By: Tom Cosgrove for Woodbine.com
TORONTO, January 11, 2019 – Longtime Woodbine Thoroughbred trainer J.G. (Jerry) Lavigne passed away peacefully on January 4, just six days before his 90th birthday.
After retiring earlier as a jockey, Lavigne’s training career began in 1958 but it wasn’t until the decade of the 70’s that his brilliance finally shone through.
In fact, it was 1970 when he saddled the first of his two Queen’s Plate winners with Almoner, the first of four winning Q.P. rides for jockey Sandy Hawley.
The following year, Lavigne’s 32-1 longshot Fabe Count ran second to the great Kennedy Road in the Plate. Fabe Count would go on to become a multiple stakes winner over a four-year span at nine different distances over turf and dirt!
Nice Dancer is historically viewed as Canadian Champion three-year-old male of 1972; pre-Sovereign Award era. Lavigne trained him for all six of his stakes victories including the Breeders’ Stakes.
He was back for more in 1974, racing Windfields Farm’s Police Car as favourite for the Plate. However, the horse finished fourth when the track came up “muddy,” a surface he detested.
Son of Briartic was Lavigne’s other Plate winner in 1982. He defeated Runaway Groom, who later won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga that same year.
Other notable stakes winners were filly turf star Lost Majorette, outstanding sprinter Park Romeo, Bejilla, Cheap Seats, Boulder Run, No Reasoning, Old Gun Powder, Gore Park, I Can’t Believe, Fabiusand, Dancer’s Bo Jin, Northern Regent, and Mr. Showbiz.
With the exception of Police Car, all of the above stakes horses were purchased privately or at auction by Mr. Lavigne; an unbelievable accomplishment.
When asked which was the best horse he had, Lavigne had given an astonishing reply: “That would be Powerful Canadian.
“He was a colt sired by Canadian Champ that I bought at the 1968 yearling sale for Mike Starko, from Edmonton.
“The colt was a tough, good-looking son of gun but he broke a coffin bone in his foot as a three-year-old getting ready for the (1970) Plate.”
Bad news for the owner but it didn’t stop Lavigne, he won the big race anyway…with the aforementioned Almoner!
68 stakes wins…22 stakes winners…2 Queen’s Plate wins
J. G. Lavigne (January 10, 1929 – January 4, 2019)
Rest in Peace