John Guy Gilmour, a Monticello Raceway treasure for over 47 years, died on Friday, July 4. He was 76.
Known to his family as "Guy," Mr. Gilmour always spewed a "Howdy Sep” when greeting others.
Mr. Gilmour was a consummate horsemen and an excellent race driver. His record speaks for itself. In his illustrious career which spanned six decades he finished with 4,492 winners. He drove primarily when the racing seasons were short and driving at two tracks in one day wasn't an option.
Ask Mr. Gilmour how many races he has won and you're apt to get an answer like "I don't know,” or "I'm not sure,” or maybe even "I don't keep track of those things.” Statistics were really not important to him.
Not one for pomp and fanfare, Mr. Gilmour just went about his work with a smile and a ragged cowboy hat taking care of his business. And he did it so long that it became second nature.
Up every morning at the crack of dawn he headed to the raceway to jog, train and care for his stock. Then it was off to the paddock to don his driving colors and become one of the fiercest competitors anyone would ever have to race against.
Over the years many a horsemen learned that you never try to wrest the lead from Mr. Gilmour when he's on the front end. As a fellow driver once stated facetiously, "He'll let you go when his whip wears out!”
Affectionately known as "Sep,” Mr. Gilmour is one of the famous Gilmour brothers, that included William (Buddy), George and Lloyd,who together accounted for more than 14,250 driving victories.
For "Sep," Monticello Raceway had been home since the early 1960s although he began his career at Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs, two tracks near his hometown of Lucan, Ont. In the mid 1960s his brother Buddy sent a contingent horses to race at Monticello Raceway with brother George in charge. John was second in command.
Although Mr. Gilmour started slowly, once the local trainers got a glimpse of his abilities he became one of the most sought after catch-drivers. However, it wasn't until 1973 that he won his first driving title. But from then on through the 1970s and into the early 1980s Mr. Gilmour's name was on or near the top of the drivers' standings every season.
During that period Mr. Gilmour won nine driving titles—during a few seasons there were both summer and winter meets--and three times he established new track records for most driving victories in a single season. Although his reign ended when Zeke Parker called Monticello Raceway home in 1984, Mr. Gilmour still was among the leaders in races won every season right into the mid-1990s.
As time went by Mr. Gilmour became more like a Damon Runyon character. Oh yes, his competitive spirit was still there but he mellowed with age. So much so, that there's hardly a sole on the backstretch—save a few guys he's "hung out to dry” recently—that has a bad word about him.
Never one to complain, or even one to celebrate, Mr. Gilmour's easy-going ways and congeniality have endeared him to all who have the pleasure of knowing him.
But in recent years Mr. Gilmour was plagued with serious health problems, though if you ask him about them he'll shrug off his problems (prostate cancer and colon cancer) like a wet dog shrugs off water.
He retired from driving in the fall of 2012. After his victory on Nov. 28 with his beloved trotter My Buddy Chimo, Mr. Gilmour announced in the winner's circle that he was retiring from driving.
Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, Mr. Gilmour sprung that on the world although he admitted he'll continue training his current five- horse stable. "Now I'll leave the driving to them young fellers.”
Asked why all of a sudden did he decided to retire the way he did, he simply said, "I wanted to go out a winner.”
"It wasn't all of a sudden but I didn't want to say anything about it because I didn't know when it would happen. I don't drive that much anymore so it was hard for me to know exactly when I'd win my last race.”
Longtime friend, Betsy Phillips, for whom Mr. Gilmour drove her good trotting mare, Gettheflakout, sums up the feelings of all around the backstretch here when she said, "Everybody loves Sep.”
Make no mistake about it, John Gilmour was a treasure. He was a talented, hard-working, excellent horseman with a devil-may-care attitude. And he was an outstanding race driver.
Funeral arrangements will be posted when available.
(by John Manzi)