Chha LogoLogo
--- California Harness Racing History ---

Man of Vision

Harness Racing Folks Were Skeptical when "Pat" Doherty Announced Plans For Initial Santa Anita Meet

EMMETT E. "PAT" Doherty, nationally known president of Western Harness Racing Association, isn't taking out any membership in the crepe hangers club whose members are predicting rather dolefully that sports in general are headed for box office trouble in 1949.

"Granted that some sports will feel the pinch. But you'll find that this is the result of the public's returned habit of shopping around for the best guy," declared Doherty as he leaned back in his chair behind a big desk in his Los Angeles law office.

The prominent lawyer‑sportsman feels very strongly that growing discrimination on the part of Gus Fan will be a stimulus to all sports.

Speaking thoughtfully, Doherty continued, "Look at Major League baseball last year. College football for that matter, too. Both sports set attendance marks, and it looks as though they'll continue the same pace this year." He has no fears about harness racing in 1949 either. To back up his feeling, the six foot president of Western Harness pointed out that harness racing attendance jumped an amazing 67 per cent last year!

Statistics like those not only are amazing and significant, but they also are a great source of satisfaction to Doherty. He is one of the leading forces behind a rather unusual trend that has been under way for several years in harness racing. You might call it changing a long and firmly established habit of the public. Where once people headed into the country to watch the trotters and pacers do their rhythmic stuff, they are now going to the city to watch the standardbreds. Or putting it another way, the sulky has advanced from the county fair tracks and is now doing business in the plush surroundings of plants like Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, and Santa Anita in beautiful suburban Arcadia, California.

The trotters and pacers, who trace back their lineage in this country approximately 200 years, no longer are the "poor cousins" of the equine world. To go along with their historic ancestry, they now have financial standing and a code of standards and ethics which place them in a position they've never enjoyed before. This change has been so rapid and so sensational that great granddad, if be were alive, probably would rub his eyes in disbelief.

It wasn't long ago that many were predicting that harness racing was doomed to a slow degeneration and perhaps final extinction. The sport's ills were many. Although the trotters and pacers oozed color, purses were so small that new owners were hard to get. Tracks usually were rundown and far off the beaten highways. It was a big, disjointed and slowly dying sport of individual operators who had no leadership. Things had approached a point where the sulky whirred in all of its tradition and glory in a few major events during the year. The color packed Hambletonian at Goshen, New York, remained the focal point of the trotters, keeping alive fast vanishing memories and spirit of greater days. The stalwart pacer had his day when the best of his line gathered at Delaware, Ohio, for the Little Brown Jug.

The total number of trotters and pacers kept increasing, but it wasn't until only a few years ago, as things are measured in sports, that harness racing arrived. In fact, it has been recognized indirectly by three famous colleges and universities. Rutgers, California and Michigan State are teaching the art of horseshoeing.

Students who become experts in the trade don't have to worry about jobs. There's such a demand for horseshoers that supply can't keep up with demand. It's hoped, and chances are good, that other schools of higher learning will start courses.

Pat Doherty would be the last to claim full credit for the tremendous evolution which has taken place. He is one of many men who are responsible, but he typifies the progressive group which has led harness racing out of the darkness.

When Western Harness Racing Association was organized and announced plans for its first meet at Santa Anita in 1945, the sport was rocked back on its heels. Through Doherty, W. H. R. A. announced minimum purses of $1,000 per race. Up to then, that kind of money in many instances was the total jackpot for some of the major stake events held through out the country. But that was only the beginning, for Doherty also announced two $50,000 purses—the Golden West Trot and the Golden West Pace!

People remained skeptical after announcement of plans for the meet. Harness racing devotees talked with an "if", even after money for the meet was in the bank. Owners had to be encouraged to enter their horses.

The first meet in 1945 proved highly successful, as have all others since.

From the amount of time Doherty has spent in the furtherance of harness racing, it might be assumed that he is of the idle rich class, dallying with a favorite hobby. Actually, Doherty is one of Los Angeles' leading attorneys, with a practice that keeps him exceedingly busy. He is active with the State Bar Association and works with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The time he spends in building up interest in racing is in accordance with his own unwritten code: That every man who earns his living from the people of his community should give something back in a civic way to make that community a better place in which to live."

Doherty has held two public offices, assistant United States District Attorney for the Southern District of California and special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States Prior to that he was a professor of federal practice and procedure and admiralty law at Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles.

This human dynamo was born in Butte, Montana. When he arrived at college age, his mother persuaded him to attend Georgetown University at Washington, D. C. She felt he would benefit more by studying in that cultural center and by mixing with students from all over the United States.

While in high school in Montana, Doherty played football on the first team ever coached by the subsequently famous Bernie Bierman. At Georgetown, he played end under the direction of an Indian coach by the name of Exendine. During World War I he also played football with the Navy's Western All‑Star team.

When hostilities began in World War II, Doherty re‑enlisted in the Navy. As gunnery officer on an escort carrier, he saw duty in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean areas. His worst casualty was when he contacted malaria and dropped to 145 pounds.
Gunnery duties interested Doherty in radar, and he developed a firing control technique which was adopted by the Navy. The radar control indicates the range and bearing of enemy targets, allowing the gunners faster firing.

Harness racing is not his only hobby. Doherty has considerable prowess as a big game hunter. In 1939 he bagged tigers while on a hunting expedition in northern Siam. He also hunted in French Indo China and India. On the latter trip, as a guest of a Rajah o
f India, he killed his largest gamea gower. This vicious animal, a type of water buffalo, charges on scent, rather than sight. This year Doherty plans an expedition into the Yukon. He will hunt stone sheep, a rare thin‑horn species found only in the Arctic Circle.

Pat Doherty

THOSE PONDEROUS legal books are not props. Emmett E. "Pat" Doherty, president of Western Harness Racing Association, is a practicing attorney in Los Angeles.