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J S SHAW: Trainer of Worthy Queen

J S SHAW

J S Shaw, talented reinsman and trainer of champions, breeder of bloodstock and one of the most consistent buyers of 'bargain' yearlings at Trentham over a long period; for nine years a stipendiary steward to the NZ Trotting Conference, has purchased a half share in the trotter Not Quite, whom he will race in partnership with Mr W Hosking. Shaw has also taken out a driver's licence, and he may hold the reins over Not Quite at the New Brighton Trotting Club's meeting on September 6, for which the trotter is being trained by C Fairman. Shaw had his last drive in a race behind Tempest at the Metropolitan meeting on 1937. He won, and is naturally hopeful of bridging a decade with success on either side. (Note: Not Quite finished fifth)

"I am certain, if conditions had been ideal that day she would have trotted two minutes." J S Shaw was discussing his champion of 13 years standing, Worthy Queen, a trotter who made history on a windy, dusty day at Addington in April, 1934, by trotting a mile against time in 2.03 3/5. "It was partly my own fault. There was a gale blowing, and it was the first time she had ever had a horse galloping beside her. I was under the impression I could trail the pacemaker, but was told I couldn't. Over the first three furlongs she was trying to beat the galloper, trying to go faster than she could. She was pulling hard and trotting all in a heap. She was hitched to a short sulky and round the showgrounds bend her hock was hitting my leg. It wasn't until she reached the back straight that she flattened out to really trot. But the first half in 61 1/2 took as much out of her as 58 or 59 would have if she had been trotting kindly.

"She was a really wonderful mare. She didn't know what it was to do anything wrong. She never broke in a race unless something took the legs from under her, which happened on only one occasion to my knowledge. She had her funny little ways," continued Shaw. "On race day you had no chance of driving her on the roads or on to the tracks. She had to be led, and even then she insisted upon stopping now and again to gaze at things. Nothing would thwart her."

Worthy Queen's 2.03 3/5 is not her only record that remains unassailed after 13 years. Her 3.14 1/5 in a race was also established in 1934, and she was clocked from post to post on that occasion in 3.09 - and round the field.

Worthy Queen, by Worthy Bingen from Queen Chimes, a Coldstream Bells mare from Vanquish, was bred by the late J R Corrigan, of Hawera, and sold as a yearling to Mr T Agnew, of Hastings. "A mutual friend of both, the late Harry Jones, saw her trotting in the paddock and told Mr Corrigan what a wonderful filly she was," related Shaw, "with the result that Mr Corrigan leased her back. For him she won several races under the direction of Alex Corrigan and afterwards, when I shifted from Auckland to Christchurch he sent her down to me. That was in 1931. I won several races with her for Mr Corrigan. When he became ill and restricted his racing activities he sold the mare's racing rights to me, and she continued to win races."

"Although Worthy Queen was the best trotter up to a mile and a half ever seen in this country, she was not a top-notch two-miler. The best two-mile trotter I ever had was Peter Dean, by Petereta-Ivy Dean. Mrs Sweetapple and I bought him five minutes before a race on the third day of the Auckland Christmas meeting of 1932. He was 144yds behind in a mile and a half race, and although I had never driven him before, he won; and he also won a two mile race the same day. He cost us £1000, but in the first three months we owned him he won £1025. He won three times and was second in his first four starts for us. Shortly after I brought him to Christchurch he kicked at another horse in an adjoining paddock, injuring himself behind, and although he won races afterwards, he was never sound again. His action changed altogether. I consider he is easily the best two-mile trotter I have ever seen. In a trial before leaving Auckland he came the last half-mile in 61sec and the last quarter in 29sec. When I make this claim I am not forgetting Hardy Wilkes, Electrocute, Bellflower, Submarine, Muricata, Quincey, Whispering Willie, Sea Gift, Trampfast, Wrackler, Huon Voyage, Moneyspider and other great staying trotters."

"Hardy Wilkes was a phenomenal horse, too. He broke five times in a NZ Cup when competing against the pacers and then finished just out of the money. He was especially good in bad ground, but was a very difficult horse to control. He was trained by A Fleming when I was in his employ. I was still in my teens when I trained my first horse. This was none other than Whispering Willie. He won many races, including the Auckland Summer Cup among the pacers at Auckland. For his inches he was a super horse. The sulky he raced in weighed 86lb, compared with the average of 35lb today. What was most remarkable about Whispering Willie was that he won races for every person who trained and drove him, among the number being J Wilson, G Murfitt, J Bryce, R W Mills, W Orange and myself."

Native Prince was a pacer who still stands high in Shaw's regard. "He was a really beautiful-looking horse," he said. "He was bred in Hastings, and sold as a yearling by Ben Shadbolt to C Rokkjer. He won races in Australia, and was bought back to Auckland by Peter Riddle and sold to Mrs Sweetapple. I trained him to win many races, and he finished up by running a great race in the NZ Cup, although he was unplaced. He was a really genuine horse."

"Jewel Pointer was the best all-rounder I ever had. He was good in saddle or harness, he won from a mile to two miles, he was equally at home on grass of clay, mud or dry, and any class of mud to boot. Besides being foolproof at the start - which was a great asset with him - you could always afford to take a risk and get a position before a race had been long in progress. I bought Jewel Pointer for Mr Moodabe for about £300, and he won thousands. One of his best feats was to win three £1000 races within eight days, besides three seconds. He had to travel from Auckland to Christchurch, and it has to be remembered that stakes were then less than half what they are today."

"Carmel must be included among a number a really good horses I had the good fortune to train and drive. The Richmond brothers, friends of mine, bought Carmel among some draught horses at a sale for 14gns the vendor being A Cameron. They leased him to me and I developed him and won several races before selling him to Mr J W Murphy. He went into C S Donald's stable, and under his guidance he won the Auckland Cup and many other races. Torpedo Huon, a good-looking well-bred horse from Australia, was a good winner under my direction, but he did not breed on," continued Shaw. "Western King was also bought in Australia for Mr Moodabe. Unfortunately, this grand pacer got hurt and I thought he would never race here. Even under this severe handicap he went 2.07 4/5 round a field to win, and he had a good two-mile record as well. This horse might have been capable of anything if he had not been injured. Florrie Bingen was one of my favourites. She was bought by Mrs Sweetapple and myself for £150 and she won numerous races, including two over two miles at one meeting in Christchurch towards the conclusion of her career. This was the first meeting at which a limit was put on both ends of a race. One of the races she won was 4.40 to 4.35."

In August 1930, after a run of successes with Warplane and Native Chief, I went out of racing and bought a partnership in a gymnasium in Auckland. A year later I came to Christchurch with Peter Pirate, setting up as a public trainer. It was then that I received Impromptu to train. He was not doing any good at that stage. The first time I started him he won at New Brighton. The following week he won the leading event at Wellington. He ended up by going 3.13 and winning very easily at Ashburton and beating Harold Logan in a free-for-all at Auckland. On his day it took a really good horse to beat Impromptu over any distance; but he was a bad-gaited horse and one of the hardest to train I ever had anything to do with. When I received Royal Silk to train he had one miss and then won five on end, including the big race at Dunedin, the Auckland Cup, the big sprint on the second day, and the big two-miles on the third day of the Auckland meeting; and the NZ Trotting Gold Cup at Wellington."

Koro Peter, champion 2-year-old trotter of the late 1920s, and the only horse of his age and gait to win in open company in the Dominion during the last 20 years, was another celebrity who passed through J S Shaw's hands. This big, overgrown gelding by Peter Moko from Koro Ena, trained and driven by his owner, T Cooper, astounded the trotting world by winning the Introductory Handicap of a mile and a half, from a big field of all ages at Cambridge in May, 1928. Shaw immediately opened negotiations on behalf of Mrs Sweetapple to buy Koro Peter, and secured him for £500. "The same season, a 2-year-old trotting filly named First Wrack, bred and owned by Mr H F Nicoll, had finished third in open company in the Allenton Handicap, of a mile and a half, at Ashburton a month before Koro Peter won at Cambridge. These youngsters were the only 2-year-old trotters to have shown any form for many years. In fact, it is the exception rather than the rule, even up to the present day, for a 2-year-old trotter to race, let alone perform with any degree of success," said Shaw.

"Koro Peter and First Wrack created such Dominion-wide interest that the upshot of it all was that their merit was recognised by the Auckland Trotting Club, which matched them over a mile and a quarter at their June meeting, 1928. The totalisator was opened on the event, and Koro Peter was made favourite. It was a terrible day. The going was fetlock deep in slush, and the two horses had to frighten thousands of seagulls off the track as they went along. These birds frightened First Wrack more than they did Koro Peter, and Koro Peter managed to win after a great struggle all the way up the straight. After the match Koro Peter was sold to Mr G McMillan for £1000 and entered R B Berry's stable, from which he met with a lot of success, First Wrack also reached the top flight of trotters."

"Man o' War was the greatest stayer I ever had," continued Shaw. "He was so clean-winded that he would race on less work than any other horse I have trained. In addition, he had a splendid disposition and was most intelligent. I only had him for about 12 months. He was previously trained by J Bryce, for whom he won two Auckland Cups. The last time I drove Man o' War was a very memorable occasion. It was at Addington when a special day's racing was put on in honour of the American fleet. Man o' War rose to the occasion and won the HMS Hood Handicap, the leading event of the day. This was the worst day that I have ever experienced on a racetrack. There was hail and sleet all day and the races could not be postponed, as this was the only day the fleet could be in Christchurch. Of this particular race I saw only about half; Man o' War came from the back mark and did the job himself. I was absoutely blinded with the slush that was flying everywhere. This may soung incredible, but there are many of the old drivers who will vividly remember it. Some of our mounts had to be led back to the birdcage, as we were driving blind. The morning after the races I woke in daylight but everything was still black. It was hours before my eyesight returned to normal. Most of us had driven all day and our eyes had to be attended to in between races by the doctors present at the meeting. Warplane was a son of Man o' War bred by the late James Pettie, and sold to Mrs Sweetapple for £250. He was a very successful performer over all distances. On the last occasion I brought him to Christchurch - August, 1930 - he won two races in good company, his only two starts at the meeting."

"The Abbey was a good horse I trained, but he had to be humoured. He won several good handicaps for Mr Moodabe. One of his wins was the Whangarei Cup. The Abbey was one of those horses who suffered by the old system of handicapping. I remember one meeting in Christchurch, I won a 4.40 class with him on the first day in 4.29, and he was handicapped the next day in the big race on 4.28 in a 4.29 class, going back 11secs for winning a race which from memory was worth £250 to the winner. He ran second from a 4.28 mark and the found himself in NZ Cup company. Cases such as these," said Shaw, "must make the present-day owner thankful for the existing system of penalties."

"Peter Pirate was one of the best mud horses I ever drove," he continued. "I leased him for Mr Moodabe towards the end of his career, and he won several races. I drove him in four events at an Auckland meeting, for which he was trained by Edgar Kennerley, and he won three and was third in the other. One of his wins was the Adams Memorial Cup. I bought Ironside from Mr H F Nicoll for Mr Hosking for £500. I didn't get on well with this horse, although he won his first race for me, but under G Robertson and later F J Smith, he won good races and stakes running into several thousands. Among his successes were the Ashburton Cup and Adams Memorial Cup."

"The last horse I trained before I was appointed a stipendiary steward was Golden Eagle. She was a really sweet trotter and I was sorry to have to give her up. I bought her from J T Paul on his recommendation for £250 on behalf of Mr Hosking. She won several races, and when I parted with her she was sold to Mr G J Barton for £500. For him she also proved a good winner. Sold to a West Australian owner, she continued to win races in Perth. It was also on J T Paul's recommendation that I bought Not Quite for Mr Hosking and myself," said Shaw.

"The first horse I ever rode in a race was Bribery. He was a wonderful saddle horse, especially over two miles. At that time I was head lad for Mr T G Fox, one of my first employers. Mr Fox was a really considerate boss, and one whose advice I found very valuable in later life. I would like to make some reference to saddle races, particularly straight-out trotters' saddle races. The men who shone in this department some 30 years ago were A Pringle, T Annat, W Orange, J McEwen, F Holmes, and a bit later J McLennan, D Bennett and F G Holmes. In those days when men used to ride in trotting races they were in much better health than they are today, when you very seldom see a horse worked in saddle. I won a lot of saddle races with straight-out trotters and enjoyed them very much though I was never in the first flight of saddle horsemen and had to waste hard to get down to 10st."

"I remember once winning a two mile saddle race on a trotter called Rothmoor giving away starts of up to 28secs. When the limit horses went away I was on the ground putting a martingale on. I had 28secs in which to complete this, mount my horse, and travel down to the starting post to catch my clock under the old system of starting. The present system of starting is far ahead of the old system of the clock. And there is no doubt that the present system of handicapping is also a great improvement on the old order, under which there was a definite encouragement to wait for slow tracks."

Shaw recalled that he won the first Taranaki Cup with Overate, a trotter competing against pacers; and the first Adams Memorial Cup with the imported American stallion Ballin, who had just been converted fron a trotter to a pacer. Another Taranaki Cup winner he trained and drove was Jewel Wood, who also won the Nelson Cup and the first Hawkes Bay Cup in the same season. "The Squire was a trotter I had more than average success with in Auckland," said Shaw. "Mr G McMillan came by him in exchange for a mare named Bingen Jean, and the exchange proved a very good one from our point of view, as The Squire won the two big trotting events at the first Auckland meeting at which we raced him."

Asked about the standard of driving, Shaw said he considered there are equally as many, if not more, expert reinsmen today; but there are considerably more of those who, in his opinion, have not had sufficient experience before being granted a licence. "I think the grading of horsemen a big mistake," he said. "Either a man is capable of driving in any class of race or he is not. The races that we found the hardest to drive in were the maiden races, because here you have the large fields of green horses, and it is in these events that the inexperienced horsemen of today, classified 'C' grade, are found in the largest numbers. I always found it advisable in a race to trail the man, not the horse," said Shaw. "By this I mean that you will invariably get a better run behind an experienced horseman than you will get behind an inexperienced one who in the majority of cases cannot stay put for any length of time. The old hand knows the shortest way round and retains that little in reserve until the right end of the race."

"One of my regrets," continued Shaw, "is the complete dissappearance of the unhoppled pacer. At one time this class of horse was catered by the Auckland Trotting Club by the inclusion of a race for unhoppled horses, which embraced straight-out trotters and free-legged pacers. I won several of these events with a little horse called Nipper. The late A J Julian had a good unhoppled pacer in Haricot, and the late W J Tomkinson won more than his share with that good free-legged mare Pearlie Chimes. But easily the best of this class of horse was Don Wild, who held his own among the best hoppled pacers in the Dominion. I think that if this class of horse was catered for again, so would they be developed. In fact, the way pacers are bred today,they should have less need for straps, and I see no reason why the number of unhoppled pacers should not be considerably multiplied until there are as many of them as there were in Don Wild's day."

Amaris, Fairyland, Gay Paree, Halgana, Arachne, Sal Pointer, Ben Lomond, Warspite, Great Change, Jimmy Richmond, Meritorious, Prinzora, Rustle and Mr Penalty were some of the many other winners of both gaits Shaw trained and drove up to the time he was appointed stipendiary steward to the NZ Trotting Conference in 1937. He held this position with credit to himself and the sport until last year, when he resigned. As stated previously Shaw may return to trotting as an owner and driver with Not Quite (in whom he holds a half-interest with Mr W Hosking), at the New Brighton meeting on September 6. He is assured of a warm reception from the public an his fellow reinsmen.

Credit: 'Ribbomwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 20Aug47

 
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