SUDBURY—Mike Noble, originally from Gore Bay, went on to become the undisputed king of harness racing drivers at Sudbury Downs race track. He is now a hall of famer.
“It was a very, very nice ceremony and evening. I was very honoured to be part of a group of athletes who are some of the best Sudbury has ever produced,” stated Mr. Noble, one of 10 individuals and one team inducted into the Greater Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame on June 13.
Mr. Noble was also very touched by the support he received from family and friends, including those from Manitoulin Island, who attended the awards dinner. “My wife and family were there. Jim Strain and his wife Patsy were there, as was Ross and Dionne McDougall, my sister Beulah and (her daughter in law) Krissy DeMarco Hester. It was really nice to have everyone there, it was unbelievable. I really appreciate it. I can’t put into words how great to have everyone here.”
Mr. Noble, and the others who were inducted into the hall of fame, were introduced prior to the dinner that took place and then, after each was presented with their hall of fame plaque, made their speeches.
Mr. Noble a licensed horseman, trainer and harness racer who, in his illustrious 40-year-plus career, captured more than 1,800 harness races. “The first thing I mentioned in my speech was my thanks to the Kinsmen Club and its president Chris Sheridan,” he said. “I thanked Jason McIsaac for building a world class horse racing facility in Sudbury.”
“I shared several stories in my acceptance speech,” said Mr. Noble. “I mentioned that horse racing is one of the few sports and that you can be an old man and still be the best; citing Mike Smith and Justify, the horse he was riding when he captured this year’s Triple Crown of racing.”
“Of course, jockeys are only as good as the horse they ride,” said Mr. Noble. “I mentioned Herve Fillion, the greatest harness rider, who said a jockey gets too much of the credit when his horse wins and when they lose they get too much of the criticism.”
“I raced Herve once in Orangeville,” said Mr. Noble. “I had been working for Platt Purvis and Herve was there one day. He was so cool in the bike, nothing rattled him regardless of whether he was riding a $2,000 horse or a horse worth $200,000.”
“I thanked all the (horse) owners I have been fortunate to work with over the years in Ontario and the US—guys like George Lind, Randy Carlyle and my father,” said Mr. Noble. “Special thanks went to my wife and kids for putting up with me and allowing me to follow my dreams. They spent a lot of lonely nights while I was away driving in other places.”
Mr. Noble was the first harness racer who raced in Northern Ontario to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Mike Saftic was the first harness racer, but he raced mostly in southern Ontario.
Mr. Noble raced and won on the first day the Sudbury Downs race track opened on June 3, 1974. “I’m 99 percent sure I won the last race held at Sudbury Downs in 2013.”
“Mike was the first rider to win 1,000 races at Sudbury Downs and won more than any other rider in history here,” Randy Pascal, one of the committee members for the GSSHF, told the Recorder previously. “It is a testament to his longevity that he won a race here on the first day the track (Sudbury Downs) opened in June, 1974, and in the last race here on Thanksgiving day, 2013.
Mr. Noble drove in his first race when he was 18 and his last when he was 59. His first drive was on the old track in Chelmsford. “I started on the Island in Gore Bay when I was 16,” noting the race track was located where the Gore Bay Curling Club is now.
“I went to work with Harold McKinley at Greenwood Race Track at the age of 17 in 1972,” said Mr. Noble. “Then I came home and worked with Bev Shouldice, then worked for Platt Purvis.”
Over his over 40-year career of racing and training horses, “I won over 1,800 races and change, and close to $4 million in prize purse money,” said Mr. Noble, noting as the driver he only kept five percent of the winning purse.
“I grew up with horses around,” said Mr. Noble. “We were at the general store when my brother Pat and I would give pony rides, we were even on the Razzle Dazzle CBC show for this; we were two independent businessmen at the age of 7-8.”
“My dad liked horses. He always had a couple around and I got hooked,” said Mr. Noble. When Mr. Noble won his 1,500 race at Sudbury Downs it was on North Bay Lady.
“They say a driver is only as good as their last race and mine was a win,” added Mr. Noble. He added, “I can’t put into words how unbelievable this is. I always felt if you had a good career maybe someone will recognize it. I guess I had a good career.”