YEAR: 2014


With Natalie Rasmussen leading UDR tables and Sam Ottley aiming at becoming the third female to top the Junior Driver's premiership, women are driving high just now. And considering it took 80 years for them just to be licenced their achievements are notable. The pioneers were Ethel Abbott and Bella Button both of whose careers were ruined by Victorian hypocrisy.

Abbott was granted a licence by the Otahuhu Trotting Club in 1890 aged just 16. She was a pioneer of riding astride, wearing bloomers as did Button. But official licences were issued nationally and theirs were always refused.

Button drove winners in Canterbury but with a one day club permit. Because of these two the subject of female drivers was discussed as early as at the first Trotting Conferencein 1896. It was noted that "rules would have to be changed" to allow them to be licenced but there "seemed to be some degree of support fot it". 75 years later it happened.

Button, originally from Mid-Canterbury, owned and trained Star, the first winner of the inaugural Ashburton Trotting Club meeting in 1890. As usual she sent the good news home by carrier pigeon. She drove in lightweight "wagons" and later in the high seated sulky in ladylike fashion. Something of a legend, Bella also starred in the then famous Australasian travelling rodeo show. O'Neill's Buckjumpers.

At one Christchurch Show she was asked to ride all four contenders in the final round of the hurdles and did. She was the first woman to win a race at Riccarton only an hour after Slow Tom, a horse she had developed and sold, had won the 1904 Grand National Steeplechase.

The licencing system drove her out of trotting and when she operated from the landmark Brooklyn Lodge stables at New Brighton in later years she was mainly involved with ponies and show-horses - though she was in demand for educating or sorting out difficult racehorses. Jack Litten was one who spent his early working days with her at Brooklyn Lodge.

The arrival of speed carts and the "unladylike" poses they required seemed to prevent progress of female drivers for decades even though the talent was there.

Another noted horsewoman, the formidable Julia Cuff, later of Hinds, was the first woman licenced to train in Southland in 1935 but she was not suited to race driving. It wasn't until the "Eyelure Derbys" and similar - mainly non tote races showing female talents in the 1970's - aided by the push to licence female jockeys, that real progress was made. A number of stars of those chose to remain amateur.

Una Anso operated her own stable of horses with the "Red" prefix at Otorohanga and became the first woman to win at trials. Then three raceday licences were granted in 1979 to Dorothy Cutts (open licence) who became the first to win a totalisator race against the men with Kenworthy at an on-course only meeting at Cambridge in February that year.

Lorraine Watson (amateur licence) followed as the first southerner to win with Hydro Byrd at Methven and Anne Cooney was granted a junior driver's licence. As Lorraine Grant the former was later the first woman trainer of a NZ Cup starter, cult pacer Rainbow Patch.

The female profile was raised in 1972 with the visit of personable American Bea Farber, the first woman to drive in the World Driver's Championship after topping the American UDR ratings three years in a row. She ultimately drove over 1800 winners. The real American pioneer had been "Grandma" Burright who drove for 25 years including at major night meetings until well into her 60's in the 1950's. The immortal Greyhound's trainer-driver Sep Palin held her driving in high regard.

The amazing feat in American up until then - still astonishing today - was 11-year-old Alma Sheppard driving trotter Dean Hanover to a world 3-year-old record 1:58.5 in a time trial at the Red Mile in 1937 a feat which had her rivalling Shirley Temple for national media attention. Alma's media response on this remarkable feat was "I didn't do it. The horse did it" and she retired from public driving in her teens.

In the last two decades here Jo Herbert(twice) and Kirstin Barclay have topped junior driving premierships and Nicole Molander(Group Ones) and Nikki Chilcott(500 wins) have made a major impact. Herbert, no longer driving, had three NZ Cup drives placing fourth in one of the best female efforts before Rasmussen. Earlier Maria Perriton and Karen Williams won the Maurice Holmes Junior Trophy at Addington, Lyn Neal drove at the top level, Maree Price won trotting features and others such as Michelle Wallis and Susan Branch had moments in the headlines.

So why has there not been a greater overall commitment in the Australian style of Kerryn Manning's 3000+ wins?

Maybe the brutally frank Farber who had no family, had the last word. In the heat of battle she once said, it was so ruthless it made no difference to rivals if you were "a man, a woman or a hippo." The track grit caused her complexion problems and she rarely shopped for clothes or had time for it. "I am 37, my sister is 50 and everyone says she looks younger than me" was another quote. Then there was her retort to a media question about her private life with then husband, trainer Chuck, a marriage she once claimed as "as much a business arrangement as a relationship. You try having a sex life when you work 20 hours a day," said Bea who retired to Florida in 1995 with multiple arthritic, muscle and joint injuries caused by years in the racecart.

Maybe a lot of skilled Kiwi horsewoman just had other prorities.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 19Mar2014


YEAR: 1972


The history of the pacing horse is as old as antiquity. The changes that have been wrought in the status of the pacer during the last 100 years it truly remarkable. To many who are not conversant with the business, and who have not been actively engaged in the sport, the causes and methods that have been adopted to bring the lateral-gaited horse to the front are an absorbing study.

Some have maintained that the pace is an artificial and cultivated gait. The ancient story that the pacing instinct sprang from the Narragansett pacer is a myth. Some wiseacres have maintained that the original pacer in America, while being taken by ship from Egypt, was 'storm struck,' the pacer being thrown overboard in mid-ocean; and after 10 days the horse was found on the coast of Newfoundland, where he had swum ashore, and that he was found eating rushes on a sand-bar, from where he was rescued and taken to Narragansett Bay.

The idea that the pace is a cultivated gait, and that the trotter antedates the pacer, is absurd. The pacer antedated the trotter by thousands of years. History tells us so.

On the summit of the Acropolis in Athens stand the ruins of the Parthenon, a magnificent temple erected to the goddess Minerva. The building was commenced in the year BC 437, and was completed five years afterwards. All the statuary was the work of the famous Phidias and his scholars. It was made from Pentelic marble. This noted building resisted the ravages of time, and had in turn been converted to a Christian temple and a Turkish mosque. In 1676 it was still entire, but in 1687 Athens was beseiged by the Venetians and the Parthenon was hopelessly wrecked. As a ruin it became the prey of the Turks and other devastators. In order to save some of what remained of it's precious works, Lord Elgin, about the year 1800, brought home to England some portions of the frieze of the temple, with other works of Phidias in marble. He sold them to the Government and they are now preserved in the British Museum.

The frieze is a most interesting subect of study, not only as a specimen of Greek art of the period of Pericules, but as a historic record of the type and action of the Greek horses of that day. It consists of a series of white marble slabs, about four feet wide, upon which are sculptured in high relief the heroes and defenders of Athens, mounted on horses, and the horses are all pacing and distinctly show the pacing attitude.

This is the first record of the pacer, and it is now over 2340 years old. The statuary of the early ages furnished some excellent illustrations of the gait of the horses of that period of the world's history. The four bronze horses on St Marks in Venice are known throughout the world, and they are all in the pacing attitude. The true date of these horses is lost in history, but it is pretty certain that they were cast in Rome about the beginning of the Christian era. Their capture in Rome and transfer to Constantinople, then their capture by the Venetians and transfer to Venice, next their capture by Napoleon and transfer to Paris, and then their restoration to Venice, are all matters of history.

In the first half of the seventeenth century pacers were popular, common and abounded everywhere in England. In the second half of the eigtheenth century not one could be found in all Britian! Of all the facts that are known and established in history of the English horse, the wiping out of the pacer is the most striking and significant. The little English pacers that had been the favourite of kings and princes for so many years were submerged in the strains of Saracenic blood that flowed in upon them, and their only legitimate descendants left upon the face of the earth found homes in the American colonies.

Their blood was one of the principal elements in the foundation of the English racehorse, but the 'lateral-action' in his progeny was esteemed a bar sinister on the escutcheon of the stallions, and it was sought to cover it up with something more fashionable in name. The result was that the little pacer, 'having no friends at court,' was obliged to get out of the way with his 'lateral-gait.' In England, and under the observation of everybody, the pacer showed great tenacity to his long-inherited habit of action and, although buried in non-pacing blood, 'as supposed', of two or three generations, the pace was liable to crop out again at any time.

In the latter half of the last century there were a good many excellent trotters in England, but the further they got away from the blood of the English pacer the fewer trotters they found. It seems to be true of all countries today that where there are no pacers there are also no trotters.

It was during the era from 1775 to 1850 that a lot of the stronger pacing blood trickled into Canada (which has always been strong in pacers) as pacers that could not be converted to trot were not worth the price of a good mule at the time in the United States. But the pacers and amblers were popular in Canada as saddle horses and buggy horses. This was probably how the bulk of the pacers went to Canada; and, when crossed with the native mares, produced the 'Canadian Pacer'. From these came different families that predominated, such as 'The Pilots', 'The Columbus', 'The Copperbottoms', 'The St Lawrences', 'The Royal Georges', 'The Clear Gritts', etc.

Later, when the pacer became popular, quite a number of these Canadian pacers were taken to Kentucky and other States, and while they sired a lot of very useful racehorses, most of them failed to breed on through their sons, and petered out in a generation or so. But their daughters were bred to Hambletonian 10, and played a big part in helping to establish the Hambletonian family.

Today the two gaits, trotting and pacing are breeding-wise inseperable. They apparently always were different sides of the same thing.

Credit: 'Oldtimer' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 29Mar72


YEAR: 1951


In the early 'eighties, coursing was a very popular sport in Canterbury, and for some time it flourished at the old Plumpton grounds, situated near Hornby. Subsequently, race meetings were held on the same property, but they never took on with the public. This led to a change of venue to Sockburn, where a body known as the Plumpton Park Racing and Trotting Club carried on for some years, with varying success. After some years the racing element dropped out, and then was formed the Plumpton Park Trotting Club, now known as the Canterbury Park Trotting Club.

Though its history is only a short one, no body in the Dominion did more to bring light-harness racing up to its present high standard than the Canterbury Trotting Club. In the year of its inception, 1888, meetings were held at Lancaster Park, Lower Heathcote, New Brighton and Plumpton Park. At that period totalisator permits could be had almost for the asking, and, indeed, there were more meetings then than there are at the present time. All these convincing-grounds, with the exception of Lancaster Park, were some distance from the city and not easy to access. Present-day racegoers who complain of the tedious transport to meetings do not know how well provided for they are. In the 'eighties the only public vehicles plying to the New Brighton course, for example, were drags, buses and carriers' carts most of which had seen better days. Packed in like sardines, the good-natured sportsmen made light of their troubles, even though these frequently included a breakdown in the treacherous bit of road leading from the Bower Hotel to the trotting ground.

To bring the sport nearer home a number of enthusiasts got together early in 1888 and resolved to utilise the Addington Showgrounds as a racing headquarters. That area was particularly well adapted for the purpose, as a small grandstand was available, and little trouble was experienced in laying out a half-mile track. So the Canterbury Trotting Club came into existence, and held its inaugural meeting on April 9, 1888.

A glance through the names of its officials should be instructive to those who retain the old idea that trotting had little standing in those times. That genuine sportsman Mr W Boag figured as president, with Mr J Deans and Mr J C H Grigg as vice-presidents. Prominent among the stewards were such well known men as Hon J T Peacock, Messrs George King, H Chatteris, A W Money, J T Ford, S Garforth, J Fergusson, and W Henderson. Most of these gentlemen were keenly interested in the welfare of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, which owned the grounds. At that first meeting Mr George King acted as judge, and Mr F W Delamain as starter, and the handicapping was entrusted to Messrs A I Rattray and H Piper. Seven event constituted the day's bill-of-fare, and stakes of from 20 to 35, the total reaching only 160. What a difference the intervening years have made in prize money.

An auspicious start was made, for in the very first event the two handicappers had the satisfaction of seeing a dead-heat between J Baxter's Dexter and G Burke's Jane. As was customary, the dead-heat was run off later in the afternoon and Dexter made no race of it. The Akaroa-owned stallion Victor, driven by his owner, J Rodriques, scored an easy win in the three-mile saddle trot, from Oliff's Bluegown and W and C Kerr's Gipsy. The corresponding harness event, also run over three miles, went to E Young's The Rogue, who was followed home by W and C Kerr's Wait-a-While. It is estimated that over a thousand people were present at the gathering. Messrs Hobb's and Goodwin's totalisator handled 1484.

Bad weather mitigated against the Club's second venture, held a few months later, and as a result only about 400 patrons turned out, and 889 was the totalisator 'main.' Within the first year of its existence the new club held four meetings, which did much to establish it in popular favour. Its progressive officials were soon enabled to increase the stakes considerably, and eventually races confined to stallions and juveniles were instituted. So mixed were the competitors that enormous starts were necessary to bring the fields together. On one occasion Mr D Barnes's Richmond won the Association Grounds Cup from the 115sec mark, and such flyers as Victor and Young Irvington frequently were asked to concede up to 30sec in mile events.

The introduction of races for stallions in the early 'eighties did much to popularise the club's winter meetings. These brought out such well-known stallions as Specification, Brooklyn, Viking, Imperious, Electioneer, Kentucky, Wilkin, Berlin Abdallah, General Tracey and Emerson. Some years later the executive made another progressive movement by instituting a race for 2-year-olds, known as the Juvenile Stakes, with 200 attached to it. This was the first effort made by any club to introduce early speed, but results showed that it was a little in advance of the times. The first two of these races was won by Mr J A Buckland, with Valiant and The Heir, but it was quite apparent that few Canterbury trainers had sufficient knowledge to get their juveniles ready for 2-year-old racing.

After being in existence for 12 years the career of the Canterbury Trotting Club was brought to a conclusion in dramatic circumstances. Just before the present century opened, Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club decided to purchase a course at Addington, next door to the Showgrounds, and reconstituted itself as the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club. When it was pointed out to the Minister of Internal Affairs that the two clubs intended to race with only an iron fence between them, he stepped in and insisted on an amalgamation. The wisdom of this action, though it was resented by many at the time, has since become most apparent. Several of the Canterbury Trotting Club's officials were elected to similar positions with the new body, and any resentment originally engendered soon wore off. That the amalgamation was fully justified is evidenced by the phenomenal success that has attended the efforts of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club. Its present headquarters are easily the best appointed in the Southern Hemisphere, and on its track most of the Dominion's time records have been established. Some years ago the course had another change of ownership, as a result of a deal between the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and the Canterbury Park Trotting Club. Both these clubs now race on it, and are likely to do so for many a year.

Undoubtedly the biggest lift ever given trotting was the elimination of proprietary interests. Many of those who had the management of courses in the early days were thorough sportsmen, whose chief aim was the betterment of the sport. Unfortunately, others were not quite as scrupulous, and this, to some extent, may account for the decline of such clubs as those that raced originally at Plumpton Park, New Brighton and Lower Heathcote. Under proprietary conditions, stakes seldom amounted to much over a century, while it was not uncommon to find horses racing for 25 stakes. Naturally, this did not make for the cleanest racing, and many owners depended more on what could be made out of the totalisator than on the stake money. This unsatisfactory state of affairs gradually disappeared as a result of judicious legislation by the NZ Trotting Conference and the NZ Trotting Association, two bodies that must be given every credit for bringing the conduct of trotting up to its present high standard. In club management there has been a corresponding improvement, which is reflected in the conduct of all present-day meetings. Nowhere in the world has trotting made such swift advancement as in NZ during the past quarter of a century.

Credit: F C Thomas writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 28Mar51


YEAR: 1950


When in August the NZ Trotting Association is finally absorbed by the NZ Trotting Conference, it will have completed 50 years of service to the sport.

The late Mr C S Howell, an early administrator of trotting, worked with the late Mr A I Rattray and others toward the amalgamation of the North Island and South Island Trotting Associations, and thus, in 1899, came into being the NZ Trotting Association. Mr Howell also became chairman of the first NZ Trotting Conference.

Mr Rattray, who was largely responsible for the formation of the NZ Trotting Association, is still regarded by the people who knew him over a long period of years as the "father of trotting". He left behind him a record of service that time will not obliterate. Trotting will always be in the debt of this fine old pioneer, who, incidentally, was the first secretary of the NZ Trotting Conference.

The late Mr Phineas Selig, who was president of the Association from its inception until his retirement in 1925, was responsible for many reforms. Perhaps his outstanding contribution to the light-harness fabric was the fathering of the rule makng it obligatory for all clubs to include two events for trotters on an eight-race programme.

First elected to the board in 1916, the late Mr J H Williams became chairman in 1925 and remained in that position for 14 years, until shortly before his death. He was held in the highest regard by his colleagues and all who came in contact with him and he made a notable contribution to the administrative side of the sport.

The late Mr H W Kitchingham was a member of the board of the NZ Trotting Association for the record period of 35 years and was chairman from 1939 to 1945. He was primarily responsible in 1938 for a revised edition of the Rules of Trotting.

President of the Association from 1945 to 1947, the late Mr R B McCarthy, of Hawera, joined the board in 1943 and retired, through ill health, in 1947. A leading figure in the legal profession in Hawera, he was an outstanding member of the board, and earned respect throughout the Dominion for his impartiality and sound administrative qualities.

Mr J B Thomson, who succeeded Mr McCarthy as president, was a member of the board for 23 years. Mr Thomson has a profound knowledge of horses and the men who drive them. He has a keen sense of proportion and a lively sense of humour, attributes that have endeared him to all sections of trotting over a lengthy period.

Sir John McKenzie, treasurer to the NZ Trotting Association over a lengthy period, is offering himself for election as treasurer to the NZ Trotting Conference. Sir John was also chairman of the Licensing Committee for a number of years, and altogether served 25 years on the board.

Mr H F Nicoll, later to become president of the NZ Trotting Conference, a position he held with ever-mounting distinction for a quarter of a century, was a member of the board for a term.

The late Mr W Hayward, a vice-president for many years, the late Mr H C Harley, the late Mr S W Kelly and Mr J M Samson, were other members of the board of the last two decades who served for long periods.

Mr E A Lee, now a Stipendiary Magistrate, was a member of the Association from 1943 to 1948, and there was genuine regret among trotting people when his services as an administrator were lost. He was obviously marked out for high office in the trotting world.

With trotting in Auckland will always be associated the name of the late Mr C F Mark, who was a member of the board for many years. He was one of the dominating personalities of his day, and Sir John McKenzie remembers Mr Mark as one of the most able men on the board at the time he (Sir John) was first elected to it.

The late Mr R A Armstrong, of Wellington, although he did not take high office on the board, is remembered as a man of gifted oratory and sound judgement. He was recognised as a born organiser and he was actuated by a genuine desire to see trotting prosper.

Apart from Sir John McKenzie and Mr J B Thomson, the member of the board with the longest record of service was Mr W M Ollivier, an indefatigable worker for the sport.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 21Jun50


YEAR: 1949


The NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, which celebrates its jubilee on Saturday next, like most sporting institutions, developed from small beginnings. Strangely enough, it was started by a body of cricketers who were endeavouring to finance their new ground, Lancaster Park, and needed more 'grist for the mill.'

On May 29, 1886, the first meeting of the Lancaster Park Trotting Club was held. The meeting had been fixed for May 15, but was adjourned owing to the heavy floods in Christchurch City. The usually peaceful Avon had risen four feet and at several points had overflowed its banks. Three feet of water prevailed at the Railway Station, and Ferry Road, near Lancaster Park, was one sheet of water.

The officers of the club for the first meeting were: Mr Justice Johnston (Judge), C A Culvert (Starter), A M Ollivier (Clerk of Course), C J Penfold (Secretary), and the stewards comprised Dr H H Prins, F Cotton, A E G Rhodes, A C Wilson, F Jones and C Hood-Williams.

There were 1100 persons present, 38 was taken at the gates, and 1512 was invested on the totalisator run by Hobbs and Goodwin. Prize money totalled 125 for five races, the principal event being the Lancaster Park Time Trot of three miles in saddle. The first prize was 40 and the result was as follows:-

FIDGET, B Edwards's, 50secs (ridden by owner) 1

ERIN, D O'Brien's, 45secs (ridden by owner) 2

MALVENA, P Howard's, 50secs (ridden by A J Keith) 3
Time: 9 min Dividend: 12/3/-

The other races were the Maiden Trot of three miles, Time Handicap, Time Handicap Pony Trot and Handicap Time Trot, each of two miles. The course was a third of a mile in length, and consequently the horses were in view of the public all the way.

The Lancaster Park Trotting Club had rather a varied history. Started by members of the Cricket Company, assisted by a few trotting enthusiasts, it struggled along for a few years, and the directors, satisfied with the 40 rental per meeting, were quite ready for any change that would relieve them of managing the trotting club. In due course, the shareholders of the Cricket Company, as such, ceased to have any say in the management, and in 1890 the club was controlled entirely by trotting enthusiasts. In that year (1890)the principal officials of the club were stewards: D Barnes, C Louisson, V Harris, G McClatchie, J Perkins, and L Wilson; secretary: A I Rattray; starter, C O'Connor.

Trotting continued at Lancaster Park util 1899, during which time at least four meetings a year were held. Those thirteen years at Lancaster Park had laid the foundation for something better. The meetings had progressed to a satisfactory degree, and it was realised by the committee that if they were still to go ahead something must be done to obtain their own grounds with better facilities for all concerned.

For some years the Lancaster Park Club and the Canterbury Trotting Club which raced at the show grounds, had been accumulating funds, as a result of their meetings, for the purpose of jointly securing a property of their own, the idea being to form an up-to-date track, with buildings and general surroundings in keeping with the latest American style. To secure the object in view, a joint committee from the two clubs was set up, and a representative of the Canterbury Trotting Club was commissioned to secure a piece of land adjoining the show grounds. The trustees of the property, however, declined to sell for trotting purposes, but subsequently put it up for auction, and a lengthy lease was knocked down to the President of the Lancaster Park Trotting Club at a price below the amount to which the clubs were prepared to go.

But when the grounds had been secured the Canterbury Trotting Club refused to join ownership, their main grievance being that the land was not freehold. Nevertheless, the Lancaster Park Club lost no time in going ahead with the new grounds and in laying what were then paddocks, subdivided by straggling fences, into the finest trotting track in the Southern Hemisphere, with expansive grounds, beautiful gardens, lawns and drives and splendid grandstands.

On moving to the new grounds, the name of the club was changed to the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, and thus was originated the organisation we know today. The first meeting on the new grounds was held on November 6th and 10th, 1899, the stakes for the two days being 2,140 and the totalisator investments 10,695. trotting immediately caught on at the new grounds and the committee tried all sorts of attractions to encourage people to attend.

In 1900, under pressure from the Colonial Secretary, and after a number of conferences with the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, the Canterbury Trotting Club agreed to amalgamate, the arrangement being that each club was to have six of its number on the committee and six stewards. This move strengthened the club considerably besides providing further needed funds. The men who were in charge of affairs in those days were undoubtedly men of great vision. Their faith in the future of trotting was amazing and all their moves were actuated by this faith. With so many natural advantages in the way of flat country and excellent highways, Canterbury, from its infancy led the way in everything appertaining to the breeding and development of the trotting horse.

The NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club has been particularly fortunate in the men who have been at the head of affairs during the 50 years of its existence. It has had only six presidents, viz: V Harris, 1899 to 1903; G H McHaffie, 1903 to 1905; Hon C Louisson, 1906 to 1924; J H Williams, 1924 to 1940; A L Matson, 1940 to 1945, and C S Thomas, from 1945 to the present time.

Mr Victor Harris, the first president was a great enthusiast and worker for the club when the spadework was being done in transferring to Addington and forming the new grounds. He raced a number of horses which were trained by D J Price, and did a good deal to bring about and finance the Ribbonwood - Fritz match which did so much to place the club on a sound footing.

Mr G H McHaffie, the second president, was also a great enthusiast and one of the most far-seeing officials the club ever had. He was a wholesale merchant in Cashel Street, and bred trotting horses as a hobby, the most notable of his bred being the famous Ribbonwood.

The third president was the Hon Chas. Louisson who held office for 18 years. He was a steward of the Lancaster Park Club when it was taken over from the Cricket Company in 1890, so that he acted as an official of the club for 34 years. His term as president covered the period when great changes were made in erecting buildings and enlarging the Addington grounds and forming it into what we know it as today. One of his greatest services was to make a present of the Cup for the NZ Cup Handicap annually for many years. His name is perpetuated on the foundation stone of the inside public stand, which he laid.

On the death of the Hon C Louisson, Mr J H Williams was elected president and held office for 16 years, during that time he rendered yeoman service to the club. He was an able counsellor on all matters appertaining to the administration of the sport, and was president of the NZ Trotting Association for 14 years. He was also a member of the Racing Commission in 1921. He was one of nature's gentlemen and was held in high esteem by all. He did a lot of very useful work in a quiet unostentatious way and was a tower of strength during the dark days of the depression.

The fifth president was Mr Allan L Matson, who was elected in 1940. He brought to the office youth, energy, ability and enthusiasm, and put a tremendous amount of work into reorganising the club and bringing it to its present popular position. Probably no president has been so universally popular as Mr Matson.

Mr C S Thomas, who has been president since 1945, is a man of very high attainments in the legal profession. He brought outstanding ability, drive and dignity to the position and has done a great deal towards promoting the high reputation and position of the club. He was leading counsel for the trotting authorities before the Gaming Commission, and his work in this direction was freely acknowledged as a masterpiece.

Perhaps the outstanding personality throughout all the years of the club's history was the late Mr A I Rattray, who was secretary of the club from 1890 to 1941. His great experience in all branches of the sport made him an authority on all matters pertaining to it. At various times he acted as handicapper, starter and timekeeper, and he was also the first secretary of the NZ Trotting Association. He did great service in framing the Rules of Trotting and in obtaining Government recognition of the NZ Trotting Association. He was intensly loyal to his club and was always out to create such a standard for it in integrity and prestige that anything which did not measure up 100% in his opinion was scorned. He was an indefatiguable worker and put in long hours when it was required. During the 54 years he was associated with trotting as a secretary, he won great respect and was well known throughout NZ. Undoubtedly his foresight, resolution and faith in the sport placed his club and trotting in Canterbury in the strong position it is in today.

Credit: H E Goggin writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 26Oct49


YEAR: 1946


How many of the thousands of people who will assemble at Addington on Saturday to witness the 43rd contest for the NZ Trotting Cup have any idea what trotting was like when first established in this province? In the coming race will be found horses which are the acme of physical fitness and grace. Sixty years ago at any meeting you would have been confronted with the clumsy efforts of horses that, only a few days previously, had been earning their oats between the shafts of a butcher's, baker's or grocer's cart.

Yes, the progress of this humbler racing sport has been as meteoric as to make one wonder where its limitations will cease. For instance, when Bert Edwards drove that grand old trotter, Monte Carlo, to victory in the first contest, the stake was only 300, and on a good track the winner took 4.44 2/5 to cover the two miles. In 1910 the value of the Cup had jumped to 1000; in 1913 it was 2000, and in 1929 it had gone up to 4000. Last season it reached 7500, thereby making it the richest stake ever given for a single light-harness race in the world. There has been a corresponding improvement in the times also. Monte Carlo's feat of going the journey in 4.44 2/5 was hailed as a great one at the time, but it looks insignificant when compared with Haughty's 4.13 3/5.

Away back in the seventies, on almost any general holiday and sometimes on Saturdays a band of sporting enthusiasts would meet on the New Brighton beach, near the present township. During the day about half-a-dozen events would be decided, some for trotters and some for gallopers. They were rough and ready meetings, and the prizes were usually of the utility order, such as a saddle, a bridle or even a whip. When the New Brighton Racing Club was formed these informal gatherings ceased. Mixed racing and trotting meetings were held on a new course for some years, but after a while the galloping element faded out and it was left to the New Brighton Trotting Club to carry on, which it has done successfully to this day.

It was the Lower Heathcote Racing Club, however, that did most to establish the light-harness sport. I wish that you enthusiasts who know trotting only as it is conducted at Addington today could journey with me to the Heathcote course as it was in the eighties. What a contrast you would notice. The old course was situated on the Sumner Road, just before you came to the bridge. All the arrangements were primitive.

My present concern, however, is more with those old-time trotters which, in their humble way, helped to lay the foundation as it is now. To a few present-day racegoers the names of such ancient celebrities as Fidget, Shakespeare, Sapphire, Bobby Burns, Maid of Munster, Narrow Gauge, Cock Robin, Wait A While, Chanticleer, Victor, Young Irvington and Long Roper will conjure up memories of the so-called 'Good old days.' Mention of Cock Robin brings to mind the fact that even Gloaming's trainer was an active participant in the trotting sport. Before becoming associated with Yaldhurst, Dick Mason owned Cock Robin and on one occasion rode him to victory in a race at Oamaru. The versatile Dick was just as finished an artist on the back of a trotter as in a galloper's saddle, and this particular win gave the ring a nasty jolt.

Amonst the regular competitors at Heathcote was a pony called Jimmy Brown, who, though blind, generally knew the shortest way to the winning post. Once Jimmy would not answer the helm and, swerving off the course, landed up in the Heathcote River. Both he and his rider had cause to remember that mishap. Perhaps the cheekiest ramp ever attempted at Heathcote was engineered by a then well-known bookmaker with a mare, originally grey. She won several races at country meetings, but a coat of brown paint transformed her into an unknown quantity when she stepped out at Heathcote. She won alright but, unfortunately, it was a hot day. When she pulled up the brown paint had run and she looked more like a zebra than a racehorse. So the fat was in the fire and there was weeping and wailing in the camp of the wrong-doers.

Most of the races were run under the saddle, and it was no unusual thing to find a good horse giving away up to 60sec to 90sec start, and even that concession failed to put the cracks out of court. For a long time the handicappers never made less than 5secs between any division of horses, for which there was probably a good reason. Under the rules when a horse broke, its rider was compelled to pull it up and turn round before going on with the business. When, as often happened, there were several that could not trot a furlong without getting in the air, the race savoured more of an equine circus or a Waltzing Matilda contest than a trial of speed. Just fancy a race at Addington with similar conditions. The Lower Heathcote Trotting Club died a natural death in 1893, but its memory lingers on.

When Lancaster Park was brought into being as a sports and cricket ground, difficulty was experienced in financing it. To help in this way a club known as the Lancaster Park Trotting Club was formed and held meetings on a three-laps-to-the-mile course, the same as that on which the bicycle races were run. The venture did not serve its purpose and its operations were subsequently taken over by a more practical body known as the Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club. Its meetings were well conducted and did much to popularise the sport. Another club that had a rather meteoric career was the Canterbury Trotting Club, with headquarters at the Addington Show Grounds. In the meantime the Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club, finding its headquarters all too small to accommodate the ever-increasing crowds, formed a course on the Twiggers Estate at Addington. This meant that two clubs were racing side by side, separated only by a tin fence. Naturally such a state of affairs could not go on, so eventually the Government forced the two bodies to amalgamate.

It was a fortunate move, for out of the amalgamation grew what is today the best-conducted and most influential club in all Australasia - the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club.

Credit: F C Thomas writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 30Oct46


YEAR: 1944


Addington - world famous as the mecca of trotting in the Southern Hemisphere. What thrills and stirring contests in recalls.

Addington was formed by the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club in 1899, and the first meeting was held in November of the year, so that this meeting marks the 45th anniversary of the club and of the Addington course.

The NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club has been responsible for many features which have all been landmarks in the history of trotting in New Zealand. Events such as the Ribbonwood-Fritz match, the visit of Walla Walla, the visit of Lawn Derby to the Cup Meeting 1938, when he established the Australasian mile record of 1:59 2-5 - a record which still stands. Then there was the Inter-Dominion Championship of four days at the Easter Meeting 1938.

So much has been written and said about the NZ Trotting Cup, that it is difficult to say anything new about it, but having been so closely associated with the Club running the race, ever since its inauguration, I may claim some knowledge of it's history. With the exception of the years 1916,1917, and 1918, when I was in France in the last war, I have seen every Trotting Cup since it was instituted as such in 1904.

There was no mention of this race in any programme in 1899, when the Club started at Addington, nor in 1900, but in 1901 the New Zealand Handicap, of 150 sovs, "for horses that can do 5 minutes or under," was the big event on the second day of the Carnival Meeting. In 1902 it was on the third day and was of 200 sovs, 4:50 or better. In 1903 the New Zealand Handicap, of 170 sovs, 4:55 or better, was the chief event on the third day of the August Meeting, which in that year was known as the 'First Spring Meeting,' and the November Meeting as the 'Second Spring Meeting.' This year was the first year the race was known as the New Zealand Cup Handicap. The stake was 310 sovs, the class 4:50 or better, and the winner, the straight-out trotter, Monte Carlo. He and Reta Peter are the only two trotters to win the race. In 1905 conditions were the same as the previous year. Nineteen hundred and six was the four-day Exhibition Meeting, and the New Zealand Cup Handicap was on the first day, the Thursday before Carnival Week, and was of 400 sovs, 4:50 or better. In 1907 it was on the third day, as was the New Zealand Handicap, 400 sovs, 5:50 or better. In 1908 it was again on the third day, and was of 500 sovs, 4:48 or better.

At this stage it was decided by the committee to make a feature race of the New Zealand Cup, and that as the success of Show Day was always assured, to run it on the first day, which was then the 'off' day of the meeting. Consequently, in the following year, 1909, the New Zealand Cup appeared on the first day of the programme, with a stake of 700 sovs, and the class 4:45 or better - a big advance on anything previously staged. Thus was originated Cup Day as we know it today. From 1921 to 1928 the stake was 3000. In 1929, 1930 and 1931 the race was run in two divisions and a final; the stake in 1929 and 1930 being 4000 and in 1931, 3000.

From then on to date the race has gone from success to success until last year the stake of 5000 was the most valuable prize ever offered in New Zealand for trotting or galloping. On several previous occasions the stake has been the highest ever offered for either sport, and the race has always taken the lead in stake money. This year the stake is again 5000.

The New Zealand Cup is the hallmark of quality in trotting, and it is the ambition of every owner to win it. It has done much to establish the prestige of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, and has attracted attention from all parts of the world. I have often been asked how the horses of today compare with those of, say, 25 years ago. Without a doubt they are much superior. For every really good horse then you have half a dozen today. This is mainly due to the improved facilities for breeding, and the study which breeders give to it.

Credit: H E Goggin talking on 3ZB. NZTC 8Nov44


YEAR: 1913


From time immemorial racing and betting have been a way of life for a large proportion of the world's peoples. When they built the pyramids maybe the gang bosses held a lottery on the day's progress. Cock-fighting in Eastern countries generated a betting mania, and still does. The charioteer raced for the prize, and his lady's favour, but I guess he had a few drachmas on the side with his rivals. The Eskimo bet on the size of the fish he'd pull out of the ice-hole; and "having a little on the dogs" is a favourite pastime in many countries.

In New Zealand early in 1840 the military garrison at Auckland held the first race meeting. Wellington was next in 1841, celebrating the founding of the settlement with theirs. Each succeeding province had a meeting at it's first festival: Canterbury's was held in 1851. That was still the era of colourful bookmakers who had been calling their odds for nearly 200 years.

But betting on horse racing in this century has had more impact on a larger number of people the world over than any betting ever before. It is all due to that machine called a "totalisator" which the Concise Oxford Dictionary describes as "a device showing numbers and amount of bets staked on a race with a view to dividing the total among bettors on the winner." It sounds so simple.

As I stood watching the complicated machinery of the modern totalisator it seemed a far cry from one I had seen in the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. I wanted to find the story of the origin of that one, and of the years between it and the infernal machine that takes my dollars now and sometimes gives me back a few.

The story unfolded as I searched files and publications, and plucked the brains of knowledgeable men. They took me to see the bowels of the robot, and my brain reeled at the intricacy of it all. One of the steel cases housed enormous ropes of electrical wiring - the nerve centre servicing the ticket machines and the aggregating machines and whatever. It seemed a vulnerable spot. They told me it was continuously inspected; even a mouse could cause an error of $1000. Rows of electric batteries can take over if the national grid fails; and a diesel plant stands by.

It became a fascinating study, and I was filled with admiration for the two New Zealanders who built on a Frenchman's system, and was responsible for the wonderful device we have today to bring us wealth or woe if we are susceptible to its charms. Mr Oller was a Parisian businessman, and as a side-line to his selling of toilet articles he conducted lotteries and a bookmaking business. On the latter he consistently lost money. At last he devised a system which would allow people to bet among themselves, and give the winner a part of all the money bet, in proportion to the individual wager. I had wondered what the "Pari-mutuel" was. This is it. "Parier" means to wager, and "mutuel" is between ourselves.

So, in 1872 Mr Oller in an office in Paris prepared many stacks of tickets, sold them and used his system for race meetings near the city. It was in demand, and he extended it by sending carriages and an army of clerks and accountants to sell pari-mutuel tickets on the courses themselves; in Belguim and England as well as in France. His commission was between 10 and 20%, and his profit enormous with the popularity of the betting system. It was completely honest; he was an honest man, which was not always the case with some bookmakers. New gambling laws put him out of business for some years; but by 1890 he was in business again though paying a government tax. His division of the pool money has altered little since then.

Queer-looking betting contrivances were used on race tracks before this, and the "marble" machine was used in Australia. When a ticket seller issued a ticket he dropped a marble into a chute for that selected horse. It rolled down to a counting place at the end of the buildings, and the dividend was arrived at by the number of marbles at the end of the winners chute. This simple system failed when few marbles got past a dead, undiscovered rodent body halfway along the chute.

Then a New Zealander named Ekberg became interested in Oller's pari-mutuel betting, and produced a hand operated machine which would speed up the procedure of selling tickets and recording bets. He called it a totalisator, and it was first used in 1880 at a race meeting of the Canterbury Jockey Club and in the same year at Auckland's Ellerslie race course.

Though still crude, other improved machines followed, but all were manually operated, and subject to fraudulent manipulation, and without any governmental restriction in their use. Then early in this century came the great revolution in racing circles. George Julius, the son of the Bishop of Chrischurch and Primate of New Zealand (himself no mean artificer) began his professional career as assistant engineer to the West Australian Railways Department. He had graduated from the Engineering School of Canterbury College in 1896.

He became chief draughtsman and engineer in charge of tests; all tests I presumed, for his report on "The Physical Characteristics of Australian Hardwood" (it would be used for sleepers) is still a standard work of reference. He married the daughter of the engineer in chief of West Australia: wise man, she would be brought up speaking the same language. Her christian names, I thought strange and beautiful: Droughsia Odierna, though she had Eva for an everyday one.

About that time irregular voting was suspected in the Australian elections, and Julius invented a foolproof vote-counting machine for the Government. It was rejected however, but he was not dismayed and decided it could be adapted as a totalisator. The family moved to Sydney in 1907, and in his garden workshop, it took him five years to perfect an automatic totalisator which would make racecourse wagering safe and accurate.

By 1912 it was finished, and George Julius was a triumphant man when the managers of Ellerslie racecourse agreed to buy and install his invention. He wished it to be called the "Premier" and he, himself supervised the erection of every section, and the screwing of every nut and bolt.

On a Staurday in June, 1913, the first automatic totalisator in the world came into operation and was a colossal success. For the first time the horse racing public saw a machine that automatically and instantaneously recorded and showed the number of tickets sold on each horse, and the aggregate number of tickets sold right throughout the progress of the betting.

Julius saw a world market for his Premier; so back in Sydney he set up a proper workshop and went into business. In spite of the great cost all of the leading courses in Australia brought his totalisators, New Zealand showing the way. He and his leading technicians went overseas to promote them, and he installed them on courses in England, France and India, beginning what was to be a great international enterprise.

It seems strange that a man with no interest in racing should have given this thing to the racing world. But his totalisator was his sideline, for as a consulting engineer he began the firm of Julius, Poole and Gibson, and was the senior partner until his death in 1946. His numerous contributions to science, his professoinal and administrative genius and his chairmanship of the mighty Council of Scientific and Industrial Research from its inception, were recognised in 1929 when he was created a Knight Bachelor.

As markets grew the totalisator was manufactured by a company calling itself Automatic Totalisators, and improvements were continually added to it. In 1932 Julius, a director of the company, added an automatic odds-computing device; and by a system of electrical impulses the modern ticket machine prints an transmits the amount of the investment as it is made, to the adding mechanism, and simultaneously issues a ticket. The company still produces the greater part of betting equipment for the world's race tracks, whether it be for galloping or trotting or dog racing. In New Zealand the law prevents totalisator betting on dog racing; but the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club has recently requested he Internal Affairs Department and the New Zealand Racing Authority to grant it a permit for its spring meeting this year.

Each installation is custom built to suit each particular set of problems and situations. When the company receives an order, an army of experts, acting on replies to a dozen questions sets to work on a study involving design, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering and whatever, before submitting the plan to the client. All equipment is built as a series of small units and tested and packed as they are finished then shipped to their destination. Experts arrive by air and install them on the racecourse whereever it may be. The factory can never show a finished article. They will tell you "there's no use looking here for anything. You should go and see the new one we've just installed in Caracus in Venezuela." Or it may be Longchamps in France, of Sweded or Brazil.

The engineers say they have the best job in the world: a pleasant trip to a faraway place with a happy round of racing thrown in. For when you visit a race track in any part of the world the chances are that you will place your bets on a Julius Premier Totalisator. Other big manufacturing companies operate throughout the world, but are smaller. Through one of them, the English Bell Punch and Printing Company, another name came into the picture. Henry Strauss, an American, improved on the Julius machine by applying the principle of the automatic dial telephone to further speed up the operation and cope with any betting load placed on it. The New Zealand branch of that company was joined with Automatic Totalisators in 1964 and the enlarged firm manufactures most of the macines here and in Australia.

The first Tote-mobile, a small totalisator mounted in a caravan-trailer, was in use after the war. This proved of great value to clubs that could not afford the more costly equipment. It is a familiar picture on our nice country race tracks. From that time on improvements to installations came thick and fast, until now totalisators are in the electronic computer age, and betting on the totalisator is big business. Even at an ordinary Addington race day close to $750,000 pass through the totalisator om combined on and off course betting, and 80% of that is from the dollar punter.

In New Zealand, churches and bookmakers opposed the totalisators for entirely opposite reasons, and a bill to abolish them passed the second reading in Parliament, but not the third. And in 1910, by an amendment to the Gaming Act, bookmakers were excluded from racecourses, and the totalisator became the only legal means of betting in New Zealand. Today the Totalisator Agency Board is the only legal off-course betting; the electonic computer equipment is being considered for its offices. In 1918 the first inspector of totalisators was appointed by the Government, with provision for the position to be a permanent one.

Racecourse management the world over, to have a profitable business, is always concerned with the number of patrons it could attract to, and keep at the course, and various innovations are used to freshen up popularity. For years dividends were paid only on a win, then win and place equipment was installed. Then the doubles and quinella systems were introduced.

In America the doubles originally operated on the first race of the programme to get patrons on the course early; the quinella was for the last race, so holding patrons as long as possible, with consequent length of betting time. These purposes have long since outlived their usefulness.

I wondered how the name ("quinella") came into racing, and they told me it originated in Mexico after the conquest by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century, when they adopted an Indian court game. To establish the champion in their "Jai-Alia," a game similar to squash but with woven baskets instead of rackets, six of the best players entered a contest, by lot each player being numbered one to six. The loser of the first two contestants is replaced by number three, and this sequence continues until five winning points are established. The same applies to produce four winning points.

As betting on horse racing developed in Mexico patrons demanded that they should be able to bet on the first two horses past the post as with Jai-Alai players. Now this betting system operates on the modern totalisator, investments are fed into a punched tape recorder and read by an electronic instrument.

Stil more sophisticated machines will no doubt appear for a more sophisticated form of betting but the four men Oller, Ekberg, Julius and Strauss are, with their experts responsible for the development of so many devices to improve the operation of pari-mutuel betting, that their names will never be forgotten. And racing men to say that pari-mutuel betting removed the crooked race track bookmaker and that the totalisator made pari-mutuel betting honest.

But in spite of it all, the calculators (and they are human) with great rapidity (one of them could add four columns simultaneously), still have to work out the dividend. So when you receive your payout give a thought to the human brain that as yet must take an active part in this end result of its genius, the totalisator.

Credit: Phyllis Kerr


YEAR: 1910

CUP DAY 1910

On a triumphant day at Addington in November 1910 when the Cup was the richest handicap harness race in the world, 150 trams were needed to transport the huge crowds to and from the city.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 28 Mar 2012


YEAR: 1909

The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's meeting, which will be commenced on Tuesday, of next week, promises to be the most successful trotting fixture ever held in New Zealand. An experiment has been tried this year, the leading event, of the meeting, the New Zealand Cup Handicap, being down for decision on the first day. The wisdom of this plan has been freely canvassed, but as the club has secured a large nomination the innovation must be held, in the meantime, to have justified itself. All the best horses in training claim engagements at the meeting, so that there is every reason to look forward to some first-class racing.

Credit: Star 6 Nov 1909

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