Charles Fowler William Burns was one of the more active and influential players within horse racing during the time it was being repositioned in the 1950s and 60s. He was a supporter of Canadian racing, both thoroughbreds and standardbreds, and was co-owner of the 1969 Grand National Steeplechase winner at Aintree, Highland Wedding. Burns was on the executive committee of the Ontario Jockey Club at the time of his death at age 75 in 1982. Years earlier he and his firm, Burns Bros. and Denton Ltd., a major Toronto brokerage house, played an important, albeit unspectacular role, in the revitalization of Ontario racing when the OJC issued stock to finance the purchase of other tracks, the construction of the “new” Woodbine and the reconstruction of “Old Woodbine. He became a director in 1952 and a trustee in 1971 when the OJC became a non-profit organization.
Born in Vancouver, Burns was educated in Toronto. In 1932 he borrowed $500 from his father, chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia, to establish a bond business, Burns and Co. Two years later, with a loan from his mother-in-law, Cairine Wilson (Canada’s first female Senator) he bought a seat on the Toronto Stock Exchange. When the Second World War broke out Burns joined the RCAF and organized the Eastern Air Command, which was credited with rescuing more than 100 airmen who crashed in the Atlantic. Burns retired as a wing commander.
He and his wife operated Kingfield Farm outside Toronto. During his early years in racing he campaigned several horses in partnership with Kinghaven Farms’ D.G. (Bud) Willmot. Several months before Burns’ death, his bloodstock agent, Gord Huntley, purchased Pax Nobiscum for $36,000 at the 1981 Ocala, Fla., fall yearling sale. Ironically, the colt became Kingfield’s best thoroughbred. Trained by his daughter, Janet (Dinny) Burns, after her mother took over the stable, the colt won the Marine Stakes and Toronto Cup at Woodbine and the Ohio Derby at Thistletown. She became the first woman to ever win the Ohio Derby. C.F.W. Burns’ granddaughter, Catherine Day Phillips, trained Canada’s Horse of the Year, A Bit O’ Gold, in 2005.
Burns enjoyed remarkable success with standardbreds as well. A partner with John Hayes in his stable, they owned Legal Notice, first winner of the rich North America Cup, as well as stakes winners Tyrant and Striking Sun. Burns admitted he was interested in all sports and was an executive with both CFL and NHL teams.