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Ride into history

Powers marker unveiled in Westfield

OBSERVER Photo by Scott Kindberg Distant relatives of Vincent Powers unveil the commemorative marker in Moore Park in Westfield on Saturday morning.

WESTFIELD — The mission of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame is to “honor and preserve the sports history of Chautauqua County.”

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Randy Anderson, CSHOF president, and Westfield officials, one of the village’s most accomplished native sons — jockey and horse trainer Vincent M. Powers — will be remembered for posterity with a marker, which was unveiled Saturday morning in Moore Park.

“Inductees in our Hall of Fame from Westfield include Vinnie Calarco, Mark Orlando and Phil Young,” Anderson said, speaking during a ceremony from the park’s gazebo.

“We are pleased to have been able to work with the Village of Westfield to honor and preserve the legacy of Vincent Powers.”

With several of Powers’ distant relatives, as well as community officials, in attendance, Anderson outlined the career of the jockey, who was born in Westfield on June 6, 1891, lived on Chestnut Street in the village and spent considerable time at a farm of relatives in Panama.

OBSERVER Photo by Scott Kindberg Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame President Randy Anderson, right, stands next to the marker with Westfield Mayor Michael VandeVelde.

“He left home in his early teens to work as an exercise boy at the Fort Erie, Canada horse track,” Anderson said.

That was the beginning of an incredible career in the sport.

In fact, Powers was just 15 when he rode his first winner in a $500 race for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs on May 31, 1907. The following year, Powers handled 1,260 mounts and won 324 races, was second in 204 and third in 185.

But it was in 1909 where Powers made history at the Kentucky Derby, guiding Wintergreen to victory in the 35th classic. In combination with his success as a steeplechase rider and, later, as a noted trainer, he was inducted into the CSHOF in 2015 and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga in 2016.

Powers’ resume prompted Anderson to contact the Pomeroy Foundation. One of the foundation’s initiatives, according to its website, is to provide grants to obtain signage in the form of roadside markers and plaques. Since 2006, the Pomeroy Foundation has funded more than 1,300 signs across the United States.

OBSERVER Photo by Scott Kindberg One of the Pomeroy Foundation’s initiatives, according to its website, is to provide grants to obtain signage in the form of roadside markers and plaques. Since 2006, the foundation has funded more than 1,300 signs across the United States.

“I want to recognize and thank the Village of Westfield officials for their help in securing the grant from the Pomeroy Foundation to erect the historical marker in honor of one of Chautauqua County’s most accomplished, but, until now, may be the least well-known sportsman,” Anderson said. “I especially want to thank Westfield’s village administrator and clerk, Vince Luce, for his unwavering dedication to securing the grant.”

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