14 November 2016: At 12.02 a.m. a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck New Zealand, causing significant damage to buildings and infrastructure in northern Canterbury as well as neighbouring Marlborough. Landslides cut off road and rail links to Kaikôura – stranding large numbers of visitors in the popular tourist town. Two people lost their lives: one at a property in Mt Lyford as a result of a heart attack and another when a homestead collapsed in Kaikôura.
13 February 2017
Credit: PORT HILLS FIRES
22 FEBRUARY 2017: Earthquake Memorial on banks of Avon opened on the sixth year anniversery
Credit: EARTHQUAKE MEMORIAL
KEN FORD - Horseman
For three seasons, Arabess was left empty and the Ford family kept their distance. Loyal Clint was the only one who put up with her bad side. His parents Ken and Diane and sister Amanda Tomlinson, more concerned, used stern words that reflected their opinion and you might guess what they were. "She was very difficult to deal with," recalled Ken. "Hard to load on the float, always wanting to kick, and you could say we were all a bit frightened of her. She was more Clint's horse and he stuck by her, and his prudent and careful management paid off with a useful race career and a breeding one that has already topped that. After winning three races from 46 starts, Arabess was sent to Sundon, leaving a colt that was to be the brilliant young trotter, Marcoola.
As far as breeding went, that was the end of it, because Arabess was then left empty. But as Marcoola developed the Fords knew the mare had left something special, and there was a gap in the line. "We look a bit silly now, not breeding her, but we've always done the mares here," said Ken, indicating the battle ahead if they had tried again with Arabess at home. They didn't want to face that. So we sent her to Nevele R and they had no trouble with her and she's in foal to Trixton."
Marcoola set a 3yo c&g national record when he defeated High Gait in the New Zealand Trotting derby, running 3:13.9(1:59.9) for the mobile 2600m and he'd run 3:14.9 the week before, so he was only getting better. Since they were given Kahlum by close family friends Peter and Ellen Smith 30 years ago, the family has always cultivated their trotting breed, and while Marcoola is not the best - Zuri won 12 and Aramid 10 - he is hot on their tails.
Back then the Ford's lived in Kaikoura where Ken's father Bruce had a transport business; gravel and tip-trucks, and selling and servicing Holdens and Vauxhalls. When Bruce returned from the war, where he served in the Middle East, he tried his luck with a galloper. It was of no account, which caused his wife Margaret to tell him:"One more and I'll go." A threat that fortunately she never carried out.
Ken's schooling was at Rangiora High School as a boarder along with his brother Brian who still runs the trucks. Both were brilliant rugby players, first 15ers and both played wing; Brian went on a bit and played for the All Blacks. Ken's first career was shearing here and in Australia which gave them the equity to buy a dairy farm. During this time, their children Clint, Amanda and Trish were into riding, eventing and pony clubs, and the Smiths taught them how to ride. At one time Clint was a youthful assistant Clerk of the Course at the annual Kaikoura meeting. When they decided to ship south, the Smiths insisted they take one of their numerous mares and suggested one they had by Noodlum.
"It was Kahlum. They had just qualified a Roydon Glen pacer from her and they liked the way he went." This was Lyell Creek and a month later he qualified as a trotter. He would win 56 races and achieve greatness. Looking for 10 acres, the Fords bought the 120 acres in West Melton owned by former Met president Peter Andrews, on the condition he left a mare, which he dis - Evelyn's Choice.
Ken's first job was driving a delivery van around the city before work at Paparoa Prison as a prison guard for years. When Ken told near neighbour, Jim Dalgety he'd been offered Kahlum, Jim told him to accept at once; furthermore, he suggested serving her with his resident stallion, Wingspread. The Progeny from this mating was Laurel Creek, who didn't race but wouldn't have been a disgrace if she had. "She could run the time and had the potential to be real good," recalled Ken, "but she got hurt on the track and we never tried her after that."
Kahlum would leave 11 foals of varying talent; Jacquimo was a smart pacer by Courage Under Fire, The Iron Gate gave Clint his first win as a driver at Hawera. Little Mo is ready to step up to the middle grade, and they always rated Lumlum, an unraced daughter of Grant Our Wishes.
From her nine foals, Laurel Creek has left six winners, with Amaretto Sun the best of them. He has one five from 16 starts, and heads to the Jewels along with Marcoola. The last of them is Laurelson, a rangy 3yo filly by Monarchy who will get her chance.
Lumlum is the dam of Spirit Of Sun, a winning daughter of Sundon, and bred with the blood of two sires Ken is soft on. Spirit Of Sun foaled a filly this season by Superfast Stuart and is in foal to Peak. With Arabess back in business, Ken says, "There is every possibility he will use semen from the deceased Sundon next season, and maybe Zsa Zsa as well."
As well as the senior members of the family, the junior ones are up to their hocks in horses; Sheree, Amanda's daughter, is a promising junior driver with Murray Brown and her sister Keryn is helping Bruce Negus whenever she can. Keryn has won the Kids Kartz New Zealand Cup three times with Dimmy and Frisbee and her younger brother Zane won the race in November with Frisbee. Earlier this year Zane was invited to compete in an Australian competition over two days in Canberra, finishing well with a second in the consolation. Clint's young boys Lochie and Sam are now into it, giving certainly to the thought that the Ford family will flourish famously both on the track and off it.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in Harnessed May 2016
The man who trained and co-owned the late Starship to run second in the 1990 New Zealand Cup and 1991 Auckland Cup is still going strong in his beloved Westport. John Redmond Reedy is still training and breeding standardbreds and is actually one of five John Redmond Reedys in his family. His father, who introduced him to harness racing back in the early 1950s, was the original John Reedy Snr. That name has now spanned for generations.
"I'm 70 now and the oldest of 14 children(six sons) and we are all still alive. I live on Dad and Mum's(the late Jack and Bonnie)original farm but my son now farms about 300 cows on our property at Westport.
I've always loved harness racing for as long as I can remember. Starship was the best I trained. Me and a few mates went on a spending spree one day and paid $200,000 for him. He went on to win $341,000 but it could have been a lot more had it not been for one Dunedin horse," Reedy said.
That horse he was referring to was the Brian O'Meara trained Tuapeka Knight, who won 12 of his 14 starts and placed in one other. "When we bought Starship we didn't know that Tuapeka Knight was sitting in Otago waiting for us. We finished second to him in 9 races as a two-year-old. We actually beat him one night at Addington and then they relegated us. Starship was a lovely horse all right. He won 16 races for us and was a New Zealand record and track record holder in his peak," Reedy said.
Harness racing in the Reedy family dates back to the late 1930s and 1940s. "I was born when Dad got back from the Second World War. His horse, High Noon, even won for him when he was away serving his country. When he got back he still had horses but he bought a grocery shop in Westport. H was badly shot up so Roy Powell decided to take Dad to Bill Lowe's place at Hinds in Ashburton to fatten him up. Bill was the father of Ted Lowe and he went there the year Highland Fling won his first New Zealand Cup (1947). Dad was looking a bit miserable. He was 14 stone when he went away to the war and seven stone when he came back, Reedy said.
He said his father got a good insight into harness racing. He was working with some nice horses and stallions including Lucky Jack, who won the 1937 and 1939 New Zealand Cups. "Dad never trained horses because he worked too hard in the grocery shop and on the farm but he did own some nice ones. Not long after Dad bought our farm Bill sent him up a draft horse named Belle. We toyed with a few horses over the years and then came along the Garrison Hanover mare, Golden Rule.
"She was the best Dad owned. She threw herself backwards one day and strained a tendon. She went on to win several races, including an Interdom heat for her new leesees. The only reason Dad let others race her was on the condition she was returned to our farm at the end of her racing career. We then bred from her and Jason Rulz is the last one from her line to make an impression," Reedy said.
The Reedy breed is renowned for the 'Rule' name. The family has raced some nice horses over the years - Evil Roy Rule(Starship-Atomic Rule) who won 6 races; Deb's Rule(Starship-Timely Rule) 8 wins; Hi Rule(Starship- Atomic Rule) 3 wins; Sam Rule(Mystical Shark-Virginia Rule) 3 wins and Lady's Rule(Regal Yankee-New Rule) 3 wins.
"When Dad died we sold a couple of mares to Richard Dellaca. He was the man who changed the breeding name from 'Rule' to 'Rulz'. He owns and bred Jason Rulz(Courage Under Fire-Rule Zona) who has so far won 14 races. Actually the first horse I ever trained I couldn't qualify so I sold her to Richard when Dad died in the 1980s. Her name was Ima Rule. She was out of Golden Rule and left Franco Ice. He wasn't a bad gelding was he? He went on to win 20 races and more than $600,000.
While a constant figure at his home circuit on the West Coast each year as well as a prominent figure at meetings at Nelson and Blenheim as well, Reedy hasn't tasted success for quite some time. "I haven't had a winner for ages(2012-2013), and I'm getting sick of it," joked Reedy. "But it won't stop me . I absolutely love the game, and the people involved in it. I always have," he added. Reedy has trained 25 winners 1984 and although he rarely drives these days he saluted the judge eight times since 1985.
The Westport-born and educated Reedy is a past president of the Westport Trotting Club and also served on the New Zealand Racing Board. Racing is in our blood. My great grandfather was an 18-stone Irishman who I've been told never had an ounce of fat on him. He was all muscle and bone. He trained gallopers on the West Coast in the 1880s. "Our family has always loved racing and I'm no exception," said J R Reedy the second.
At last year's annual awards ceremony, Reedy was bestowed with the honour of the Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing prize for his lifetime involvement in the industry. A fitting reward for a man who lives and breathes the sport.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed Feb 2016
The cheerful, genial Charles Frazer Kerr, a popular trotting identity, took his successes modestly, his reverses in good spirit.
Born in Christchurch in 1860 into the large family of Margaret and Peter Kerr, he grew up on the family's 6000 acre leasehold farm, Sand Hills Run, which reached from the Styx River to the Estuary. Kerr's Reach as we know it today was a drainage for the holding and later named for the prominent New Brighton family. 'Fond of horses and their ways', Charles and his brother, William, bought horses and trained and raced their own and others stack at Wainoni.
Their triumph was the purchase and training of the outstsnding American-foaled dam and sire 'Thelma' and 'Wildwood'. After Wildwood's death, the brothers split. William continued to breed and race his own horses while Charles worked as a public trainer and reinsman. He argued that, as the public provided the stakes, it was the duty of trainers and owners to provide good horses at every major event. His stables were invariably full.
Generous, a clean sport and kind to his horses, Charlie as he was known, was great company. At 46, he married Mabel Grant and two years later, a daughter, Muriel, was born.
In May 1914, William presented Charlie with Admiral Wood 'a handsome upstanding colt' which "Willie" trained. On May 16, Charlie, the leading driver, posted a career highlight driving the unbeaten rising star Admiral Wood to win the first New Zealand Derby at the New Brighton Trotting Club course (later QE2 Park). It would be his last ride. Late that night after celebrating in Woolston, he headed home.
Driving his sulky "at a fast pace", Charles lost control of his horse and gig. The gig hit a tramline pole, the wheels came off and he was thrown on the rod. Kerr, 53, was carried to hospital where he died of his injuries on May 22. Skull fractured, ribs broken, he suffered a brain laceration in the crash, an accident similar to that which claimed the life of his father in 1877.
Charles' sporting friends subscribed to a memorial fund to install a headstone with the figure of an angel. The loving inscription was testament to the measure of the man. The friends of Linwood Cemetery Trust hopes to raise the Kerr angel back onto its plinth. The angel, a casualty of the Canterbury earthquakes will also be pinned in place to current standards.
(Thanks to Richard Greenaway for research).
Credit: Anna Price writing in Ch-Ch Mail 3 Mar 2016
FELIX NEWFIELD - Horseman
You wouldn't call the recent death of Felix Newfield the end of an era. His era ended, well, eras ago. But it triggered the recall of a less sanitised harness racing time when enterprise and skill mixed with some sharp lateral thinking could take you a long way.
Felix was reportedly something g of a recluse in his final years in Queensland. That outcome seemed most unlikely given the lively approach to life and racing evident in his heyday, roughly from the late 1950s through the 1980s. There was always something happening or sometimes not happening when Felix Newfield was around.
It started when he first drove in races as a 16 year old in 1941. The problem was he was supposed to be 18 and the authorities took the licence back until he was. He lived in Domain Terrace as a youngster and worked at the major stable there firstly for Jack Pringle and later Howie Smith.
His first winner was Grattan Bells at Greymouth in October 1945, the mare's third win at the two day meeting. His good friend Jack Carmichael drove Margaret Hall to win earlier and Felix won his second drive when the trotter Sir Walter paid $288. Those were the days.
He would win five Greymouth Cups before he was through, Felix specialised in winning provincial cup staying races but the clipping he wanted to show you was one of his defeats. The headline referred to the "Biggest demonstration ever known on the West Coast" which, considering some of the others, must have been something. "When I pulled up I could hear the crowd starting to go off. I loosened one of the hopple straps and went back pointing to it. They seemed to be very upset," he quipped years later. It was probably no coincidence that his last training win(1994) was Come On Joe at Greymouth driven by Mike De Filippi.
Felix used to recall hoe tough the life of a stablehand was in the War years and after. After a full morning's work you'd jog a horse in the afternoon to the rail station and head for Greymouth, sleeping overnight in the horse boxes after card games by lamplight. You would jog from the station to the track, race, probably twice, then head back to the station for another long night on the train. During the war years horses might be walked up to 40km between horse floats with police roaming the back country roads looking for lawbreakers.
He pointed out that guys like Jack Carmichael, Derek Jones and himself were "boys among men" and you learned to make your presence felt early or make your way home. No quarter given and none asked. Perhaps that is why he gave Fraser Kirk every chance as a junior driver, the first and only of that grade to win a Pan Am Mile.
Felix made his impression as a private trainer with Methven's Sandy Green including winning three in a day at Waimate with different horses. Rare for anyone then. Not too long after that he married Joan Harris and they moved to an 18ha chicken farm at Templeton. Her father Jack raced a lot of horses with them. Hard work from both partners which included milking 30 cows, made it into a top facility for horses and a wide variety of other animals. Sadly Joan suffered from multiple sclerosis in later years and was hospitalised for a long period. Felix's younger son Craig, a good horseman and Murray Hessey were long time assistants and Bob Cole was another familiar figure at the stables.
One of Felix's first winners was Sedate leased from Colin McLaughlin and she was later a breeding source of great success for both. Names like Suzendy, Captain Free, Great Credit, Johnny Guitar, Queen Ngaio, Sirrah, Nimble Yankee(the Miracle Mile winner for Fraser) a genuine top liner in Waratah; the absolutely brilliant but erratic Great Credit later a big success from mobiles in America and Auditor whom he always regarded as the best he trained. He blamed himself for putting Auditor into work too soon after a strangles attack to get to the Cup and "He was never quite as good again. If I knew then what I know now he could easily have won a Cup."
One of his feats was lining up five horses in a New Brighton feature finishing first, second, fourth and fifth. But winning the New Zealand Cup, his greatest ambition, eluded him. No less impressive was his list of owners of long standing. Frank Kirkpatrick was the first and stayed loyal. Names like Jack Brosnan(Great Credit, Pancho Boy etc), Eugene McDermott(Guiness, Black Label, American Chief), Len Law and McLaughlin among others.
He had a big result in the 1973 NZ Derby when New Law which he trained and co-owned with Len beat Royal Ascot, which he also part owned, by a whisker, the latter being originally called the winner. "I reckon they should have called it a dead heat, that would have been something." He also won a Dominion Handicap behind Tronso for Colin Berkett.
Felix always had racing people talking. He often handled trotter Power Cut for close friend Bruce Woods and one day he was side-lined for a few weeks by the stipes for whistling loudly and calling out at the home bend causing a rival driven by George Shand(one of the great whistlers himself as Felix well knew) to gallop. Power Cut won.
Felix was and is known to all as "The Cat" but I quickly found out nobody actually called him that to his face. He didn't like it. After writing a story of bad puns based around cats("The stipes consulted the SPCA and told the Cat to 'paws' his career and curl up in the sun in the stands for a few weeks"), I was put in the deep freeze for a few months.
Another part of his gamesmanship was suddenly putting his feet on the ground and wanting some minor attention to his horse from the starting attendants just as the others were all ready to go. As the last to stand and so likely to be the first to go, this ploy often worked. All unintentional of course.
Once he and Bruce bought a horse Jimmy Wood from Doug McCormick in a Greymouth hotel late one night,(actually early the next morning) after Doug announced he was finished with the plain and lean looking little gelding. Bruce and Felix thought he just needed building up. A lease was written and signed on a piece of paper in the hotel's toilet. The partners were optimistic, they could turn him around for the second night with some tender loving care but the amiable Doug warned them they should never have taken the bell boots off. They had been on for three months! He was right. Jimmy ran last and the more condition the partners put on the little fellow the slower he got.
Felix was given a share in Royal Ascot to get him to race trim as a colt but it wasn't until he was finally gelded that Colin McLaughlin and Allan Harrison got him right. He went up a level when Felix took over the driving but even he thought he was lucky to hold the 1973 Auckland Cup after some old fashioned "argy bargy" to get off the fence in the middle stages had checked some favoured runners. "I took the whip and the Cup and just tried to keep out of the way," he recalled. He only got a two race-day suspension. Local media was furious.
Felix carried on the tradition of his younger days rather than make major changes. Cecil Devine, F J Smith, Ces Donald and Jack Pringle, all great conditioners, were his training role models. His horses were always washed down with hot water("How would you like a cold shower on a col morning?" he would ask) and did plenty of work. They won a lot of races(rising to third on the premiership with an average sized team) but they also won a lot of place money. All part of the tradition. He once told me after ensuring it was for publication that his great mate Jack Carmichael was one of the best he drove against "but that was when he was much younger of course."
F E Newfield did not have a lot of education but he was an opportunist who ha a quick mind and asked the sort of questions which could put jurnos on to good stories but also on their mettle. He told even better ones and often against himself. Plus you never quite knew what he was thinking. Nor even, at times, his owners.
There won't be another quite like Felix Newfield because the system which produced him is also history. It is now almost too demanding and clinical. Much bigger teams are raced constantly because of the need to cover costs. The plotting and scheming around a few races a week was given way to a tougher and harder routine. Felix always maintained in defence of his tactics that judging drivers from the stands was a dodgy premise. Now they see it all on camera.
A top horseman; sometimes a rascal but always a likeable one; jovial company and astute thinker, proud of his children, Felix Newfield was an old fashioned harness racing character. His passing is a sad reminder how few who can genuinely claim a similar standing, are still with us.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Aug 2016
MEG & MERV BUTTERWORTH
Few owners have made such a big impression on both sides of the Tasman over the last 20 years than Merv & Meg. Both were involved in trotting stables in younger years, Merv recently recalling he fed and watered Cardigan Bay when he was making his miraculous recovery from a hip injury back in the 1960's.
Arden Rooney was their first major buy at All Stars, stayed in the stable won the New Zealand Cup after being transferred to Kerryn Manning ("better than winning a Melbourne Cup," Merv said, who also races a few gallopers). However there has been a stream of smart ones including Golden Godess, Mr Mojito, Supersonic Miss, Motu Premier, Itz Bettor To Win, Motu Meteor, Didjamalem Bolt and Blackguard's Corner to name a few. And a lot, lot more in Australia where the Butterworths hold the record for most winners in a season (nearly 150). Merv and Meg have won Harness Jewels events.
Virtually non-breeders, they have also invested significantly at yearling sales of the Tasman. They have horses in many stables including several in New Zealand and a pre-training arrangement in Southland. Unlike a number of Aussie owners here they are partial to a good trotter and have bought several - and with great success in Harness Jewels.
Trivia Fact: Merv and Meg Butterworth were Owners of the Year at the 2016 Horse of the Year Awards thereby being the first Australian-domiciled winners since John Buckland 112 years before. Their Decron Hoof Care Company sponsors the Cranbourne Cup.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Jan 2017
JEAN & BILL FEISS
When it comes to total winners Jean and Bill Feiss don't match some but when it comes to strike rate they are simply sensational. Their first runner in New Zealand was only in 2009 when Sammy Maguire was sent over from Victoria to the All Stars stable for better racing opportunities here and won at Ashburton and on Cup Day.
Jean and Bill, who race their horses as a partnership but in separate names, moved on to buying horses to be trained at All Stars and what a list it is. It includes two, Two Year Old of the Year Titles, (Chase the Dream and Spanish Armada) the brilliant Messini; top mare and Sires Stakes Final winner Willow; Backup, Benecio, MacKenzie, and now highly rated Derby prospect, Vincent and the brilliant Riccardo.
It is not as if they have been buying big numbers, either. "I do a bit of research on the pedigrees and then we consult with Nat and Mark on type and it seems to work out ok so far," says Jean, who rarely misses a NZ race day when her small team are racing. Ok? A typical Feiss understatement.
Trivia fact: The association with All Stars was largely through Natalie whom the Feiss's have known for a long time and Mark was based at their former property Woodstock during one Australian campaign. Jean was with racehorses from an early age, rode gallopers in work and trained Sammy Maguire among others,
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Jan
The son of a Sydney hotel owner who swapped punting for Accountancy and Real Estate, Brodie has been based on the Gold Coast for many years and has had sustained success buying and racing Standardbreds that has been rarely matched in his time. He started here in 1990 through Marty Herbert and Bruce Negus, generally horses in the middle range.
The first star was Ginger Man (Chariots of Fire) who won over $500,000 and Bell Byrd who won the Golden Easter Egg then run at Fairfield. He hit the headlines with Courage Under Fire which he bought on trainer Negus' recommendation for six figures as a two-year-old, he won over $1.5m and 41 of his 54 starts only three times being worse than fifth.
24 of his wins were in succession and he won six Derbys so added to his stud career he was a wonderful bargain. Sly Flyin won close to $1m and currently Quick As A Trick is competing in top company from the Bruce Negus stable, while Brodies strong association with Mark Jones continued with Rocker Band being fine-tuned for the major mare's events at the Auckland Cup carnival. there ARE MANY OTHERS.
TRIVIA FACT: Like many Brodie prefers to buy rather than breed and is realistic about the fortunes of the racing game. He recalled that Courage Under Fire was not the most expensive of the six horses he bought that year.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Jan 2017
In the earliest days of trotting in NZ, match races proved popular tests of speed and stamina as well as the avenue for gambling. Most tests were run over the distance of three miles although several were often of greater length - journeys of ten to twelve miles with a minimum weight limit of eleven stone. An example of this was a race run from Dunstan to Cromwell approximately 12 miles over hill and down dale on a rough road.
As early as 1864 match races were being held in South Canterbury where local champion cob Tommy(H Waldon) had won six races by mid 1865. Match races were popular in the area with distance events being run from Makikihi to Waimate(approx. 19kms) and Washdyke to Temuka(approx. 15kms). Wagers of amounts as large as £100 were placed. In 1868 a match for £200 a side was held on the Silverstream course near Dunedin between Flora Temple(E Pritchard) and Tommy(Horace Basting). Both owners rode their steeds in a race won by Flora Temple in a time of 9 minutes 39 seconds.
In the 1870s in the Wanganui area, a 16 mile race from Oroua Bridge to the Club Hotel Palmerston North and back was contested by Millie trained and ridden by Tom Hammond from York Farm near Marton. Hammond had predicted that Millie could run the journey in under one hour. Millie, of unknown pedigree, ran the 16 miles in 55½ minutes with Ron Bisman remarking in Salute To Trotting that 'Hammond...made good time. Arriving in Marton, he quaffed a shandy and pressed on'.
In Christchurch in the mid 1870s, a 12 mile race on Yaldhurst Road for £200 a side, took place between Black Boy(rider J Hamilton, breeder Mr Deans of Homebush) who trotted the distance in 36 minutes easily accounting for Hammond's Millie(now owned/trained by Frank Evans of Bulls and hotelkeeper of Rutland Hotel, Wanganui). It was stated that the straps on a breastplate cutting into her shoulder was the cause of Millie's defeat. She later raced in wagon with Marmion and also served in the Marton coach.
Another match race took place between W Kirkwood's Our Pony and Jenny(B Hale) between the Heathcote Bridge to the Caversham Hotel(later King George) on the corner of Madras Street and Ferry Road, Christchurch. Our Pony won by 200 yards earning an unknown but large stake. Subsequently taken to Dunedin, Our Pony(rider W Thompson) competed at Tahuna Park over three miles on the second day of 1881 Dunedin Jockey Club's Cup meeting for a £200 a side purse against Native Cat. Our Pony, won easily by 5 seconds(rider W Thompson, stockman for mercantile firm) from Native Cat(scr) ridden by Harry Goodman in 8 minutes 30 seconds. Match races remained popular with another taking place between Mr Harry Murfitt's Drain Road and Mr Core's Polly at Rangiora for £75 a side. On Lincoln Road, Christchurch(close to current Addington Raceway site), a match between Mr Archie Muir's Dick and champion mare Doctor's Maid was won by Dick by two chains.
A good example of a match race was held at Forbury Park on Monday 30 November 1885, the second day of Dunedin Jockey Club's spring meeting. This was also believed to be the South Island's first trotting race in harness(as opposed to saddle). The race over 3 miles for £50 a side was between Mr A Drake's Dot off scratch and Mr G Smith's Constance receiving 300 yards start. The Otago Daily Times of 1 December 1885 reported:
"Mr Drake's pony - a pretty little thing with splendid action - settled down to trot in earnest after about half a mile had been gone, and had made up 100 yards of the concession at the end of the first mile. Constance was trotting steadily, but continued to lose ground at a great rate in the second mile, and in coming round to the stand again Dot passed her, this virtually finished the race. Mr Drake pulled in his little mare during the third mile, but trotted away again in the straight a very comfortable winner."
The journey had been covered in 12 minutes 33½ seconds, a full 4 minutes 25 seconds slower than Tommy had recorded to win the handicap trotting race on the first day of the meeting on Saturday 28 November. This possibly says as much about the carts used, heavy. high wheeled, bone shaking contraptions with steel wheels, as it does about the superiority of Mr Drake's pony(with acknowledgement to the unpublished history of trotting at Forbury Park).
A New Zealand record for trotters was established during a match race between Wildwood and Prince Imperial at New Brighton on 24 September 1896. Wildwood recorded a time of T2:24.2/5TT. In his time he had been known to trot a half mile in 1:06.2/5 on Henry Mace's track at New Brighton(eventually purchased by New Brighton Trotting Club).
FRITZ v RIBBONWOOD:
Fritz, the great Australian trotter was by Vancleve from Fraulein, dam also of very good performers Freda, Franz, Frederick, The Heir and Prinz. Fritz is best remembered in NZ for a series of match races against Ribbonwood(Wildwood/Dolly) conducted on the first day of the NZMTC's three-day Easter carnival on Saturday 11 April 1903. It was one of the biggest attractions for trotting attracting interest both locally and throughout Australia. Dave Price, Ribbonwood's owner/trainer/driver issued a challenge to race any horse Australasia-wide for £500 a side, best three of five heats over a mile with each side putting up £500 or 1000 sovereigns in total for the match race. The NZMTC put up a £100 gold cup or the cash if Ribbonwood's 2:11.2/5 Australasian record was bettered. A full copy of the match race conditions agreed between Dave Price(Ribbonwood) and John Arthur Buckland through his agent Claude Piper(Fritz) can be found in Karl Scott's "Pillars of Harness Horsedom".
The crowds flocked in from all over the country - by steamer from Wellington and special excursion trains from throughout the South Island. There were many attendees also from Australia. The crowd included the country's Premier, the Right Hon. Richard John Seddon, numerous public figures and representatives of the Canterbury Jockey Club.
Matching a 4yo black NZ pacing stallion against a then 12yo bay Australian trotting gelding was likely to lead to only one result especially as Buckland had little time to ready Fritz for the match race. So it proved, before a crowd of 11,000, age won out as Ribbonwood comfortably outshone Fritz over 3 heats in mile times of 2:14.1/5, 2:13.0 and 2:10.0(new NZ record). The NZMTC then put up £100 if Ribbonwood could beat 2:10. A week later on day three of the Easter meeting, Ribbonwood lowered his NZ record to 2:09.0TT, a time which stood until beaten by his son King Cole(2:08.3/5TT) in August 1911. It is worth noting that the Addington track in those days was just under five furlongs in circumference without the banking or surface it had in latter years.
It must be acknowledged that both Fritz and Ribbonwood were great horses, superior to others of their day. Fritz was undisputed champion of Australia up until the time of the match race while Ribbonwood was the up and coming dominant horse in the Dominion. Fritz was past his best at the time of the challenge but Buckland, a true sportsman, took up the challenge although knowing the advantage lay with the younger horse. Fritz was reported by Buckland to have been working private trial miles in 2:06.0 at home but that was not to be the case when it mattered.
NATIVE CHIEF v GREAT BINGEN:
This flying one-mile exhibition match race was held at NZMTC's summer meeting on 11th February 1928 at Addington. Following five false starts, Native Chief(Logan Pointer/Regina De Or)driven by Jack Kennerley led throughout to defeat Great Bingen(Drum Withers) by three lengths in a time of 2:04.1/5 with thew first half in a minute(NZ record was Acron's 2:03.3/5 set in 1924).
KORO PETER v FIRST WRACK:
A match race between 2yo trotters was unheard of until Wednesday 27 June 1928 when the Auckland Trotting Club scheduled the 2yo Trotters' Challenge Stakes(175 sovs of which 25 sovs went to the loser), a race between the gelding Koro Peter(Peter Moko/Koro Ena) and filly First Wrack(Wracker/Pearlchild) over 1¼m. They were the first 2yo trotters to show any sort of form for many years. Koro Peter(owner/trainer/driver T Cooper) had won the Introductory Hcp(1½m) over a large all age field(23 starters) by 1½ lengths(T3:54.2/5) at Cambridge's annual meeting on 5 May 1928.
He was immediately sold for £500 to Mrs I E Sweetapple, who became one of Jack Shaw's major Auckland owners. First Wrack, bred and owned by Harry Nicoll had finished third in open company(as a 2yo against 22 other starters) in the Allenton Hcp(1½m) at Asnburton on 21 April 1928(winner Author Thorpe in T3:43.2/5). The totalisator fielded on the event with Koro Peter favourite for the North/South battle.
In Ron Bisman's Harness Heroes, Jack Shaw recalls, "It was a terrible day. The going was fetlock deep in slush, and the two horses had to frighten thousands of seagulls off the track as they went along. These birds frightened First Wrack more than they did Koro Peter, and Koro Peter managed to win after a great struggle all the way up the straight."
Koro Peter, driven by Jack Shaw beat First Wrack(Dan Warren) by 2½ lengths in T3:34.2/5. Koro Peter was sold after the match race to G McMillan for £1,000 and subsequently performed well from Roy Berry's Yaldhurst stable(leading stake earning trotter 1930). First Wrack also became a top class trotter(Sockburn/Middleton Hcp Trots).
INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TROTTERS MATCH:
This match race was held at a NZMTC meeting at Addington on 4 February 1933 for a stake of 200 sovereigns to the winner. The 1½ flying start event was won by Durbar Lodge's Wrackler(tr: Jack Behrns, dr: Maurace Holmes) by 1½ lengths in a time of 3:18.0. The placegetters were Olive Nelson(2nd), Todd Lanzia(3rd), Stanley T(4th) with Peterwah the other starter.
WALLA WALLA v REST
Without doubt the most star-studded match race series ever undertaken in NZ was held in the autumn of 1934. The NZMTC made arrangements for Australian champion and glamour pacer Walla Walla(1922 Globe Derby/Princess Winona) to contest a series of seven match races held throughout the country involving Harold Logan(1922 Logan Pointer/Ivy Cole), Red Shadow(1927 Travis Axworthy/Our Aggie), Roi L'Or(1923 Rey De Oro/Gold Queen), Jewel Pointer(1921 Logan Pointer/Jewel Chimes), Lindberg(1925 Author Dillon/Taruna Mary), Impromptu(1926 Pedro Promptu/Petrova) and Auburn Lad(1924 Globe Derby/Velocity) among others. These contests were enthusiastically received by the racing public with even track work of invited horses creating great interest weeks before the clashes.
Red Shadow was installed as favourite for these races with the first invitation race run over a mile(£500) on opening day of Addington's Easter carnival(Saturday 31 March 1934). Walla Walla (dr: Billy McKay, Owner: L S Martin) before a crowd of 22,000 began very fast setting a new world's best time from a standing start of 2:04.1/5 narrowly beating Harold Logan by a neck with Red Shadow in third place three lengths away. Walla Walla did not acclimatise well and was not seen at his best during the remainder of the match race series. Harold Logan was to the fore in the remaining six races beginning with Addington's second day of the Easter carnival(Wednesday, 4 April). Walla Walla put his foot through Jewel Pointer's cart and sidelined his chances with a mile to run, leaving Harold Logan(driven throughout the series by Maurice Holmes for owner E F C Hinds) to pace a slow 3:16.2/5 for 1½m(£500) winning by ¾ length from Red Shadow, Lindbergh and Jewel Pointer.
At Auckland's Autumn meeting (Saturday 28 April), Harold Logan led throughout to win again over 1¼m(£300) by 1¼ lengths on a soft track from Walla Walla, his stablemate Auburn Lad, Red Shadow and Jewel Pointer in 2:45.2/5. At the Northland club's annual meeting held at Alexandra Park(Monday, 30 April), C Moran's Impromptu(dr: Jack Shaw) defeated Red Shadow by a short neck with Harold Logan third after drifting off the rails at a vital stage. They were followed in by Auburn Lad, Lindbergh and Worthy Light in the 1¼m(£200) journey on a muddy track in 2:42.2/5. Walla Walla did not start.
Next it was Forbury Park's turn(Wednesday 9 May) where the muddy Track was so bad horses were required to race in the middle of the track. Harold Logan beat Walla Walla(the only starters) who had set a strong early pace by half a length over 1 mile(£250) in 2:13.1/5. Moving onto Oamaru three days later(Saturday 12 May) Harold Logan prevailed over 1¼m(£300 plus trophy) from Red Shadow, Walla Walla and Roi L'Or in a time of 2:43.1/5. The final match race in the series was held a week later at Wellington's Hutt Park(Saturday 19 May) where Harold Logan recorded his fifth win in the seven race series, this time over 1¼m(£250) in 2:42.0 by a short neck from Impromptu, Red Shadow, Walla Walla, Auburn Lad, Lindbergh and Glenrossie. It was later revealed that Walla Walla had been suffering from a severe cold.
VAN DERBY v LAWN DERBY:
A match race between descendants of Ribbonwood(grandsire of their dam Roselawn) in half brothers Van Derby(Globe Derby/Roselawn) and Lawn Derby(Robert Derby/Roselawn) for £200 appearance money took place on Alexandra Park's then, six furlong grass track during the 1938 Christmas carnival(Saturday 31 December 1938, third day). Van Derby trained and driven by F J(Wizard)Smith outlasted Lawn Derby(Jack O'Shea) by half a length in an Australasian grass track flying mile record of 2:01.1/5(half 1:00.3/5). This time equalled Indianapolis's dirt track record, which had been the best in Australasia until Lawn Derby's 1:59.2/5 at Addington in November 1938, the first time 2 minutes had been bettered outside North America. Van Derby later time trialled at Epsom, Alexandra Park in 2:00.2/5(11 February, 1939). The achievements of these two champion pacers alone would merit their own story.
GOLD BAR v HAUGHTY:
At a special Patriotic meeting held at Addington on 27 March 1943 to raise funds for the war effort, Haughty(dr: Ossie Hooper) and Gold Bar(dr: Free Holmes) raced over a mile. Their battle saw Haughty prevail by two lengths in a new Australasian mares record of 2:00.2/5. Both horses established mile records of 1:59. 3/5TT - Gold Bar on 2 January 1942, second Australasian horse under two minutes after Lawn Derby and Haughty the third under two minutes on 11 November 1944, a NZ and Australasian mares record. They were the winners of three NZ Cups between in the mid 1940s(Haughty two, Gold Bar one).
JOHNNY GLOBE v OTHERS:
At Timaru on 7 March 1953 Johnny Globe took on several other superstars of the early fifties in Van Dieman, Burns Night, Vedette and Soangetaha over one mile. Between them, they were the winners of 2 NZ/GN derbies, 2 NZ Cups, 3 NZFFA's, 2 Auckland Cups and an InterDominion Grand Final. Johnny Globe prevailed on the grass in 2:04.2/5(first quarter in 30 seconds, half in 1:02.2/5) from Van Dieman and Vedette. To see screen footage of the even, google 'Timaru Harness Nostalgia' and enjoy.
PETITE EVANDER v NIGEL CRAIG:
Petite Evander was ready to fly out to North America so a match race was organised at Alexandra Park to take place at the Thames Club's meeting on 26 March 1977. In the preceeding month, Nigel Craig(Bevan Heron) had become Australasia's first sub two-minute trotter when he time trialled in T1:58.8 at Addington on 19 February 1977. Just three weeks later, Frank Weaver's Petite Evander(driven by John Langdon) became the first Australasian female trotter to break two minutes with her T1:59.8TT at Alexandra Park on 12 March 1977. The match race proved farcical with Nigel Craig dawdling through his first half in 1:06, three-quarters in 1:40.9 before sprinting home the last quarter in 29.9 winning by a half head in a ridiculously slow T2:10.8 for such quality trotters. This would appear to be the last match race held in NZ.
Credit: Peter Craig writing in Harnessed April/May 2016
COURVY KAZI - Mystery Mare
With all due respect to those dedicated Aussie breeders who produce the odd real marvel from unlikely sourses how do we explain Flashing Red? Well, let me tell you, not by pedigree.
He was the only named foal from several offspring of dam Courvy Kazi. She was by Golden Medoro, a New Zealand bred stallion, who left 114 foals, 28 of who won about $12,000. The next stallion in the pedigree was another Kiwi, Master Scott, who left only 25 foals, two of whom started(both won).
Flashing Red's Australian history is quite complicated but his sire Echelon is the story of the pedigree. Flashing Red was the only live foal left by that old style hard-hitting 1:50.6 American racehorse from Courvy Kazi. By Troublemaker from a Race Time mare, Echelon left 107 winners in Australia, a good strike rate. They won over $5m but of course Flashing Red won nearly half of that.
Flashing Red, so dominant after Tim Butt and Phil Anderson assumed command, was a marvel, winning two NZ Cups(one a surprise to us all but evidence of his thoughness) and an Auckland Cup, ending up Aged Pacer of the Year. Not many Aussies have done that.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed June 2016
PRIDE OF LINCOLN - Mystery Mare
She is the 'mother of the trotting nation' the greatest broodmare of our industry. That is why when Wrightsons numbered the breeding families hers was made No 1. From Lincoln Yet(sire of the first Cup winner Monte Carlo) and stonewall Jackson in the 1890s to Christian Cullen in the 1990s arguably our latest true pacing superstar her descendants have produced champions in every era. Even now when her tribe numbers seem to have decreased alarmingly she can still claim Take A Moment alongside Cullen to show how the family just goes on at both gaits.
Her daughter, Thelma, whose memory is still commemorated by the Akaroa Trotting Club(thanks to the late Steve Edge) was even more successful than her own dam but because of better opportunities with trotting stallions. But Pride of Lincoln, who was owned by John Tod of Lincoln(of course), was where it all began.
Yet nothing is known about her dam, Sally. Arguments raged for years among the breeding experts about what breed of horse of horse Sally actually was. She was listed in the Stud Book as 'supposed to be a thoroughbred' and with (AUS) in brackets after her name. In the early days all trotters had thoroughbred blood close up. But later on when Pride of Lincoln and Thelma became so successful, some revision seemed to creep in and there were attempts to show Sally had trotting blood. You know how it goes.
Pride of Lincoln was a big strong mare too heavy to race and whose appearance was not always praised when she made occasional show appearances with a foal at foot. The only genuine clue about Sally is that when one of the tribe was advertised as a stallion in the 1890s it was claimed that Sally was imported by Robert Wilkin, the man who some time later landed the first Standardbreds in Canterbury.
The real answer to the Sally question was that it didn't matter. The truth probably lies with Doctor's Maid a thoroughbred foal of 1867 and the dam of Touchstone, the sire of Pride of Lincoln. Doctor's Maid left other foals who adapted well to trotting and so did the stock of Touchstone. Many years later some enthusiast got hold of Doctor's Maid's last filly foal and bred her to a pacing stallion as a very old mare. A filly resulted and her granddaughter produced the high class Auckland pacer of the 1950s in Laureldale. Blood endures.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed June 2016
CHRISTIAN CULLEN - Champion Racehorse & Sire
As a racehorse, he was incomparable. Pure elegance and power wrapped up in an eguine machine. Simply the best.
But when Christian Cullen's career is remembered in 30,50 or even 100 years it's hard not to imagine that it will be the indelible mark he left on the breeding scene of New Zealand that will be most freely recalled.
Like some of the best to have graced studs around the country, Christian Cullen has been a trailblazer. He came at a time when harness racing needed a pin up, a commercial stallion who could mix it with the flashy lads being brought in from America - a true blue Kiwi to keep things kicking.
Lordship left his mark, Sundon left his but Cullen was a whole new ball game. A bucking of the trend if you like. He became the most sought after stallion in the country and further afield, his progeny fetching big prices at yearling sales, his service fee skyrocketing to almost unheard of prices and his demand growing by the month. Cullen was a revolutionary on the New Zealand breeding scene. For 14 years he's been on, or at least near to, the top of the pile when it comes to stallions down under.
And Ian Dobson has enjoyed every minute of it. As far as owners go, Dobson could be best described as a run-of-the-mill owner before Cullen came along. He had enjoyed moderate success. Raced the odd horse but nothing that would compare with what lay ahead. One day and one nod in the direction of a striking colt changed Dodson's life. Paul Bielby was the person who pointed Dobson in the direction of Cullen. They say that the real good horses have a presence about them. They hold themselves in a way that can be different to any other horse. And Cullen did exactly that. Dobson purchased the horse on the spot. Gave a share to his trainer at the time, Brian O'Meara and the rest, from a racing perspective, as they say, is history.
Once his racing days were over, Cullen's impact as a stallion was almost immediate. Dobson initially knew nothing about the breeding side of the business but he was constantly informed that the only logical option was to stand the horse at stud. After buying O'Meara out of his share for a six-figure sum. Initially he began breeding while still racing, with semen collected from the property of O'Meara. Standing for $6,000, a high price at the time for a first season stallion, Cullen struck a snag when nothing he was bred to in the North Island got in foal, resulting in just 46 covers in his maiden season.
From that crop however, the success was incredible. He left Born Again Christian 1:51.2($133,130), Likmesiah ($427,965), Roman Gladiator($318,022), V For($208,777), Chris Riley($306,732), Conte De Christo($246,703), Dudinka's Star($106,580) and C C Mee($101,949). Almost every one had the Cullen "look" about them. That same presence he himself held as a young horse. An enticing possibility for trainers and for breeders.
It was arguably his second crop that produced the best results though. From it came New Zealand Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner. Purchased for $9,000 by retired Ashburton farmer Ian Sowden, her ability was recognised early on as she made a big impression around Mid Canterbury at workouts and trials. The similarities between her and her sire were remarkable - something that later moved legendary race caller, Reon Murtha to describe her as "Christian Cullen in a skirt."
Dobson was obviously enraptured by the then filly as well. So much so he went and forked out a six-figure sum to purchase her unqualified through the advice of his then trainer, Robert Dunn. She would go on to win 17 of her 21 career starts, including the New Zealand Trotting Cup - earning close to $700,000 in the process and is now a successful broodmare having left five winners from five foals to the track including Harness Jewels winning mare, Rocker Band.
Others to arrive from Cullen's second crop included; King Cat Anvil($918,191), Molly Darling($575,150), Mighty Cullen($574,945), Classic Cullen($451,660) and Whambam($407,299). That particular crop saw 108 foals with 58 winners - by far not his best in terms of foals to winners but it did produce some of his most prolific sons and daughters.
Cullen's third crop was modest. He left 34 winners from 59 foals, Pay Me Christian - an incredibly fast son, was the best of them.
Then came a very strong crop where 136 foals produced 72 winners with Gotta Go Cullen($1,173,343), Chausettes Blanche($329,250), Cullens Blue Jean($289,056), Fergiemack($230,653), Spicey($162,014) and Charles Bronson($127,255) at the top of the pile for stake earnings. Dobson was back in the action again too, purchasing Gotta Go Cullen - realising the strapping colt had stallion potential.
Jewels winners; Kiwi Ingenuity, Lizzie Maguire and Ohoka Arizona came the following year and in the same year he went to the next level when it came to his progeny at the yearling sales. At the 2008 PGG Wrightson Australasian Classic Yearling Sales at Karaka, Christian Cullen's yearlings averaged a stunning $89,000(24 yearlings). With 9 $100,000 plus yearlings being sold, Cullen was the sire of 8 0f the 9, including the two $200,000 plus sale toppers. At the Christchurch Premier sale, his 34 yearlings averaged just shy of $64,000, with Cullen setting a modern day record for a yearling colt with the sale of Tuapeka Mariner for $250,000. In the two premier yearling sales combined, Christian Cullen sired an unprecedented three $200,000 plus yearlings, 10 $100,000 plus yearlings and 20 $50,000 plus yearlings. In Melbourne, Christian Cullen also topped the APG Yearling Sale with a $100,000 colt.
Those results, coupled with some serious interest from further abroad, saw whispers around Cullen heading to America to stand for a season and Dodson was inundated with requests from breeders from the other side of the world. Prospective clients came down to see Cullen and Dobson in the flesh and also spent a fair amount of time inspecting some of his progeny. They were concerned about the declining gene pool and Christian Cullen was even a well known name in North America. Eventually Ian went to America and hosted a number of top breeders and at the end of the evening had approximately 80 mares booked, however after all the arrangements were made and the stallion sent to America, there was the worldwide financial crash and as a result only about 20 mares ended up getting served. He stood for US$10,000 in that season and although he only produced 26 live foals, 17 of them were winners and his mark is still prominent in America with a large number of Kiwi pacers sold there and performing well.
All Tiger 1:49.1s(401,238), Royal Cee Cee 1:49.3f ($996,432), Mighty Cullen 1:50.2($574,945), Classic Cullen 1:50.4, King Kat Anvil 1:52.4h ($918,191) and Lightning Raider 1:52.4($403,559) have all performed with distinction in the States and Cullen's most prolific son of recent years, Christen Me is headed there as well now.
Back home, Cullen's sixth crop produced the outstanding Stunin Cullen who was a winner of the Sires' Stakes Final as a three-year-old and won close to $1.5 million during his career. Also from that year came Group One winners, Lauraella and Rona Lorraine.
His seven-year-old crop produced 145 foals for 86 winners headed by Franco Emirate($326,830), Royal Cee Cee($996,432), Meredith Maguire($226,167) and Gotta Go Harmony($205,909) before Easy On The Eye($315,650), Statesman($306,632), Hands Christian($263,930), The Muskeg Express($111,331) and Ohoka Texas($174,342) came the next year.
Christen Me hailed from Cullen's next crop alongside Franco Nelson - both multiple Group One winners before Lacharburn, Libertybelle Midfre and All Black Stride came the following year.
What is obvious from these listed horses is Cullen's ability to leave a good horse each year. And while the numbers might have dwindled in recent times, there has been no shortage of good ones still stepping out onto the track as well as those from daughters of the super sire.
Three times he was named Harness Racing New Zealand's Stallion of the Year and on three occasions it took the might of Sundon to lower him from the title. From just over 20,000 starters in 10 seasons at stud, Cullen has produced more than 2,500 winners in New Zealand with his Australian statistics just as good. Stake earnings, from just New Zealand, sit at over $33 million while world-wide they would at least double that.
After the humble breeding beginnings at O'Meara's property, Christian Cullen found his niche at Wai Eyre Farm where Dobson's unforgettable lime green colours made the Cullen brand recognisable on the worldwide stage. In 2013, when Cullen's fertility issues really began to raise their head, Dobson moved Cullen to Nevele R Stud in an effort to rejuvenate the stallion's career. Then in the 2015 and 2016 season Cullen was shifted to Dancingonmoonlight Farm in North Canterbury.
The move came for two reasons, one more final effort to try and raise fertility levels and also to find a place where he would likely retire. Under the watchful eye of Farm Manager Trent Yesberg, Cullen has been given every opportunity. To put the issues Cullen has been facing in layman's terms, Cullen's sperm do not swim in a straight line which makes it very hard for them to make their way to the required destination. All number of tests and ideas have been undertaken but at 22 it would appear as though the body is finally saying enough.
So early this year, after a long amount of time spent thinking and deliberating, Dobson decided to call time on the stallion career of the horse who made him one of the most well-known men in harness racing. A horse who took him all over the world, gave him so many thrills and a couple of heartbreaks too.
Fitting of the champion status he has so rightly earned through, Cullen will enjoy retirement with all the modern luxuries. He's got a big paddock at Dancingonmoonlight and is rugged and fed each day as well as regular farrier work. Two-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winning, Monkey King is there to keep him company from the safety of the other side of the fence and there's still a plethora of people who drive into the property and one of the first questions they ask, whether they are harness racing inclined or not, is whether or not they can grab a picture, or have a look, at Christian Cullen.
And considering it has been 17 years since he last raced, it would seem the pulling power of one of harness racing's greatest champions, as a racehorse and as a stallion, is still just as strong as ever.
Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed Apr 2017
LAZARUS - 2016 NZ CUP WINNER
For almost a decade popular owners Phil and Glenys Kennard have been riding the crest of a hugely successful harness racing wave. But last month they reached their ultimate goal when they owned their first New Zealand Trotting Cup winner in Lazarus. Matt Markham talked to Phil about the successful day in which they also won the Sires' Stakes final and what the game is all about to himself and his wife.
Experience, as it is with anything, is a key factor in any success. To achieve something, you are supposed to first failed at it a number of times. And just when you think you might have failed enough, you should expect to fail a couple more times before reaching the mountain-top. Just ask Phil and Glenys Kennard. They know what it's all about. And only now can they officially talk of what it feels like to overcome all that adversity and get all that luck required to win on the biggest of all the stages.
Their New Zealand Trotting Cup history leading into 2016 was, at best, frustrating - while at the same time it was also exhilarating. They felt well versed in how the biggest harness racing event Down Under can play out. They'd been around the block a few times. Highview Tommy had placed on three occasions. Fly Like An Eagle went awfully close to downing Terror To Love and Smolda produced a herculean effort when the chips were down last year to get within a whisker of Arden Rooney. Plus a host of others too. "Obviously we consider it a great thrill each time we have a horse in the race," Phil said. "But we'd gone close so many times that there was a pretty strong desire to get the monkey off the back and finally taste success in the race."
Enter Lazarus. Mighty by name, even mightier by nature. His first appearance in the lives of the Kennards was somewhat unspectacular. The Bettor's Delight colt out of Bethany had been paraded in front of them prior to the annual Yearling Sales and while he liked what he saw, Kennard wasn't super excited, initially. It was Glenys who fell in love with him first, she had a lot of ticks next to his name in the book," Phil said. "I thought he was a nice individual but it wasn't until I saw him again in the parade ring on Sale Day that I really got interested in him. He had come a long way from when we first saw him. We had settled on our budget for him but ended up going $25,000 more to get him we were that impressed. I always give Trevor Casey a bit of stick about something he said to me after we bought him, he said it was a big call to go as much as we did but then straight after the Cup win, Trevor said to me that it might be the best $25,000 I have ever spent and it's pretty hard to disagree with him."
The Kennard approach to buying horses at the sale has been quite simple. There is nothing special they try and spot in a horse but they are careful of letting the emotions get in the way of a sale. with a firm budget in mind, they try and stick to what they have set out but in the odd case, where they feel it is warranted - a little deeper into the pocket they shall go - case in point Lazarus. "I love the thrill of it all, from when the book first arrives to those first inspections, it's a great thing to be part of. Obviously we rely a lot on Mark and Natalie's judgement and there are a lot of discussions that take place about a horse before we even think about buying it."
"One thing we do try and be really careful about is not getting caught up on breeding. I see it as a big advantage of ours because we will not become engrossed in a family of a horse that we might have had a half-brother or sister to. We have been very lucky in the past few years with what we have purchased and we know that, so never take it for granted."
Buying and racing horses wasn't the early Kennard way though. Initially, they were largely breeders. With a band of just over half a dozen broodmares they were involved, without being heavily invested. The time wasn't there for a serious involvement with Phillip fully entrenched in a successful real estate business and Glenys handling three children - two big roles at completely different ends of the life spectrum.
But there came a time, like there does in most people's lives, where the Kennards decided they wanted more. They had been buying a horse or two at the sales each year and then selling them on. "I remember one morning we were talking and I said that this was bloody ridiculous and within probably 8-12 weeks we had sold all the broodmares."
"At that point in time we were mainly working alongside Michael House, who we got to know through Studholme Park and Brian West, we had got into a couple of the Yonkers Investments and had a bit of fun but we wanted more. We were also getting quite heavily involved in the family of Armalight at the time too and selling up those mares was probably a great decision because other than Barney Rubble who is doing a good job in Australia, the family hasn't been a great success."
It was House who first pointed the Kennards in the direction of Mark Purdon at the Sales one year and that fateful meeting has paved the way for an incredible decade of success, with good horse after good horse littering the pages in between. Despite becoming a firm part of the All Stars furniture, the Kennards have remained good friends with House and enjoyed being able to celebrate Smolda's Grand Curcuit victory in Australia with House who was in attendance.
"Michael is a great guy and I'm pleased to say we still have a great relationship with him and own a horse or two in his stable too." Moonrock, who was one of the three horses the Kennards owned a share of in the Cup this year is with House while they also support young trainer Brad Mowbray when they can with a horse of two as well.
A crowning glory of the Kennards success has been the establishment of their syndicates after purchasing horses at the sales. Incredibly hard to get into due to the success of each one, they are meticulously managed by Glenys who handles all the bookwork - which is made slightly easier by the fact there is generally a success or two every month when it comes time to pay the monthly bills. The groups have been littered with some of racing's most prominent names. Kevin Riseley and Trevor Casey, who of course share in the ownership of Lazarus are there as well as names like Neil Pilcher, Marcus Kirkwood, Phil and Margaret Creighton, Gavin Douglas and a whole heap more. "That all sort of started with Fiery Falcon and then went into Major Mark so we hit the ground running with a bit of success early on there and it thjen led into the likes of Fly Like An Eagle and most recently Ultimate Machete. Kennard said it was as much about the camaraderie as it was the racing side of the business and they had made many lifetime friends from their involvement with horses over the years.
When they re-evaluated where they were heading over a decade ago, there was a firm decision in the type of horse they could buy. Phil had a strict policy of no fillies and trotters were out of the question too. A friendship that has grown with Ken and Karen Breckon has led to that being slightly broken as they are involved in the ownership of brilliant trotting mare High Gait and have also had shares in the talented Prince Fearless who is expected back to the track at some point in the near future.
With more than 30 Group Ones next to their names already, there isn't a lot more left for Phil and Glenys Kennard to achieve. But don't expect that to stop them. They will be at Karaka and then Christchurch early next year with the catalogue in hand looking to find another star and that process is starting to kick into gear already.
"We flew to Australia to attend our first grandchild's first birthday after Cup Week and our flight home was delayed. And as we were sitting in the Airport we were talking about the fact that the catalogue must arrive soon, so it is nearly time to do it all again but that is exciting. I have always said that I stopped paying school fees so I could pay training fees and I don't really feel like stopping anytime soon."
Kennard said that they were lucky their three daughters Amanda, Philippa and Hayley were understanding of their passion for the game and also added that while they were interested, visits to spend time with them were a welcome escape from the demands of harness racing.
"Philippa, who lives in Christchurch, often jokes that she is an orphan because we always seem to be away watching a horse race somewhere. But we are trying to make the most of what we have got while we can, because you can't expect to stay around for ever. We do love getting out and about and watching the horses, wherever they might be racing, Glenys particularly enjoys it. I have always joked that if we had a horse racing somewhere and there was only one seat left on the plane to get there it would be her that would take it."
Hopefully, with that comment in mind, flights will be booked well in advance for the next few months for the pair as they look set to have a few big months with horses racing all around Australasia.
First though, there is a trip to Perth to take in the Inter Dominion action and cheer on their old favourite Smolda, who is over there flying the flag. "I am a bit of a traditionalist and love the three heats then the final format of the Inter Dominions so it is going to be great to get over there and take all that in. We got a real buzz out of the Grand Circuit racing and are looking forward to enjoying a bit more of it over the next few months with the likes of Smolda and Lazarus."
And with a horse like Lazarus in their corner, the Kennards along with their co-owners look set to be in for one most enjoyable ride.
Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed Dec 2016