• Volo Song

    When Greyhound, possibly the best trotter of all times retired, his owner, EJ Baker, was looking for other interesting prospects. In 1943 he bought the horse almost everybody thought we break all trotting records, including those belonging to Greyhound but less than a year later the horse had passed away. The untimely death of Volo Song has been called one of the greatest tragedies to befall trotting.

    Volo Song was foaled in 1940 at Walnut Hall Farm. A son of Volomite out of the fantastic broodmare Evensong, his sibling include Kentucky Futurity winner Twiling Song, Victory Song and Hit Song, both second in Hambletonian and Scotch Song, dam of Hambletonian winner Lusty Song as well as Scotch Rhythm. He was purchased for $5 000 by William Strang who put him in training with Ben White. Strang also owned the winner of the 1942 Hambletonian, The Ambassador. After the Hambletonian win of the latter, Strang, in "post-race excitement" gave away a substantial amount of the $20489 winner's check, giving trainer Ben White $5000 (instead of the customary 10 %) and, according to Dean Hoffman's book Harness Racing in New York, handling "each of Ben White's caretakers a bill that would buy a small piece of property in the area of Lexington, Kentucky, where many of them lived."

    As a two-year old Volo Song quickly established himself as the best in his crop, winning all stake engagements including the junior Kentucky Futurity and Tompkins, and trotting in 1:16.8/2:03 1/2. The next year he won the Matron, American-National, the Review Stakes in addition to the Hambletonian. His Hambletonian win was of the impressive kind. In the first heat Volo Song made a big break but rebounded to finish a close third, timed around 2:00, before sweeping the next two heat in easy and convincing fashion.

    Early in 1944 he was then purchased by EJ Baker whose Baker Acres stable was very impressive and was the winningest stable owned by one person for many years. One of Volo Song's stablemates was Hall of Fame pacer King's Counsel. In early june, trainer Henry Fitzpatrick told Harness Horse that "Volo Song could move away from King's Counsel in any kind of a mile," a statement which most questioned. Within a month, however, nobody would ever question the abilities of Volo Song after a spectacular performance at North Randall, Cleveland's suburban course.

    In the Stallion Stakes, Volo Song set a new world record for 4 year olds in 1:13.2/1:57 3/4, but it wasn't the world record in itself but rather the way he did it which impressed everybody. To quote from the Harness Horse, it was " a demonstration of speed so unexpected and executed with such brilliancy as to leave many speechless for the time being, then a quick gathering and a comparison of watches among owners and trainers, practically all watches showed 1:57 to 1:57 1/4, but the officials reported 1:57 3/4 with the following quarters: :29 1/4:30-:30 1/4 :28 1/4. Volo Song lacked competition and encouragement inasmuch as he moved away from his opposition early, and Fitzpatrick was seemingly letting the new champion four-year-old suit himself in the stretch until shouts of the crowd evidently caused him to tap Volo Song lightly, just once, and the response was electrifying, he seemingly turning on a degree of speed surpassing any previously displayed and evidencing the fact that had a supreme effort been made at other points, all race records would have been shattered. A concluding quarter at a 1:54 clip on the end of a mile in 1:57¾ which was practically five seconds faster than the grand young stallion ever previously trotted, certainly justified the claims of critical horsemen that Mr. Baker had in Volo Song, the greatest ever foaled." Even EJ Baker was convinved that Volo Song would break Greyhounds magical 1:55 1/4 record.

    In mid-July Volo Song was in Elkhorn, Wisconsin for a race when disaster struck. According to an article in The Milwaukee Sentinel on July 16, 1944, "The promising career of Volo Song, 4 year old world's champion stallion, came to a tragic end here today when the Hambletonian king fractured the ankle bone in his left foreleg as he led the field in the first heat of the free for all, feature race of the harness program at Walworth county fairgrounds. Dr JP West of Madison diagnosed the break as a compound fracture of the bone between the left front ankle and hoof. It was a bad break, running into the ankle join, said Dr West." Given his fantastic career and enormous talent, an effort was made to save the horse but it proved futile and he was euthanized July 19, 1944 near Bakers Acres, near Libertyville, Illinois.

    He could, and probably should, have taken a spot in history as of one of the greatest of all times but his tragic early death has caused many to be unaware of this immensely talented horse. Those old enough to have seen him still talk of him as the perfect trotter. He was never beaten in a mile track race in his entire career, and was well on course to beat Greyhound's legendary record. At the time of his death his personal best was 1:13.2/1:57 3/4 and career earnings of $47 840. In comparison, at the end of his four year season Greyhound had a personal best of 1:12.9/1:57 1/4.

    The song American Pie is about "the day the music died." A trotting version should undoubtedly have been about Volo Song and the early death of one of the most perfect trotters ever.