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BURNS NIGHT: Record -breaking Pacer


The death was reported recently of the 1949 NZ Derby Stakes winner, Burns Night. Burns Night died suddenly on the property of his owner, the Methven trainer, G McKendry.

Burns Night, a son of U Scott and Festival, was one of the best pacers of his era and won over all distances, being outstanding over a mile and five furlongs journey.

On the third day of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club's Easter meeting in 1953, Burns Night accomplished something unique in the annals of the light-harness sport when he created two world records in the one day. That day he won the Easter Handicap in 3.22 for the mile and five furlong journey and in the concluding event, the Au Revoir Free-for-all he paced the mile journey from a standing start in 2.02 3/5, both records. Those times have since been lowered, the first by Ribands and the second by Johnny Globe.

Burns Night was bought by McKendry for £500 when 10 days old and he won £18,020 in stakes. In all, Burns Night gained 16 wins and 25 placings, two of his wins being in free-for-alls. He may not have been an idol of the public such as Harold Logan, Highland Fling or Johnny Globe, but there is no doubting he was a grand pacer.


Two world's records were broken by Burns Night at Addington on Saturday, the concluding day of the NZ Metropolitan TC's Easter Meeting. He won the Easter Handicap in 3:22 for the mile and five furlongs lowering the previous record of 3:22 3-5 standing to the credit of Vedette since 1951.

Three hours later Burns Night made short work of a great field in the Au Revoir Free-For-All, his time for the mile being 2:02 3-5, a world's record from a standing start. The previous record in harness was Walla Walla's 2:04 1-5, put up in the first of the Invitation Match Races at Addington in 1934. In saddle, from a standing start, Gold Bar won in 2:03 3-5 on the same track in 1942.

Burns Night won the Easter Handicap to the accompaniment of a noisy demonstration from a section of the crowd. It appeared, however, that there was as much clapping and cheering as booing. An inquiry was held into Burns Night's previous unplaced performances at the meeting and it was decided to take no action. Burns Night was never near the fence over the last mile of the Easter Handicap, and it was a great effort on his part to come from sixth - very wide out - at the home turn and win going away by a daylight margin. Burns Night's time, 3:22, is a 2:04 2-5 mile rate, a phenominal run from an exacting handicap and over a good deal of extra ground.

The mile free-for-all was just as easy for him. Drawn in the second line, about 6 yards behind the front row, he overcame this disadvantage with a fast beginning and he was soon racing close up on the rails about the middle of the field. He had Petite Yvonne and Johnny Globe measured off at the distance, and although Vedette finished well, he had no chance with Burns Night, who won most convincingly. This time the whole crowd cheered wholeheartedly. Burns Night gave a superlative exhibition of pacing and the fact that he went at least 6 yards more than a mile adds to the merit of probably the greatest sprint race performance registered outside America - it is certainly the greatest ever recorded the world over from a standing start.

Now a 6-year-old, Burns Night was out in strong juvenile seasons; among his contemporaries at two and three years were Young Charles, Van Dieman, Soangetaha and Morano. Burns Night was the hard-luck horse of the 2-year-old classics in the 1948-49 season. He made only four appearances, being beaten by a length by Morano in the Timaru Nursery Stakes, going under by the same margin to Young Charles in the Welcome Stakes, coming second, six lengths behind Young Charles,in the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes, and trailing along a poor fourth behind Farlena, Young Charles and Van Dieman in the NZ Sapling Stakes.

But things brightened up considerably for him when he turned three. At his second start he brought off one of the big surprises of the NZ Cup carnival by defeating the hot favourite Young Charles, with Van Dieman third and Soangetaha fourth, in the NZ Derby. He gave that form some endorsement by running Morano to a neck, with Vedette third in the NZ Metropolitan Challenge Stakes a week later and decisively winning the NZ Champion Stakes at Ashburton, from Van Dieman at his next start. Van Dieman beat him narrowly in the Charles Cross Stakes at New Year, but that was no disgrace as things turned out: Van Dieman developed into a NZ Cup winner.

Burns Night, as a 4-year-old, opened the 1950-51 season with a flourish, winning at his first appearance, the Geraldine Cup. He looked a coming young stayer the day he won the Moorhouse Handicap at the Canterbury Park New Year Meeting, 1951, in the good time of 4:19 4-5 in this 4:40 class and, following a lapse of form for the next two months, he came into his own again with a slashing victory over a seasoned field in the Timaru Centennial Cup in March, 1951.

During the 1951-52 season Burns Night developed into one of the finest handicap horses in the land. He made a somewhat timid opening with his third placing behind Te Maru and Realm Again in the Heathcote Handicap at the Metropolitan August Meeting and a poor showing in hs following race at New Brighton, but at his next appearance he rang rings around Star Rosa and Palava in the Methven Cup. In successive starts at the 1951 NZ Cup Meeting he finished second to Laureldale in the Empire Handicap, won the Australasian Handicap from Adorian and Mundanity, and the Flying Mile from Adorian and Mighty Song in 2:05 2-5. His next three runs resulted in a meritorious third from 48 yards in the Boxing Day Handicap at Ashburton, in which he registered 3:10 3-5 for a mile and a half, and wins in the Canterbury Handicap and the Mason Handicap at New Year, 1952. In these latter two races he defeated such high class pacers as Van Dieman, Vedette and Parawa Derby.

Came the NZ Metropolitan TC's Easter Meeting, 1952, and Burns Night, after finishing third in the Rattray Handicap to Maori Home and Johnny Globe, proved much too good for Zulu and Maida Dillon in the Williams Handicap on the second day and, started in the Electric Stakes, of a mile and a quarter, later the same afternoon, he gained his first free-for-all success, the minor placegetters being Zulu, Vedette and Van Dieman.

This season Burns Night's form has not been easy to follow. He took some time to reach his best in the early part of the season. He had a profitable time at Forbury Park in January, finishing second in the Forbury Free-for-All to Soangetaha on the first day, and winning the principal event, the Irwin Handicap and finishing second to Johnny Globe in the Champion Free-for-All, on the second day.

He was one of five champion pacers to go to Timaru for an exhibition mile race last month, but he went very poorly indeed. Again on the first two days of the Metropolitan Easter Meeting his performances were abject in the extreme, and the public were scarcely prepared for his sharp recovery on the concluding day, hence the annoyance of some of the onlookers.

Burns Night was bought by G McKendry from his breeder, Mr N G Mason, before he raced. Burns Night has now won 15 races and £16,430 in stakes. He is a good type of brown entire by U Scott from Festival, a mare picked up on the bargain counter by Mr N G Mason, of Rangiora, who has bred Burns Night and Gay Piper from her. Mr Mason bought Festival at the late E C McDermott's dispersal sale in 1938 for a few pounds. Dunmore one of Festival's earlier foals bred by McDermott, was a good performer for McKendry as far as he went - in his first season on the racetrack his record was six wins, five thirds and three fourths in 16 starts.

Festival was a tidy stake-winner for McDermott in depression times when £100 to the winner was quite a pile of money. She began racing as a 3-year-old and won her first two starts, both at Nelson. At four she started ten times for the very creditable return of four wins and a second. She won two races and was once second in 15 starts as a 5-year-old. She was more than useful over all distances, and in training she could reel off a mile and a quarter in 2:41, which was well above average in the early 1930s. Festival was got by the American horse Sonoma Harvester, from a mare by Prince Imperial. It is one of the shortest pedigrees in the Stud Book, but the calibre of her progeny - all of her five foals that have raced have all been winners - indicates that there must have been a good deal more behind her than these meagre details suggest. She was certainly no nondescript herself, being a clean-gaited, level-headed pacer, and her two sons, Gay Piper and Burns Night, both show breeding.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 12Nov58

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