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Lou Dillon

Lou Dillon (1898, near Santa Ynez, California—January 15, 1925, near Santa Barbara, California) was a Standardbred trotting horse. She was the first trotter to trot a mile in under 2:00, at Memphis in 1903.

The mare Lou Dillon, by Sidney Dillon out of Lou Milton, was foaled in 1898 by the Pierce Brothers Stock Farm near Santa Ynez, California. She was a two-time great-great-granddaughter of Hambletonian. Her owner was Henry Pierce, who never raced her professionally. She was trained initially by Charles Tanner, who drove her in many amateur events. Later her workouts under Millard Sanders (1856-1928) were sensational, and she attracted a lot of attention. She was high strung and hard to handle. Sanders was the only man who knew her.

Henry Pierce refused to sell her, even for the $20,000 offered by E.E. Smathers in 1903. Ten days after this offer was made, Pierce suddenly died in San Francisco. All his stock was sold at a dispersal sale in Cleveland. C.K.G. Billings bought Lou Dillon, and she again went into training with Millard Sanders. Billings, too, refused to race her professionally. She did run exhibitions against time, to sulky, high-wheeler and saddle, but no Grand Circuit stakes.

In 1903 in Readville, Massachusetts, she became the first trotter to register 2:00 for the mile. On October 24, 1903 she bettered her own mark, trotting 1:58½ at Memphis. This record astounded the racing world. Four days later in Memphis she raced 2:00 drawing a four-wheel wagon, Billings driving. With her new-found fame, she began an exhibition tour of the United States and Europe, driven by Billings and Sanders. She thrilled spectators in Berlin, Moscow and Vienna.

Lou Dillon never returned to the great form she had shown in 1903. In 1904 she was involved in a doping scandal at the Memphis Gold Cup (innocently — a rival doped her to prevent her from winning.) She was retired in 1906, and died at the age of 26 in 1925. She was buried in Santa Barbara, near where Lou Dillon Lane is found today. Her original gravestone is now on display at the Harness Museum in Goshen, New York.


  • Sanders, Millard, The Two-Minute Horse

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