Five former Soviet countries form the Eurasian Economic Union.
Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.
Boko Haram perpetrates a massacre of over 2000 people in Baga, Nigeria, and allies itself with ISIS.
Al-Shabaab perpetrates a a mass shooting in Kenya, killing 148.
Houthis overthrow the government in Yemen, triggering a military response by Saudi Arabia.
A series of earthquakes in the Himalayas kills over 10,000 people.
ISIS claims responsibility for the Kobanî massacre in Syria, the Sousse attacks in Tunisia, a mosque bombing in Kuwait, the Suruç bombing in Turkey, multiple bombings in both Beirut and Paris, and inspires a shooting in San Bernardino, California.
Turkey and Russia intervene in the Syrian Civil War.
The heads of China and Taiwan meet for the first time, while the United States and Cuba resume diplomatic relations.
195 nations agree to lower carbon emissions.
Liquid water is found on Mars.
First close-up images of Ceres and Pluto.
Credit: 2015 INTERNATIONAL EVENTS
February: New Zealand joins the fight against ISIS by sending troops to Iraq to train Iraqi Soldiers against the Islamic Terror Group.
October 25: The All Blacks Win the Rugby World Cup, the only team to ever win the tournament twice in a row.
CANTERBURY BUSINESS AWARD
Addington Raceway and Events Centre claimed a major coup last month when they were recognised at the Champion Canterbury Business Awards. Awarded the title in the Retail/Hospitality Category for medium to large enterprise, Addington saw off all competitors - continuing the rise and rise of the business side of the operation at harness racing headquarters in the South Island.
The advent of events such as Christmas at the Races as well as a high patronage prior to rugby matches at the next door AMI Stadium has undoubtedly lifted the profile of the Addington landscape with more and more foot traffic making its way through their doors.
Addington chief executive, Dean McKenzie said the award was justification for all the hard work put in by the team. "Although our business has been part of the fabric of our city for over 100 years, it would be fair to say it has changed dramatically, particularly in the past few years," McKenzie said. "Receiving this award certainly makes it feel like all the hard work has not gone unnoticed, which is always nice."
Described in the Awards winners list as Canterbury's leading multipurpose racing and events venue, Addington received their award for providing an exceptional hospitality and entertainment venue for its guests.
McKenzie said the success wouldn't have happened without a lot of input from behind the scenes. "I am sure our Board will join with me in thanking all our customers, members, suppliers and key partners who have all played a massive role in the transformation of our business. Without them we would simply not be where we are today. But above all, we would like to thank and acknowledge our team for their hard ongoing work, enthusiasm and dedication to the organisation."
Credit: HARNESSED OCT 15
If it were you and I as finish judges on a race day our biggest fear would surely be making some terrible error, especially in a major race. One reason Mark Gallagher, now the judge at both Addington and Riccarton, is good at his job is because he has a more pressing concern. That is being the only one in the room.
When he started back in the 1980s there were three officials in the judges box. You started at number three and worked upward. These days it is a solo job and Mark admits he sometimes wonders what would happen if the unexpected occurred. "Especially if you were at a distant track like, say, Waimate, and you suddenly became sick or were injured. I suppose a stipe could do it but it is not the sort of job anyone can just pick up in a day."
Mark was an assistant judge at Riccarton from 1985 with
Geoff Bruhns and Rob Fielder after Johnny Adams, who held the No.3 spot, left to referee top rugby matches. Mark also did some shifts at Addington and become No.2 under Ernie Fuchs when Bruhns retired in the mid 1990s having become No.2 to Fielder at Riccarton for the same reason. He has been the judge at Addington for many years now and succeeded Fielder at Riccarton this season.
While his path to the judging caper was a gradual one he has a strong racing background. Fate added to the recipe. "My grandmother was a cousin to Sir Henry Kelliher and managed hotels for him in Auckland. I can remember her getting me to put bets on with the illegal bookies at whippet meetings way back when. The bookie would say, 'What does Nan like in this one Snowy?' so I was in it from an early age. She really loved her racing. Dad was a keen punter too. It was in the blood."
Mark moved to Kawerau to work for Tasman Pulp and Paper where, earlier than most, he got the opportunity to work with computers back in the 1970s. "I was a budget clerk. But the government would only decide on the geothermal price in February so you would have to redo the budget with that price in mind. A computer was introduced to do that job and I got interested in programming. When PGG in Christchurch advertised for a programmer in 1979 we decided to move south for a change of scenery."
Pyne Gould Guinness (PGG) was where Fielder and Bruhns worked and the Gallagher racing interest soon formed an association. "The third judge then was really the runner, you helped judge the race but the main job was to take the result to the office and the Press room and post the photo finishes. It was quite full on."
The advance of technology in terms of more sophisticated photo finish and video operations managed in the area by Nigel Marks has reduced the need for a 'second opinion.' "Robbie and I always did our own independent commentary at Riccarton. That wasn't so necessary at Addington but Ernie and I would talk during the race about what was going on. I take particular notice of the horses two, three and four back on the rail. They are the ones likely to make a late run and if they are a little obscured you can be in trouble."
At Riccarton Mark uses only colours in his call but at Addington it is a combination because the colours are more distant from where the action is and numbers can be obscured in the photo. "I still do a visual call just in case anything goes amiss. It's important to stay vigilant and taking short cuts is going to catch up with you one day. You are naturally a bit more keyed up for the big days and probably do a little more homework. But with 30-minute intervals you usually have time to brush up on things between races."
He doesn't try too hard to prejudge the finish. "At Addington it is not until about 100 metres out that you know for sure you are in for a tight finish and even then sometimes it doesn't work out the way it looks then."
Judges are paid by clubs without including the travelling expenses RIB and RIU employees enjoy and is restricted in its appeal because it is still a part-time job. "One concern I have is training successors now. How far are you going to get offering to train someone with little or no payment on the promise they will get a part-time job at the end of it?"
Mark himself has had various part-time work from landscaping jobs for the well-to-do with a friend Rob Murphy, to traffic planning at road works. Flexibility around race days dictates that role. "At one stage there was talk of a full-time position with roles in other areas of racing between meetings but it doesn't appear to have come to anything.
Like many things in racing the secret to judging success is temperament. "You have to stay calm. All race results are important to the punter not just the big ones. Fortunately I haven't been 'on the mat' yet over any decisions."
Rangiora is the track Mark fears most. "You are not that far off the ground and the harness track is a long way away. Horses often slide up the inside and make things really tough. Height is everything."
He is open minded about any move to replace the long-winded announcements of placings and times in New Zealand with numbers on the screen for people watching in places where they can't the calls but can watch instant replays. Oddly, the tradition in this country once was the judges numbers being hoisted leaving the decision to murmurs from the crowds just as in Australia now. Back to the future it seems. "I am quite happy to push the buttons for the screen as they do in Australia. My mother in Auckland likes to hear my voice to check on my health but apart from that it doesn't really matter either way to me."
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Oct 2015
Carl Middleton, from a rapidly fading Mid Canterbury tradition of combining farming with a semi-professional racing team - once the heart of the game - had an impeccable "trotting pedigree."
He leaned more toward his wife Heather's Lowe family, and the Nordqvist family of his mother when it came to training. His colourful father, Gordon, became noted for speedy early two year old pacers, usually with "Fancy" in their name, as a result of constantly mating Marawiti to Truant Hanover, a locally syndicated horse Carl stood at stud. Carl didn't race many two year olds.
His best horse, Fraggle Rock, traced directly to the dam of Lucky Jack the Lowe's dual NZ Cup winner and his career showed that doing your own thing is just as important in life as aiming for the stars. He also did well with Pompano and Fabian from his parent's Merry Polly tribe.
I doubt Carl Middleton had an enemy in the world but he did have an indomitable spirit which meant he could pass the hard days and enjoy the good ones. Mid Canterbury harness is much the poorer for the demise of these rural enthusiasts even if time waits for no one.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Oct15
MARK McNAMARA - COMMENTATOR
Spending Cup and Show Week cooped up in a small booth delivering running commentaries on dozens of races sounds stressful. Just imagine trying to keep track of the hundreds of horses and associated drivers, jockeys and trainers. Race caller Mark McNamara has been doing this for so long, he makes it sound easy. This is his seventh year as the voice of Canterbury's biggest racing week of the year. Before coming to New Zealand in 2009, he spent 16 years commentating in New South Wales and was the State's top harness-racing caller.
He has loved the buzz of harness and thoroughbred racing for as long as he can remember. "I think it was the colours that got me into this," he says. "To this day, racing colours are my life." Mark's finely honed talent for meshing colour with memory is crucial to his career. Before he shifted to New Zealand to become Canterbury's race caller, he spent hours drawing trainers' colours to help memorise "the who's who" of the industry. He also frequently uses colours to memorise horses' names. Ten minutes before a race, he will eyeball the horses as they come into the parade ring, look at the colours of each in turn and say their name over and over again until he knows them by heart. It only takes a few minutes. By the time he is done, he barely needs to look at a race book.
"I had pages of colours down as a kid. I used to watch races from a young age. While other kids worshipped footballers, one of my heroes was a guy that called the races in Sydney, Johnny Tapp. You could say I was a bit of a strange kid!"
Over coffee at their home in rural Weedons, Mark's wife, Katie, chips in to suggest her spouse can still be "pretty random" at times - in a good way. The couple reminisce good-naturedly about the time Mark once called part of a race in the voice of Australian sports commentator Ray Warren. The word play was sparked by one of the horses in the field, Tagataese, as in Sam Tagataese, of the Cronulla Sharks. "He's a huge die-hard Cronulla Sharks fan," laughs Katie, "which is a bit sad, since they never win the premiership."
Mark starts his preparation for Cup and Show Week in September, when the lead-up races get underway. He studies the fields and form in order to be well informed. These lead-up races all contribute to what happens during Cup Week. On Cup Day itself, Mark will arrive at Addington Raceway an hour and a half before the first race and take a stroll through the stables, picking up scraps of information he can used from trainers and drivers.
Their will be nine races to call before the New Zealand Cup. "The first race is a two-mile trot, the same distance as the Cup, so that helps get me into gear for that,. There is so much going on that day...before you know it, you are at the Cup." Calling the big race requires more than an ability to utter a high word-rate-per minute. Mark suggests knowing how to modulate pace and use pitch are key requirements, too. "If one hose is miles in front, there is no point carrying on too much. As the race gets close to the finish, you naturally hype it up. The race dictates how it is called."
Both he and Katie will be dressing up in style for Cup Day. Mark will suit up and wear a once-a-year boutonniere, while Katie will wear a dress made by an Australian designer and a hat by Christchurch milliner Maria Wright. Katie's mother, Gail, is coming over from Australia especially to look after the couple's two children, William, nearly three and Bronte, 5 months, so Katie can sit in the Commentary box with Mark. "I get nervous, too," Katie says. "I know how much it means to him to do a good job...If he mucks up in a race, he is so dirty on himself, but he does an exceptionally good job on Cup Day."
The old maxim - "you're only as good as your last race" - is always uppermost in Mark's mind. Reflecting on past embarrassments, such as the time he let slip a little scream as Terror To Love stormed home to win the New Zealand Trotting Cup in 2011, keeps him on his toes. To this day, that moment makes him cringe - and also to chuckle at his own expense.
Mark has a pretty wry sense of humour that comes through in his commentary style, too. "There was a horse called Wedgie racing at Ashburton a couple of years ago. I remember saying 'if that horse wins, I am going to call it in a high-pitched voice as it crosses the line'. It did win and I was true to my word. I like to be a bit different."
Some horses' names crack him up, such as Puma Pants, or Gotashotaway - the name given to a two-year-old that broke through a fence to get a neighbouring mare. He used to have a love-hate relationship with a trotter called She Sell Sea Shells. "Try saying it fast!"
The New Zealand Trotting Cup is always the biggest race of the year and it comes with added pressure. Yet, as Mark observes, it is only one of up to 70 races he will be calling that week. "I take one at a time. You cannot learn them too far ahead - there is too much on - so I will go to Cup Day on Tuesday and then come home and forget it. The I will focus on Riccarton on Wednesday, the Coupland's Bakeries Mile. The following day I will be at Ashburton Raceway, then Addington again on Friday for another 12 races. Then it wraps up at Riccarton, another massive day. It all goes by pretty fast."
Last year, Mark just about ended up chain-chugging throat lozenges to keep his voice going through so many races. But he no longer eats at races after a bad experience choking on some hastily eaten hot chips while calling a race at Bathurst in New South Wales five years ago. "It was about 200 metres from the finish. I had a cough and a splutter to clear (my throat) and called the end of the race." On Cup Day, he will eat breakfast only until the job is done.
Mark's enthusiasm for the track from a young age had its occasional downsides. At 15, he was photographed by the Sydney Morning Herald holding a betting ticket and race book. The photo went on the front page as part of a scandal story on underage gambling. The article included details of where Mark's family lived. It started a torrent of outrage, with Mark's parents copping a lot of the heat. The silver lining for Mark was being offered a tour of Warwick Farm by its chief steward, including an opportunity to talk to Johnny Tapp.
From the age of four or five, Mark used to accompany his father, Mick, to Sunday race meetings. The family home was in the south Sydney suburb of Cronulla and Warwick Farm was the nearest racecourse. It had three grandstands, including an older stand, usually near-empty. Mark remembers sneaking up there with his dad to practise race calling. If there was no racing at Warwick Farm, they would sometimes go to meetings at other local courses, including Randwick, Rosehill Gardens and Canterbury Park.
"Most Saturdays, if Dad was not working, we would go to the races. He was a five-dollar punter who just loved racing. We would go at midday and spend the afternoon watching races. I cannot say why I got hooked on race calling. I even went away from it for a while at high school, when it really wasn't cool to be into it." That all changed one day at a Randwick race meeting. Still only 15 at the time, Mark got talking to a judge who officiated at the Bulli trots and was offered an opportunity to become a trial caller. From then on, Friday nights were spent at Harold Park practising race calling in a spare commentary box and every second Saturday was spent at trials. "It was a great grounding, though it wore out Dad's car; he used to drive me everywhere."
Easter Saturday 1996 at Nowra Racecourse and Moruya thoroughbreds in November that same year are two race days he will never forget...his first official days as a race caller for the thoroughbreds and the harness racing. At Nowra, there were seven races that day and the first was won by a horse called Testaccio. "His colours were dark blue with a white diamond sash. I can still see it."
The following year, Mark was taken on as a radio and race-calling cadet at Radio 2KY and spent the next 12 years calling race meetings throughout New South Wales, travelling 1600km a week to various meets. "For the Carnival of Cups harness-racing series, I'd go pretty much right across the state from Temora in Riverina to Leeton to a little place called Eugowra. It usually has a population of about 600, but that triples for big race meetings. They grow a lot of canola there - hence the Canola Cup." Mark was back in Eugowra last month catching up with old friends. "It is the people that make the job."
By 2005, a few years after Radio 2KY had been acquired by Sky, Mark was promoted to number two harness caller in New South Wales. Of all the races he called there, Smooth Satin winning his fourth Bathurst Cup in 2005 was perhaps the most memorable. "He came out of retirement to win that fourth time and he won easily - it was an emotional time. It has always stuck in my mind. The trainer-driver colours are locked in: red and dark blue spots and hoop sleeves." Eventually, Mark wound up as the state's top harness caller, officiating not only at Bathurst but also at other big tracks such as Penrith and Menangle.
In March 2009, in the weeks following the sudden death of popular Canterbury race caller Darren Tyquin, Mark started thinking about making the move to New Zealand. "I'd always loved New Zealand racing, especially Cup Week, and I'd always wanted to call the Kaikoura Cup...To cut a long story short, one thing lead to another and I got the job."
He readily admits that coming from jumps-free Sydney to a week of hurdles and steeples at Riccarton that year was a terrifying prospect. He spent hours studying form ahead of his first race here, the Sydenham Hurdles, but still recalls "shaking like a leaf" at the start. The sheer length of the Koral Steeplechase - 4200 metres - was another new experience. "I built too early!"
He is unlikely to forget the 2009 Grand National Hurdles at Riccarton, when runaway leader Rioch fell towards the end of the race, then got up again only to walk into the path of another horse. "Fortunately, no-one was hurt and the horses were okay." In his time here, other challenges have included commentating through snow at Methven, fog at Addington, streakers and, inevitably, earthquakes (one just before a race at Addington and another during a race at Riccarton; apparently the horses did not notice).
One of the perks of this unusual job for Mark is getting plenty of time off during the week to spend with his family. William already has his own cart pony, Bloss, and will no doubt learn how to drive when he is a little older. The toddler already knows his father has a special job. "Horses!" he exclaims, when asked to name it.
The connection with horses goes beyond the commentary box and pet ponies. Mark has had notable success with his own horses in New Zealand. When he first came here, he did some driving work for trainer Mark Jones and the two have kept up an owner-trainer association. "We've had good success. Union Buster won a race. Champagne Franco, my pride and joy, won a race at the first start. The syndicate horses have won races for us, and Heretic Franco, trained in Invercargill by Tony Barron. The credit all goes to Mark and Tony and their staff."
Mark and Katie share a background in the racing industry, Katie having worked for Harness Racing New South Wales and also as a graphic designer for Harness Racing New Zealand. Both enjoy owning horses. Champagne Franco, now a broodmare is due to foal. Mark's first galloper Assertive was lucky enough to win a race when trained in the North Island by Steven March.
A log term dream is to call races in Dubai, but, for now, Mark cannot think of anything better than calling it at Cup and Show Week. "Horses are my life, I love it."
What is your favourite racehorse name?
I don't have one in particular, but I do enjoy clever and witty names that owners have put a bit of time into. Names like Not Tonite; its breeding was Postponed out of Arousing!
Are you a betting man?
No, I am far too mean to bet.
How long does it take to choose your outfit for Cup and Show Week?
Not very long. Mr personal stylist, my wife, picks it for me.
On which shops do you rely?
My Cup Day attire always comes from Barkers. The lovely team at Riccarton Mall always help me pick a winning Fashion in the Field combination, even though I'm more heard than seen during Cup Week.
What are you reading?
I haven't read a book since school other than a racebook.
First thing you do when you arrive home?
After a late night meeting. I throw everything on the kitchen bench and then get changed. I sit down and enjoy dinner while watching TV, generally the last of the Rugby League game during the season.
The Springston Hotel. With two young kids, I don't get out a whole heap, so a family-friendly pub is right up my alley.
Favourite Christchurch discovery?
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. It's the perfect size to keep a toddler entertained and is a great afternoon out.
People might not know that...I'm a massive plane nerd, so much so I half completed a private pilot's licence in Australia before moving to New Zealand in 2009.
Owning horses. If they didn't eat and breed, I would have a lot more money. It's an addiction I can't shake.
Credit: Kim Newth writing in Avenues Nov 2015
John Noble was one of the finest harness people your path could cross. As the son of a famous trainer he had the "silver spoon" tag attached to his career that was not fair. He battled to get the good drives from the stable in his early years and took some time to learn the finer points of the tougher race driving rules then.
But he had three essential weapons. Kind hands, a smart brain and the patience to await the best opportunity. Those skills won him hundreds of races. His readiness to tell a yarn against himself and the belief that other things mattered (best summed up by the famous English trainer Henry Cecil, "I don't suppose God will be bothered if I don't win a maiden at Chepstow today") gave him the perspective to enjoy life outside the hothouse of racing. It also meant he did not dwell on the negatives. Putting things into the right context is a mark of all outstanding horsemen.
Malcolm Shinn, in an outstanding eulogy recalled how Bonnie Frost (rated by JB as the best he drove) was a real handful in training and how John would come back in the afternoon, hopple up the filly and just walk her around in the cart for an hour or so to help her relax. He always managed to make the game appear easier than it really was.
In some ways John Noble, so astute on so many matters, so successful in racing and the overall context of life; and such affable company, made an understated exit from the racing world. That was the Noble way but his abilities won't ever be underrated by those who knew him.
That was his final tip for genuine success. If you are confident in your own abilities and actions you don't need the backslappers and the cheerleaders to keep repeating how great you are to the outside world.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Oct15
COMETH THE HOUR: COMETH THE WOMAN
Kerryn Manning's historic victory in last month's New Zealand Trotting Cup with Arden Rooney captured headlines around the Southern Hemisphere. As the first female driver to win the great race, the Australian native will forever remembered for her effort. The history of females driving in races in New Zealand runs a lot deeper than November 10, 2015.
BELLA BUTTON. Sounds a lot like a Saturday morning children's television character doesn't it? Maybe it's the alliteration of her name, which does it. After all, Dexter Dunn has a certain ring to it. You would think that might be where the comparisons between the two might stop. But it's far from the finish. You see, Button was setting records and creating history more than 100 years before Double D was born.
It was her, along with others, who set the wheels in motion for females driving in harness racing. And therefore it was Button who played a major part in the success of Kerryn Manning when she broke the New Zealand Trotting Cup hoodoo at Addington last month and became the first female to win the great race from the sulky.
Button created history in harness racing for the first time on record in 1890 when she and her trusty steed, Star, whom she also both owned and trained, rallied to success in the first race at the inaugural Ashburton Trotting Club meeting in Mid Canterbury. At a similar time Ethel Abbott was granted a licence by the Otahuhu Trotting Club at the ripe age of 16. Both were given one day club permits to drive at selected meetings but official licences were issued at a national level and despite a modicum of success for both, they were constantly refused.
Eventually the rejection drove Button away from the industry, although she did remain involved through her New Brighton establishment Brooklyn Lodge where it was reported she was in demand when it came to difficult racehorses. Despite her premature departure from trotting, Button left an everlasting mark, as did Abbott, and the presence of female drivers was forever a distant buzz in the ears of administrators who didn't see it fit for females to be competing against their male counterparts.
The issue wasn't just isolated to New Zealand though. Harness racing in all corners was having the same debate and archaic values were trumping every argument with comment being thrown from all sectors that women were not fit to compete in fully fledged races. Walter Moore who was a much regarded American harness racing journalist wrote the following in the Horse Review in 1918 and it underlines the battles females faced not only in America, but in Australia and New Zealand too.
He wrote..."I cannot refrain from giving my views on the situation which were formed after seeing one of the most prominent women drives in the central states drive in a number of races. Mrs Chas. H Deyo takes the position that as woman are at the present called upon to perform labour; they should be allowed to drive professional races against the men.
I think if trainers are so situated that their wives can accompany the stable of a campaign and act as bookkeeper, that is a very fine arrangement. Their work does not bring them into unpleasant situations, and they find it both healthful and interesting. They are splendid women, informed on all subjects, and are not horse bugs saturated with horse knowledge and conversation alone, but are better equipped in the finer things of the world than many ladies who have never been inside of a training stable.
But to see a woman get up and drive in a race in a big field of hoppled pacers, or trotters for that matter - probably the danger is no greater in one place than it is in the other - makes a real lady look entirely out of place to me. To see her beating and banging an old pacer through the stretch makes me think that the mothers of old are gone forever. I am thankful that I have never seen a bad accident in a field where there was a woman driver competing, but after seeing a good many spills, with half the field down, and half the drivers bruised up terribly, I have always felt very thankful that there were no ladies in the wreck.
I see no objection, and, in fact would enjoy much seeing a special event against time with a lady driver taking the leading role, particularly if she be a capable reins woman, and there are many of them, with only two horses on the track, the principal and the prompter; but in a big field of horses where men get excited and say and do things they would not think of doing in the presence of a lady, it make an entirely different situation.
I felt certain that the 'powers that be' would pass a rule, or amend one of the old ones, during the past winter of rule tinkering, that would prevent woman drives taking part in regular races, but it seems to have been neglected."
Oh how times have changed.
Had Mr Moore penned such words today, he would most likely be without a job - but at that time in history his article gives further credence to just how difficult it was for women to break through. As written earlier, despite the efforts of the likes of Bella Button and Ethel Abbott harness racing was a little slow on the uptake and it was more than 70 years later before equality between male and female drivers was finalised.
On the 20th November 1971 the first penalty bearing race for women who raced on special one day licences was held. Dubbed the Hip Hi Stakes and run for $550 at Addington the event was won by Lyn Smith, driving Derryhill. Other prominent names in the race included Barbara May, Noeline Ferguson, Denise Nyhan, Elizabeth McGrath, Carol Deuart, Una Anso, Allison Murfitt, Vi Mercep and Robyn Negus.
It took another eight years following that race for some serious change to take place and in 1979 the waters were finally broken when three women, Lorraine Grant, Dorothy Cutts and Anne Cooney, were granted licences by the NZ Trotting Conference to compete against the men. Cutts was granted a full professional driver's licence while Watson was given an amateur licence and Cooney, a probationary licence. Interestingly the press release at the time in the NZ Trotting Calendar closed with the statement that the criteria laid down by the Conference for the granting of licences to women is exactly the same as that which applies to men.
Mrs Cutts went on to win a non-TAB race at Matamata a few weeks later on Kenworthy while Mrs Watson was the first woman to drive a winner when she piloted Hydro Bird at a complete TAB tote meeting in March of 1979. To say that there were others waiting in the wings for their chance to join in on the action might be an understatement as come the end of 1979, there were 1,600 licence holders and more than 50 of them were female.
The arrival of a female presence in the sulky in full blown races created a media frenzy at the time. Lorraine Watson, or Grant as she was latterly known, was quoted following her first drive as a fully licenced driver at Methven as saying the most nerve wracking part of the day was immediately after the race when amid the flurry of well-wishers and friends there the inevitable television and radio interviews. "That was worse than the race.
I suppose I was a bit shy and worried about what I was going to say. Thank goodness, it only happens once." Watsons presence on the track was also well received by most of her male counterparts and she said many had wished her well. "Of course there will always be those against women drivers, but I was surprised by a lot of the others. Driving is all in the hands and feet, sex makes no difference."
Watson of course went on to make history and become the first female driver to compete in the New Zealand Trotting Cup when she drove her own horse, the standout chestnut, Rainbow Patch in Il Vicolo's 1995 edition of the great race. Since that history making day, there have only been eight other occasions where a female has competed in the Cup - showing just how significant Lorraine Grant's, as she was then known, achievement was.
Jo Herbert drove in it three times in 1998 (There's A Franco 4th), 2000 (Chloe Hanover 8th) and 2001 (Annie's Boy 12th) but it wasn't to be until Natalie Rasmussen arrived on our shores that the prominence of a female reinswoman in the Cup would become an every year occurrence. Rasmussen drove Vi Et Animo to finish 10th in 2011, then Sushi Sushi into 3rd in 2011 and was joined in that race by Kate Gath who finished 9th with Caribbean Blaster. Gath returned with Lauren Panella in 2013 and finished 5th with Caribbean Blaster while Panellawas 15th with Suave Stuey Lombo.
Rasmussen was the sole female representative in 2014 finishing 9th with Hands Christian before both she and Kerryn Manning flew the flag in 2015. Rasmussen was 5th with Messini and Manning of course broke the hoo doo and became the first female to win the race with Arden Rooney.
The funny thing about history though is that its sole purpose is, put simply, to be made. It's something people strive for. They yearn to be history making. And then when it's achieved it's on to the next mission, working full circle once more. The issue often with it though is that once achieved, history can sometimes be easily forgotten.
Manning doesn't have to worry about that. A history making female reinswoman since the day she first put her feet into the stays of a sulky - the Great Western native threw her into harness racing immortality. What Manning achieved, and less importantly to us, what Michelle Payne achieved at Flemington a week earlier - will forever change the face of horse racing. No longer are there those lingering doubts of whether or not females can be regarded in the same breathe as some of our leading male drivers - it's all, once and for all, equal terms and open slather with wishes that either the best man, or woman, win.
It sounds a little archaic to speak of sexism in horse racing considering that a large proportion of success in both codes has fallen the way of females, whether they be jockeys, drivers or trainers. But the truth of the matter is that in some circles it still exists - even to this day with one hardy soul daring enough to suggest to me prior to the Cup that Manning's best chance to win the Cup was to let one of the "boys" do the driving as the Cup isn't a race for a female to win. Negatively intended or not. That one small sentence still hammered home the viewpoint of some. And only further underlined the significance of what Manning achieved.
Not all that long ago it was uncommon to see female drivers out competing on the big stage. Nowdays, here in New Zealand, surnames like Rasmussen, Chilcott, Donnelly, Barclay, Tomlinson, Neal and more recently Ottley, Neilson and Butt have become more and more prominent. In Australia it's more prevalent. Manning leaves the charge, but is ably chased by the likes of Panella, Quinlan, Weidemann, Gath, Turnbull, Miles and Seijka. All totalled here in New Zealand we have 52 licenced female drivers. That number isn't all that dissimilar to what it was back in 1979 but the future is looking bright with a large proportion of those coming through Cadets and Kidz Kartz, being females.
And although nowdays it is considered normality there was a time, not that long ago as mentioned above , when the thought of a female out on the track competing against her male counterparts in the sulky seemed an impossible dream.
Thankfully we are past that now and some of the best in the business are of the female variety - as Manning showed on the second Tuesday in November and as the likes of Rasmussen shows us week in and week out. So perhaps it's time to change the old saying, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Surely in this day and age , cometh the hour, cometh the man...or woman seems more appropriate?
Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed December 2015
The doyen of harness racing journalism in New Zealand, Ron Bisman, passed away last month. The prolific author who was renowned for many publications during his many years as a writer passed away late in June, aged 82 in Queensland.
Mike Grainger, who enjoyed a sustained working relationship over many years with Bisman described his former colleague in a simple fashion. "He was an absolute gentleman," Grainger said. "I spent a lot of time with Ron when I would travel to Auckland for meetings and would stay at his house. He was a prolific compiler of harness racing history and his library of information at home was extensive and he had things there that most people would have thrown away instantly. He loved all that kind of stuff."
Grainger said it was Bisman's kind demeanour and willingness to listen to everyone's story that made him such a successful journalist and added that it was easy to find him on any given race night at Alexandra Park. "He was always in the same stand, standing in the same spot and the same bar. Harness racing was his life alongside Eunice and you would never find anyone who had a bad word to say about him or anyone who he had a bad word to say about. He was just an all-round decent person."
Born in Lyttleton in 1932 and educated at Christchurch Boy's High School, Bisman joined The Christchurch Press as a cadet reporter at the age of 16. He toiled away as a general reporter for two years and then spent five in the racing department before accepting the role as editor of the New Zealand Trotting Calendar.
After a year there he visited the United States in 1956, accompanying globetrotting breeder-owner Noel Simpson and New Zealand owner-trainer Jack Shaw; with the trotter Vodka, they blazed the trail for the Down Under horses that were soon to race so successfully in North America.
On his return Bisman edited the weekly racing publication Friday Flash in Wellington for the first four years of its existence, then accepted a position as associate editor on the Kentucky published Horseman and Fair World. After two years in Lexington, Bisman returned to become racing editor of the New Zealand Truth, and four years later, in 1966, joined the Auckland Star as trotting editor.
He visited America again in 1967 in company with Peter Wolfenden, and through his travels became closely associated with some of the principal figures in the life of Cardigan Bay. Ron was also a long-time contributor to trotting publications throughout the world (America, Australia and Italy). He also had two years as secretary and judge of the Macau Trotting Club. He was Auckland correspondent for the NZ Harness Racing Weekly for many years. He was also a member of the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame.
Cardigan Bay was his first book. Ron also wrote the DB Trotting Annual for several years, worked for Harness Racing NZ as their "man in the North" and later worked as the Public Relations manager for the Auckland Trotting Club. He edited the first nine editions of the Trotting Annuals from 1972. He compiled The Interdominions with Taylor Strong, first published in 1975 and two subsequent editions.
New Zealand Trotting Greats, Globetrotting Simpson and Harness Heroes are other books he wrote. In 1982 Ron's deluxe limited edition book, A Salute to Trotting, covered an extensive history of 418 pages of harness racing in NZ from its earliest beginning until July 1982.
After retiring, Ron and his wife Eunice moved to Queensland's Sunshine Coast. His daughter Christine Eggers said her father had battled cancer for almost a year. "Dad's first operation was at the end of January (2015) and he was even playing golf and having chemo three weeks ago. He went downhill very quickly and, sad as it is, he was ready to go," his Sydney based daughter said.
Bisman is survived by his wife Eunice, daughter, Christine and son Perry.
Credit: Duane Ranger - Harnessed July 2015
Harness racing in the Wellington region was decimated by the track closure of Hutt Park in the 1990s. However the heart of the sport is still beating strongly with recently retired Upper Hutt bisinessman Reg Caldow.
Caldow has been involved in Harness Racing since 1984, first owning horses in partnership with Gary Allen now Chairman of HRNZ, and Keith Gibson of Roydon Lodge Stud. From those beginnings, interest in breeding and racing took a strong hold and to date Reg and wife Barb have won over 200 races in New Zealand, Australia and USA.
He recalls his Hutt Park days with a sparkle in his eye. "As always in these ventures family become committed, while I was President and with Barb running the bar and daughter Sandi secretary of the OTB, it wasn't long before one of the Christchurch boys, Jimmy Curtin, stole Sandi off us. We fought hard to get a decent facility for visiting trainers and owners but then the powers that be decided we were a 'C' grade club and should race for $4,000. The writing was on the wall and it was all over by 2001."
His love of the straight out trotter has been sweetened with the success of the likes of Mountain Gold, an open class trotter raced in a short venture by some of the best known thoroughbred breeders in NZ. Golden Blend, who was bought as a weanling with Gary Allen winning 8 from 18 starts and also a brother to Sheeza Doozie. Also, Lord Burghley who won 6 including the Open Class trot on Cup Day in 2007. Both of these went on to win over 20 races each for Chris Ryder in the USA.
Reg and Barb now breed from a core of six pacing and six trotting mares, including Starlitnight who is a sister to Stars and Stripes and Light and Sound. Her first three foals all broke NZ records. Since then she has left recent winner Sirius Star. This mare is in foal to Auckland Reactor for a double up of Sokys Atom amongst others. Star Of Venus, whose first foal is Star Of Dionysis, a winner of 5 to date also recent debutant Vegus Star. She is in foal to Bettors Delight.
Star Of Isis, was picked out of a paddock of weanlings at Dave Phillips property early in 2009. She had 7 wins and 2 seconds in 9 starts in 2013, now has a Somebeachsomewhere filly foal, who is well stamped, and will go back again this year to pick up on two strains of Matts Scooter.
Russian Bride whose third dam is Olga Korbut. "This dam family is set to come up with another great one when crossed with Art Major. We have a yearling filly by Art Major and a filly foal by Stunin Cullen," said Caldow.
Summer Solstice has to date produced $100k winner Chalde. She has a Well Said yearling filly and a Courage Under Fire weanling colt. Red Electric Moon's second dam is a full sister to Soky's Atom, so the mating to Auckland Reactor was waiting to happen.
The Caldows have bred a number of trotting mares from the family of top producer Galleons Dream, a Chiola Hanover mare, who has left Inter Dominion winner Galleons Sunset. U Dream is a maiden mare by Love You from Galleons Dream who won two races in quick succession and had to retire to stud. She is in foal to Majestic Son. Empress Maria is a SJ's Photo daughter of Galleons Dream, unraced due to injury, who foaled to Muscle Hill. Olesya, a Paramount Spur daughter of Galleons Dream, also foaled to Muscle Hill who has a Muscle Hill filly. Petite's Legacy is a granddaughter of Pride of Petite who has a weanling filly by Majestic Son and is in foal to Muscle Hill. Anreca Hest is the dam of The Fiery Ginga. There are lots of multiple crosses to Somolli and Speedy Crown, Rodney and Victory Song. Zhenya is a Muscle Mass daughter of Starcus who won five and is now in Australia to race with Jodi Quinlan, before returning in foal to NZ. Danielle Daunoi, unraced, an outstanding breeding potential, this mare by Yankee Paco was bought as a yearling in Australia purely for breeding. Caldow has a rising three-year-old filly by Love You out of the mare in training at the moment. Samarais an Earl mare from a daughter of Charlotte Galleon who has a weanling by Lucky Chucky.
In recent times, apart from what is mentioned above Caldow has raced some out of Steven Reid's barn including Selkie, Red Skywalker and William Wilberforce. Others include Star Of Dionysis(5 wins) for Jim Curtin, as well as Alpine Gold (4 wins), Barb has had Suu Kyi (5 wins) with Sandi and sister Julia as well as Boys Will Be Boys (7 wins including Auckland Winter Cup) and Major Dave (3 wins), Star Commando (2 wins) out of the Bruce Hutton barn, as well as Isaac (3 wins) and The Black Forest (1 win) and, of course, Lord Burghley. Also Star Monarch won 2 out of Revell Douglas barn in Pukekohe and half-sister Zhenya who won 5 for Phil Williamson, now in Australia.
While there are a number of trainers involved, over timw Caldow has moved most of his mares to Auckland with the help of Alabar Stud. Those who are instrumental in the success in the north include Dave Phillips, Brent and Susan Donnelly and Gary Hackett.
"As far as my interest in harness racing is concerned I have no doubt Ifall into the category of a lot of people where the interest in breeding winners, my family involvement and mares that I still have keep me motivated. Stake monies are woeful most of the time, although I have taken advantage of the Harness plus scheme, and have won six this year alone. I cannot understand why owners and breeders did not continue to support the concept. I also do not understand why we can lift the prize money for Group 1 races while the maidens are running round Addington for $7,000. I also do not understand why it has taken so long to reach agreement amongst the Racing Board and Government to pass legislation to stop all betting privately offshore. I am quite clear that the reduction in breeding mares has in many ways been good for us. Years ago when there were 8000 mares or more to breed from, there was a lot of breeding that should not have been undertaken.
"We enjoy the travel, for example last Christmas we went to Westport and Reefton to watch Sar Of Dionysis and Star Commando race, then off down the Haast over to Queenstown and up to Omakau to see Matty Williamson win by ten lengths on Zhenya, and then up to Nelson on the way back to Wellington to watch Star Commando win. Believe me we know just how fortunate we are to be able to do this and never take it for granted," Caldow finished.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed Sep 15
MIKE DE FILIPPI - HORSEMAN
Almost as quietly as he had arrived on the scene driving Eden Pal to win on what became his 'home track' of Motukarara back in 1970, Mike DeFilippi has retired completely from a distinguished career of race driving, two serious health issues in the past 12 years have proven impossible to overcome.
But it was a highly successful career while it was going, including being only the 6th driver to handle 1000 winners a special achievement given the obligations to his own stable in that period.
The leading South Island driver in 1987 and prominent on the list for many other years he won a series of Group Ones, had virtually all his NZ Cup drives in position to win at the home turn and set records at Nelson winter meetings which are unlikely ever to be equalled.
"It was really hard not being out there especially when I realised things weren't going to change. There was the financial aspect of course but I loved driving and having to watch from the stand was tough" said Mike, a rather different person in private from the sterner public persona.
The DeFilippi name was new to most when he joined the stable of master trainer, Colin Berkett, in the late 1960s where Alex Purdon had once played a key role. By the mid 1970s he could set up on his own at Broadfield but his racing philosophy remained tied to his early associations. Even the stable colours were a variation of the Berkett design. Those principles made him a critic at times of some modern aspects of the game and he was never a person afraid to speak his mind.
His father Rod, a former Springs Junction former, had farmed and dabbled in training after he came to Canterbury and was associated for a while with Ordeal. When the family was based in Riccarton for a time Mike rode work there for trainer Ivor McClure, who was keen to apprentice him but weight gains headed that off.
Colin Berkett gave me my big break when I was given the drive on Mighty Lee which won a NZ Trotting Chamionship. He was a problem horse. Bob Cameron had gone clean through the iron fence at Addington with him one day and resigned from the job. Alex Purdon was a really top horseman too and he gave me another big break when I got the drive on Master Dean, a bad beginner but a brilliant horse who would have loved modern mobile racing. He won the NZ Free for All leading all the way and the Matson FFA. Game Way was a top trotter(Dominion placed) I drove for Alex.
Mike, like Berkett, let his horses mature, placed them for maximum return and, remarkably, has only ever raced one teo-year-old. He never had a team larger than 20 and his strike rate of starters to placings would best most professionals. Colin had a small group of owners and he used to say never train a horse you wouldn't pay fees for yourself. I followed that. There was a much wider group of average blokes racing horses then, not in larger syndicates, and I enjoyed that personal contact. Big syndicates suit some trainers and I trained for a few but it was never the same for me.
In my time at Berketts we had a number of top trotters and I have always had a weakness for them. They are a challenge and give great satisfaction when you get it right." Colin said.
Though he only won it once (Brian Gliddon- trained Alias Armbro in a particularly daring drive fighting off Scotch Tar from the 800m) Mike had a distinguished record in the Dominion Handicap, his next most prized race after the New Zealand Cup. Often he was in the first five. Sundowner Bay ran second twice for his stable. "You wouldn't believe it. We got beat by Lyell Creek the first time. Then he was gone and along came Take A Moment and we ran second again."
Sundowner Bay was sometimes handled by Karen O'Connor who was then with the stable. Murray Edmonds was a long time assistant and his career has followed many aspects of that of Mike's. The staff who realised the boss's bark was worse than his bite and appreciated the sly sense of humour, proved loyal recruits.
A funny thing had happened with the first starter in his colours, the trotter Viewy's Pride. "Felix Newfield told me to make sure my first starter looked good, and was ready to win. I thought I did both but we ran second at Hororata. The winner? Scotch Tar who was just starting off then," recalled Mike. Master Regal, his first training success, was the horse which brought the stable colours to prominence though Ladyship Khan and Lopez Boy were good that first season. "Master Regal I got later on but unraced and he qualified in no time. He was a big horse but turned out a fine stayer. When he lost form I tried everything before I realised that it was just that he was just on his mark. He went to America and was a bit of a star there in a way."
For some years until Lord Module's arrival Master Regal was New Zealand's fastest ever pacer (1:55) and was a celebrated 'King of the Claimers' in the US, racing until he was 15, changing hands up to 20 times a year doing good service for all. However, Take Care, bred and owned by Eric Mee, rates the best he trained, winner of 7 from 22 here before being sold for big money to the US. She was the second highest earning four-year-old of her year behind Melton Monarch.
Mike drove in a golden era of horsemen and has particular memories of the best of them, Maurice Holmes. "He'd always give you a go if he couldn't win. But you had to be on your toes. I was getting a good run outside him one time and he suddenly said,'look out boy here they come.' In the second it took me to turn around he had shoved me three wide! But on another day when I parked him he was happy to give me a running commentary on what was happening in the race. A great horseman."
He believes the changes to the push out rule, which made driving so competitive in that era was a backward step.
Derek Jones was a racing character of the sort Mike still misses. "He gave me a drive when I was going for the 1000. Derek's instructions were, 'Drive it as if you own it' and then, as he turned away, he added, 'and you were flat broke'."
He and his younger brother Colin's domination of many Nelson winter meetings was a feature of that era. A typical example was in 1978. Colin won the first day with Zaruella, Ungava and Flaxton(in succession). Mike won the Winter Cup with Master Regal and two of the last three races with Jerry's Best and Lopez Boy. Colin won the remaining race with Katea Lad for Mike Austin. On the second day Mike won with Regal Fare, Flaxton, Jerry's Best and Aldmet and Colin with Rimuaser Boy(Mike Austin) - 12 races in all. "I think our light weights did make a difference on the old grass track. Most of the top drivers of my time were lighter than people think, even Maurice Holmes. Bob Young was a driver I admired from my early days, he was very fair in a race and a genius with a trotter."
The New Zealand Cup was a frustration for Mike even though posting several placings. "I think every drive I had with a real stayer the horse was in a winning position at the home turn but they weren't good enough. Our own horse, Quiet Win, one of the best I trained but a poor beginner, ran third but up against Bonnie's Chance and Armalight," said Mike.
Rocky Tryax, Clancy and Freightman(unusually Mike and Freightman shared a world record 2500m record at Addington!), Annies Boy, Mack Dougall and Hoppy's Jet were among the number. Bionic Chance ("Probably the best horse I drove, she broke a leg a few days out from the Cup") was a star in the age and sex features and Westburn Vue was one of the best of many good ones for Reg Curtin. "Montini Bromac was a terrific juvenile for Reg. He beat Lord Module fair and square first up and as we pulled up Ces Devine said to me, 'I didn't think there was a two-year-old in the country who could have beaten this horse tonight'. We didn't see the best of him later."
Colin's career came to overshadow his older brother's in the long term but he is the first to acknowledge the help he got along the way. "I had never worked in a professional stable and when I had a problem I would go around to Mike's and he would usually have an answer. That was a great help to me," Colin once said.
Mike's 1000th winner was behind Top Day for Ian Cameron and recalls his friend Mike Austin was not happy. "I drove a lot for Mike(Ranger Globe, Idle Rules etc) and I had turned down one of his horses earlier in the day which won and would have been the 1000."
However at Rangiora some time later his career took its first turn for the worse. I broke 13 ribs in a crash in a trial. Jim Curtin's horse went right over me. I was out for a long time. Then Jim (a close friend) drove Sundowner Bay for me in the Rowe Cup and got tipped out at the start," Mike recalled.
The 21st century has had mixed blessings. A serious illness, never fully diagnosed, made things tough, and a virus that severely limited his sight in one eye spelt the eventual end of his driving career. "I went to the stables one morning and said how it was unusually dull that day. The staff couldn't understand what I was talking about as it was sunny," mused Mike. Heart problems requiring stents and a marriage breakup with Paulette that led to the sale of the Broadfield stables all added to the stress but his partner Stephanie has proven a tower of strength. While a young family of three has its moments Mike seems to have won the battle over his professional and personal frustrations as his driving career has wound down over recent years.
No account of the DeFilippi career can avoid two sensational occurrences, the chaotic Derby win by Naval Officer and the 'early start' Harrison Stakes 'win' at Methven with Twilight Time recalled by stipe Neil Escott on his retirement as his 'worst day on the job.' "Naval Officer wasn't as good as some in that Derby(most of the field fell on the first round) but I felt he was short changed . He was Derby quality and that was what I tried to show when I took him far out in front later in the meeting( Naval Officer won by 15 lengths and ran the third fastest 2600m by a three year old then recorded).
The Methven debacle, another racing headline of the time was caused by a 15 minute race delay over tote problems about which nobody told the starter. Twilight Time the first son of Montini Bromac to race was a dashing winner of a race that was on the DeFilippi bucket list only for it to be declared null and void. There was no question of him starting in the rerun and the queues of punters standing in the dusk to redeem their tickets. The horse always came first in the DeFilippi stable.
Mike DeFilippi departs the driving scene and with only a handful of horses in work training but still secure as a 'horseman's horseman' a man widely admired by his colleagues for his professionalism. What the future holds for the 63-year-old? "Well," he said, "There's an Art Major I've got which might go all right." Like most good trainers you never retire with a promising youngster to keep you going.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Sept 15
A certificate of achievement was awarded to long serving Addington timekeeper Alan (Al) Gibson.
In this day and age, not many individuals manage to achieve more than 40 years’ service undertaking one specific function. That is the achievement of Addington raceway employee Alan Gibson, timekeeper at Addington Raceway since 1974 who continues to undertake these duties even though he is now in his seventies.
Prior to officially taking over, Alan used to sit with the timekeepers learning all that was involved. Following a retirement in 1974, without interview, he was approached to take over the time keeper role, giving stirling service ever since.
In earlier days, timekeepers were required to be at the start of all races and then travel in the track car speedily back to the finish line being in place to record times as horses passed the winning post. In those days the two timekeepers would compare watches and synchronize the times recorded. He was partnered earlier in his career by Stewie Nicholls and then Roger Luscombe.
One prime example of hand held timing was the 1:54.9 time trial of Lord Module at Addington on 23 January 1980. For such time trials, three watches were required to record the time run.
One of the developments Alan witnessed over the past 40 years was the succession of the hand held timing method by electronic timing in 1983. In recent times, when advice to the public of sectional times (quarters) during a race commentary is required, Alan Gibson provides Addington commentator Mark McNamara with the relevant information.
Alan Gibson worked as a car salesman for a number of organisations, never marrying living with his sister Margaret in Hornby. His other main interest is as a tour guide for Stewarts Classic Cars Collection, where he oversees 300+ cars.
In earlier days, Alan raced horses with his great mate Wes (WR) Butt. Nandina Maestro (Poplar Dell/Menai gelding) was the winner of four races in New Zealand for trainer/driver Wes Butt and owner Alan Gibson. Nandina Maestro had a record of 60 : 4 – 3 – 7, $9,170 prior to being sold to North America in 1980. His four wins came at Motukarara, Forbury Park, Addington and Hutt Park with a best NZ mile rate of 2:06.5 and 2:01.2US.
A man proud of his work in particular its accuracy, a genuinely nice guy deserving of being presented with his long service certificate of achievement.
Credit: Janis Hartley
The brilliant American-bred squaregaiter who went on to revolutionise the breeding of trotters in Australasia was both 'behind and ahead' of his time according to his trainer/driver Fred Fletcher.
Sundon, who was originally known as Sondon in the USA, immigrated to New Zealand as a yearling. "When we got Sundon he was giving his fellow trotters a six-month head start simply because of his American time breeding. That didn't stop him though because he won all 11 of his starts as a two-year-old. His first win was in January 1988. That's quite amazing considering he was only foaled in the USA in March 1986. I can't speak highly enough of him, I've worked some great horses in my time, including Roydon Glen who was also Horse-of-the-Year (1984), but I think this fellow is my sentimental favourite - simply because of what he achieved both on and off the track," 76-year-old Fletcher said.
Bred and owned by the late Sir Roy McKenzie, Sundon was inspected in New Zealand in December 1987. "I couldn't believe how much natural ability he had. He was a good sized horse who had a beautiful gait and was very quick with it. His high speed proved too much for his opposition.
"He's been a big part of Roydon Lodge (Weedons) over the years and it's very appropriate that he is buried there," Fletcher said. Fletcher stated that he was sad when he heard that Sundon had died but it was to be expected. "He was twenty nine and at that age you always have to expect it with horses, whether they are well or not. Sadly he was euthanized (April 28) because he was beginning to lose his battle with arthritis and laminitis. It was the only thing they could do. He was such a great horse, miles and miles ahead of his time," Fletcher said.
Keith Gibson, the Managing Director of Roydon Lodge Stud Limited, who owned Sundon, said it was a tough decision to put Sundon down. "It was always going to be a hard decision but it was made easier when he was in pain. He was still alert in himself but he was getting to the point where we could not manage his pain and we were always going to be kind to him," Gibson said.
Fletcher trained him during his racing career which spanned from January 1988 to September 1992. Eleven of his twenty seven victories were in partnership with Mark Smolenski, and his winning drivers were Fred Fletcher(18), Peter Jones(8) and Mike De Filippi(1). Silly question but when asked what was Sundon's most memorable win, Fletcher replied. "There were so many. You could list almost every Group One race but the one that stands out for me was at Alexandra Park when he was a three-year-old. It was a 2200m race and when the mobile released it couldn't get away from Sundon. He was so well gaited and had such high speed and momentum he could even keep up with the mobile car. That was amazing. Then he went his opening half in 56 and just kept on going at that speed for the entire race coming home in 57 and change. He later went 1:56 as a three-year-old. That was and still is sensational," Fletcher said.
He said Sundon was so relaxed that when he used to take him to the races he would fall asleep in his stall. "People couldn't believe it when they saw him dozing. Then the moment you put a cart on him he grew another hand. What he did still blows me away. The closest I have got to him in trotting terms would be Royal Aspirations when he was young," said Fletcher.
"He was such a lovely horse to do anything with. Everyone knew about his tremendous nature and I'm just so pleased his memory and family will live on for many a day yet," he added. The Arndon son of the BF Coaltown mare, Sungait Song (dam also of A Touch of Son, Arnsong, Simone Roydon, Sunning & Sunsong) Sundon was inducted into the Addington Harness Hall of Fame in 2014. Arndon was a world record holder setting a T1:54.0TT mile at The Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky in 1982.
SUNDON'S RACING RECORD includes:-
A Group One feature - Dominion Handicap; Group Two's - NZ Trotting Stakes at 2, Rosso Antico Stakes at 3(now Gp1 GN Trotting Derby), Canterbury Park Trotting Cup; Group Three's - Cambridge Trotting Stakes at 3, Three InterDominion Heats, NZ Trotting Championship(now Gp1) and other significant victories included Hambletonian at 3, Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup, Ashburton Trotters Mile(all now Group Three races).
Racing on 60 occasions solely in NZ, Sundon's record showed 60: 20 - 5 - 3, $264,085; T2:01.1. At Addington specifically, he started on 37 occasions for a record of 13 wins and 6 placings included among the 13 Addington victories were 1 Group 1, 3 Group 2s and 4 Group 3s. At one stage Sundon had an unbeaten win sequence of 14(a record for pacer or trotter) until beaten by Courage Under Fire(pacer) and the trotter Lyell Creek(20 successive wins). He was NZ 2YO, NZ 3YO, Aged and Overall Trotter of the year in 1988,1989 and 1991v respectively.
SUNDON'S SIRING RECORD reads:-
. Twice champion New Zealand Sire(Pacers and Trotters) for stakes: 2005 and 2007.
. Fourteen times champion New Zealand trotting sire(stakes and winners: 2001-2014.
. Twelve times leading Australian trotting sire(stakes): 2003-2014.
. Eleven times leading Australian trotting sire (winners): 2004-2014.
. Four times leading New Zealand trotting broodmare sire(stakes and winners): 2011-2014.
. Four times leading Australian trotting broodmare sire (stakes and winners): 2011-2014.
. Sire of 4 Harness Jewels winners(10 as broodmare sire)
. Numerous Group One winners, age group winners.
SUNDON'S PRINCIPAL TOP LEVEL PERFORMERS with emphasis on NZ include:-
ALLEGRO AGITATO(NZ Trotting Chamionship(twice) and NZ Free-For-All, Australasian Trotting Grand Prix, National Trot); DELFT(National Trot, InterDominion 4 heats & Final, Dullard Cup); DEPENDABLE(NZ Trotting Stakes, Rosso Antico Stakes); ESCAPEE(Great Northern & NZ Trotting Derbies); GALLEONS PARADISE(VIC Trotters Derby & Oaks); GALLEONS SUNSET(Bill Collins Mile, InetrDominion Final); HOUDINI STAR(GN & VIC Trotters Derbies, National Trot); HURRICANE FLYER(GN Derby); I DIDN'T DO IT(VIS Sires Stakes at 4, Grand Prix, Bill Collins Mile, Dullard Cup); IMA GOLD DIGGER(GN & NZ Trotters Derbies, NZ Trotting FFA); IRISH WHISPER(National Trot);JASMYN'S GIFT(NZ Trotting FFA & NZ Championship); KAHDON(GN Trotters Derby, VIC Trotters Oaks); LAST SUNSET(NZ Trotting FFA); MARTINA H(Rowe Cup, Dominion Handicap, Dullard Cup); Master Lavros(Dominion Handicap, Rowe Cup, NZ Trotting Champs); ONE OVER KENNY(Millionaire, GN Trotters Derby, Australasian Trotting Championship, Rowe Cup (Twice), NZ Trotting Championship, National Trot (Twice)); OUR SUNNY WHIZ(Rowe Cup); POMPALLIER(Dominion Handicap, NZ Trotting Championship); SHIRLEY TEMPLE(NZ Trotters Derby); SPECULATE(NZ Trotting FFA); SPRINGBANK RICHARD(VIC Trotters Derby, Dominion Handicap); SUNDON'S GIFT(millionaire, Grand Prix four times, Interdominion Final twice, NSW Trotters Flying Mile, Rowe Cup, Bill Collins Mile); SUNDON'S LUCK(GN & NZ Trotters Derbies); SUNDON'S WAY(Bill Collins Mile); SUNNY ACTION(NZ Trotting FFA)SUPERBOWLCHEERLEADER(Anzac Cup); SUPREME PAT(VIC Trotters Derby; WHATSUNDERMYKILT(Dominion Handicap).
His richest Australian-bred trotter is I Didn't Do It($455,554) with Sundon's Gift, bred in NZ being the richest raced in Australia($1,275,264). In NZ, One Over Kenny($1,060,394) is his richest performer.
Where speed is concerned, Sundon's fastest Australian-bred trotter is Aleppo Midas (T1:56.3) and again Sundon's Gift(T1:54.3)is his fastest in Australia. In NZ Ima Gold Digger's T1:56.7 at Ashburton is his quickest. In North America, a select band of six ANZ bred trotters haver trotted a mile in better than 1:53. Of these six trotters, four were sired by Sundon - the fastest Southern Hemisphere bred trotter is Mighty Dragon, he recorded T1:52.0US at Meadowlands in 2003. Lets Get Serious(T1:52.2US - 2009), Westland Sun(T1:52.3US - 2006)and Delft(Ti:53.0US - 2007). Note:- Lyell Creek and A Touch of Flair round out the six trotters.
SUNDON'S BROODMARE SIRE CREDITS include:
AYRA(NZ Trotting Stakes at 2); COMMANDER JEWEL(NZ Trotters Oaks); DOCTOR MICKEY(NZ Trotters Derby); FLYING ISA(Jewels Ruby at 2, Australasian Breeders Crown at 2, fastest trotter in Australasia T1:53.2); GAMELY DANSK(SA Trotters Cup); HABIBTI(NZ & NSW Trotters Derbies, NSW & VIC Trotters Oaks), MAJESTIC TIME(NZ Trotters Oaks); MIAMI H(Australasian Breeders Crown at 3), MONBET(Jewels Ruby at 2); MOUNTBATTEN(Dominion Handicap, NZ Trotting Championship, ANZ Grand Circuit Trotting Champion); MYSTIC HUSH(NSW, VIC & SA Trotters Oaks); ONE OVER DA MOON(Jewels Ruby at 2); PARAMOUNT GEEGEE($500,000 Handicap Breeders Crowns at 2 & 3, GN & NZ Trotters Derbies, Jewels Ruby at 3); PRIME POWER (Jewels Ruby at 3); ROYAL ASPIRATIONS(Jewels Ruby at 2. As a 2yo trotted a mile in 1:56.5); SOVEREIGNTY($3/4m, GN Derby, National Trot, Cambridge Flying Stakes); SPIDER GIRL(VIC Sires Stakes at 2,3&4); STENT(Anzac Cup, Australasian Grand Prix, heat VIC Great Southern Star); VULCAN($3/4m, Jewels Ruby at 3&4, NZ Trotting FFA, Dominion Handicap, Dullard Cup, Australasian Grand Prix, Heat & final VIC Great Southern Star, NZ Trotting Championship, Knight Pistol Trotters Cup, ANZ Grand Circuit Trotting Champion).
To date Sundon has sired the winners of over 2,500 races in NZ(over 700 individual winners, a handful of whom are pacers, over 100 trotters in 2:00) plus 113 individual winners born in Australia. As a broodmare sire he has 300+ winners(46 in 2:00) of over 1,000 races in NZ(60 winners in Australia).
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed June 2015
2015 NEW ZEALAND OAKS
Natalie Rasmussen take a bow. Three horrible barrier draws in three major races. It's not the most appealing of prospects for a driver when they are heading into a big night of racing. Yet, although she was initially concerned with what looked on paper to be horrid luck, Rasmussen remained unmoved and went about the challenge as though it was a normal night at the races.
"When the barrier draws came out I thought I would be stretching it to win one race," Rasmussen laughed. "Racing can be funny sometimes things have worked out really well for me all night."
Rasmussen's night began with a training victory alongside her partner Mark Purdon when Northern Velocity won the Sales Series Final. She then picked up her first success on two-year-old trotter High Gait. Hampered at the start after beginning from one on the second row the unbeaten filly then looked a forlorn hope at the top of the straight before unleashing a devastating final sprint to run past all in front of her. "She probably didn't have any right to win that from where we were. But that's the thing with her she just goes out and gives her best, she's such a game wee girl."
Arguably Rasmussen saved her best driving effort for the night's biggest assignment, the New Zealand Oaks. Her drive on Fight For Glory, who is owned by Diane Cournane, Dean Illingworth, Anne Gibbs, Mrs L Tucker and Gary and John Tate was inch-perfect. Yes, she managed to get around at the slowest part of the race after getting off the fence from her one on the second line barrier draw, but her timing and decision making was superb and when she cut Fight For Glory loose at the 400 metre mark she put the race beyond doubt. "I couldn't really see where anyone was, but I knew that The Orange Agent would be tracking into the race so I decided to go for broke."
Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed June 2015
2015 NZ SIRES'S STAKES 2YO FINAL (Gr1)
On a night where they dominated yet another premier meeting, the All Stars saved their best for last with a stable trifecta in the $156,000 Sires' Stakes Final for the two-year-old male pacers.
The field was led home by Rasmussen and Chase The Dream who overcame a second line barrier draw and a tough run to win with a bit of authority. Motu Premier continued his consistent run of form with another second, while Lazarus boomed home from nowhere to finish third after getting shuffled back to near last.
Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed June 2015