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An article in the NZ REFEREE dated 27th August 1902 stated:
“A meeting was held on Wednesday, August 20th 1902 between representatives of the NZ Metropolitan, Plumpton Park and New Brighton Trotting Clubs with representatives of the NZ Trotting Association in attendance to consider the problems arising over the allocation of dates during Cup week as there has been an outcry against too much racing and trotting in the one week. Mr P Selig of the NZ Trotting Association was voted to the Chair and after a somewhat heated skirmish between him and the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club an representatives of the Plumpton Park Trotting Club, Mr Victor Harris of the Met said that over the previous five years the Plumpton Park Trotting Club had given £6,936 in stakes and their totalisator turnover had been £57,000. In the same period the Met had provided stakes amounting to £16,111 and the totalisator had handled £152,000. It was finally agreed between the delegates that the trotting dates during Cup week should be reduced and thatonly the NZMTC should race in that period.”
In September 1902 it was reported in the NZ REFEREE that Mr A I Rattray, who was acting as Secretary at a conference held between the three Christchurch Trotting Clubs, had forwarded to the NZ Trotting Association the recommendationds from the conference regarding dates which suggested that the NZMTC should have the August, November and Easter dates with a one off date, Plumpton Park TC Boxing and New Year’s Days and the Prince of Wales Birthday and the NBTC a day to be allotted in the second week of March.
The Club’s Spring Meeting held in November 1902 was the most successful Trotting Meeting ever held in New Zealand or any other country outside America it was reported in the NZ REFEREE. The very fine grounds at Addington could not possibly have looked better and favoured by fine weather the Club had received excellent patronage from the public and all previous records in totalisator receipts were bettered. During the three days of the Meeting £23,635 waspassed through the totalisator which represented an increase of over £6,000 more than the previous year. The racing was of a high class nature and no one present could fail ti be satisfied. Trotting under such conditions as could prevail at Addington showed trotting to be a truly great sport. The Premier, the Rt. Hon. R J Seddon, was present on Show Day and availed himself of every opportunity to associate with the sports and pastimes of the people. He spoke in terms of praise of the high standard of the sport provided at Addington.
An article appeared in the NZ REFEREE on 8th April 1903 regarding a trotting match said:
“Though for a number of years past trotting has occupied a prominent place among the sports of the people of New Zealand we have only become accustomed to its real attraction since the establishment of the NZMTC. The NZ Trotting Conference, by its good government, raised the standard of the sport quiteconsiderably and there is little doubt that this improvement led to the expenditure of a large sum of money in the erection of buildings and the preparation of the course by te NZMTC. There is not a finer trotting track outside America; indeed we have very good authority for saying that the track at Addington compares very favourably with the best American courses. As regards stands and other appointments these could not be surpassed so that trotting under the auspices of the leading trotting Club in Australasia has every opportunity to prosper. It is fitting therefore that the great match race to be decided on Saturday between the respective champions of Australia and New Zealand, Fritz and Ribbonwood, should be held at Addington. The contest marks an era in colonial trotting and it may even be said that matches of such importance have rarely been seen decided in America, the home of the trotting horse.”
In March 1904 as many improvements were being carried out at the New Brighton TrottingClub’s grounds and their course would not be available for racing, th Club made application to the NZMTC for permission to hold their Autumn Meeting at Addington. Their application being granted, the New Brighton Club launched out more liberally in the matter of stake money and the programme was reported to be a highly creditable one.
The NZ REFEREE of 22nd June 1904 reported, in a leading article, on the balance sheet of the NZMTC. The eport outlined the amount given in stakes, the various costs incurred and pointed out that assets were to the value of £8,217/14/11 and that there was not a single penny of liability. It was also reported thatduring the year a Peoples Stand, whichwas used during the season, had been provided at a cost of £1,127. The provision of this stand was greatly appreciated by the public who attended the Club’s Meetings in increasing numbers. The article concluded by giving the NZMTC full credit for the many things that it had done in the interests of the sport, prominent amongst these being the encouragement given to the highest class horses, a policy established by past executives of the Club and, if followed by the incoming Committee, would raise the sportsmens’ trust of the Committee of New Zealand’s leading Club.
Rough weather experienced during early August 1904 left the track in such a condition that it precluded any possibility of racing at Addington. The Club’s Stewards approached the Canterbury Jockey Club who forthwith gave permission for the Club to hold its August Meeting at Riccarton. In consequence of the change of venue an dates fresh arrangements had to be made for the closing time of acceptances. The Club was unfortunate in that the change to Riccarton was necessary as its own course was deservedly popular with its patrons but it was anticipated that with the up-to-date facilities available at Riccarton the Meeting would be a successful one. The thanks of all those interested in the humble sport was due to the Canterbury Jockey Club for its magnanimous action.
As early as 1904 the number of races held were the subject of comment and the NZ REFEREE of 7th September of that year stated that in reducing the programme for its Spring Meeting from eight to seven events the Ashburton Trotting Club took a step in the right direction and one that should be greatly appreciated by Christchurch viitors. The date of the Ashburton Trotting Club’s Meeting was 13th October 1904 and the value of the stakes for most events had been increased, notably the Langmor Handicap which was increased to 40 sovereigns.
The NZ REFEREE of 16th November 1904 reported as follows:
“Trotting in Christchurch has gone ahead by leaps and bounds since NZMTC obtained a ground of its own and at the present time there is no more popular sporting rendezvous than the well appointedracecourse at Addington. The sport has progressed in public favour and this was proved by the attendance at last week’s Meeting. Ll classes were represented and, cosmopolitan as a racecourse crowd always is, it must be admitted that Addington attracts people who a few years ago would never have dreamed of attending a trotting meeting. There is no doubt that the good conduct of the sport has had much to do with attracting the patronage of the upper classes’ who formerly were repelled by the unpleasant aroma connected with trotting but are now satisfied that the purification is permanent and effervescent. On th three days of the Cup Meeting there were a large number of visitors whose names were chronicled in the columns of the daily newspapers.There were several Ministers of the Crown, many other Parliamentarians so that altogether the attendance was as representative as present at Riccarton. Very pleasing too was the general high standard of the trotting. It would be idle to assert that there were no cases calling for some inquiry on the part of the Stewards and it may be just as well to suggest to the authorities that in the days of prosperity close attention is just as necessary as it was years ago. During the three days the large sum of £34,930 was invested on the totalisator, an increase of £6,051 when compared with the corresponding Meeting of a year ago. With more accommodation at the receiving and paying out departments this total would probably have been increased. I know the public are rightly blamed for delaying their investments until the very last moment but the arrangements that were adequate a few years ago are not sufficient now when the sport attracts nearly as many people as visit Riccarton. Fr the next big meeting the totalisator houses will have ti be considerably extended.”
In the NZ REFEREE of 24th October 1906 it was reported that the entries received for the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s Exhibition Meeting included a thoroughly representative lot of horses. This Meeting was held during the normal Cup Meeting and it was to mark the occasion of the 1906-07 exhibition held in Christchurch in Hagley Park.
The tone of the articles in the REFEREE was the same as that appearing two years earlier and in the issue of 14th November 1906 the following appeared:
"The enterprise of the NZMTC in its endeavours to establish a record Meeting for the colonies was attended with more than gratifying success. High class horse representative of all parts of Australasia were attracted by the mammoth stakes offered and the correspondent said he was sure that the large amount of success that rewarded the visiting owners would be pleasing to all concerned. If it has done nothing else the fixture has shown that trotting, when rightly governed, has advanced to be a sport quite capable of arousing the liveliest interest and commanding the respect of its ever-growing patrons. Though interferred with by rain, both before the Meeting started and during its progress, the track was in first-class order and that no new records were established cannot be ascribed to any short-comings on its part or that of caretaker French. From first to last speculation was of a spirited nature, Friday’s total of £15,604 eclipsing any previous days turnover while the grand total for the Meeting of £48,428 was £9,602 in advance of the 1905 figure when the gathering was confined to three days. The 1906 Meeting, incidentally, was a four day one.”
It was further reported in the same issue of the REFEREE that several well-known visitors were present at the NZMTC’s exhibition Meeting and were interviewed by a representative of the REFEREE and one and all expressed surprise and pleasure at the excellent sport provided and the manner in which the Meeting was conducted. The President of the New South Wales Trotting Club, Mr J Moriarty, said “There is nothing to compare with Addington in Australia and the hole is a revelation to me.” Mr Barnes, a member of the Committee of the New South Wales Trotting Club, was equally emphatic and endorsed Mr Moriarty’s eulogistic comments. He went on to make comparisons between the working of the totalisator in New Zealand and the only medium of speculation in his own country, namely the bookmakers. In his opinion the totalisator with its straightforward working, its cash investment and the practical limit placed upon individual betting was a vast improvement on the system of wagering obtaining in New South Wales. From what he could see, under such beneficent methods, the sport must flourish.
In August 1907 the Committee decided that nominations and acceptances would close at 8pm instead of 10pm.
In 1908 the NZ REFEREE continued to give trotting a good coverage and on 1st July of that year it was reported that the Christchurch Trotting Clubs had had a remarkably successful season as shown by the published balance sheets. It said that if, a few years ago, people ventured to suggest that the poor man’s sport would obtain its present position they were regarded as over sanguineindividuals whose balance was a bit off. However, the most competent predictions came to pass and trotting in NZ at that time ran a good second to trotting in America. The REFEREE had all along maintained that under the sound control of the NZ Trotting Conference and the NZ Trotting Associationthe sport was bound to become popular with the grneral public. Good government had done a great deal for trotting and the establishment of the NZMTC at Addington had had much to do with the progress made in Canterbury during the last six years. Indeed with perfect justice the REFEREE said that the manner in which trotting had been placed before the people at Addington with good stakes, good tracks, clver handicapping and excellent accommodation for the public had played an important part in raising the standard of the sport throughout the country. The REFEREE continued:
“It must never be forgotten that when the establishment of a trotting track at the now famous grounds was first contemplated by the few pioneers who found or guaranteed the money required for the great undertaking there were many difficulties to surmount. It is to the credit of these men that success was achieved and it will be a credit to the trotting world of New Zealand if their services are ever remembered with gratitude. The position of the Metropolitan Club today is one of extraordinary prosperity. It has no liabilities while the assets, including £3,687/13/9 on fixed deposit and £2,846/1/8 cash in hand, are estimated at £14,031/15/5. Everything on the grounds at Addington after writing off £5,798 is valued at £7,489 nothing being now charged against tracks, ground improvements or asphalting. During the season stakes totalled £11,502 and the balance to credit after paying expenses is £2,846/1/8. It will be seen that the Club has over £6,500 in hand with which to start the new season, a position which must be entirely satifactory to Members and gratifying to the Committee. With such a fine balance owners may legitimately expect a big increase in stakes and I am sure it is the general desire that the leading Trotting Club in the country will in the coming season repair the neglect that has hitherto been shown to the pure gaited trotter. What I have written of the Metropolitan Trotting Club applies in less degree to the Plumpton Park and New Brighton Clubs, each has had a good reason and each has a substantial credit balance in cash. All round, the closing season has been one of great progress for the Christchurch Trotting Clubs and therefore all may confidently hope that the sport of trotting will be of a still higher standard during the 1908-1909 season.”
In July 1908 the NZ REFEREE reported that visitors to the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s Meeting in August would be agreeably surprised at the many improvements effected for their convenience. The comfort to outside patrons had been studied by the formation of nice graveled paths leading to the totalisator and stands while the bank near the track and the flat have been improved by a thick coating of fine metal. For some time past the Stewards Stand has been found much too small to meet requirements but when improvements are completed it should be eqal to any demands placed upon it. The building has been extended in an easterly direction to nearly twice its previous length and a good deal of the new portion is taken up by enlarged quarters for the Clerk of Scales and drivers’dressing rooms while the top portion is set apart as a stand for owners and trainers. This area is approached by a staircase leading from the weighing room and so keeps it entirely apart from the Press and Stewards Stands. An excellent room has been provided for the President’s use and many other conveniences for those who have the management in hand are included. Large additions have also been made in the tea house which is now nearly twice its normal size.
On June 1st 1910 it was reported in the NZ REFEREE that the Plumpton Park Trotting Club had on Saturday, May 28th 1910 conducted its first Meeting under its new name, the Canterbury Park Trotting Club and that the change of name was noted in the official Calendar on 8th June of that year.
In the issue of 3rd August 1910 the NZ REFEREE reported that the August Meeting of the NZMTC was to be held at the Canterbury Park Trrotting Club’s Sockburn Course instead of Addington but that it was anticipated this would make little difference to the success of that popular fixture. The suburban course was in really fine order and, although not so fast as the one at Addington, it had plenty of qaccommodation for even the largest fields.
The Committee decided that as from the 1910 Cup Meeting the charge for admission to the grandstand enclosure would be five shillings but that outside patrons would have the use of the two stands in their portion of the grounds for the one shilling that they paid at the entrance gates.
The NZ REFEREE of 4th January 1911 gave details of a racecourse riot in Auckland:
“Perhaps the most disgraceful occurrence which has ever taken place on a New Zealand racecourse marked the opening of the Auckland Trotting Club’s Summer Meeting at Alexandra this afternoon. As a result of the trouble only three of the eight races on the programme were run. The first two races were got of wellup to time and the starters for the Pony Cup, anevent for gallopers, ranged up to the barrier within a few minutes of the time advertised on the card. It was soon evident that the starter, who also officiated for the Auckland Racing Cluband several other important bodies, was going to have some trouble as several horses proved rather restive. Every now and again one of the animals would break away, one of them passing the stand six times. It was an hour after the advertised time of strating ther crowd raised the cry of “They’re Off!” and the ponies pounded passed the stand. That was the moment the real trouble started. Some ponies were pulled up while others hesitated long enough to be quite out of the race. The mob invaded the track in front of the Stewards Stand and began to shout ‘No Race! Run it again’. The white flag was hoisted calling the Stewards together and was instantly followed by a red flag indicating that a protest had been entered, a signal which was heralded by much cheering. The mob was highly excited and a serious fight took place between a maori and a pakeha, the police, of whom only a dozen were on the scene, forced a way into the crowd and both competitors were bodily removed amongst the jeers of the multitude. Then there was a wait broken only by occasional cheering and hooting and the music of the Garrison Band which plodded away cheerfully despite the uproar. At last a blue flag appeared, protest dismissed, and at once pandemonium broke loose. The police were powerless to stop the mob rushing the Stewards Stand and all kinds of orators made their appearance to harangue the crowd. One of those who attempted to restore order was Mr A E Glover, M P for Auckland Central, but either the disappointed punters did not hear what he said or they did not care, for his eloquence made no difference. Time continued to slip by without any other developments and the crowd amused itself meanwhile by pelting the Stewards Stand with turf until 5-30pm. By this time the totalisator had paid out on the declared winner of the disputed race and had booked many bets on the Trotting Club Cup for which the horses had taken the course. There was no hope however of getting a clear track so a notice was hoisted ‘Races Postponed Until 2pm Tomorrow. All Bets On Cup Stand.’ Subsequent arrangements were made for an extension of the permit until the following day.”
On 18th January 1911 the President and Treasurer interviewed the Manager of the Union Bank regarding an overdraft but were unsuccessful. An offer of an overdraft of £3,500 or more on 19th January made by the National Bank was accepted. Messrs A I Rattray and G B Ritchie (Treasurer) were the guarantors and the lease was handed to the Bank as security. To protect the guarantors up to £4,000 in debentures was issued at 6% with the right to repay at any time. By November, Half of the debentures had been repaid.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Club held in July 1911 it was pointed out that the total subscriptions received from Members amounted to £258 and that no less than £212 had been spent on luncheons. The Chairman said, in explanation, that a large part of this amount had been necessitatedby the entertaining of guests at the opening of the new grandstand.
An article in the NZ REFEREE of 27th December 1911 reported that trotting had made substantial progress in certain quarters but that there had been a regrettable falling off in the stakes given by the Metropolitan Club. It was believed that this economy was only a temporary one. The Auckland Trotting Club, the Forbury Park Trotting Club and the Otahuhu Trotting Club, who own the freehold of their courses made substantial improvements for the benefit of their patrons who provided the sinews of war. The Forbury Park Club had given stakes up to £500, a position entirely satisfactory to all concerned. In November of that year the Government’s cheque from the Metropolitan Club Meeting was £2,030 a very useful dividend for the Government to draw with little exertion.
A leading article published in the NZ REFEREE of 19th June 1912 stated:
“During the past few weeks the affairs of the NZMTC have been receiving quite an unusual amount of attention and the publicity which was thus given was responsible for the exceptionally large attendance at the special meeting of Members held last Wednesday afternoon to discuss certain motions of which notice in two forms had been given. As our readers may be aware, the movement which brought about last weeks meeting took definite shape at a meeting held a few weeks back in the rooms of the South Island Owners and Trainers Association at which the leading Club in the Dominion came in for some very free criticism. It was stated last Wednesday that the Association was in no way responsible for the special meeting of the Club, which was called in response to a requisition signed by ten members. To all intents and purposes the proposals brought forward formed a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the Club’s present executive. Regarded in that light the result of the meeting was a complete vindication of their policy for as will be seen by the report appearing in this issue each one of the proposals was defeated by an overwhelming majority. Indeed so far as the ‘Reform Party’, to adopt the title which was used by one of their leaders, was concerned they found themselves faced not merely with defeat but absolutely routed at every turn. In a meeting of some two hundred members the largest vote they could command was twenty two and the reverse sustained on the first motion evidently discouraged some of their supporters for on the later proposals their numbers were even less. It has thus been made evident that as far as the Club itself is concerned the discontent is confined to a very small section and that the vast majority of members have no sympathy for the agitation whichhas been raised of late and which has been responsible for a great deal of street corner talk of an undesirable character. At last weeks meeting some of the opponents of the Committee conveyed, by their remarks, some quite unworthy insinuations that certainly did not improve the strength of their case. We hold no brief for the Metropolitan Club but in ordinary justice the members o its executive must be given credit for the work they have done for the advancement of the sport. They have given not only time and thought to the Club’s welfare but have given practical proof of theirdevotion to trotting by making themselves responsible to the Club’s bankers for a guarantee for the sum necessary to meet liabilities incurred. If they made mistakes, and no body of men can claim infallibility, they have at least made them honestly and to that extent should receive the fair play which some of their critics would deny them. Perhaps after all last weeks meeting may have the beneficial effect of a thunder storm clearing the atmosphere and thus mark the beginning of a period of sunshine and increased prosperity for the Club whose development has been such a source of pride to those who have been associated with it .”
In August 1912 the REFEREE, in a write up of the August Meeting, stated:
“This year’s meeting lacked the glamour of last year’s August gathering. It has been aptly demonstrated that it is the good horses who attract the public and this point will no doubt appeal to the executive when framing their future programmes.”
“Entries for the New Zealand Cup, which closed on 21st Audust 1912 two and a half months before the Meeting would have been increased to twenty four had the new owner of Celtic been a little more prompt in sending along a telegram. The message was not received in Christchurch until after 8pm and so the entry had to be refused. Further to the above, entries for the NZMTC’s New Zealand Cup Handicap to be run on Tuesday, 5th November closed on Wedneday 21st August at 8pm with the first payment closing on Wednesday 16th October at 8pm and acceptances closing on Tuesday 29th October at 8pm.”
In March 1913 the H M S New Zealand was in port and arrangements were made for members of the crew to hold a sports meeting at the Addington grounds.
In the issue of 8th July 1913 the NZ REFEREE reported on the affairs of the three local Clubs as follows:
“The three Trotting Clubs which hold the large populace of Christchurch in their hands have held their annual meetings of members and in almost all ways things are as they were and perhaps that is as things should be in every well organized institution. There are however storms in the tea cup of the Metropolitan Club. At the annual meeting it was decided, practically unanimously, to have a stake of £2,000 for the next New Zealand Cup. Immediately after the annual meeting was over the committee of the Club met and confirmed the resolution of members to make Cup to the value of £2,000 and to add another £1,000 to the general stakes for the next spring meetihg making the programme worth £8,000 in all. In last weeks issue of the REFEREE we stated that we believed there had been an opportunity for the Metropolitan Club to obtain the freehold of it’s course and land on which the appointments stand. We are now authoratively informed that the Club had no such opportunity though it might have gone to the owners of the property with some £9,000 as a preliminary deposit. Is there any attempt being made now to obtain the freehold property? We suggested in last weeks issue that the present was an opportune time to establish a reserve fund for the purchase of a freehold course but there was so much hot air about the £2,000 Cup that discussion on more lasting improvements and necessities was neglected.”
In the issues of the NZ REFEREE in July 1913 reference is made to the salaries paid to the Secretary and Handicapper and the general feeling seemed to be that the Committee were not recognizing the efforts put in by these two gentlemen when it came to salary increases.
A resolution was passed by the Committee on 21st November 1913 that a land purchase reserve fund be established with an amount of £2,000. In July 1915, following a decision by the Annual General Meeting, the land purchase reserve was cancelled and the £2,000 was then paid into the current account to meet expenses incurred by land purchases around the Addington Course.
The President in his address to the Annual Meeting on 1st July 1914 said that the question of accommodation was being reviewed and it was necessary to provide more accommodation for the executive on race days. At present the four hundred members with their privileges required seating for about sixteen hundred to two thousand and the Committee, to avoid the great overcrowding, have decided not to elect any new members until the accommodation is enlarged. At present the members gor thirty six tickets during the season of nine days which was good value for their one pound one shilling subscription.
It was reported in October1914 that a proposal to make the Trotting Cup day one of the holidays of carnival week had been generally approved and many business places in Christchurch would be closed on that afternoon.
In the NZ REFEREE of 9th August 1916 it was stated that mile races at the August Meeting on Saturday, Wednesday and Friday would be started by the yards system and owners and trainers would be interested to learn that the necessary arrangements had been made to meet the altered condititions. The Course was surveyed and various handicap distances carefully marked off while at each distance post a Steward was stationed with a barrier which proved effective though simple. The change was being looked forward to with much interestand the Club’s starter intended to do all in his power to carry it out successfully.
In the following week it was reported that the mile races were watched with keenest interest under the new system and that the experiment was generally regarded as successful and further experience no doubt would see the standing start firmly established.
During August 1916 the NZ REFEREE, in a leading article, reported that there had been an interval of two months since the last trotting meeting and though the close of the season may find even the keenest enthusiast glad of a brief rest they are always anxiously waiting for the renewal of active operations for another year. The opening of the premier Club’s August Meeting gave the 1916-17 season a brilliant inauguration and if successes achieved on Saturday may be taken as an indication then the coming year may be regarded with the utmost confidence.
Further, it said that the August Meeting was notable because the Stipendary Stewards appointed by the NZ Trotting Conference were acting for the first time. Those who were expecting some radical action to follow at th first Meeting were perhaps disappointed that the week provided no sensations but the best work of the Stipendary Stewards will be the prevention of abuses rather than inflicting severe penalties for breaches of rules. It was felt that the new system would eventually prove of great benefit to the sport. It was further reported that on many occasions accidents to sulyies caused a delay at the start and in order to be prepared for such emergencies as this the Committee of the Metropolitan Trotting Club decided to procure two sulkies which were kept near the starting post on race days and were available in case of accidents. This provision rendered in unnecessary for a horse to return to the paddock and consequently saved a great deal of time.
In September 1916 the REFEREE reported that when the Metropolitan Trotting Club decided to make an experiment at its August Meeting and have the mile races each day handicapped and started by yards instead of seconds thechange was regarded rather doubtfully by some of the keenest followers of the sport. The experiment however proved so strikingly successful that the Club decided to have all races at its November Meeting dealt with according to the distance system and the example set by the leading Club was followed by several others in the Dominion.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker