richard j. buxton
Richard J. Buxton was born on a farm near Mt. Vernon, Ohio on December 13, 1928. He graduated from that town's high school, lettering in football and basketball. Buxton began his career in harness racing working for his long-time racing idol, 1969 Hall of Fame inductee Wayne "Curly" Smart. His first start was at the Knox County Fair (Mt. Vernon) in 1947.
Dick Buxton spent six years with Smart, before opening a public stable based in Urbana. There he became a leading trainer-driver for nearly three decades. The Buxton Stable has, almost from the start, been made up of Ohio-owned Standardbreds, whose owners wanted to be able to go see their horses when they raced. As a result, there probably isn't a fairground track in Ohio that Buxton couldn't describe, rail for rail, and rut for rut.
Dick Buxton maintained an impartiality between the two gaits, and had both good trotters and good pacers, although trotters remained his specialty. He developed and drove a host of great free-for-allers, trotters, Senator Frost, Fisherman, La Belle, and Killbuck Mary and the pacer, Faraway Bay.
Buxton's first great horse, the one that gave his career a jump start, was Senator Frost. Unraced at two, Senator Frost had a very successful three-year-old season. His 1:59.2 winning effort at Lexington broke Greyhound's 1935 world race record of 2:00 for three-year-old trotting geldings. In addition, the two-heat total (2:00.3 plus 1:59.2) set a world record for the fastest two heats for three-year-old trotters, regardless of sex. The following week Senator Frost again lowered the record to 1:59.1 by winning a heat of the Kentucky Futurity. That effort broke the world race record of 1:59 1/4 (set by Protector in 1931) for three-year-old trotters, regardless of sex. In spite of offers to buy him, the owners sent Senator Frost to Hollywood Park where he once again lowered his world-record mark to 1:59 flat. A year later on November 21, 1959, closing day at Hollywood Park, Senator Frost trotted the year's fastest mile in 1:57.3. That same day Fisherman trotted in 1:58 for Buxton. No trainer had ever driven two such races in one afternoon. Senator Frost also set a world race record of 2:05.3 in 1959 for a 1 1/16-mile at Hollywood Park. In 1960 he lowered the track record at Santa Anita to 1:58.4. He again passed Greyhound by scoring more two-minute race miles than "The Grey Ghost" ever trotted.
Killbuck Mary was a homebred from Robert and Henry Critchfield's Gay Acres Farm. In 1971, as a two-year-old, she had fifteen first place finishes, including winning the Walnut Hall Trot and the Hanover Filly Stakes over Delmonica Hanover. As a three-year-old, she won the American National (again out-trotting Delmonica Hanover) the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes, the Scarlet and Gray Cup, the Ohio Governors Cup (setting a stakes record), the Parshall Futurity and the Old Oaken Bucket. She was one of the horses spared when fire swept through Buxton's training stables in 1973. Killbuck Mary went on to take a life mark of 1:59.1 and retired with earnings of $517,877, after participating in the Italian $100,000 Lottery Prize in Naples in 1975, where she won her elimination heat.
For more than three decades Buxton's stable was a powerhouse in his native Ohio, both at the pari-mutuel tracks and at the fairs. He also campaigned successfully in Detroit, Chicago, New York, California and the Lexington Grand Circuit. He was perennially among the leading percentage drivers in the sport and would often drive for Hall of Famers such as John Simpson, Sr., Harry Pownall, Sr., Frank Ervin and Bill Haughton. Dick Buxton recorded 1,563 career victories and total earnings of $4,116,832.
Buxton was one of the few men to have driven and won with three world champions, Florican, Bret Hanover and Keystone Pioneer. He drove Florican once at Toledo during a Grand Circuit meet and he gave Bret Hanover his third and fourth winning miles as a two-year-old for Frank Ervin. He drove Keystone Pioneer to her mark at Hollywood Park for Billy Haughton.
Although he prided himself in his patient style of "old school" horsemanship, Buxton was in fact among the most thoughtful and innovative of trainers, with interests as varied as track safety and equine nutrition. He devised the Buxton martingale. Fifty years since he first used the equipment, because it complimented the action of a trotter, the piece is standard equipment on almost all sets of harness throughout the world.
In addition to his excellence on the track, Buxton's leadership at every level of the industry was extraordinary. He served as president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association and was a director of the United States Trotting Association from 1977 to 1992. He chaired the Driver-Trainer Committee for many years for that organization. For his distinguished career, service and leadership, he was inducted into the Ohio Harness Hall of Fame in 1991.
Buxton was known for putting the sport and his owners before himself. For that he earned and retained the respect and affection of all lucky enough to call him "my friend" or "my trainer." An incident, told by fellow horsemen, best describes the unselfish approach of Dick Buxton. It was in the late 1950s, when he had two horses that drew in as one entry in two of the stakes at Lexington's Grand Circuit meet. One was the four-year-old trotter, Fisherman, who had won a lot of races for him, and the other was an occasional problem trotter named Voloney. When it came time to divide up the driving chores, Buxton turned the drives behind the almost-sure-to-win Fisherman over to Billy Haughton and Curly Smart and put himself up behind the problem trotter.
Richard J. Buxton passed away on January 1, 1992 at the age of sixty-three.
Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2006 book, The 2003-2005 Immortals