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Off to the races: The story of Sandy Hawley

Sandy Hawley was the lead jockey at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack for many years. (Photo courtesy

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Earlier this year it was announced the City of Oshawa would be naming a park in honour of perhaps its most notable federal politician Ed Broadbent.

However, Broadbent is not the only famous Oshawa native who will be receiving this treatment.

The city has unveiled plans for Sandy Hawley Park, a new recreational development to be located at the aptly-named 2500 Kentucky Derby Way, located north of Britannia Road West, and northwest of Simcoe Street North.

The park will include a play area, splash pad, soccer field, basketball half-court, and sandbox.

Oshawa staff are seeking public feedback on the design of the park, with plans to bring comments to the community services committee early in 2020. Construction is expected to begin later next year.

So who is the person behind the name worthy of this proposed park?

Sandy Hawley got his first taste of the horse racing industry at Oshawa’s famed Windfields Farm.

Sanford Desmond Hawley was born in Oshawa on April 16, 1949, and graduated from Anderson Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Whitby.

His first taste of the horse racing industry came when he was 17, walking horses at Oshawa’s famed Windfields Farm, the home of Northern Dancer.

According to his personal website, he officially joined the jockey ranks two years later.  He learned how to ride under the tutelage of Duke Campbell, himself a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee.

The first win of Hawley’s career came in October 1968, guiding Fly Alone to victory at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. He would add three more victories in the first year of his career.

This served as the beginning of an iconic tenure at Woodbine, where he was recognized as lead jockey between 1969 and 1978, and again from 1988 through 1990.

He had an astonishing 31,455 mounts, along with 6,449 wins and 18 riding titles over his 30-year career. He also attained more than $88 million in purse earnings.

In 1973, Hawley became the first jockey ever to earn 500 wins in a single season, passing the previous record set by Bill Shoemaker. He finished the season with 515 wins.

In the winter of 1972-1973, Hawley left Woodbine to try his hand at the southern California circuit.

Eventually, he thrived there, winning many races and in 1976 earning the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given to a rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct both on and off the racetrack.

A huge fan of hockey, Hawley found part-time work as a penalty-box official with the Los Angeles Kings.

Hawley continued to dominate the track both north and south of the border, adding another prestigious trophy to his resume in 1976 with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Eclipse Award.

He earned this by setting the all-time money-winning record for a single year and remains the only Canadian jockey to ever win this honour.

The top honour title in Hawley’s career is no doubt is his four victories at the Queen’s Plate, widely recognized as Canada’s top horse racing title, in 1970, 1971, 1975 and 1978.

He was also named as the Lou Marsh Trophy winner as Canada’s top athlete in both 1973 and 1976.

He recorded his 5,000 career victory on June 27, 1986, at Canterbury Downs, and 6,000th on Nov. 26, 1992.

Hawley was enshrined in into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame in 1986

In 1987, Hawley faced the biggest challenge of his life, but it was not on the racetrack. At the age of 38, he was diagnosed with skin cancer and told by doctors he only had a few months to live.

According to his biography on, the famed rider overcome the disease through experimental drugs, a high-fiber diet, and “sheer determination.”

He continues to have a clean bill of health but receives a series of vaccine shots annually in Canada.

After beating cancer, Hawley received even more accolades, being inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1992, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

He also received selection into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. That organization has also named an award in his honour.

His career spanned more than 3*0 years until his official resignation on Canada Day in 1998. He briefly came out of retirement a decade later, earning his 6,450th career win aboard Tribal Chief at the Living Legends Race at Santa Anita Park in California.

Hawley noted this win was particularly special for him as his then adult sons Bradley and Russell were on hand. His sons had been very young near the time he retired and had little recollection of him as an active rider.

After retirement, Hawley began working as a public ambassador for Woodbine Entertainment Group, advocating on behalf of the organization across the GTA.

After retirement, he supported various charitable causes in the area, including serving as the honourary chair of Durham Region’s Relay For Life event several years.

Hawley and his wife Kaoru Tsuchiya, another former rider, reside in Toronto and also split time in Lexington, KY.

He returned to Oshawa in 2018 to attend the designation of the gravesite of another Oshawa horse racing legend, Northern Dancer, under the Ontario Heritage Act.

For more information on Sandy Hawley Park, visit