Helicopter - 1953
A slew of firsts marked the filly Helicopter’s victory in the 1953 Hambletonian. J. Elgin and C. E. Armstrong of Brampton, Ontario, were the first Canadian owners to win the trotting classic; Helicopter’s sire Hoot Mon (1947 Hambletonian winner) was the first winner to sire a winner; Harry Harvey, at 29, was the youngest winning driver at the time; the total first place money of $53,126.59 was the most won in a single season by a three-year-old trotting filly, and the total purse of $117,117.98 (including breeders’ awards) was the largest to date. Helicopter’s 17th place finish after breaking in the first heat didn’t suggest that the filly would have much of a chance. Morse Hanover captured the first contest. In the next two, however, Helicopter was victorious, holding off stablemate Singing Sword with Delvin Miller in one and Kimberly Kid with Tom Berry in the other. Helicopter, so named because Mrs. Frances Van Lennep used a helicopter from her Castleton Farm to deliver a baby in a Lexington hospital when winter storms closed the roads, was retired to Armstrong Farm. She is the dam of Armbro Flight, who won a heat of the 1965 Hambletonian. Armbro Flight, in turn, is the dam of 1988 Hambletonian winner Armbro Goal.
First $100,000 purse in the Hambletonian. The largest field to ever start in the Hambletonian – 23 – consisted of two tiers and three more trailers in the third tier. Helicopter’s dam, Tronia Hanover, was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms and sold privately as a yearling because of a winged foot for $50 to Richard Hoke. Helicopter was sold as a weanling named Bell-Ard Monia at Harrisburg in November 1950 and was purchased by Castleton Farm for $1,150. She was the first foal by Hoot Mon (1947) ever sold at auction. Renamed Helicopter, she changed hands again the next fall in Castleton’s yearling consignment at Lexington. She was purchased by Delvin Miller and John Simpson Sr. for $2,000. First Canadian-owned winner of the Hambletonian and the first stake winner owned by the Armstrong Brothers, Helicopter was purchased privately from Miller and Simpson for $9,200 as a two year old ($7,500 plus an additional $1,700 based on her two-year-old earnings). She, along with Dottie’s Pick on the pacing side, became a foundation broodmare of one of the sport’s most extraordinarily successful racing dynasties. Miller’s assistant, 29-year-old Harry Harvey, was the youngest driver to that date to win the Hambletonian. Hoot Mon became: 1.) the first winner to sire a winner; 2.) the first stallion to sire a Hambletonian winner from his first crop; and 3.) the youngest stallion (as a five year old in 1949) to sire a winner to that date. Jimmy Wingfield, who came to prominence in the sport as the caretaker for the great Greyhound, won the first heat driving Morse Hanover.