J. J. (Johnny) Thorpe

Hall of Fame Inductee, 2002

Legend – Thoroughbred Trainer


Two decisions that Edward Seagram made shortly after the once mighty Seagram Stable was unceremoniously dismantled in 1933 would figure prominently two years later in yet another King’s Plate victory for “The Men of Waterloo.” After buying out the interests of his brothers, Norman and Thomas, he put Johnny Thorpe in full charge of the handful of horses he had retained after the dispersal sales as well as a $500 yearling filly – Sally Fuller.

Thorpe had been with the stable for 35 years — ever since he had timidly asked for a job one morning in 1898 while the Seagram string was training at the old Newmarket track on the Danforth in Toronto. Performing as a groom, exercise rider, jockey and assistant trainer, Thorpe would later boast that he had galloped more Plate winners than any other rider – twelve. He had also been a keen student of the men he had formerly served – Bill Bringloe, Barry Littlefield, Charlie Boyle, three men who would later be inducted in Canada’s Hall of Fame, and Harry Blair. In a matter of weeks Thorpe and Seagram were in the winner’s circle with the multiple stakes winner Shady Well, one of he great race mares of the 1930s.

Sally Fuller, which earned just $50 as a 2-year-old for Thorpe, hadn’t shown him too much in training until about a week before the Plate. “Then she moved up with a corking good trial, and from then on she continued to improve,” said Thorpe after her surprising victory in the Plate at Woodbine Park. She was supposed to be the “rabbit” for her more talented stablemate, Gay Sympathy, who finished third. The Plate triumph would be the Seagram stable’s 20th since 1891 and its last. It would also be the only Plate victory for Thorpe.

Thorpe would later train numerous stakes winners for Edward and his son J.E. Frowde Seagram, winning the Coronation Futurity, Autumn, Durham, Fury, Highlander, King Edward Gold Cup, Maple Leaf, Prince of Wales, Plate Trial, Victoria, Fair Play, Princess Elizabeth and Breeders’ Stakes. Thorpe served the Seagram family for 62 years, retiring in 1960.