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FRANK BEBBINGTON: Interview

FRANK BEBBINGTON

The Bebbington family has been involved with trotting horses for almost a century. Frank Bebbington's still training horses in his seventh decade and talks to David McCarthy about his experiences.

It was your grandfather who started it all off?
Yes, his name was Frank too and my father, Reg, trained as well. The other Frank had a good mare called Manuka which was a sister to (pacing champion of the Victorian ere) Ribbonwood. But he passed her on and a foal, I think, to Maurice McTigue and Frank McKendry. The filly, Ivy Mac, was a foundation mare for Maurice. It was where his best horse, Tactician, came from.

You and your dad trained a good one in Robert Medoro?
The Jamisons were next door to Dad. They had that very good breed but this one had a club foot and when a possible sale fell through we got him. He was by Medoro, a stallion we liked. He had been breed in Italy but was of all-American blood. In those days you couldn't bring a stallion in from America and he was one way round it. He was trotting bred, though actually most of the good horses he left were pacers. We had him at home trying to get his feet right. I don't think he raced until he was seven and ended up beating Snow Globe in the Hambletonian which was the big Easter trot in those days.

What about your first winner?
It was the first horse I trained and he came along exactly at the right time in 1960. I raced him with Gordon Cartwright who used to be my barber then. He bred him. His name was Whipaway and he won at Motukarara the same week Shirley and I were married. What we got out of it paid for the wedding, the honeymoon, the lot. I bred from a half-sister called Iron Maiden. She was a good mare and left some good horses including Avalon Globe who sired a grand trotter we raced called Globe Tour.

You seem to favour trotters?
It is just the way it has worked out really, but I must say I enjoy developing a good trotter. I did my own shoeing and it was a big part of it. You can't condemn a trotting horse if it lacks early speed, especially if it has got breeding. Sooner or later something will come of it, if it has the pedigree. In the old days the trotters were horses too slow on the pace, and some of those old trainers took six months to get them just to trot. It is a lot different now.

Some people say the ones now are not as tough?
I suppose it is right but you have to remember they are not trained to be tough like they used to be. Maurice McTigue, Ossie Hooper, Billy Doyle and those blokes did a lot of road work with their horses. Paul Nairn is still doing it but the roads around here now are too risky. Ted Lowe used to jog his pacers for half an hour before he fast worked them. People don't have time for that any more.

How did you get Globe Tour?
Though a friend mine from Murchison, Dave Oxnam. He gave me some young horses to take home from Nelson one day and educate. They were pretty rough and getting them home was an achievement but they turned out alright. He was breeding from a horse called Protector there.

Protector became famous when horses like Nigel Craig were racing but came from nowhere.
A bloke called Charlie McHugh who was basically a car dealer was sort of behind him. He was unusual in that they had him running with the mares when he was two and he had stock racing before he did. He had ability but by then he wasn't interested in racing by the time he got there, only the mares around the track and (stipe) Len Butterfield wanted him out of it. Dave Oxnam had a remarkable piece of luck to get some of his best rachorses.

Like?
He was breeding thoroughbreds and when it was suggested he switch to trotters he wanted to know where to get some mares from. He was sent to Joe Hampton at Upper Riccarton for a couple, but Joe said he had sent them to the knackery the day before. It was the weekend and Joe said Dave might be able to get them there before the gun was fired. He just made it. They were waiting in the paddock. He took the two mares home and bred them to Protector in Murchison where he was a butcher and a farmer. One, Propetre, left the champion trotter Nigel Craig which set the mile record and the other Shendi Lass, left one of the best trotters we ever had in Royal Armour. She left some other good ones too. Trafalgar was a really good trotter she left. He was well known up Nelson way. A great staying horse.

I see Globe Tour won seven races one season at four?
A grand wee trotter. He went in the wind. I think it ran in the family because Royal Armour did the same. We operated on them but it was much harder to get it to work then.

Your daughter, Lynne, drove Globe Tour?
Lynne did everything with him. She broke him in, shod him, drove him, the lot. Then she got married to Andrew Neal. She had her photo taken in her wedding dress with him before she went to the church. Jim Ferguson got up at the wedding and told Andrew he was not only getting a lovely wife but an expert blacksmith.

You also stood stallions and one of them was Mercedes. That must have been a challenge?
He was a brute. Ted Lowe was in Ashburton hospital when the news came out we were going to stand him. He told the nurse to leave the bed next to him vacant because soon after Mercedes arrived Frank Bebbington would be needing it.

I remember seeing him in Auckland and he was a man-eater. How did you survive?
He had killed a bloke in America and he would have done here with half a chance. We heard the stories from up north where Ted Hooper had him. They told me he always had to have two headstalls on. If there was only one somebody would cop it. We couldn't get a headstall on him. You couldn't handle him. In the end we shot darts into him but it didn't seem to make any difference.

What was the solution?
We built a race right outside his stall. You had to have those sort of things to get anywhere. When he ran into the race we blocked it and tried to get a headstall on him from above where he couldn't get at us. We still had the darts as well. He always had to have someone on a pole either side when you could catch him. Gary Argyle was working for us then. I don't think I have ever seen anybody get over a big rail as fast as he did one day when Mercedes was going to eat him.

Was he a success?
Well of course he left Luxury Liner up north who was a great horse otherwise I suppose nobody would have bothered. We used natural service with him - you had no chance collecting semen for AI - and the first mare he served left twins. I thought that summed it up really.

Best horse you have seen?
Johnny Globe was a favourite of mine. I know everyone says that but he was for me. Mount Eden was a horse with terrific speed. He was the fastest I have seen.


Credit: David McCarthy writing in The Press 7Nov09

 
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