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STARTERS & STARTING

 

YEAR: 1990

MURRAY COURT

Over the years not many months go by when harness racing does not lose a loyal and long serving enthusiast through retirement. Last Saturday night at Addington was no exception with the retirement of Murray Court, the mobile start driver.

It was in the vicinity of 1965 when Court first started working with the mobile gates and the late Ron Carter. Since then he has been the driver of mobile starts at Timaru, Ashburton, Greymouth, Rangiora, Kaikoura and Addington. There have been many changes over the years with the most notable being the improvement in vehicles, the gates and communication between the starter and driver.

In the days of the Carter-Court combination there were many moments to remember with one night at Addington standing out. Until the gates are past the starting point and timekeeper, the throttle is in the hands of the starter. After that point he then returns it to the driver. However, on this particular night after the start, Court noticed that it was still on full throttle with the gates wide open and he could not alter it. He kept yelling and banging on the roof to Carter who obviously could not hear him.

With the bend coming up and the 1956 Ford Customline heading towards it on full throttle with the gates open, things did not look good. With some quick thinking, the keys were turned off which allowed the vehicle to go into a glide, and when turned on again there was a loud bang which cleared the throttle and closed the gates.

When asked if there were any particular horses who seemed to be faster from the gate than others, Court has no hesitation in naming Lord Module. "I have seen us up to 35 odd m.p.h. and there he was, still up at the gate."

Whilst visiting the Inter-Dominions at Harold Park, Court was given permission to have a couple of rides with the mobile. He was surprised at their style and difference to New Zealand. The main difference being the quickness of the gate to leave the horses. Sometimes only half the field would be up to the gate and away it would go. Court was also given a few anxious moments at the end of their run when the mobile would go down a shute out of the way. Sometimes the gates would only just shut in time before they reached the narrow entrance. Three weeks after his visit, Court was to learn of the mobile going down the shute and the gates not closed and being ripped off.

Being able to help young horses or maidens gain experience by giving them practice has also given Court pleasure. On one trip to Greymouth he travelled 34 miles around the Victoria Park Raceway on a Saturday morning allowing the inexperienced to get used to the gate.

Not so happy memories are windy nights when the 15 yard wide gates are difficult to control, or when a horse in barrier 9 decides to get right up to the gate and push hard against it, or when they are on their way to the start and a horse doing it's preliminary the other way around, does not see them. On one particular night when a head on collision seemed imminent he had to turn his lights on full plus give a blast of the horn before the driver saw them.

All in all, it has been a happy period for Court and whilst he is looking forward to retirement and more time with his small team at Broadfield, he is going to miss Jack Mulcay calling out..."RIGHT".

Credit: HRWeekly 25Jul90

 

YEAR: 1986

RON CARTER

Mr Ron Carter, one of the best known and respected trotting officials in Canterbury, died at his Prebbleton home on Wednesday. He was 73.

Mr Carter became an assistant to the starter, Mr Bert Hastings, in the late 1930s and he succeeded to the senior position in 1959. He was the starter at Addington Raceway for 21 years until his retirement in 1980 and also acted for clubs throughout Canterbury as well as in Otago, on the West Coast and at Hutt Park.

Before he shifted to Prebbleton about ten years ago Mr Carter operated a contracting business, founded by his father, from a property in Centaurus Road, much of his work being done in the Horotane Valley and on the slopes of the Cashmere Hills where his horse-drawn equipment was used to cultivate areas where motorised vehicles were unusable.

For years he broke-in and gaited standardbred horses and until fairly recent times he usually had up to six horses in his care in various stages of their early education. Mr Carter took great pride in the fact that Orbiter and Noodlum were among the many horses he handled which went on to show fine form on the race track.

He often recalled that in the cases of Orbiter and Noodlum they had much greater intelligence than the average horse. Right from the time he started handling them he found that he only had to show them what was required once or twice and they accepted the instruction, whereas with others many hours had to be spent achieving the same results.

Mr Carter is survived by his wife, Rose.

Credit: The Press 24 Oct 1986

 

YEAR: 1980

RON CARTER

When Ron Carter steps down off his starter's pedestal for the last time at the end of the season, he could very well be setting off on another facet of his racing career...as a trainer and an owner. "I don't know whether I'd get a trainer's licence...they might think I'm too bloody old," is his wry assessment of his chances in that department.

But on a more realistic note, Ron Carter at a mere 67 would have a good few years in front of him as a trainer. Already he has forgotten more of the good horses who have passed through his hands for their initial breaking and education than he remembers. Among those he remembers easily are Arapaho, Orbiter, Noodlum and naturally, this season's 3-year-old filly sensation Armalight. Armalight's young owner-trainer Brent Smith is on record as saying he sent the filly to Ron Carter to be broken because he wanted to do "everything right."

That's the way it has been for many others over the years Ron Carter has been associated with horses. Owners and trainers have sent horses to him to break to give them a decent start to their racing careers. And once they make it onto the track, it has been Ron Carter's duty to make sure they get a decent start in any race in which they might line up. Officially he has been in charge of that department for trotting meetings in Canterbury and Marlborough, on the Coast and in North Otago for the last 22 or 23 years. He gained his open starter's licence in 1957 and he won't renew it after the New Brighton Trotting Club's winter meeting at Addington on July 19.

Ron Carter's association with horses has been a lifelong one. Receiving his formal education in Christchurch he "cleared out from school" when he was 13 because, as he puts it now, "I didn't like it for one thing". His father had for years run a horse-drawn transport business so young Ron drove a team of Clydesdales, contracting all over the Port Hills and around the city. A lot of the business came through carting bricks and pipes from the recently demolished Murphy's brickworks nestled at the base of the hills. In fact, the Carter headquarters were centred on the stables sited next door to the kiln. Ron continued in the business after his father died but finally gave it away when he was granted his full licence. "We were probably the last around here with a team," he recalled. A lot of the work in those later days involved carting pipes and bricks from the adjacent works to the railway.

The young Ron Carter's interest in horses didn't end with the working variety. Even as a lad of 14 he was travelling 'here and there' with the late A J (Bert) Hastings, a well-known starter of the times. "I used to go to time trials and race meetings all over the place, even if it meant I had to save up for the boat fare to get to the North Island," he said. It wasn't the betting or the gambling that appealed. It was just the horses and the chance to be near them. I've never had a bet, not even before I was a starter. Even when I retire from this and am allowed to, I won't be worried about betting. I used most of my early money to go with Mr Hastings everywhere I could."

It was round the early 30s that Ron Carter started getting paid for his interest in racing. With his father he had been getting "about 7/6 a week", as a starter's assistant, about 15/- a day. Later this was raised to 30/- a day "and it stayed that way for years and years". Now, of course, a starter gets much more than that and with more meetings and more trials there's a lot more involved. But because he couldn't exist solely as a starter, Ron Carter broke in horses as well and gave them their early education before they went on to professional trainers. "I've broken in so many, it isn't funny how many I've forgotten. Some have gone on to be good horses and others have gone away almost as soon as they've been broken. But I've just had to be with horses."

Ron Carter remembers well the first time he took to the stand officially, even if he doesn't remember the date. Mr Hastings had been in Wellington at the time and Ron Carter had been granted a temporary licence to start the races at Rangiora. "There must have been about thirty horses in the field, packed in like sardines they were. But they all got away. Like ever job, you have your good days and your bad. That was a good one. I think though, all the drivers were more alert than usual. I suppose they were watching out for the new chap on the stand."

Alertness was one of the keynotes of the job. Even an assistant had to be equally alert and completely aware of what the actual starter was about to do at any particular time. A large part of Ron Carter's scheme to keep on the ball relies on taking advantage of the time early in the day. "I have always reckoned an hour in the morning is worth two at night; besides when you've got feeding out and the like to do before work you've got to be up early and then be alert all day."

A few days before the races, and then again quickly the night before, he reads through the fields just to see what horses are there and what problems, if any, they're likely to present. In years passed, the starter was usually in the secretary's office when the draw for barrier positions was made just to make sure he had everything right.

So far, just about everything has gone right for Ron Carter. He can't recall ever sending a horse away from the wrong mark and he has great difficulty remembering any day that might be called 'disastrous'. There was one day at Ashburton, though, when it took three goes to get a trotter's race away. The first time, when he said "go" the front barrier strand didn't release, even though it had been thoroughly tested before the races (one of the crucial tasks). "We tested it again on the spot and it worked okay. The field lined up again and once more the thing didn't release. We had three shots at it and as a last resort replaced a bracket before it worked perfectly." There have also been instances of the barrier strand catching across the backs of the sulkies of particularly long horses or flicking around horses legs, but generally all goes well.

But something which hasn't always worked that way, Ron Carter said, was the mobile barrier. It was introduced to Addington during Mr Hasting's time. The first, designed by well known Taranaki racing identity Alec Corrigan, was attached to a Land Rover. Another like it was built in Christchurch with all the controls in the cab with the driver. "I didn't approve of that in any way," Ron Carter recalls with just a little vehemence. "I finally got control over the closing of the arms but more importantly it was the accelerator I wanted. That first start from the mobile did a lot of harm. It put a lot of people off it immediately. But now the starter has control of everthing except the steering; and contact with everyone, even the secretary." Ron Carter sees having both mobile and standing starts as difficult for a number of horses. "Some are either very good away from a stand or from a mobile but chopping and changing upsets the majority of them."

If there is a problem with starting these days, Ron Carter puts it down to failing to close the totalisator right on time. "I would like to see the day when the starter closed the tote. That way we would avoid a situation that happens so often now with horses still being walked around some minutes after they should have been racing. There's nothing worse than to have them walking around and around waiting for the tote. If the starter had control there, too, he could start bringing them in with just enough time to get them all lined up and then away at the same time betting stopped." Those last few minutes were vital for both horse and horseman and any dely just made it harder for them. "I know just how they feel. I know exactly what they're going through. Still, they're a pretty good bunch of drivers these days and I'm going to miss them all when I stand down. I get on pretty well with them all. It's pretty easy to pick someone who is not co-operating...and it is vital they all play ball." A quiet talking to the person in question was usually enough to avoid a repetition. And only if a man-to-man talk didn't work was there a need to take things further. But come the end of the season, there will be a new man in the hot seat. Ron Carter tips Jack Mulcay, his assistant for the last six years, as his successor

And in retirement, it'll still be horses taking up most of Ron Carter's time. "They will keep me too busy to think about anything else. They always have." Yes, he and his wife will go to the races and with a 'bit of luck' Ron will be able to race one himself. Most of the luck involves getting a horse good enough to race and win with. "I've always thought that would be a real thrill. But you never know how they're going to turn out, do you?

He's currently working on a 3-year-old Good Chase gelding on his Prebbleton property "I think he will be all right. We will just have to wait and see." And then, with the interview over, Ron Carter's back to putting a filly through her first paces. Like he said, it's a never ending game with him. "There is no way you can ever say you'll be cleaned up and ready by dinner time.



Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 17Jun80

 

YEAR: 1974

MOBILE STARTING BARRIER

The CPTC developed a mobile starting barrier and in October 1974 the NZMTC was advised by Canterbury Park that its mobile starting gate would be available to the Club for its Cup Meetings at $100 per day or night.

In December 1983 the NZMTC suggested that the replacement of the CPTC’s mobile barrier should be undertaken by Addington Raceway Ltd. In February 1984 the CPTC advised that they had purchased a suitable vehicle on which the starting gate could be mounted and that they were prepared to discuss the ownership with the Directors. In June 1985 Addington Raceway advised that the CPTC had offered to sell the gate to the Raceway at cost price less the subsidy received from the NZ Racing Authority and that the Raceway had the option to purchase the gate for $19,704. The gate had cost Canterbury Park $33,809 to manufacture and the Racing Authority had reimbursed the Club $14,105 from the Amenities Fund. The Canterbury Park Trotting Club’s offer was accepted.

Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker

 

YEAR: 1971

FAMOUS FLYING MILE RACES

There have been fairly regular mile races from a flying start almost from the inception of trotting in the Dominion. The Wildwood v Prince Imperial, and Ribbonwood v Fritz matches long since became history to most living light-harness enthusiasts.

Not so the sensational Free-For-All at the NZ Cup meeting of 1924. In that flying start mile race Acron, in beating Realm by a length, with Logan Chief two lengths back, registered 2:03 3/5, which shattered the existing mile record against time of 2:04 1/5, held by Happy Voyage. In that free-for-all the minor placefillers clocked 2:03 4/5 and 2:04 2/5 respectively.

Another memorable flying mile, many years later, was the match between the champion mare Haughty, and the 'scorched earth' entire, Gold Bar, at an Addington matinee meeting in 1943 - the winner was Haughty, narrowly, in the brilliant time of 2:00 2/5 which stands as the match race record (between two horses) to this day.

Tactician became the first horse in the Southern Hemisphere to fracture two minutes in a race when he won the flying mile Rattary Stakes at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club's Easter meeting in 1957. His time was 1:59 4/5, which stood as the NZ race record for many a day. Only a nose separated Tactician and False Step, who went 2:00, third was Local Light in 2:00 1/5, and fourth Merval in 2:00 3/5. It was a wonderful contest.

Up till then the starts of these races were on a moving-up basis 'in the open' and one of the most capable officials in this capacity was Mr A J Hastings. The mobile barrier was still a long way off.

Lordship won a mobile mile race at a Northland TC meeting at Alexandra Park in 1967 in 1:58 2/5, which is the existing NZ record. He won by five lengths from Tobias(1:59 4/5) and Elegant Hanover(2:00). Another searing mobile mile at Addington of recent vintage was the New Year Free-For-All at the Canterbury Park meeting in January, 1970. The winner was True Averil, by four lengths, in 1:58 4/5. The second horse, Spry, registered 1:59 2/5, and Stella Frost third in 1:59 3/5.

The trotters too, have put up some excellent times in flying mile races. In 1969 Stylish Major won one of these events in 2:02 2/5, which was a new record for this type of contest; and the following year Johnny Gee lowered the record to 2:01 1/5 in winning the Stewards' Trotting Free-For-All at the Canterbury Park New Year meeting.

Credit: Óldtimer' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 1Dec71

 

YEAR: 1970

MOVING BARRIER

A Sydney consulting engineer, Mr B W Ireland, flew into Christchurch last week with a film on a moving starting barrier which he showed to officials of the three Christchurch Trotting clubs and the NZ Trotting Conference. Called the Space Mobile Barrier, most of the gathering seemed fairly interested in its potential, and Mr Ireland was then put through the grill after the six-minute colour film was run twice.

The barrier is controlled by a starter who can control the speed or make it uniform. It consists of tapes stretched across the track attached to high poles on the running rail. The tapes come down to between the ears and eyes of the horse, travels 50 yards, and then is lifted high above the runners.

The apparatus was set up at Harold Park for the experiment. The trials involved four horses off the front and four off the 12 yard mark. They were marshalled two furlongs from the start where they proceeded to walk up to the barrier. Their speed was increased to nothing more than a jog, the tapes then came down from above, and travelled at that speed for 50 yards before the start was reached.

Although the experiment seemed full of merit, there were a number of difficulties that would have to be overcome before the system could be practical under NZ conditions or applied to our tracks. Shadows littered the track during the daytime; these would have to be kept to a minimum. Mr Ireland also advised that the distances of some of our races would need to be changed as the barrier's operation on bends had not as yet been contemplated. The only other problem that would eventuate is that of starting a large number of horses off different marks and catering for the second liners, the latter an awkward one. Undoubtedly the system has merit and if these initial problems were to be solved consideration would need to be given regarding its introduction to this country.

Mr Ireland has kindly allowed the film to remain in NZ so that other club officials and representatives may receive the opportunity of viewing it and assessing the worth of the scheme. Obviously those in charge of the film should make every endeavour to ensure that a number of trainers and drivers see it. Their reaction to the Space Mobile Barrier is imperative; they should be in the box seats.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 15Apr70

 

YEAR: 1965

MOBILE START CONTROVERSY

It will be heartening news to advocates of the mobile barrier that the NZ Metropolitan TC has included two such events on it's Easter programme - and top class features to boot.

The primary objective of practical supporters of the mobile barrier in maintaining their enthusiasm for the moving start is a fear that the standing start (ie the standing start alone), is bogging down our progress and seperating us permanently from world speed standards. And they will certainly take heart from the Metropolitan's return to the mobile barrier, especially since our leading club has done so in the face of relentless and, at times, virulent criticism from some quarters.

The Metropolitan's two mobile races will be the Flying Mile on the first day - Saturday, April 3, and the Rothschild Stakes on the second day - Saturday, April 10. The Flying Mile, worth £1500, is for horses assessed at 2.11 or faster (free-for-all conditions), and an additional stake will be paid to the winning horse at the rate of £100 for every one-fifth of a second it records under 1.59, with a maximum of £500. The Rothschild Stakes, also a £1500 race, to be run over one mile and a quarter, is for 2.11 and faster horses under free-for-all conditions; and here an additional stake of £500 will be paid to the winning horse if it breaks the world record of 2.29 3-5 for the mile and a quarter at present held by the American pacer Irvin Paul.

No one expects that all races should be started from the mobile barrier - in the meantime, anyway! But let the critics be fair enough to concede that programmes will be none the poorer for a little variety; that there is no real evidence to support much of the criticism levelled at the Canterbury Park starting gate from time to time. Canterbury Park has persevered with the gate and has no intention of curtailing its use - neither it should have after the perfect start to its 2-year-old race last week. Never in this writer's experience has there been a better despatch to a juvenile race in this country than that effected by the mobile barrier in the January Stakes. It was a smooth bussinesslike start, and not one of the youngsters looked the slightest bit perturbed or looked like doing anything wrong.

Danger lurks in any kind of race, but the proposition that the mobile barrier is dangerous, with the underlying implication that the standing start is not so dangerous, is untenable, in fact preposterous. In passing, it is recalled that C C Devine, on his return from America, said he saw hundreds of races from the mobile barrier there, and not one accident. There has been no accident behind it here, either.

And what is the yardstick of public interest? If it is investments on the totalisator, the mobile barrier is more than holding it's own. For years the best betting races at Canterbury Park meetings have been mobile barrier events, and the Metropolitan Trotting Club had a similar experience when it last used the gate in 1962. The biggest on-course betting at the Metropolitan National Meeting, 1962 (both days), was on races from the mobile barrier. On the first day the £11,982 invested on the Lightning Free-for-all, and the £9815 on the Templeton Stakes, were the largest betting pools; and on the second day the £11,639 wagered on the Farewell Stakes was by far the biggest total. A reminder - all were mobile races.

The 1962 NZ Cup Meeting, with only the odd race or two from the starting gate: one of these, the NZ Free-For-All, drew the largest on and off-course betting on the second day. The investments on the NZ Trotting Free-For-All, on the third day, were not the highest, but they were relatively good; and in the only mobile race on the fourth day, the Smithson Free-for-all, a surprisingly good total was invested on a small field with an odds-on favourite in it - Cardigan Bay (Lordship was scratched).

The Metropolitan Trotting Club's return to the gate has at least arrested the imminent danger that the mobile barrier would founder on the opinions of much the same brand of grizzlers who could find nothing favourable to say about Addington's new hub rail; the mobile barrier has run the gauntlet of similar prejudice and half-baked "facts" - all overdue for a thorough examination.

Mr Keith Davidson, president of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, went on record in 1962 as saying: "The Canterbury Park starting gate, built under the direction of the president of the Canterbury Park Trotting Club (Mr L S Smart) was an unqualified success when first used in May. There has been criticism of the gate, but surely from the point of view of the confidence of the betting public, that all starters have an equal opportunity of getting away, it cannot but help trotting in general." It is suspected that Mr Davidson had a battle on his hands persuading the programme committee to give the gate another trial. Some of us now feel confident our leading club is again headed in the right direction.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Feb65

 

YEAR: 1962

MOBILE GATE: Introduction

The Canterbury Park Trotting Club, through the energetic promotion of its president, Les Smart, was responsible for the introduction of the mobile starting gate at Addington.

The gate was first used at the Canterbury Park's winter meeting on May 26, 1962 and the honour of winning the first race went to Doody Townley driving Carina Star, trained by Lou Thomas, to win the Maiden Pacing Stakes over 9½ furlongs in 2:41 on a heavy track by four lengths.

But the mobile gate was the subject of considerable debate and agitation between clubs, horsemen and public and was not introduced (or accepted) without a great deal of effort by its advocates.

Hawera owner-trainer, Alex Corrigan began the great debate when he produced New Zealand's first mobile gate in the late 1950s. He spent £2,500of his own money converting a Land Rover, using boosters and hydraulically-operated barrier arms. His big day came at Hawera on April 23, 1957, when the first mobile start racewas run and won by Brahman (Ces Donald). Ironically the runner-up was Mr Corrigan's own horse, Earl Marie.

Mr Corrigan then began a nation-wide campaign with his gate, travelling throughout New Zealand seeking club converts to the American-style starting system. The Land Rover was then seen in action at Addington, Stratford, Waikato, Cambridge, Pukekohe, New Brighton and Tauranga and its detractors pointed to the slowness of the vehicle to pull away from the fields, especially on grass tracks or on softish all-weather tracks.

The anti-mobile faction seemed to have won when Mr Corrigan found he was pursuing a lost cause, and stopped his campaign. But the Canterbury Park Trotting Club responded to the many requests from horsemen who had seen the mobile in action in America and with Les Smart as its most ardent advocate, a new mobile gate was constructed. It was given a couple of trial outings, which proved successful, and performed well when tried at the first totalisator meeting.

However, a year after its debut, the controversy continued. The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club decided not to have any more mobile starts. Club official Bernie Wilks desribed the gate as "dangerous" and "not wanted by the public" when speaking at an annual meeting of the NZMTC.

Top horsemen George Noble and Cecil Devine were quick to defend the mobile. Noble claimed the mobile would help overthrow an antiquated handicapping system which was framed in the 1940s. Devine claimed the mobile would "take four of the worst strains out of trotting: 1) strain on the horses at the barrier; 2) strain on the drivers; 3) strain on the starter; 4) strain on the punter.

Trotting Calendar editor, Karl Scott, produced betting figures which proved the largest betting pools at Canterbury Park meetings had been on mobiles and he produced similar figures for NZMTC meetings.

The original mobile barrier was still in use at Addington until 1984. It was than sold to the North Canterbury OTB Association and is still in use at Rangiora trial meetings.

Credit: Centennial History Canterbury Park TC

 

YEAR: 1957

The original mobile barrier
MOBILE BARRIER FOR FLYING STAKES

A mobile barrier - the first to be used in the South Island - will be used to start the field of ten entered in the New Zealand Flying Stakes, one of the feature races on the final day of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's Cup meeting at Addington on Saturday, November 23.

The apparatus, which is attached to a utility vehicle, arrived in Christchurch on Tuesday. It was brought south by Mr Ross Corrigan, who will drive it at Addington. A similar mobile barrier was used for the first time at Hawera last April and, according to northern reports, it was most satisfactory.

Some weeks before this, a flying start event was run at Addington, but no barrier was used and the start was far from successful. There were several reasons for the failure at Addington, the main one being the lack of instruction given drivers before the event. Another was the fact that the field was sent back only about 72 yards from the starting point and the horses had insufficient chance to get in line before reaching a fast pace.

Nothing will be left to chance for this month's race. There are a number of dufficulties to be overcome, the main one being the difference in the speeds of the horses on the inside and those on the outside at the starting point, which is in the middle of the bend into the straight. When the mobile barrier was used at Hawera, the horses had a straight run to the starting point. The barrier was travelling at about 30 miles an hour by the time it reached the starting point. It then drew away from the field.

It will be impossible for the barrier to travel at this speed at Addington. The track at the mile start is 70ft wide and it is expected that if the inside horse paces at a 2:10 gait the outside horse will have to race at nearly two-minute speed to keep in line. So that the driver of the barrier will know what speed to maintain it is intended to have a trial run with four motor-cars behind the barrier. The motor-cars will have synchronised speedometers and it is hoped to work out a satisfactory speed at which to drive the barrier. Once this is known the trainers and drivers of horses engaged in the race will have several opportunities to try their horses behind the barrier. These trials will probably take place on Tuesday and Thursday before the race but no definite decision had been made when this went to press.

The barrier will not stretch right across the track. The arms are each 23ft long, with a short rubber extension on the end in case it should hit anything. Fully extended the barrier will extend slightly more than 50ft, leaving about 10ft at each end. The club intends starting 10 horses, the maximum allowed at the mile start. It seems probable that the two inside and two outside horses will come up to the starting point without the aid of a barrier.

As well as the driver of the barrier, the vehicle will carry the official starter (Mr R Carter), a stipendiary steward, and one other person to advise the driver when to increase or decrease his speed. Mr A J Corrigan, of Hawera, who made arrangements for the gate to be brought south, or Mr C L Rhodes, of Christchurch, will carry out this latter duty.

The gate will probably remain in Canterbury after the meeting. It is to be used a fortnight later at New Brighton and again at Gore on December 26.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 13Nov57

 

YEAR: 1957

First Mobile Start at Addington
SENSATIONAL CLIMAX TO NZ FLYING STAKES

History has it that there are no holds barred in the chariot races during the time of the Romans, and similar tactics were adopted by two drivers - J D Litten and C C Devine - in the concluding stages of the New Zealand Flying Stakes at Addington last Saturday.

It is also on record that - especially in European countries - many years ago, the phrase "choose your weapons" was quite often used where one party had a difference with another. On Saturday the 'weapons' used were driving whips and the principal actors in this drama showed they knew how to use them.

The trouble started just after reaching the straight, the two drivers concerned slashing at one another. The incident took place in front of a large crowd on the mound as well as many others who came from the member's carpark to witness the race, and was clearly seen from all parts of the course. Litten, driving False Step, came into the straight on the inside of Don Hall, driven by C C Devine. They were several lengths behind the leader, Caduceus, and well clear of La Mignon. The two horses were close together and slightly off the fence before reaching the two furlong post.

It is understood that Devine and Litten slashed at each other outside the furlong post. Inside the furlong Litten turned and hit both Don Hall and Devine. As the horses were brought back to the birdcage Litten was seen 'nursing' the left side of his face and Devine was rubbing his wrists. Litten's left eye was closed when he dismounted from the sulky. A large crowd waited on both sides of the birdcage, and both drivers were greeted with boos and cat-calls as they returned. As a result of this exhibition - which was nothing short of disgraceful - both drivers have been deprived of their driving licences for a period of six months.

Despite severe criticism from some quarters, the start of the race and the race itself proved a success. Many people - especially Mr A J Corrigan - put in a lot of time with the mobile barrier prior to the event and the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club and all those who helped, deserved a much better climax to what was hoped would at least prove one of the highlights of a very successful meeting. Apart from the unexpected whip incident, it did.

Considering that the mile start at Addington is right on a bend the start was an excellent one. Most of the field behaved very well and were moving at top when the mile post was reached, all in a reasonably good line, except for Dresden Lady, Adorian and Wayward Peter, who all gave some trouble at the start. False Step immediately strode into the lead from Don Hall with Caduceus making a brilliant beginning from near the middle of the field, and racing on the outside of Don Hall. At the end of the first quarter, False Step was leading Caduceus and Don Hall with La Mignon and Worthy Chief next ahead of Adorian and Dresden Lady with two lengths back to Black Douglas and Wayward Peter, and six lengths to Ricochet.

At the half mile, Caduceus moved up to have a slight advantage over False Step and a further furlong on he had increased his lead to two lengths over False Step, who was on the outside of Don Hall, these two were followed two lengths away by La Mignon. It became obvious at this stage that these four were the only ones with a chance.

Caduceus continued his brilliant run to turn for home a clear leader and once inside the furlong he ran right away. False Step battled on gamely and Don Hall must be given full marks for a very fine performance under the circumstances. La Mignon was half a length back fourth with the rest beaten off.

Caduceus just failed to break even time but there is little doubt if there had been a horse in the field capable of extending him, he could have done so. The first quarter was run in 28 4-5secs, half mile in 58 4-5secs, six furlongs in 1:29 3-5 and the full journey in 2:00 mins.

Credit: 'Irvington' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 27Nov57

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