PEI Harness Racing Spotlight

James (Roach) MacGregor

James (Roach) MacGregor had a long and successful career in North American harness racing, including a significant impact on the breeding of standardbred horses on Prince Edward Island.

In 1970, he and his family purchased 150 acres at Milton, PEI and opened his fledgling breeding operation called Glengyle Farm. This was this was among the original group of commercial breeding farms in Atlantic Canada.  

Glengyle Farms quickly became a household name in eastern Canada.  That Glengyle tradition is evident in such sub 2:00 pacers as Whalers Byrd and Glengyle Joey, the latter horse selling for $26,000 at the P.E.I. Select Yearling Sale, a Maritime record.  The farm stood successful sires such as Dominion Byrd, Newport Robbi, Arcane Hanover, and Brightest Star. Glengyle Farms was also annually among the leading consignors in regional yearling sales.

James MacGregor also achieved a significant milestone in 1985 when he became the first recipient of the Glen Kennedy Memorial Award, named in honor of the co-founder of the Atlantic Sire Stakes Program, in recognition of excellence in the breeding ranks. 

As a trainer/driver, Mr. MacGregor’s first big break came at age nineteen, with the pacer Josedale Clipper, whom he drove to the Maritime’s “Horse of the Year” honors.  With his talents now undeniably evident, he was asked to accompany Alberton’s legendary Joe O’Brien, Massachusetts, as trainer.  Regarded by many as the one of the finest trainer-drivers to hail from the Maritimes, MacGregor would compile an amazing list of records and achievements over the next four decades.

Roach MacGregor won such major stakes as the Evening Patriot, B.C. Cruikshank, Lofty Hardy, Export ‘A’, Donnie Turner, Tyndell Semple Memorial, Bill Quigg, Monctonian, the Walter Dale Memorial, New England Pacing Derby, Colonel Dan Free-For-All, the Duck Acorn, Atlantic Sires, and the Gold Cup and Saucer.

His established track records at Quebec City in 1954, Summerside in 1955 with Bay State Pat, Sackville Downs in 1966 with Lace, Truro in 1967 with Dr. Harry C., and Springfield, Illinois with Ideal Donut.

Roach’s Maritime records included Jerry’s Nightmare, the three-year-old Maritime-bred pacing record in 1967; Glengyle Byrd, the three-year-old Maritime-bred pacing record in 1974; Glengyle Lucy, the fastest ever Maritime-bred filly in 1975; and Dancer Greenwood, the Atlantic Sires Stakes record for two-year-olds in 1978.

The list of world records achieved by MacGregor include Dominion Byrd (1958), the world record for a 9/16 mile track; Jerry Hal in 1965, the fastest mile ever raced by a Canadian-foaled two-year old; Dr. Harry C. in 1968, at Rockingham Park, the fastest dead heat ever raced; and, Ideal Donut in 1969 at Goshen Park, N.Y., the U.S.T.A. record for two-year old pacers.

For all these considerable accomplishments, the name Roach MacGregor is still linked in legend with that of Bay State Pat, the New England-bred gelding whose owner thought so poorly of the horse that he lost him in a poker game.  The new owner then promptly sold the lackluster trotter to Summerside restaurateur Andy Perry for $260.  With that unfailing equine knowledge, it would be Roach MacGregor, then head trainer at Perry’s winter stables, who switched the discarded horse to the pace, with the assistance of horseman Chester Smith.  By 1954, the Pat’s second season on the pace, Roach and the horse had demolished all opposition in Eastern Canada, winning twenty-one straight races.  His 2:02/3 mark in Quebec City that year established the new Canadian record for a half mile track.  The horse from Houlton, Maine, the storybook rags-to-riches beast that nobody wanted, would eventually be inducted into Canada’s Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

From the beginning, MacGregor was a strong supporter of the Gold Cup and Saucer and local harness racing.  He entered some of his best horses in the Old Home Week race, helping to upgrade the caliber of this contest.  He was an early mentor to Mike MacDonald and convinced him to help to make Maritime harness racing a bigger and better show.  He also managed to talk his friend and top Canadian trainer Bill Robinson into coming out to P.E.I. with some of his best horses for the Gold Cup and Saucer.

Roach MacGregor passed away suddenly on September 24, 2000 at his home in Milton.  His talents as driver, trainer, and breeder, along with his tireless efforts on behalf of harness racing on P.E.I., was recognized with his induction onto the PEI Sports Hall of Fame.