CLICK HERE TO GO BACK
This year’s NZ Trotting FFA to be run at Addington Raceway on New Zealand Cup Day (9 November 2021) will be the 75th occasion that the now Group One NZ Trotting FFA has been run at the New Zealand Metropolitan’s TC’s headquarters.
The NZ Trotting FFA is the first of three Group One open class (OC) trotters events raced at Addington annually, others being the Dominion Hcp on Show Day (currently second day of NZ Cup carnival) and NZ Trotting Championship run as part of Easter meetings. The FFA is one of six Group One’s nationally for OC trotters – the others raced at Alexandra Park are the Rowe and Anzac Cups and National Trot.
The NZ Trotting FFA was first accorded Group One status in 2000, 1979 having been raced at Group Two level from 1979 and originally raced as the New Zealand Champion Trotting FFA from 1946 to 1950.
Inaugural NZ Trotting FFA
NZ CHAMPION TROTTING FFA, OC trotters, £2,000 (£1,300, £400, £200, £100); 1½m standing start, 16 November 1946.
Winner : 4/4 STEEL KING (1935), 11yo grey gelding Wrack by Peter The Great – Oriental, owner WL Parkinson, tr Ces Donald (Belfast), dr Ron Donald
Second : 1/1 Sea Max, dr Bill Doyle
Third : 9/8 Mae Wynne, dr Wes Butt
Fourth : 2/2 Forewarned, dr Freeman Holmes
Balance of field consisted of (not in finishing order) : Casabianca, Fantom, Hidden Note, Medical Student, Range Finder (bracketed with Steel King), Royal Worthy, Will Cary)
T3:18 2/5; 3½l, ½l, ½ neck; £7/16/6, £1/19/0; £1/6/0; £4/11/6. Total betting of £19,155½ (win £8,284½; place £10,871)
The old grey 11yo Steel King was in the form of his life during the 1946 NZ Cup carnival winning both the NZ Champion Trotting FFA and Sockburn Hcp. Racing rivals Sea Max, Mae Wynne and Forewarned to a standstill under the FFA conditions, he took his stake earnings to £5,460 (his final tally). Steel King was owned from June 1944 by Mr WL Parkinson and trained by Ces Donald.
Steel King was by Wrack from Oriental, by Logan Pointer-Eastern Lady by Prince imperial from a thoroughbred mare by Benzoin. Oriental produced Cheetah, the dam of 1946 NZ Cup winner Integrity (also NZ Pacing Championship FFA) making for superb performances during the 1946 NZ Cup carnival from two members of the one family at differing gaits.
Apart from not being run in 1952, the NZ Trotting FFA has been a feature of Addington’s NZ Cup carnival. The race has had a number of distance changes being run at 1½m standing start in 1946, 1 mile and five furlongs standing start from 1947 – 1972 (exception 1962 – 12½ furlongs mobile), changing to 2600m standing start with the introduction of metric distances in the 1973/4 season. Converted to a mobile start from the 1974 edition remaining at a distance of 2600m until 2012 when the distance was reduced to 2000m (2012, 2013) changing to 1950m (2014 – 2017) before changing to its current distance of 1980m in 2018.
The running of the NZ Trotting FFA at the NZ Cup carnival has taken place across all days the carnival has been held over the past seventy five years. Whilst currently raced on NZ Cup Day (Tuesday since 2009), in the past the race has been on Show Day (Friday, 1980 - 2008; Day three (week two when four meetings held as opposed to current two) Tuesday evening 1966 – 1973 or Wednesday evening 1963 – 1965 and Saturday day in 1950; Day four (week two) final day/night Saturday 1946 – 1949, 1951, 1953 – 1962 and 1974 – 1979.
Sponsorship of the race commenced in 1986 with Hurricane Wire Products sponsoring the Trotting FFA. Air New Zealand commenced a lengthy sponsorship in 1987 until 2001. A number of sponsors supported the event for many years – First Sovereign Trust (2005 – 2008), Seelite Windows and Doors (2009 – 2013), Granite Benchtop Company (2014 – 2018) while one year sponsorships have been provided by Bone Marrow Transplant Trust (2002), Nuggets Bar and Casino (2003), Porter Group Hyundai Construction Equipment (2004), Commodore Airport Hotel (2019) and Livamol (2020). The sponsor for the 2021 running of the NZ Trotting FFA will be the Gramite Benchtop Company.
The stake for the NZ Trotting FFA has increased from an initial £2,000 ($4,000) to today’s $100,000 with several ups and downs over the years. Prizemoney remained at £2,000 until reducing to £1,200 in 1953 and went as low as £900 in 1958. Growing slowly reaching £1,500 in 1964 and increased after the introduction of decimal currency in 1967 to $3,500 in 1969. Inflation in the 1970’s with the stake reaching $7,500 in 1980, $20,000 by 1985, $40,000 in 1989, decreasing to $35,000 (1990 – 1995) before again making the $40,000 mark for years 1996 – 1999. The turn of the century and stakes were at $50,000 until 2006 – 2007 to $75,000 while $100,000 was attained in 2008 and 2009. A reduction to $80,000 occurred 2010 – 2016 before the stake was reinstated in 2017 at its current $100,000 level.
Mares have a respectable record in the NZ Trotting FFA having led the field home on sixteen occasions of seventy four to date and a two time winner Queens Cord among several other leading female trotting winners.
Leading winning drivers : with six winning drives Bob Young (Aerial Scott twice, Single Task, Supervise, Mighty Hanover, Queens Cord) and Anthony Butt (Take A Moment twice, Lyell Creek, Vulcan, Peak, Tough Monarch) share the lead. Ricky May with five, Maurice Holmes with four together with a number of drivers having three wins – Bill Doyle, John Langdon, David Butt and Tony Herlihy MNZM.
Trainers : Tim Butt with five successes with Lyell Creek, Take A Moment twice, Vulcan, Peak heads the trainers list at present followed by two trainers with three successes – Jim Young and Bill Doyle while a number have had two successes – John Doherty, Bruce Running (one co trainer with father Eric), Slim Dykman, Mawson MacPherson, Patrick O’Reilly Jnr, Barry Purdon (one with co trainer father Roy), Paul Nairn, Mark Purdon, Phil Williamson, Greg and Nina Hope.
Owners: there have been two three time winning owners, Bill Doyle with Gold Horizon twice, When and John Dickie with Thriller Dee, Last Sunset, Romper Stomper. A number of dual winning owners, being John Spiers, Joe Rooney, Heber Hewson, Eric and Thelma Running, Slim Dykman, Mawson MacPherson, Paul and Graeme Nairn/Helen Pope/Gwynn Thomson, Long Drive Syndicate, Greg and Nina Hope/Morrie Molloy.
Winning owner/trainer/drivers : several feature in the seventy five year history of the NZ Trotting FFA, being three time owner/trainer/driver Bill Doyle, Gold Horizon 1953, 1954 – part owner with Gordon Gillard, When 1962 and single winners in Slim Dykman, Scotch Tar 1979; Leicester Clark, Mighty Hanover 1967; Jack Shaw, Vodka 1955; James Wilson, Dictation 1951 and part owner/trainer/driver Justin Smith, Speculate 2009.
Times run in the NZ Trotting FFA can be spilt into imperial and metric distances. Imperial 1946 – 1972 : 1½ milesSS : only run in 1946 when Steel King won in T3:18.2; 12½ furlongs mobile, T3:18.4 When 1962 only time run at this unique distance; one mile five furlongsSS T3:27.4 Le Chant 1966 when NZR was Moon Boy’s world record T3:23 4/5 set on 27 August 1960. The slowest time recorded over 1m5furs was Aerial Scott’s second victory in 1948 of T3:44.0. Metric since 1973 : the only running over 2600mSS resulted in Easton Light’s T3:25.0 being the race and NZ record for distance (he recorded T3:22.0 from the mobile when winning again in 1974). The fastest 2600mM was Romper Stomper’s T3:14.2/2:00.1 in 2007 while Best Bet’s T3:26.1 was the slowest mobile (1977). When reduced to 2000mM, I Can Doosit’s T2:25.0 in 2012 was the quickest; 1950mM record shared by Monbet (2016) and Great Things Happen (2017) at T2:21.7 while Heavyweight Hero’s T2:23.9 last year (2020) is the quickest recorded over the current 1980mM distance.
A number of NZ record times have been recorded since the move to metric distances in 1973 (none when FFA run over imperial distances). Over 2600mM, Petite Evander established a mare’s record of T3:22.5 in 1976; Stormy Morn set an all comer’s record of T3:21.3 in 1981. At 2000mM in 2012 I Can Doosit recorded a NZR of T2:25.0; as outlined above the 1950mM record is shared by Monbet in 2016 and Great Things Happen in 2017 at T2:21.7 while Heavyweight Hero’s T2:23.9 in 2020 is the record over the 1980mM distance.
Winning margins : the maximum winning margins include Take A Moment’s 2003, second consecutive win record five length victory; Ima Gold Digger by 4½l in 2010; Recruit by four lengths in 1956; Scotch Tar in 1979 and I Can Doosit in 2012 victories by 3½l while three length winners have been Steel King, 1946; Durban Chief, 1958 and Great Things Happen, 2017. The narrowest margin of a nose has two record holders, Inferno in 1970 and Best Bet in 1977.
Youngest winner : four year old – Monbet’s first of two wins in 2015 was the first and only time a four year old has won the Trotting FFA. A number of five year olds have recorded wins in the FFA – Scotch Tar, 1978; Idle Scott, 1988; Ima Gold Digger, (2010; Vulcan, 2011; Stent, 2014 and Monbet in his second consecutive win in 2016. Oldest winner is Gold Horizon’s second victory in 1954, aged twelve. Eleven year olds to win the FFA are Steel King, 1946; Gold Horizon, first win in 1953; Jimmy Dillon, 1949; Inferno, 1970 and Lyell Creek, 2004. A number of ten year olds are the next most successful old timers to win the NZ Trotting FFA – Tony Bear, 1971; Precocious, 1972; Easton Light’s second win in 1974 and Sure Mart, 1980.
Multiple winners : there has never been a three time winner of the NZ Trotting FFA but there are a number of dual winners : Aerial Scott, Call Me Now, Easton Light, Gold Horizon, Monbet, Queens Cord, Recruit, Scotch Tar, Sir Castleton and Take A Moment. Tough Monarch in 2020 is the only Australian trained and owned winner of the NZ Trotting FFA, driven by Kiwi Anthony Butt although he is now based in Australia. Earlier Tony Bear (1971) was Australian owned but trained and driven in NZ by Wes Butt. Several winners come from Australian families – Cee Ar, Mighty Hanover, Heavyweight Hero (A1 Verity), Supervise (A2 Lady Ajax), Romper Stomper (A34 Dolly by Stockwell), Admiral Sonani (A94 Restless) and Tony Bear (A133 De Luxe).
In the breeding barn, leading sire with six NZ Trotting FFA winners is Sundon (Sunny Action, Last Sunset, Allegro Agitato, Jasmyns Gift, Speculate, Ima Gold Digger), with victories covering the decade from 2000 - 2010, three instances of consecutive year winners. Game Pride with five credits follows before four credit sires in Armbro Invasion, Great Evander and Court Martial while those with three credits are Light Brigade, Love You and Quite Sure. These eight stallions alone account for thirty two of the seventy four NZ Trotting FFA winners to date. Leading broodmare sire of NZ Trotting FFA winners with six is Light Brigade, they being Queens Cord twice, Precocious, Easton Light twice, Petite Evander followed by Sundon with five, Chiola Hanover with four, U Scott and Tuft both with three.
On the maternal side Pride Of Lincoln (N1 : Dictation, Take A Moment twice, Stig) and Violet M (N26 : When, Call Me Now twice, Speculate) lead with four winners from Verity (A1), Harolds Rest (N6), Hoods Polly (N8) and Kate by Highland Chief (U301) with three next in line.
Winners of Christchurch premier trotting events in the same calendar year – Easton Light, 1974; I Can Doosit, 2012 and Monbet (2016) won all three Group Ones in the same calendar year - NZ Trotting FFA, Trotting Championship and Dominion Hcp.
Winners of Dominion Hcp and NZ Trotting FFA – Tutira, 1969; Scotch Tar, 1978; Stormy Morn, 1981; Simon Katz. 1987; Tobago, 1989; Call Me Now, 1995; Chiola Cola, 1996; Take A Moment, 2002, 2003; Lyell Creek, 2004; Stig, 2008 and Vulcan, 2011.
Winners of NZ Trotting FFA and Trotting Championship - Sir Castleton, 1983 and Speeding Spur, 2018.
Winners of Dominion Hcp and NZ Trotting Championship - Nigel Craig, 1977; Scotch Tar, 1980; Basil Dean, 1984; Tussle, 1986; David Moss, 1993, 1994; Cedar Fella, 1998; Take A Moment, 2001 and Stylish Monarch, 2010.
Christchurch Interdominion Trotters Grand Final winners who also won Group One trots at Addington in the same calendar year included : No Response, 1979 – NZ Trotting Championship; Call Me Now, 1995 and Take A Moment, 2003 also won Dominion Hcp and NZ Trotting FFA in their ID year. Tussle won the Dominion Hcp and ID Final in the same season, 1986/7 at Addington.
NZ Trotting FFA winners to be named Trotter Of Year in same season commencing 1973/4 season include Easton Light, 1973/4, 1974/5; Stormy Morn, 1981/2; Simon Katz, 1987/8; William Dee, 1991/2; Call Me Now, 1994/5, 1995/6; Take A Moment, 2002/3, 2003/4; Stig, 2008/9; Stent, 2014/5 and Monbet, 2015/6, 2016/7.
Of those just three trotters also collected the Harness Horse of Year Award in the same season –Take A Moment, 2002/3; I Can Doosit, 2011/12 and Monbet, 2015/16.
Points of interest concerning NZ Trotting FFAs :
- Bob Young drove six winners in first two decades of Trotting FFA’s running, 1946 -1965 matched by Anthony Butt’s six spread over years 2002 – 2019
- 1948 winner Aerial Scott, also 1947 earlier in 1948 won the inaugural ID Trotters Grand Final at Alexandra Park
- Dictation’s 1951 victory was his only win, nine placings from fifteen starts in the 1951/2 season. Shortly after FFA win, he set a NZ grass track record of T2:07 2/5TT at New Brighton on 1 December 1951
- Gold Horizon’s second consecutive win in 1954 was his final race victory
- Vodka first of numerous winners to make their way and mark in North America – Durban Chief; Le Chant, grand dam of world champion Grades Singing; Petite Evander; Lyell Creek and Speeding Spur
- 1961 Ordeal passed the post first only to be disqualified – ultimate winner was Reprimand
- Mighty Hanover’s win on Wednesday 20 November 1963 came at Addington’s inaugural night trotting meeting. This was the same night Cardigan Bay won Allan Matson Hcp by 3½l in 3:18.2 for mile and five furlongs lowering False Step's world record by nearly 3secs. His net time (4.5secs deducted for his handicap of 54 yards) was a mile rating of 2:01.9 from a standing start. It was the first time in world harness history that two-minute speed has been sustained by any horse beyond a mile and a quarter. Cardigan Bay had run his last mile in 2:00 flat. He is one of only four horses to have won on all four days of a NZ Cup carnival – all four open class pacing events in 1963 - NZ Cup, NZFFA, Matson and Ollivier Hcps
- Colin De Filippi’s first Trotting FFA winner in 1975 was Cee Ar owned with V Ford/trained by his father Rod De Filippi. Four decades later Colin training in partnership with wife Julie drove 2014 winner Stent for owner Trevor Casey
- Stormy Morn’s 1981 winning tr/dr Tony Perucich was a former jockey, eleven wins, apprenticed to Te Awamutu trainer Jack MacDonald
- 1981 Stormy Morn won all five major trotting events in 1981/2 season (Inter-Island Challenge Stakes, Dominion Hcp, NZ Trotting FFA, National Trot and Rowe Cup)
- 1982 winner Thriller Dee provided twenty two year old John Dickie with his first success at Addington. Part owned by his mother Gwen, her late husband Ivan (died 1974) had trained/driven Inferno to success in the 1970 Trotting FFA
- Tussle recorded an eight race winning sequence including the Trotting FFA that ran from 1986 Dominion Hcp through to Trotters ID Grand Final at Addington in March 1987
- Simon Katz at 1987 NZ Cup carnival became the first trotter since 1946 introduction of Trotting FFA to win all three open class trots at a NZ Cup carnival – Quinns Fashion, formerly Worthy Queen Hcp; Trotting FFA and Dominion Hcp
- Long shot “iron horse” Idle Scott’s ninth win in 1988 FFA of forty six victories in total (one in Australia) from a total of 219 starts, paid $61.20 to win
- William Dee won all three open class trots at the 1991 NZ Cup carnival, later in the same season winning 1992 ID Trotters Grand Final in Melbourne
- Anthony Butt drove three consecutive winners of the Trotting FFA between 2002 – 2004 : Take A Moment, 002, 2003 and Lyell Creek, 2004
- Lyell Creek in 2004 was having just his second FFA start (third in 2000) when a winner following his return from a successful European and North American campaign
The NZ Trotting FFA has been a major contributor in highlighting the excellence of the trotting breed in NZ over the past three quarters of a century. The NZ Metropolitan TC continues to positively promote this particular Group One opportunity for our leading square gaiters.
Credit: Peter Craig
HARNESS SCRIBES AND SEVEN OF THEIR PAPER STEEDS
Everything changes so it is said (though sometimes "and nothing changes at all" is an added proviso) and few things have altered over more than a century of racing publications. They start, they thrive and than they die - onlt for replacements more suited to the times to spring to life.
Some regard this as a weakness when it is a strength. Adapting new ideas is an essential for any business. So we thought we would say goodbye to Harnessed by recalling the valiant and successful attempts to market harness racing in previous eras. And especially the talented scribes who rode the publishing waves.
As you will see many survive long after their flagships eventually sank.
THE NEW ZEALAND REFEREE
The first publication to dedicate space to trotting it was a weekly founded in 1884 which later became the Office Calendar for both racing codes. The Christchurch Press bought it in 1891 to merge with its Weekly Press and it stasyed that way until the middle of the 1920's when i shifted base to Wellington. It "died" after a lengthy illness in 1939.
One of the main suppliers of copy in it's heyday was Fred Thomas (writing as "Templar") a breeding and racing expert who also produced the first volume of the Trotting Stud Book in 1905, All of this was incredibly difficult then. He was still contributing features on the sport into the 1950's.
Another standout was a contributor and later editor, John Olliver, whose cricketing family was closely connected with the founding of trotting in Christchurch. His early death accelerated the end of the Referee era.
Some early trotting writers were men of influence. W G Garrard was a rugby test referee and a leading cricket journalist on first name terms with some of the greats of that game. He was still supplying season statistics to the Trotting Calendar shortly before his death in 1944. Thomas Davey, another early trotting scribe, was a Member of Parliament and also Mayor of Christchurch.
THE TROTTING ANNUAL
Moa Publications discovered a mini goldminein the 1970's producing hard-backed, easy to read reviews of the season in several different sports. The Trotting Annual, sponsored for many years by Bominion Breweries, kicked off in 1972 with Auckland Star identity Ron Bisman as editor and contributions fron Norman Pierce, Mike Grainger and even Lord Langford who led a movement to make the sport popular in England.
The Annual was on most harness fan's wish list for Xmas for many years and sets were carefully collected and stored. Some still are. Dave Cannan, a highly regarded harness writer for the Christchurch Star and author of Unhoppled Heros, was a remarkable compiler of statistics and took over the editorship in 1981 with Don Wright the man from the south along with Otago's Taylor Strong and northerner Leo George among those adding support. He handed over to Jeff Scott, later trotting editor of the Christchurch Press ans now a website editor, in 1985.
Bisman returned in 1990 as public interest started to waneand Moa the exited. With Alan Meadows (Meadowset Graphics), Bisman produced a colourful 1994 edition and then a handsomevolume in 1998 with the highlights of intervening years. But it failed to sell and the game was over. In its time however, the "Annual" was hot property and the volumes remain a great source of ststistical information today. Televised racing and video recording however, started a terminal bleeding that could not be stopped.
THE TROTTING CALENDAR
A pubilication called Racing and Trotting Digest briefly carried industry essentials (programmes) through the 1930's until a frustrated Trotting Conference established the New Zealand Trotting Calendar in 1938 under contract with top journalist Karl Scott and his brother Wattie. They produced and printed the paper and Charlie Craig (NZ Herald) and his successor Pat Naden were among contributors along with southerner Norm Pierce. Harry Jarden was another leading trotting journalist in Christchurch at that time and also a member of a famous racing family.
Karl Scott, a man of many talents, was the first to write a book in this country specifically on harness racing back in 1949 (Pillars of Harness Horsedom) though he later claimed he made more from his rural activities than from printing publications.
The Calendar was a rather simple volume of limited pages full of official notices and annoted results. Meetings were covered, an economical easy to read "pithy pars" style popular in that era covering a meeting with many titbits rather than a lengthy article. It was only sold to the public from a few outlets. In later years it broughtin new blood like Ron Bisman and Mike Grainger but the focus remained very much on the needs of industry participants.
The Trotguide was a controversial move in the early 1970's with the familiar aim of widening the appeal of the industry publication. It involved the "Calendar" to Lower Hutt where it was produced under its new title by INL Print, publishers of the Friday Flash, NZ Racing Calendar, Turf Digest and the once very popular monthly Hoof Beats which was also seeking a new audience. It also now produced the Year Book of results a printing contract previously held by the Scotts. HRNZ discontinued that many years ago.
Tony Williams was the chief Canterbury contributor with enthusiasts such as Peter Larkin, Shelley Caldwell etc among the freelance supporters. The decision to move the publication caused resentment in Canterbury with a suggestion the Conference Executive at the time had been overly swayed by northern interests. The experiment was not a success from several points of view and especially the ill feeling which followed it from Christchurch.
THE NZ TROTTING CALENDAR(2)
In 1977 the Trotting Conference negotiated a contract with Tony Williams to edit the weekly publication in Christchurch with the proviso it regained its old title of the Calendar - reflecting earlier tensions. The venture, with Frank Marrion as a long time assistant, proved a success and especially from an advertising perspective, classier presentation along with lively content. Williams also reprinted the early Stud Books. Richard Turnbull provided a lot of northern content.
The arrangement lasted nine years but again there was not complete happiness in the camp when it ended. Terms could not be agreed. The advertising growth William had achieved was a major attraction and HRNZ decided to "bring the Calendar home".
THE HARNESS RACING WEEKLY
The new publication, under the editorship of Marrion and with pro-active former daily newspaper reporter Matt Conway among a livewire team, made another attempt to widen the market, publishing late in the week with full race day coverage to match the big boys along with hard hitting stories. Ther HRW was a competitor production-wise but again it didn't make the progress hoped for and so distribution costs, the cause for many closures over the years, became prohibitive.
Marrion left in 1987 for a breeding industry position (he would return later) and eventually Mike Grainger was appointed editor and Michael Guerin continued the tradition of NZ Herald contributions from the north. Michele Harris later became another important cog in the wheel and laterly Katie McNamara and Stacey Markham (nowMedia Manager) assisted among others the same general content was retained but in reduced form with earlier deadlines and lower costs. Printed by the Ashburton Guardian for many years if rarely, if ever, went over budget.
The Weekly remained a popular read for fans until, again because of increasing costs, the decision was made to move to a monthly under the editorship of Matt Markham with input from Michelle Harris, Courtney Clarke and Stacey Markham in 2015. It was a professional publication and gained strong reviews but there were practical disadvantages. Mainly, however, the "Weekly" proved too strong a tradition to erase and is niw due to return.
Newspapers increased their coverage of racing before and following World War II as a result of growth in the industry never since matched. 25 years ago city newspapers had full racing departments and a staff of at least six, sometimes with three reporters covering one code on race day before computers took over much of the routine work.
Even smaller provincial papers (Timaru Herald etc)had a specialist racing winter. Few papers now even carry full time specialist racing writers in what is a dramatically different working canvas. The wheel has gone full circle but the dailies retain somewhat basic coverage and fields.
Geoff Yule(The Press) and Pat Naden(NZ Herald) served 37 years and 35 years respectively as harness editors until the late 1980's, Yule being the first Kiwi daily journalist to cover an Australian InterDominion for a daily.
Bisman was ever present and Pierce and Wright spent similar stints in Southland and Strong in Otago. A number of their pupils moved on to greater things. Ron Bisman was an instition at the Auckland Star and also wrote several books, including a biography of Cardigan Bay and the momumental Salute to Trotting. With Taylor Strong he also wrote a history of the InterDominions.
A number of scribes from 30 years ago are still active in some way but the era of the full time specialist writer is almost over. Ironically many early trotting writers were known as "sporting writers" reflecting how they needed to cover more than one area to gain work. John Ollivier in the Referee, for example, covered trotting topics but was also the theatre critic for the paper.
THE OTHER WEEKLIES
Two of the best-known - the Friday Flash and the Truth were hugely popular at their peak but neither survive, though industry support helps The Informant and Turf Digest to carry on the Flash traditions.
Truth had a comprehensive racing coverage pushing controversy and more colourful writing as its point of difference. At its peak it sold 200,000 copies but gradually declined as "sensational" subjects (divorce; sex crimes) previously avoided by leading dailies, became part of the mainstream reporting. Truth demanded controversy and colour and woe betide the reporter who tried to avoid it. Some of its anonymous form par writers used codes(one, using a par such as "Good Day finding it difficult to regain form" actually meant to be on Good Day next start).
Its most notable modern editor was Ray O'Connor who balanced the news and the controversy fairly. In some ways Truth was a victim of its own success as vastly improved structures and systems removed a lot of controversy from harness racing.
The Friday Flash reached a Cup Week print peak of 35,000 in the 1970's but was down to around 3000 at the time of its demise in 2006. Those numbers are about on par with leading current publications. It offered superior previews and trial form as well as trackwork to punters along with a dash of colour and newsy columns. Des Coppins is most remembered among the editors and was followed by colurful Aucklander Bob Lovett who increased trotting content but unhappily, not sales.
The Sunday papers featured racing with full time staff writers for many years but none now employ them. When Barry Lichter took charge of the Sunday Star Times harness coverage increased even it proved a two edged sword for some of the more sensitive in the game. Again blanket television coveragemade even Sunday's news seem out of date.
Harness racing was quick to adapt to the computer age dating back to the 1980's and has continued to provide most of what fans and professionals need in the modern age. Victor Rolton(HRNZ) has been an industry leader in that field and Colin Steele od Addington Raceway has placed thousands of stories from times past on the Addington Raceway Timeline.
Frank Marrion posted another first with his online only news and tipping site Harness Express which eliminated distribution costs and pointed the way to the future.
Leading players also established their own sites carrying stable or industry news. This has been a challenge for commercially printed and sold news and form guides though "holding on to the page" still strongly appeals especially to older readers.
Early racing reporters wrote stories in longhand, had to use public transport and needed to be good handlers of pigeons to send the race results. The Press building demolished in the 2011 eathquake still had a Pigeon Loft which was used until the 1940's. Before the mid 1930's reporters could be and often were expected to work 100 hours a week if required and $10 was a princely weekly wage without overtime. Most were "stringers" working part time for the paper. In newspaper offices younger writers had to wait their turn to get a story published and much of their work was less interesting, largely involving preparation work for fields.
Technology revolutionised the profession through the 1990's computers, televised races, fax machines, then internet, emails and social media made everyone a potential critic on racing. Modern reporters needed to be more versatile using radio and tv interests either part of their contract or a pathway to the future. In the print media heyday no reporter dare take a job on radio. It was the competition.
As we said. Everything changes. But then maybe, as we also said, nothing really changes at all.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed July 2017