The Great Idea 2:05, b g, foaled 1923, by Peter the Great, dam Sad Thoughts 2:061/4, by Bingen, paced a mile in 2:14, at Superior, Wis., September 4, 1928, driven by his owner F. M. Pearse, in the second heat of a winning race, one of the few times he won and after trying to make a useful racing tool out of the gelding, his owner decided to make a "guideless" out of him and in this he succeeded beyond his fondest dreams. At that way of going the son of Peter the Great is the King Pin of them all, for on July 31, 1933, over the half-mile track at Chicago he paced a mile in 2:05, which is we believe the world's record at that way of going. For the past several years he has been one of the "fixtures" at the Great Illinois State Fair, always giving an exhibition that brought the crowd to its feet, for to see this gelding go away from the wire as if his life depended on it, then see him "cheat" when he gets away from the crowd and slow down to a 2:30 clip, then once more "shift gears" when he hits the stretch and come home on high, well any that have not seen this have really missed one of the high spots in our game, and the fact that year after year and day after day he can get the applause from people that have seen him perform many times is surely a tribute to his worth at any fair. We note with pleasure that he is to perform at Minneapolis next month and we do not hesitate to promise those who have never seen the aged gelding perform that they will get a thrill when he struts his stuff.
I have references to others (and a few poor quality pics), however they are all from this earlier period. Nothing recent.
Perhaps today's absence is a liability issue.
from Jun 11, 1941 Harness Horse mag:
June 7-Gibson White has received a letter from Fred Sporhase of DeLand, Fla., stating his pacing gelding Jack Orr had paced a half-mile track in 2:023/4, half in :591/2. While a member of the Ben White Stable he was the leading money winning two-year-old pacer of his year, taking a record of 2:041/4 which he reduced to 2:02 the following year. Later he became a not very tractable race tool. The past winter he was sent to Mr. Sporhase, who makes a business of developing "Guideless Wonders" and other special attractions for fairs.
from May 26, 1943 Harness Horse mag and Kansas:
Mildred Forbes and J.T.B., p, 2:02, by Baron Chan which is being tried as a Guideless Wonder.
from Nov 6, 1930 Trotter and Pacer magazine:
Joe Bassett died in 1898. His only other per. formers were Aegon 2:20¼ and Johnny D. 2:23½, both trotters. An unnamed mare by him also produced to the cover of Harry Mills, a son of Milwaukee, the guideless wonder Marion Mills 2:21¼ which was seen on all of the leading mile tracks for a number of years.
from Dec 17, 1924 Horse Review:
The guideless pacer Vera Direct is open for engagements as a fair attraction. She has paced a half-mile track, guideless, in 2:081/4, and always gives a most popular exhibition. For terms and dates write George Carless, Coldwater, Mich.
from Dec 9, 1914 Horse Review:
One of the strongest attractions this year at eastern fairs was the beautiful little horse, Amos R., owned by George W. Rice, of Springfield, Mass. This most attractive little fellow is of the "guideless" variety, having to his credit a half-mile in 1:001/2. Banded with roses, which beautifully contrast with his grey coat, he presents a charming picture in his flight all by himself. Mr. Rice, a life-long horseman, has put on the market the Rice Colic Cure, which is not only a cure for horses troubled with cramps, indigestion, colic and colds, but can be used by mankind with just as favorable effects. Horse and cure are advertised in this week's REVIEW.
See "The Great Idea" reference where the horse "cheats" (slows down) on the backstretch and while away from the crowd.
drivers/reinsmen rate a horse for the mile, as opposed to the horse traveling all-out on its own.
Stop watches are still used by some drivers during races. Especially from those with lesser experience and without the capability to judge time-in-a-race.
The horses in the decades referenced for these "guideless wonders" also raced at slower times than present day horses.
There's a great scene in the movie "Casey's Shadow" were a chicken is placed on a pony for a race.