Fifty years and counting, in and around the racing game, Yarmouth's Don Richards is the consummate harness horseman - hitting a supreme "Trifecta-plus-one" as skilled driver-owner-trainer as well as canny trader.
Racing under his alma mater's colors, North Yarmouth Academy's Orange and Black, enduring Donnie at 65 shows no signs or reason for retiring from the tracks just yet after amassing 3,865 victories, 3,266 seconds and 3,165 thirds earning $3,291,280, according to figures of the United States Trotting Association.
The U.S.T.A. also notes that Richards "has been one of the top percentage drivers (.315) in North America throughout his career." Although Don's only concession to Father Time in recent seasons has been a reduced racing schedule, the U.S.T.A. ranked him among the top five in North America in the 300-499-drives bracket for 1991-1993.
In his paramount stretch of 14 straight campaigns with 100 wins or more, starting in 1963, Don's high-water mark was 1973 at 191 triumphs, 162 shows and 154 places. Career highlights include: Awards from the New England Harness Writers and Maine Harness Horsemen's association. New England Driving championship at Bangor, 1975, besting runner-up Ted Wing, 1986 Maine Sports Hall of Famer. Maine's first sub-2 minute drive over a half-mile track with pacer The Andover Story, 1980, at Scarborough Downs, 1:59.4 equaling the mark on the original Scarborough mile circuit.
Although Richards has raced mostly in Maine, his reach goes far beyond its borders via the success of steeds he's trained for other owners.
A veteran harness horseman once declared that Donnie many a time has reined the second, third and even fourth or fifth-rated horse into the winner's circle.
Widely respected and popular with rivals, public and officials for character as much as performance in the wagering-fed sport-business, Richards has earned many tributes along the way, none more telling than this from Scarborough resident Tom Shehan, for decades the ultimate authority in and on the game: "Don Richards is the soul of integrity." Donald and his wife, Mary, reside in Yarmouth; they have four daughters, Audrey, Claudia, Rebecca, Pamela, and a son, James.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2619
South Portland, ME 04116
Phone (207) 272-2178
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.