YEAR: 1916

John Greive, of Invercargill, son of the late William Greive, with the magnificent 1916 NZ Trotting Cup won by Cathedral Chimes...The Cup, originally presented to Mr Greive senior by the owner of Cathedral Chimes, Mr J B Thomson, is the trophy for the Invercargill Cup which will have its first running for a number of years at the Invercargill Trotting Club's meeting on April 11.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 24Mar81


YEAR: 1914

In March 1914 in the Supreme Court, Christchurch, a claim by Clifford Tasker against the NZMTC for £750 damages in respect of injuries sustained by the trotting horse Michael Gillander was heard before Mr Justice Dennison and a special jury. Tasker also claimed £40 damages being the sum paid the Veterinary Surgeon in connection with the horse’s injuries. Tasker stated that while training his horse around the track he saw a draught mare coming towards him at a gallop and the mare hit Michael Gillander on the left side near the shoulder knocking him over. His horse fell on top of the witness who had been flung from the sulky and then scrambled to its feet and galloped around the track. In the opinion of the jury the gates were insecurely fastened thus allowing the draught mare to get onto the track and it found the Club liable on various counts and granted damages of £200.

Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker


YEAR: 1914


Eccentric, sired by George M Patchen, won the first light-harness free-for-all on record in New Zealand. The race was run at Addington in 1914.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar - Nov 23, 1955


YEAR: 1910


The course bookmakers in New Zealand called "Two to one bar one!" for the last time legally at the Takapuna Jockey Club's meeting in 1910. After the last race they joined hands and sang the popular song of the day, "We Parted on the Shore" (as the Takapuna meeting was always known as the 'Shore').

From that date we saw the once outlawed tote (men had been imprisoned before this for operating a tote at Ellerslie) take the place of the bookmaker who by a turnabout process had become illegal and the tote legal. The bookmakers went underground, not too deeply, and the tote gained a monopoly of legal betting on all racecourses in the Dominion.

There were sporadic prosecutions of the bookmaker. At this period they were not organised into the body afterwards known as the Dominion Sportsmen's Association. They relied on private field agents to wire or phone results and dividends per code as it was also illegal to transmit telegrams connected with betting. The bookies' results were known before the newspapers as it was not until the next day that full details and results would appear in the papers (late results at times would be posted in the window of the newpaper office).

As racing became progressively better organised, side shows and thimble and pea operators were removed from the courses - as were the bookmakers who had an agreement in regard to starting-price bookmaking. They set up limits and modes of betting. For example, when a punter had an all-up wager he would be allowed only three times the original wager on his second choice with one all-up wager being permitted. Thus, if a punter backed a winner which paid £5 and instructed that his bet was to be all up on the second horse, he would have only £3 on his second choice.

In the early days of the illegal bookies, limits as low as even money were bet on entries from certain stables. Limits for country meetings were £3/10/- and for metropolitan meetings £7/10/-.

For a condiserable time a small minority had a virtual monopoly of the S.P. bookmaking business. Those were the days of single pool when there were only two dividends. It was not uncommon for a horse that had been heavily backed to run second and pay as little as seven or eight shillings for the pound invested, and the bookies would make a handsome profit notwithstanding the horse was narrowly beaten. There was a firm of bookmakers operating in Wellington who considered they were having a bad time if they did not keep at least half of the huge cash turnover which passed over the counter of the fruit shop they were conducting in the busy part of the city.

Things went along very smoothly for a long time - the punter was provided with a medium of betting off-course and the books with a cosy income. It was well known that the big time operators had an agent posted near the courses for the purpose of laying off any surplus commitments and that the clubs apparently were prepared to let the bookies proceed along the even tenor of their ways.

The reason given for the tight limits (according to the books) was that it counteracted any move by sharp-shooting trainers or jockeys to let the public with their hard-earned money create the tote favourite while the 'heads' backed the only trier off the course, as their money would not affect the tote price. It was a point, but the real reason would lay in their desire to protect their own pockets. It is true the man in the street, with only form to guide him, would not be in the know of the 'stew pots' - as a race with the favourite 'dead' and few if any triers - was known. He had, it was argued, recourse to the tote if he felt he could find a winner likely to pay over the bookies' limit.

As time went on the ranks of the bookies became swollen. To woo the trade from established operators, the newcomers offered better limits with the result that the oldtimers had to fall into line and do likewise. It was then that the Dominion Sportsmen's Association (commonly known as the Bookmakers' Association) was formed. It was like a huge octopus with its tentacles reaching into every nook and cranny of the country.

Everyone who was in business as an S.P. bookmaker was invited to be a member of the D.S.A. few acted independently as their unity was strength and their ramifications many and varied. They had agents at all meetings and phones installed (in some instances) in private homes near the race track. The householder would have free use of the phone between meetings on condition that on race days it was made available to the field agent, who would be equipped with telescope and glasses to enable him to pick up the result and dividend from the back of the course.

As the race started he would have open a trunk line which would be held by an assistant until the result and dividend were posted. These would then be phoned into headquarters. By these means the result would be relayed and known throughout the Dominion within a very short space of time. Indeed, at times, a punter in Wellington would know the dividend before the people on the course, say, at Auckland. Such was the thorough organisation of the D.S.A.

The membership fees for the D.S.A. varied in different areas, but in all there was a surplus charge (in the vicinity of £1/10/- per quarter) known as the propaganda fund. Whatever that was, one was only supposed to guess. It seemed to be a carefully guarded and well-kept secret. There was no conclusive evidence, but it did seem a coincidence that more non-members appeared to be prosecuted than members!

These conditions continued for some years, each area framing its own rules and limits. The idea of universal rules and limits did not hold as it was found that operators in areas where low limits prevailed could underwrite their business in an area where a higher limit prevailed. A book would often lay the winner that had paid the £20 limit in another area and pay the £10 limit prevailing in his own area. He would gain the reputation of a good loser and prompt payer. Why shouldn't he? He showed a clear profit of £10 on every £1 invested against the punter's nine and had not invested a penny of his own money!

As the profession became more crowded operators became more enterprising, offering as much as ten per cent commission to agents and others who were interested. This was the first nail in the coffin of the bookie, as from this practice grew the 'com' man - an individual who would undertake and successfully place large off-course wagers. He would have sub-agents in all centres throughout the Dominion who in turn placed it with local bookies' agents who were more interested in the commission than in the profits of their principals.

The fact that these large sums could be placed (due to the commission paid) left an opening for sinister activities. When a horse was 'commed' it usually won in spite of having (at times) no recent form. These large wages were so skilfully placed that the money would not get back on the tote and reduce the price.

Another evil connected with this type of off-course wagering was the 'plugging' of the tote - a method of placing a large sum on a 'no-hoper' on the tote and then placing larger sums on the favourite or some horse selected to win or (as it was at times suspected) arranged to win and receiving abnormal dividends which would be collected off the bookies. The Malacca case at Hastings was a case in point. Here, however, the public received a benefit as they received four times the price off the favourite than if the tote had not been 'plugged'.

The galaxy of double charts that appeared in the late forties seemed to indicate that the whole population of the Dominion had gone into the bookmaking business. There were pink ones, blue ones, white ones, green one and ones with all kinds of signs peculiar to the operator. There was no great difference in the prices offering on each - a master chart would more or less set the main. About this time an enterprising individual from the south invaded the Capital City and began printing double charts with astronomical odds. However, he was careful not to bet any fancy prices about horses with a chance of winning. Whereas the oldtimers were prepared to conduct their business quietly and keep prices on their charts sufficiently reasonable to draw business from their patrons.

With the southerner it was a common occurrence to be told that the price had fallen in some double. He had a little over market odds. His thousands to one on this charts were a snare for the inexperienced punter. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of racing would know that the odds on these 'no-hope' combinations should be millions to one. However, it had the desired effect of parting the unwary from their money and creating the illusion that he was giving better prices than the other bookies. With an energy that was commendable this bookie established a business in the Capital on a scale never before seen. He would take all the 'smart' money offering and load it on to the other operators through their agents and per his own agents for that purpose.

It was becoming more apparent that the indiscriminate paying of commission was driving the nail further into the bookies' coffin as their own agents were more interested in the two shillings or one and six in the pound 'com' than their principals' interest. This 'smart' money rarely missed and there was a good deal of suspicion about the results of these confidently placed wagers. The instructions at the source of these (at times) huge 'coms' would be 'no limit' indicating that the result was a foregone conclusion. The 'trot' enjoyed by the responsible group pointed that way at this period.

The above is what is referred to as 'smart' money and the type of business that this southern bookmaker unloaded, plus a considerable portion of his own (to field the losers and back the winner), could only result in an outcome pleasant only for himself. He continued to go from strength to strength and it was an open secret that he was the actual owner of some well-known performers. At this time quite a few loud-mouthed individuals had joined the ranks of racecourse owners (at least they figured in the race book as the owners, their only qualification a lucky chance of no criminal convictions which would have debarred them).

Conference was forced to bring in new rules concerning the deregistering of horses whom it suspected were owned by other than the listed owner. This position more or less continued up to the time of the Royal Commission on Gaming. There was then an opposition association in the north which did not describe itself as an association. It was headed by an ex-executive of the D.S.A. who knew all the inner workings and top secrets of the older body and that perhaps is where its protection lay - otherwise it would soon have been out of business.

The function of the new body was to supply prices to an illegal profession and it did not claim any other distinction. It did not have the efrontery of the D.S.A. to make its case to the Royal Commission on Gambling and supply its arch-enemies, the racing authorities, with figures and facts relating to its ramifications. It was an excellent target for the best legal brains in the country who were engaged by the racing interests to plead their case.

There would be no doubt that the bookies were sanquine enough to believe they still would have control of off-course betting. But the Commission conducted a sort of gallup poll which clearly indicated the public's desire for other means of placing their bets on horse races and the Royal Commission's finding that off-course betting should be legalised (but as directed by the Racing and Trotting Conferences) left the bookies dangling in the air so to speak.

The Auckland headquarters of the D.S.A. were raided by the police shortly after this and it was apparent that this was a case of again 'parting on the shore.' The D.S.A. went out of existence but the operators still carried on getting their dividends wherever they could. By an irony of fate they often got them from the opposition organisation which they had previously looked upon with scorn. The opposition organisation was still in business as it did not have the temerity to appear before the Commission, rightly surmising that it was an illegal organisation and that it would be imprudent to supply the police or the racing bodies with information as had the D.S.A. - such as the fact that its operators were handling £27,000,000 of illegal business per annum. These figures were open to query, but it was good ammunition for the bookies' opponents. This vast sum was the main factor that weighed against them in the summing up of the evidence by the Royal Commission on Gaming. The fact that an illegal body of men had conducted an illegal business and handled such a sum could not favourably impress the Commission. The broadcasting of dividends was also instrumental in putting this organisation out of business.

The position now in New Zealand is that if one wants to make a bet off-course legally, it has to be done per a mechanical monster known as the TAB, a monster which must in time devour itself. The personal contact of the bookies is missing. It would be difficult to imagine someone ringing up the TAB and placing a bet on a horse and telling them that if the horse should lose they will have to wait a while for the money as the income tax was due or the grocer or butcher had to be paid.

This sometimes happened with the bookie who did not mind as the bet was not recoverable by law anyway. Besides, the customer usually paid and everyone was happy. The bookie is still offering this service and also the convenience of not having to make the bet until the last minute from the comfort of the armchair by the radio plus the convenience of not having to deposit the money first.

The bookie is now supplied with his 'divvys' by an obliging radio service, dispensing with association fees and toll bills. It also saves him the extra work of suppling his customers with the prices as they also receive these over the air. The public will alway patronise the bookie, no matter what steps an optimistic police or racing interests take. The continual stream of letters to the press clearly indicates the public's feelings and the bookie will stay in business.

Whatever the outcomeof the all-out drive against the bookie, the man in the street will still have a flutter with the bookmaker!

Credit: 'Reflector' writing in NZ Hoof Beats Oct 1953


YEAR: 1907

A report in the NZ REFEREE of 31st July 1907 stated that Messrs T H Davie, M H R Hood-Williams and C Hood-Williams waited on Sir Joseph Ward in regard to Trotting and the Gaming Bill. They pointed out to the Premier that the Bill as originally drafted made no provision for Trotting and the deputation asked that he include Trotting in the next measure. It was also pointed out that if the clause that no racecourse should be less than six furlongs was adhered to, Trotting would not be possible on the Metropolitan Club’s Course which was only five furlongs in length. In reply to the deputation the Premier promised to look into the matter and give it his best consideration.

Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker


YEAR: 1904


Owing to the bad state of the tracks at Addington the NZMTC asked the permission of the Canterbury Jockey Club to hold its meeting at Riccarton. This has been granted, and the first days trotting, originally fixed for next Saturday, will take place on Wednesday, August 17th.

Credit: The Press 8 Aug 1904


YEAR: 1900


The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club announces that no bookmakers or their assistants, cash fielders or disqualified persons, will be allowed on the grounds at the Spring Meeting of the club on Nov 6 and 9. The first race on each day starts a 1 p.m. and frequent trams will run to the course.

The cup to be presented to the owner of the winner of the Wilkin Handicap, to be decided on the first day of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's Spring Meeting, is now on view at Messrs Jones's shop, Cashel Street. The cup, which is valued at 25 sovs, was the gift of Mr G McClatchie.

Credit: Star 5 Nov 1900


YEAR: 1899

Fritz during his match race with Ribbonwood

Sir,- Could you rectify a difference of opinion which resulted in a wager being made. The centre of interest is that well-known trotter Fritz, who went against time at Lancaster Park many moons ago. I am given to understand that the tote was open to the public on this occasion, to wager on either horse or time. The horse won, I believe, for my friend said a dividend of over £1 was returned on the horse.

He claims, that it is classed as a race, as the tote was open. I say no, for it is my contention that it should come under the heading of a trial, not race, against time. I should say it would take two competitors or more to take part in it before it could be declared a race.

Perhaps you can simplify matters and oblige a subscriber.- Yours, etc S Bourner

The event referred to took place at the Canterbury T C's summer meeting held at the Show Grounds on January 2, 1899.

It is shown as follows:- Purse of 100 sovs. for any horse trotting a mile in harness in 2.15, or under with a flying start.- 27½, Mrs J A Buckland's Fritz (J A Buckland) 1; 7½, "Time," 2. Time taken, 2.13. Dividend, £1 2s.- Ed.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 16Dec1942


YEAR: 1895


'Extract from an article on Trotting and its Progress in South Canterbury.'

...The Gleniti Trot, the principal event at the Timaru meeting in 1895, was won by Fiddler, owned and driven by Miss Isabel Button, who figured at many courses until women were excluded...

Credit: 'Old Sport' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 28Nov45



The first horse to break 2:10 in New Zealand was Ribbonwood, who set the mile mark at Addington against time in 1903. He was driven by his owner-trainer, D J Price.

This record stood until 1911, when a son of Ribbonwood, King Cole, lowered it to 2:08 3-5, also against time, and at Addington. King Cole was owned by Mr R O Duncan and trained and driven by N L Price.

By 1915 a champion mare, Country Belle, a great sprinter as well as a stayer, was sent against the watch at Addington. Owned and trained by Mr W J Morland, and driven by James Bryce, Country Belle clipped more than a second off the record by registering 2:07 1-5.

The following season the Australian-bred mare Adelaide Direct, owned, trained and driven by M Edwards, lowered the record to 2:06 2-5 at Auckland.

The 1920-21 season saw Our Thorpe, driven by his owner, A Fleming, attack the record at Addington and reduce it by a fraction to 2:06 1-5.

This stood until the 1922-23 season, when the Australian-bred pacer Happy Voyage, driven by her owner-trainer W J Tomkinson, registered 2:04 1-5, also against the watch, at New Brighton on April 14, 1923. This was also a world grass-track record. The files state that Happy Voyage was paced by War Bond (ridden by A D Chapman), and Olwyn (driven by J N Clarke).

The mile record was next lowered in a race. This was in the November Free-For-All at the 1924 New Zealand Cup meeting. Run from a flying start, the race was won byMr J R (later Sir John) McKenzie's Acron, trained by J J Kennerley and driven by A Butterfield, in the then sensational time of 2:03 3-5. The second horse, Realm, also fractured 2:04.

In 1934 two champion Australian pacers, Walla Walla and Auburn Lad visited New Zealand for match races. At a special matinee meeting at Addington both pacers were set against the mile record. Walla Walla, who was suffering from a cold, registered 2:03 4-5. Auburn Lad, driven by his owner-trainer, W McKay lowered the record by a considerable margin when he clocked 2:02 2-5.

The following season Indianapolis, also at Addington, was successful in his attack on the record, his time being 2:01 2-5; and two seasons later, in 1936-37, he made a successful onslaught on his own record when he registered 2:00 2-5, again at Addington. Indianapolis was owned by Mr G J Barton. In his first record run he was driven by E C McDermott, and in the second by J Fraser, Jnr. F C Dunlevey was his trainer.

Two seasons elapsed before the record was again attacked, and the perfect-gaited Australian unhoppled pacer Lawn Derby, owned by Mr J MacKenny, and trained and driven by W J O'Shea, made history by doing the mile in 1:59 2-5 at Addington in November, 1938. This was not only the first two-minute mile hoisted in the Dominion, but the first time such figures had been made outside the United States.

Gold Bar, 1:59 3-5 and Haughty 1:59 3-5, made valiant attempts to beat Lawn Derby's figures in the years between the retirement of Lawn Derby and the rise of Highland Fling.

At his first attempt on the record, a week after his second New Zealand Cup victory in 1948, Highland Fling went 1:59 2-5, thus equalling Lawn Derby's time; a few days later Highland Fling went again, this time putting up the sensational figures of 1:57 4-5, sensational because the usual procedure in trials against time is a strong warm-up and the assistance of a galloping pacemaker. L F Berkett, trainer-driver of Highland Fling dispensed with both! The spectacle of "The Flings" lone role was a thrilling one, and there the record has remained for 11 years.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 18Nov59

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