YEAR: 1922


It is doubtful if harness racing ever had a leader as powerful, able and when necessary as ruthless as Harry Nicoll.

The successful sportsman, businessman exporter and farmer who had turned Ashburton from bankruptcy to the most successful club in New Zealand in jus a few years then grew inpatient with others at national level and arranged for a dramatic "palace coup" at the Annual Conference outing a shocked and surprised John Rowe from the presidency in 1922. He won every subsequent election until retiring in 1947.

A skilful and astute administrator who pushed for standing starts and a "yards" handicapping system, Harry also knew as many tricks to retaining power as he did to gain it. He was a popular leader from an efficiency viewpoint during some of the hardest years in a century, winning over the clubs with strong and wise leadership. Harry believed in round numbers. He was president of Ashburton for 50 years and head of the Conference for 25 years, an unprecedented feat. As a side-line he was head of the Ashburton Racing Club for 25 years as well. Nicoll was autocratic and ruled with an iron hand when things got tricky.

When Dr Pezaro proposed easing handicapping restrictions for less able horses winning small stakes Nicoll turned to the Annual Conference delegates an said "Do you want horses to win with no penalty?" which gained a resounding "No" from the floor even though that was not actually what Pezaro was proposing. When the Government cut season permits by 50 per cent in 1942 Nicoll was heavily critical but toed the line and his company gave its four cars to the war effort.

Nicoll won a New Zealand Cup early in his trotting career with Durbar whom he purchased when the horse was almost a teenager. He hired the most talented trainer available, Andy Pringle, and they had a long association. He then bred and raced Wrackler the only horse to win both the Cup and the Dominion Handicap. He imported Wrack from America and his Durbar Lodge was at one stage the most powerful breeding and racing stable of classic horses in the country.

Harry was a trader who wanted his stable to pay its way and some of the best Durbar Lodge products won fame in other colours most notably Indianapolis. He also sold the distinguished Wrack, the first stallion to stand at $200, to Tasmania aged 21 which caused much comment about loyalty for services rendered.

His brother Jack was secretary of Ashburton for as long as Harry had been president. His son Arthur, later became president of the Conference though for a much shorter time than his father. Nobody could match that.

How would Harry have gone in 2016? With his connections, influence, standing and his refusal to stand for any nonsense, he might well have been a saviour just as he was in earlier dark days.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Aug 2016


YEAR: 1900

A special meeting of the New Zealand Trotting Association was held on Saturday afternoon to consider applications from the Canterbury Trotting Club and New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club to pass programmes of meetings to be held about the same time next month. The President, who was in the chair, detailed the correspondence on the subject, and stated that on receipt of another telegram from the Colonial Secretary, stating that there would be no permit for the Canterbury Trotting Club's meeting, he thought it desirable to summon a special meeting. After considerable discussion it was unanimously resolved " That the Chairman, Mr Howell and Mr King be a committee to interview the Presidents of the Canterbury Trotting Club and New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, with a view of bringing about the amalgamation of the two clubs, the applications for passing the programmes to be held over in the meantime." The committee subsequently had an hour's conference with Messrs T. Marr and V. Harris (presidents of the clubs), the result being that each undertook to convene special meetings of members of his club to consider the matter. It is expected, that the meetings will be held on Thursday.

Credit: Star 23 April 1900


YEAR: 1900


The monthly meeting of the New Zealand Trotting Association was held last evening; present - Messrs P Selig (chairman), D McLean, T H Davey, L E Myers and C Howell...A letter was read from the Colonial Sectretary's office, in reply to a letter from the Association regarding the Canterbury Trotting Club's permits, referrring the Association to a letter addressed to the Canterbury Trotting Club, dated August 12, to the effect that, pending some arrangement between that club and the New Zeraland Metropolitan Trotting Club (the late Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club) as to amalgamation, the Colonial Secretary would probably deem it expedient to reduce the number of permits hitherto granted...

Credit: Star 5 Apr 1900


YEAR: 1894


The Secretary of the Canterbury Metropolitan Trotting Association has received an intimation from the Colonial Secretary to the effect that the Association has been appointed controlling body over trotting in Canterbury, to revise programmes and to issue permits for the use of the totalisator.

Credit: Star 29 Jan 1894


YEAR: 1881

PHINEAS SELIG - Administrator

Members of the Jewish community featured strongly in trotting's early days when Phineas Selig, along with Charles Louisson were standout performers though rivalled by Victor Harris the first president of the Met and a brother-in-law of Charles Louisson. Later was to come more Louissons and Dr Pezaro. Both Selig and Louisson were distinguished men outside of racing and gave it standing in the community just it needed it most.

Selig came back from Australia in 1881 and formed the first sporting paper in this country the famous New Zealand Referee in 1884 with journalist Arthur Bird. 10 years later he sold this racing bible to The Press Company but became that firm's general manager.

A strong backer of trotting (and athletics; he founded the Secondary School Sports in Christchurch) he founded and headed the New Zealand Trotting Association, which ran the practical side of racing, and then was president of the Trotting Conference(HRNZ) for 13 years.

Selig's impeccable business reputation and enthusiasm for trotting was a potent mixture when his liking for administration was added. An odd little man on first acquaintance he had the cheerfulness of the racing optimist that others were happy to follow.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Aug 2016

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