Legends – Driver/Trainers
William H. (Billy) Keys & David J. McClary
The first person to drive a standardbred horse to win at a mile in less than two minutes was David J. McClary, a native of London, Ont. He achieved the feat on Aug. 28, 1897, when he drove pacer Star Pointer to an epic 1:59 1/4 at Readville, Mass. Star Pointer, owned by James Murphy of Chicago, had been a big, clumsy-gaited, knee-knocking pacer, particularly when going slow. But under McClary’s careful tutelage Star Pointer in full flight traveled faster than any horse of his time. His record stood until 1903, when it was lowered to 1:59 by the legendary Dan Patch.
McClary was enjoying unsurpassed success among trainers of that era. Three days previous to the epochal mile by Star Pointer, he won a bitterly fought six-heat race with Guinette 2:02 1/4) at the Readville track. He retired from the sulky in 1915 and lived in Connecticut until his death in 1940. He was elected an Immortal to harness racing’s Hall of Fame at Goshen, N.Y., in 1959.
William H. (Billy) Keys, a legendary owner, trainer, driver and breeder from St. Stephen, N.B., was regarded as one of the greatest and complete horsemen to ever come from New Brunswick. He drove and trained many outstanding trotters and pacers on the old Maine-New Brunswick circuit, where he was often the leading driver. During his brilliant career Keys drove and trained more than 200 horses, gaining his first recognition with Ray Wilkes, who went on to hold the Maritime pacing record of 2:21 ½ at St. Stephen.
Keys set 36 trotting and pacing records in Atlantic Canada and Maine. Among his early stars was the trotting mare Saskia, who set over a dozen track records, and Maritime record holder Jenny H. His most famous horse was Ruby P, who set a world record of 2:04 3/4 as she upset the legendary Bessie McKylo at Fredericton in 1927. Keys died in 1967 at Milltown, N.B., at age 90.