by Dean Hoffman
The rivalry between Overtrick and Meadow Skipper created some of the most memorable moments of harness racing in the 1960s, when the sport was truly at the peak of its popularity.
They rivals had many things in common. Their sires, Solicitor (Overtrick) and Dale Frost (Meadow Skipper) were distinctly second-tier stallions in an era dominated by the great monarch Adios.
Both Overtrick and Meadow Skipper were members of private stables, a vestige of harness racing’s past that is virtually umknown today. Overtrick was owned by Helen R. Buck, whose stock was trained by John Patterson as a private trainer for Mrs. Buck and her husband’s Allwood Farm. Meadow Skipper was owned by Norman S. Woolworth, operator of Clearview Stable and employer of trainer-driver Earle Avery.
Patterson and Avery were both old-school horsemen, Avery from New Brunswick in eastern Canada and Patterson from Georgia in America’s deep south.
When their racing career’s ended, Meadow Skipper had earned $428,057 while Overtrick banked $407,483. Meadow Skipper’s record was 1:55.1 on a mile track as a 3-year-old, which he took defeating Overtrick. Overtrick’s record was 1:57.1 on a half-mile track as a 3-year-old, which he took defeating Meadow Skipper. Both miles were world records when set.
By any definition, however, Overtrick was superior to Meadow Skipper on the track. One edge that Overtrick had on Meadow Skipper was his superiority on a half-mile track. Meadow Skipper lacked that quick burst of speed at the start that was so essential to getting advantageous position on the smaller track then in vogue across the United States.
It was that edge that allowed Overtrick to defeat Meadow Skipper in the 1963 Little Brown Jug, an epic contest with the first heat being the fastest mile over on a smaller oval. Overtrick came back to win the second heat in 1:57.3. Meadow Skipper was right there at his wheel, always game, always trying, but simply not good enough to get past his rival. Overtrick claimed the world record for both one and two heats on a half-mile track.
In their stud careers, however, Meadow Skipper simply overwhelmed Overtrick as Meadow Skipper’s first two crop contained Most Happy Fella and Albatross, respectively. If Meadow Skipper had never sired another crop of foals, his legacy would be secure, but he went on to sire many remarkable pacers and his male line came to dominate pacing during his lifetime.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s