious style. He then returned to Canada to stand at stud, where he sired several decent racehorses, but more importantly, fathered a strong broodmare band that included Princess Iroquois and Myrtle Baxter. Among the production of his daughters, the most notable was Van Riddell. Owned by W. Earl Rowe of Newton Robinson, Ontario, Van Riddell was a stakes winner and a leading sire in the province, producing numerous trotting stakes winners during the 1950s and 1960s.