BILLY HAUGHTON, 1923-1986 - Sports Illustrated Vault |
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Rarely has anything affected so many of us here at SI so deeply as
the news that Billy Haughton, 62, the great harness racing trainer
and driver, died last week of head injuries sustained in a July 5
accident at Yonkers Raceway. The accident came in a pacing event;
pacing is considered the more dangerous gait in harness racing. ''If
he'd stuck to driving trotters,'' said driver Stanley Dancer, 59,
''he'd still be here.'' Dancer, saddened by the death of his close
friend, drove a pacer last Tuesday night but said that it would be
his last.
A dozen SI staffers have written of Haughton's exploits over the
years, and $ if any found him other than approachable, patient and
candid, that would be news to the rest. It is not uncommon nowadays
for athlete-reporter relationships to be cool, even adversarial;
relationships with Haughton were always cordial. Haughton's
gracious personality was matched by his skill on the track. He won
more than $40.2 million in purses during his 43-year career and was
inducted into his sport's Hall of Fame in 1968. He won the jewel of
trotting, the Hambletonian, four times. His last triumph in that
event was in 1980 with a colt named Burgomeister, who had been
trained by his son Peter, himself a talented harness driver who had
been killed in a car accident earlier that year. ''I wanted to win so
much for Peter,'' said Billy that day. A second son, Tommy, also a
top driver, now carries on the family tradition.
At Peter's burial in a Long Island cemetery on a cold, gray day
six years ago, Billy threw his arms around a friend and said through
his tears, ''We'll all laugh again.'' We did, too -- and we will yet,
though it's sure hard right now. We'll miss Haughton, and so will his