WALTER GOWER SR. DIES
-- Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager, U.S. Trotting Association
ALLENTOWN, NJ -- July 2, 2019 -- Walter Gower Sr. taught his grandson, Taylor Gower, a number of lessons over the years. Almost none of them involved words.
“He wasn’t big on talking,” Taylor said about his grandfather, who spent more than 60 years in the Standardbred business and passed away Friday (June 28). “He would guide you, but he wasn’t a guy that would sit down and tell you what to do. He never said, ‘This is how things have to be done.’ He would give you some advice, but with anybody, he would say to try your own way, which is nice.
“If you made a mistake, he never said, ‘I told you so.’ And there were a lot of opportunities. That was every lesson, in life and with the horses. The older I get, I see more and more of those lessons. And he was right about all of it.”
Mr. Gower, 87, passed away last week at his home with his family by his side. He owned and operated Hillsdale Farm near Allentown, N.J., and was well known, well respected, and well-liked in the Standardbred industry.
He grew up in Columbus, N.J., where his parents had a dairy farm. He was working in the dairy business when he was introduced to harness racing.
“At that time, I had been friends with an old gentleman in the butcher business in Trenton,” Mr. Gower said in a 1999 interview with the Allentown Messenger-Press. “He and his brother had horses and asked if I wanted to go partners on a Standardbred. I was involved with horses all my life (on the farm) so I thought it was a great idea. It just evolved from there.”
Keely Jay was Mr. Gower’s first racehorse, which he bought in 1955, the same year he moved to Upper Freehold Township and began dairy farming on his own. He gradually became more involved in harness racing and won his first race as a driver in 1958 at Freehold Raceway.
Much of Mr. Gower’s career as a trainer was prior to formal record keeping. Two of his better-known horses, Jersey Blizzard and Another Blizzard, came with longtime racing partner Paul Minore and combined to earned $1.71 million in lifetime purses. Minore, an active participant on the amateur driving circuit, won the Billings Gold Cup with Another Blizzard in 1999.
Giant Bouncedcheck, also from the “Blizzard” family, was a stakes winner and finished sixth in the 1997 Hambletonian Oaks.
“Believe it or not, I’ve got a descendant of the Blizzards that somebody sent me to break and train out of Mymomsablizzard,” Taylor said. “There is still a Blizzard on the farm. It’s amazing how that comes full circle.”
Even after Mr. Gower stepped away from training his own stable, he assisted Taylor on a daily basis. The two worked with future four-time Dan Patch Award winner Anndrovette at ages 2 and 3 as well as millionaires Take My Picture and Melady’s Monet in the early parts of their careers.
Mugshot Jess, owned by Walter and trained by Taylor, has won $621,542 in his career, which continues today at age 12. The gelding finished second by a nose Saturday (June 29) at The Meadowlands.
“The horses that have come through here since I was training, he was on the track with them as much as I was,” Taylor said. “I worked with him my entire life and I never saw him lose patience with a horse one time. He never got angry at a horse.”
Mr. Gower, who in addition to training his own small stable got yearlings started for other trainers, preferred working with trotters. “He always said that pacers were for selling and trotters were for racing,” Taylor said. “And he never shied from a horse no one else wanted.
“If he liked the looks of a horse and it was the right price, if it was cheap, he would give it a shot. He figured the more of those that he tried, the more chances he had to find a decent one.
“I remember him going to the yearling sales and he would sit there all day and buy the $1,200 or $2,000 one at the end with a big leg and he would wait three years for it (to get to the races). Then he’d race it twice and sell it for $40,000. Who else would wait that long and then after two starts sell it? That to him was the best thing in the world. It’s amazing how patient he was.”
Predeceased by his parents Fred and Edith Gower and his beloved son Walter G. Gower Jr., Mr. Gower is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Mary Lou Gower (Conrad), two daughters: Susan L. Gower and Sandy E. Gower-Weatherbee, four grandchildren: Kelly Gunther, Taylor Gower and Paige and Ciara Weatherbee and four great grandchildren: Luke and Brett Gunther and Avery and Gabe Gower and many dear friends.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday (July 2) at Allentown Presbyterian Church, 20 High St., Allentown, N.J. Interment will follow in the church cemetery. Friends may call Monday evening 6 to 8 p.m. at Peppler Funeral Home, 114 S. Main St., Allentown, N.J.
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