The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Herve Filion

Harness Racing

1971


Photograph of harness racer Herve Filion

Photograph of harness racer Herve Filion

Date
1970’s
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

A Winning Machine

The kid from humble beginnings in Angers, Quebec, started thinking about being a harness racing champion at 11. His feet didn’t even reach the stirrups when he was hoisted into a sulky for his first race at 13. He won that one! Winning was something Herve Filion never lost sight of. He studied all the great drivers closely but paid particular attention to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Member Keith Waples’ ability to shift the sulky around in tight situations. Giving credit to Waples, Filion developed an ability to quickly move the sulky up to two feet to the right or left in what some observers have called the Herve Hop.

The late Billy Haughton, a great U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame member once said, “there are a lot of good harness drivers, a few great ones ... and then there is Filion."

In 1970, Herve Filion traveled 250,000 miles by helicopter, plane and car to tracks in the U.S. and Canada, often appearing at two different tracks in the same day. He averaged six races a day, six days a week, to record 486 wins. That fuelled his desire to notch up an already insane schedule to become the first man in harness racing history to rein in more than 500 wins. He closed 1971 with 543 wins and a world record 3,461 career wins, beating Houghton’s 3,446 victories.

He showed some steely grit along the way. In a three sulky collision in August, Filion tore ligaments in his shoulder and sustained facial cuts requiring stitches. Four days later he won a race at Freehold, New Jersey, then drove to Roosevelt, New York and won five straight. He won two more at Freehold and four at Roosevelt the next day. Filion said: "I had to make up for lost time." In November he suffered a cracked wrist and was back in the sulky three days later to rein in six winners.

One fellow driver declared, "He's got the spirit. He gets up and goes to bed with the same idea—winning races.”

Filion matches his insatiable appetite for driving with good old-fashioned hard work. He prepares intensely and studies every horse and driver searching for an edge or something he can use to his advantage.

Filion often stated, "I'm very thankful for what I've got. If it wasn't for harness racing, I'd probably be carrying a lunch pail and working as a labourer on construction projects like my friends back home."

After the success of 1971, it’s hard to believe the best was yet to come!

Marsh Trophy caps Filion’s finest year Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1968
First driver to win more than 400 races in a single season with 407 victories
1968-2003
Won 15,017 races and more than $86 million in prize money
1970
Won World Championship
1970
In a single day, drove five winners at Brandywine Raceway
1971
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1971
Named to the Order of Canada
1989
Career high of 814 wins in a single season