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CAPTAIN SANDY: First Double Title Winner


If Markovina succeeds this year in becoming only the third horse to win two Inter-Dominion championships, it's doubtful whether his feat could cause many more ripples in the trotting world than Captain Sandy did in taking his second title back in 1953.

Captain Sandy was ten at the time...and had not won a race since taking the Inter-Dominion title nearly three years earlier. But win the '53 final he did, confirming yet again his earlier reputation as a dour old race horse.

By Mr John Johnston's Sandydale, Captain Sandy was out of a wayward mare Waikaura. She cost Mr Bob Ludemann, a neighbour of Johnston at Oamaru, only 13gns at auction in the 1930s. Ludemann had her for some years before sending her to Sandydale for the mating which produced a small bay colt, later to be named Captain Sandy. Being bad at almost everything else apparently, Waikaura was not a good mother either, and it was only after some time of constant coaxing and supervision that she would allow her new son to suckle.

Ludemann eventually sent the colt to trainer Jock Bain for his early education...but did not like the way the youngster was shaping. Bain, obviously a shrewd judge, saw some potential and offered to take Captian Sandy on a long-term lease. He wouldn't regret the move. He started Captain Sandy 16 times at four for a win (his first start) and five placings. The next season Captain Sandy earned more than £2000 for Bain, the result of three wins and seven placings. Bain must have realised about then that this was no mere plodder he had on his hands for he was soon to engage the services of one of the country's leading reinsmen, James Bryce Junior to do the driving.

In 1948 Captain Sandy and Bryce won nine races, including the Auckland Cup. The pair took the north's premier race the next year, too, this time from 36 yards behind. It was only natural that Bain should take the horse to Melbourne for the 1950 Inter-Dominion series. Unfortunately, Bryce was taking an enforced 'holiday' at the time so the winning combination was split. However, Freeman Holmes proved an able, if only temporary substitute for Bryce.

Captain Sandy finished fourth in the first heat in the fastest time and on the second night finished a creditable seventh after being almost put out during a bad skirmish during the running. In his third race, Captain Sandy took third and fastest time again but in doing so, Holmes was found guilty of breaking the rules. So he too was given a spell from driving. Sydney driver Jack Watts was more than pleased to take over the reins for the £10,000 Grand Final, a race which Captain Sandy had just scraped into through his fastest times. What happened next is history. Watts and Captain Sandy swooped on Morrie Holmes and Globe Direct near the end of the 14 furlong trip to get the decision by a head with another kiwi, Sprayman, third.

It's difficult to pinpoint the reasons but Captain Sandy never regained anything like that form on his return to NZ. Sure, he qualified for the final of the 1951 Inter-Dominion series in Christchurch with a fourth and a second in the heats, but off long marks, he could not win a race. Bain gave up his lease and Captain Sandy spent a time in the care of Wes Butt and George Benny for very little return. He was sent home again. Perhaps now, it was John Johnston who showed just how astute a judge of horseflesh he was. For it was Johnston, who in 1952, recommended to West Australian Dinny Nolan that he buy Captain Sandy to prepare for a tilt at the next year's big series in Perth. Nolan paid only 525 guineas and took Captain Sandy home.

The 10-year-old thrived and more than paid his way. In the Championship itself Captain Sandy scored a fourth and a second (driven by Freeman Holmes) in the early heats. Then with Bob Pollock in control (Holmes had to drive one of the favourites Blue Mist) Captain Sandy finished second again to the brilliant Ribands on the third night. That placing made Captain Sandy one of the top qualifiers for the Grand Final and Nolan was more than pleased to again give the drive to Pollock, one of the state's more promising young drivers.

Captain Sandy started from 24 yards behind but soon made up his handicap and wore down Ribands in the final few yards. History had been made in more ways than one. As well as being the first horse to win the title twice (Hondo Grattan would do so in 1973 and 74) Captain Sandy also became the greatest stake-winning standardbred in either NZ or Australia at the time with earnings of more than £40,000. And just to demonstrate his toughness he went a mile in 1:59 a couple of nights later followed by another mile of 1:57.5 against time on the half-mile track only days after that. The time, a world record, was not allowed though because the pacemaker had been allowed to head Captain Sandy during the trial.

The old chap made a final Inter-Dominion appearance at Adelaide. He scored points for fastest time (he finished ninth) in the first heat from 36 yards behind, and eventually made the final with six points. For the Grand Final, run on the giddy two and a half furlong Wayville Track, Captain Sandy was to be reunited with his old driver Jimmy Bryce, flown over from NZ just for the occasion. From 48 yards behind, he had virtually no show, but his performance to get up for fourth was one of the highlights of the series. With two rounds of the track left he was still at the back of the field, ten lengths from the leaders. He was forced to improve four and five wide and still had six in front of him at the turn. But fight he did, and Captain Sandy was once more in the money, winding up in fourth place only six yards from the winner, Tennessee Sky.


Captain Sandy, the only horse to win two Inter-Dominion Championships, died recently, according to a report in the Australian 'Trotguide.'

Captain Sandy was by the imported Sandydale from Waikaura. He was driven by J D Watts when he won the Final of the 1950 Inter-Dominion series on the Melbourne Showgrounds. Driven by L Pollock, he won his second Championship at Gloucester Park in 1953.

Driven by the late Claude Tupper, Captain Sandy started from 36 yards behind in the Easter Cup at Harold Park, Sydney, and defeated Avondale(scr) and Sparkling Max(12 yards). Captain Sandy also won the Victorian Easter Cup from 48 yards behind in 1953. In attempts against time in West Australia, Captain Sandy clocked 1:59 for a mile at Gloucester Park in March, 1953. He bettered this at Bunbury on March 4, 1953, when he covered the journey in 1:57½.

Captain Sandy was foaled in NZ in 1942. He was bred at Oamaru by Mr R Ludemann, who picked up Captain Sandy's dam, Waikaura, at auction for the hack price of £6 10s.

One of Captain Sandy's greatest performances in NZ was in the Flying Stakes at the Easter meeting at Addington when, in one of the most thrilling duels ever seen at headquarters, he ran the peerless Highland Fling to a head. The time was 2:35 3/5 for a mile and a quarter. In the 1949 NZ Cup Captain Sandy looked a shade unlucky when beaten into second place by a real surprise packet in Loyal Nurse, and he went on to win the Auckland Cup for the second year in a row.

Captain Sandy was raced and trained in NZ by J M Bain, Oamaru and driven in most of his races by J Bryce, Jnr.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 18Oct67

Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 6Mar79

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