Montreal businessman Irving Liverman,who parlayed a small initial investment 50 years ago into a harness racing dynasty still going strong today, has died. Liverman, who never fully recovered from a stroke in 2011, was 94.
"We worked side by side from the time I graduated from university. He was my best friend for all my 70 years," said son Herb, who shared his father's passion for racing and took over management of their racing operations in the 1980s.
Their success is almost unprecedented in the sport, and earned Mr. Liverman election to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.
Horses they owned or co-owned have won the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks, the Meadowlands Pace, World Trotting Derby, Messenger, Merrie Annabelle, Jugette, Bluegrass, Battle of the Brandywine, Prix de L'Avenir and multiple Breeders Crowns. Their stable included the likes of Bee A Magician, Muscles Yankee, Kadabra, Handle With Care, Wild Honey, Pinkman, Britelite Lobell and Time Well Spent.
The one that started it all was Silent Majority, only the second horse owned by Mr. Liverman, who operated an appliance distribution company in Montréal.
Selected, trained and co-owned by Montréal-based Roger White, Silent Majority was a $9,500 yearling purchase in 1970 who won his first eight starts, earned $300,000 in two years of racing, produced champion Abercrombie in his first year of stallion duty and was syndicated for more than $2 million. Tragically, White died in the crash of a small plane in the Pocono Mountains in 1971, heading to the fall sales. Billy Haughton was Silent Majority's trainer when he won the Messenger in 1972, defeating archrival Strike Out.
Handle With Care, purchased that same year by Haughton for $12,000, would go unbeaten in 17 races at two and win 24 straight for Liverman before tasting defeat. She earned about $800,000 and twice was named Canada's Horse of the Year.
Longtime Montreal racing executive Mike MacCormac said Mr. Liverman could have done then what many owners did, cash out after a couple of big years. Instead, he reinvested his winnings in the sport, a pattern that continued for decades.
"That's the surprising thing, that he put everything back in the industry. There aren't a lot of people like that. It really helped the game. And he helped in other ways. He did a lot of things on the quiet for people who needed it, things he didn't take any credit for. That's the way he was."
Even in his final years, when his only contact with racing was through televised races in his living room, Mr. Liverman rarely missed a start by one of Herb's horses.
"Really, I enjoy any win," he had said in an interview in 2000. "The purse doesn't mean that much to me. I never depended on horses to make a living. For me, it's just a great thrill. I just love it."
Preceded in death by his wife Shirley in 2009, Mr.Liverman is survived by children, Herb and Carol.
The funeral will be Wednesday, May 3, at 11 a.m. at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon W., Montreal. (SC)