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BLAST FROM THE PAST


SNOW GILLESPIE: Horseman

SNOW GILLESPIE

Snow Gillespie has never regretted the day he spent his last £200 on a horse. "It was all I had at the time. I must admit I looked twice at it before I handed it over." But those £200, looking back, were the best he's ever spent. Not quite twenty years ago, it was. And the horse? A 4-year-old Stormyway mare called Countess Ada.

Since that time she's won few races herself, but more importantly, has left some top racehorses. The latest is the Transport Chip filly Gliding Princess, the top 2-year-old of her sex in the South Island and one of the brighter hopes in the Sires' Produce final. Gillespie, who now trains at Pleasant Point, bought her off the estate of a friend of his. At the time he was working as private trainer and studmaster to Wally Wilmott at Levels, the home at that time of Whipster.

"I liked her breeding. Her dam Ada Scott was a great mare," Gillespie recalled last week after Gliding Princess had trounced the other fillies in their Sires' Produce heat. "She set many track records." Ada Scott won a heat of the 1951 Inter-Dominions at Addington in a more than useful career. She was by U Scott out of Princess Ada, by Jack Potts. Princess Ada herself left some good performers - Tom Gundy, Black Storm, West Australian Pacing Cup winner Defiance, Rosario (dam of King Anjou and Johnny Thunder, both good winners), Ada Grattan and Princess Hanover, the dam of Young Darran.

Under the terms of his contract with Wilmott, Gillespie was allowed to have a couple of his own horses with him at Levels. Wilmott, incidentally, bought another daughter of Ada Scott at the same time, Kelso Lady, the dam of Hal's Lady who's left current 3-year-old Lil Abner, a winner early this season. But she didn't make her mark like Countess Ada did. Gillespie won three or four races with his mare who was four at the time. "She was a very fast mare, but she pulled like billyo. She'd do a mile and a half at home in 3:15 with you hanging on to her."

Her first foal was Spark Whip. He won a 2-year-old heat and showed a lot of promise. But he never made it to the races proper. "He got kicked on the stifle and it was so bad we had to put him down. We'd turned down good money for him too," Gillespie said. A friend, Charlie Turnbull then bred De Kaye (a winner when trained by George Shand) from the mare before Gillespie and his partner, Mrs Violet Shortland, got another filly. Bonnie Countess was her name. She never raced either, after being hurt as a foal. "She was never ever broken in," Gillespie recalled. "She put her hip down and the veterinarian told us to shoot her. We wouldn't do that." Bonnie Countess was later sold to Mrs Bonnie McGarry of Timaru. And what a gem she's proved. She's only had three horses to the races so far - champion mare Bonnie's Chance, her little sister Steve's Chance, also a recent winner, and the promising Federal Skipper, placed early this season at Addington.

Countess Ada's fourth foal was Gliding Light, a top race-horse for Gillespie as a youngster. He lined up four times at two and won three, and the next season, won another five races. But he, too, suffered at the hands of ill-fate. "He hurt himself as a 3-year-old and had to be put out for twelve months. That was the finish of him." Gliding Light is now at stud in Australia and he has left winners. "Richard (Brosnan) saw him when he was in Australia a while back and according to him, the horse still looks in good shape," Gillespie said. Gliding Light provided a younger Brosnan with some of his early wins...and he's driven for Gillespie ever since. "In my book, he's the best driver in the country," Gillespie contends. "He never knocks a horse about."

The trotter Count Arben came next. He was raced by Gillespie's son Ron and his wife with some success. He too was hurt and had to be put down. "He didn't want to give him away to anyone." The next two foals were both winners...and both were 2:00 performers. Gillespie raced Gliding Guy before selling him to Roy Purdon. Gliding Star was also sold to the northern horseman before eventually racing in America. Gillespie wasn't as lucky with his next filly from his fine mare. Gliding Queen, she was, and she too cut her legs badly in a fence. "I had her in work and I'm sure she would have been a top filly. "She was in her paddock and quite okay when I went down to Temuka for a beer one night...and by the time I came back, she'd got into trouble. She went to the horse as a 2-year-old." Her foal was Gliding Chase who, according to all accounts, is going along well for Murray Butt.

Current 3-year-old Gliding King was broken in at Pleasant Point before he too was sold to Purdon. And he's looking the goods as well, after qualifying impressively recently. And then, the current little star, Gliding Princess. "You know, she's the only filly I have been able to race without her getting hurt," Gillespie said. And even that's not her fault, for in the early days, she'd get up to all sorts of ahtics. "Like all fillies, she could be a bit temperamental. She'd slam her boots into you before you knew what was happening. She never actually smashed a cart but she's kicked dust sheets to pieces. And she never wanted to pace. She would do everything she could to get out of it. She would fight you to the last. She must have a heart like a lion. There's a bit of fire in the breed. But you need that. She gave me a real run for my money."

If nothing else, Gillespie is sure Gliding Princess is a two minute filly. "She's all heart. What a wonderful motor she's got." She still keeps Gillespie on his toes. "I have to work her in the cart seven days a week. I've only got to give her Sunday off and I'm in trouble on Monday." Gillespie has to work the filly on her own. "She doesn't want the others with her." Which perhaps is why she is still a little green. "She's just starting to learn what racing is all about. She's improving all the time," her trainer reckons. He's been made some good offers to sell Gliding Princess, but Gillespie won't be tempted. "I turned down $50,000 for her the other day. But she's not for sale at any price. We sold the others to help pay the mortgage on this place (Gillespie has a forty acre property at Pleasant Point) so we decided we might as well have some fun ourselves with this one. "There's some good money to be won with 3-year-old fillies. She could easily pick up $50,000 if she stayed sound next season. "And then, of course, she'll be the next Gillespie broodmare."

Gillespie grows all his own feed on the property and "getting close to sixty," recently gave up a job with an aviation company based at Levels. He's been training for a good number of years, buying his first mare when he was a shearer and selling her progeny for £200 a time. "I'd always loved horses," he said last week. "I worked for a long time as a teamster, starting off at about ten shillings a week. "I used to enjoy that work." He picked up the horse training business by helping out local horsemen as he went along. "I picked it up pretty quickly. It didn't take too long to grasp it," he said.

Gillespie likes to drive now and then at trials but he's not fussed about the actual raceday business. "I drive if I have to, but I like to leave that to Richard. He is the best man for the job." He's adamant on that score. He's just as determined that he won't sell Gliding Princess. "I want to keep her and Gliding Queen as broodmares." He's got two more fillies from Countess Ada at home, Gliding Dawn, who's rising two, by Good Chase, and Gliding Countess, not yet one, by the same sire. "Gliding Dawn's extra good. She'll do 3:45 for a mile and a half without much trouble. They should both make good broodmares too. They must, with two strains of U Scott, Jack Potts, Light Brigade and Volomite in their blood."

Countess Ada is in foal to Keystone Provider and she'll return to Transport Chip in the future. Gliding Pricess saw to that by winning a free service to him when winning in Southland. "He's making a big impression that one. He seems to be the horse to go to if you want a top filly."

Meanwhile Gliding Princess is getting the run of the Gillespie place, running and bucking in her paddock as though she owns it. "She comes home after her races still full of fire. She thrives on it now." And she eats to match. Apparently she's a great doer. "I feed her heavy," Gillespie said last week. "I have to. She eats like a poor relation."

Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 11May82

 
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