Canadian horseman Gerry Nelson dies at 86
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Mr. Nelson worked for fellow Canadian horsemen Ron Waples and Archie McNeil. He grew up in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia, later well known as the hometown of Brent MacGrath, owner of Somebeachsomewhere. Like many Canadian boys, he played hockey.
The Truro Daily story shared that the 1951-52 season saw Nelson break into senior hockey with Truro Bearcats of the APC Hockey League. Nelson’s passion for horses included riding and winning with “Kilarney,” a saddle horse, in a betting pari-mutuel race during the 1947 Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition. Kilarney was owned by his brother, George, and purchased from his uncle Harlan Nelson. By the early 1950s, Nelson was in harness racing, recording his first win sitting behind Phil Vitale (named after a hockey player), who he owned with hockey teammate Bert Steel.
Mr. Nelson went to the U.S. to work for Joe O'Brien, who also hailed from the Canadian Maritimes. He returned to Nova Scotia in 1960 and won the driving championship at Sackville Downs. Nelson ran a successful public stable in Nova Scotia up until 1977, when he returned to California to spend five more years overseeing training for the Joe O’Brian Stable.
During his years working for McNeil and Waples, he was involved with the development and training of many of their stakes winners.