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A Look Back: Guy K Protector, the Famous Race Horse

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By Jolene Hawkins

Who remembers Guy K Protector?

Well, he was a famous race horse owned by the Dewey Dygert family from Springville. He got his name from a comprised combination of his owners names of Dr. Guy Kane and the colt’s sire, Protector.

Guy K Protector traveled the country and into Canada, breaking racing records and making headlines. When he was a 4-year-old horse, he made his 1952 debut a smashing one when he swept the dashes of the $3,000 Buffalo Athletic Club Trot.

Dewey said Guy K was more than just a good bargain to him, he was his closest friend.

There is a story that one particular race, Dewey didn’t like how Guy K’s trotting action was and thought it best if he took him out of the race, but before he decided to do that, he thought maybe he would change Guy K’s shoes. So off he went to Curly’s blacksmith shop, and Guy K got a new set of shoes, entered the race and set a personal best record that evening.

Another story that was shared about the great horse was when Dewey would walk him around to cool him down after a race and he would put the lead shank over Guy K’s back and would run and hide in one of the empty stalls. Guy K would search each stall until he found Dewey. Others in the area learned of this little game and soon they would gather to watch the game between horse and man.

The official racing colors were green and white and Dewey drove Guy K in every race except one. Dewey even rode all the way to California in a boxcar with Guy K, just to keep him company, when they went to the Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, Calif. Celia Haven, Guy K’s favorite mare, went along as well just to keep Guy K happy. It was a long journey that took several days, but both horses and Dewey arrived in good shape.

In 1962, Guy K retired from racing after earning over $100,000 and establishing a trotting mark of 2:01 on the half-mile track. The horse and his owner, Dewey, enjoyed the distinction of only a few, having been invited in 1952 to race in one of the earliest invitational trots at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island and the American Trotting Champions at Hollywood Park in California in 1956. After retirement, Guy K sired several outstanding horses.

Retirement from racing came easy for both man and horse, as it meant spending more time on the beautiful farm they both called home.

And what about the farm in Springville? In 1812, Dewey’s grandfather built the farmhouse that still stands strong on the corner where Cattaraugus Street meets Elk Street. Dewey’s father, Robert, and Robert’s three sons, were born there. Dewey was born on July 31, 1899. His brother, Erwin, became the race secretary at Chicago and his brother, Leon, was race secretary at Hamburg. Raising and racing fine horses has been something all the Dygert men were weaned on.

The Dygert family farm from 1832 has been the scene of training, driving and racing for generations. DeWitt Clinton Dygert, know as Dewey along, with his two brothers were nationally known in harness racing circles for the horses they trained. They were also known on their own half-mile track — claimed to be the oldest in the United States —  known as the Springville Driving Park on the 154-acre farm, built by Dewey’s father. It was still used for working out area trotters in the early 1900s. Over the years, it has been an integral part of the life of every fence-climbing village kid growing up in the area.

Like his father before him, Dewey had three sons. His wife, Virginia Utrich Dygert, died in 1945. David Dygert was one of the finest village veterinarians; William Dygert was a veterinarian in Hamburg and Pete Dygert was a principal of Franklinville High School.

Guy K Protector did not care much for adults but he loved kids. The kids who came to see him said Guy K could talk to them by shaking his head. Maybe he did. In 1956, Dewey was the Horseman of the Year and Guy K Protector was the Horse of the Year. Guy K Protector died in February 1973 at the age of 25, terminating a quarter-century partnership with Dewey, his owner and trainer.

So many stories like this can be found when you come to the Lucy Bensley Center and look through the files and cabinets of all that we have available. Family genealogy, handwritten journals, photographs and more!

Come and see us Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the second and fourth Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. Email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call us (716) 560-1981.

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