CLICK HERE TO GO BACK
|CLUB HISTORY |
When Barry Dent almost had youth on his side, he could well have been taken for a jockey. It may be a challenge to think of the prospect now, 50 years on, but not at the time.His father was a rider in the Hawkes Bay area and Barry has a photo of himself as a lad leading a horse around as a lad leading a horse around at a Southland Race Meeting. The horse was trained by Rex Cochrane who was the first to win 1000 races as a galloping trainer in New Zealand. "A journeyman jockey," says Barry. "Won nothing of note, as far as I call recall.
But neither the picture nor the profession did enough to push young Dent into the world of thoroughbreds. In fact, it had the opposite effect because he's lock, stock and barrel involved in harness racing and he's due next month to mark his first year at the helm of the Met and much the same time as being a Board Member of HRNZ.
It's all quite a step from Riverton, Charlie's home town, and Gore where his mother Pearl(Youngman), living a few doors from the Cochranes, and from a family that includes Ross and Robyn Jones from Kina Craig. By the time Barry was born, in the early 50s, Charlie and Pearl were back from the Bay and Charlie was into grocery shops and supermarkets. Barry's brother Graeme went into the navy, specialising in weapons, and Barry makes frequent trips to Adelaide to see him.
Barry decided on going to university, with the idea of being a teacher, but to get through he needed a job. Being a volunteer fire fighter, it seemed logical to do the work for pay. "So I started uni and stopped, and stayed in the Fire Service for 33 years, until I retired in 2004."
But the service did more than provide a career; it placed him in the company of Dunedin fire fighters Ray Hansen and Ken Campbell, both keen racing men who were soon to start a partnership with Dent, that has continued for more than thirty years. "Our best horse and one of the first, was Liberty Vogue, who won seven or eight. We bought him off Bruce Stirling as a three-year-old, but we tried a few and there were plenty of poor ones."
He recalls some huge fires, notably the Arthur Ellis mattress fire and the Edmunds Hardware Store. "It was a job where you'd go to work and never know what's going to happen next."
In 1982, Barry took promotion and moved to Christchurch where his role as a Fire Officer put him in charge of an engine and a four-man team. Later, and before he retired, he was senior station officer with responsibility of five engines and crew. "I think the grass fire at Bower Ave was one of my biggest. There were more than twenty engines, and the north westerly made it so hard to head off. But later it was mainly computer work and I hardly got on an engine, and this affected my decision to retire when I did at 50. One of the saddest events was being sent to a plane crash at Harewood knowing a small plane had disappeared in thick fog. You had a good idea what happened before you got there."
He also transferred his Forbury Park membership to the three Addington clubs and with encouragement from Bill Andrews joined the Met committee in 2004. From there he became a director in 2007, deputy chairman from 2010 to 2013, and chairman a year ago. "But the funny thing is that I never had any aspirations to be involved in administration at any level. Over time, it changed and I thought that if I can put something back into racing I will."
Being an owner is another avenue. He has an interest in Poppy Melba, Dolly McD and her progeny by American Ideal and Bettor's Delight. He has raced and sold with David Emerson, Bruce Almighty and Master Pip and has been involved with Pearl in every Met syndicate. She is also in Tas Man Bromac - there is a family connection there, with Nathan Williamson - and since she moved to Christchurch 15 years ago she has never missed a Cup.
Ten years ago, when Barry left the Fire Service, he stayed to run the superannuation side of the service, which suits him because it gives him a day a week to deal with his racing activities. And these also include his roles as President of both the Canterbury Trotting Owners Association and the Christchurch Trotting Club.
He says his Met position is a continuation of what has gone before. "Not a lot has changed. Our strategic plan and our business plans are in still in place. There are no surprises. We must drive costs down so there is a better return for owners." Barry is pleased with the income from events and buildings because the racing side of it "is just holding its own."
"How do we grow betting? Static turnover means it limits a club's ability to grow stakes. The Met has increased stakes by over $1 million in the last two years but it has been generated from other parts of our operation."
The only frustration he has is the time it is taking to amend the constitution which will allow more sophistication in a variety of ways.
Where Barry takes extra pleasure from his position is through the ability to meet with all the players - owners, sponsors, trainers and members. "it is a co-ordination role of all our functions but at another level." And while the big challenge is to increase the size of fields - "Because no-one wants to bet on small fields." He knows it is a steep challenge. "We have to concentrate on our big days, getting those fields out early to attract betting, and continue with our race series. And we would like clear skies and a good fine day for the Cup. It is our turn for it, and an easterly is not the answer."
Credit: Mike Grainger - Harnessed Oct 2014
BUILDINGS & FACILITIESWINNING POST REVAMP
A new neon winning post was launched at Addington on Friday 15th September, 2000.
NZMTC Chairman of Racing, Barry Cotton, said that the new design would become an icon and instantly signal to both on and off-course punters that they were at Addington. "This unigue finishing post encapsulates the fun and excitment of harness racing at its best," said Cotton. "With all but two of our meetings being run at night, this colourful and innovative feature will be a real standout."
The new design is also a key branding exercise for Canterbury Draught, who wanted to establish a long-term branding opportunity for their red and black logo whe it became NZMTC's major sponsor. "By incorporating our logo into this unique and exciting finishing post, we can feature our brand to on and off-course punters," said South Island Regional Director, David Barley. "We also highlight that we are red and black - Canterbury!
The winning post features three horse/ sulky/ driver outlines, in white, yellow and electric blue, and immediately after each race these display the numbers of the horses filling the first three placings. The electronic software used is a World first, designed specifically for this sign.
Credit: Harness Racing Weekly 20Sep00
ADDINGTON TROTTING GROUNDS
|Housing Development (HRNZ offices in background).|
While Addington will always have a raceway, it is actively pursuing other business ventures. The plan they have underway at present, and looking quite promising at this stage, is the proposal to develop a sports and entertainment centre between the tea kiosk and the entrance turnstiles.
Addington Raceway Ltd is well down the track on this project, which Chief Executive Officer Mike Godber says is now in the hands of the City Council. He said the Raceway should know by the end of July whether the Council will go with the plan rather than one at Lancaster Park, which is also campaigning for such a centre.
The idea for a sports and entertainment centre at Addington Raceway began two years back when Trustbank saw a gap in the market for a large stadium to host major sports events. Trustbank told the Council it was willing to put money up for a decent facility. The Council then approached a Brisbane consultancy company, which, after considering 11 potential sites, recommended Addington Raceway. That was nearly a year ago.
For some months after that, little progress was made. Then, the Addington Raceway directors made a bold move, putting together a detailed plan and funding proposal for the Council to consider. "We gave them quite a surprise by doing that and I think they were impressed. Part of out strategy was to gain coverage of our proposal on the front page of the Christchurch newspapers, and we did this. And to back our submissions, we had all the support from tennis, netball and basketball organisations," said Mr Godber.
Mr Godber said the project was aimed at fitting into the Council's budget. He said the cost of the centre would be $17.7m of the $26m budget provided by the Council in its draft annual plan. The centre would hold 7800 for concerts, 5000 for arena events, and the floor space would be 5100 sq m. The advantages of the site are its colse proximity to the centre of the city, ample car parking, readily accessible to all modes of transport, and plenty of room to put the 11,050 sq m building.
For harness racing there will be benefits, but Mr Godber says the Raceway is basically in it for business. "We have 32 race days and 25 trial days, which leaves about 310 days. In today's economy, we cannot leave these facilities with nothing happening. One of the key forces in this is TAB profit, and how in the last three or four years it has levelled off. I can't see it going up significantly, so we have got to look at business opportunities to hold that loss for a start," he said.
What Mr Godber can visualise is that families who are at the entertainment centre for the night, take in the last two or three races before they go home. "It is going to raise the awareness of Addington Raceway," he said.
While the Raceway directors await developments in that area, work is well underway in the subdivision of land in the south-west corner. This is the part where cars could park on the busy days - Cup Day and Show Day. Not now.
From 4.22ha, the Raceway is selling 49 sections. "We only use the land once or twice a year. The clubs had to go into overdraft to build the new stand, and with the new lights costing $280,000, we didn't want to add to that. "It is going to improve the financial position of the clubs," said Mr Godber. He said the Raceway would still be providing more car parks than any other sporting venue in Christchurch.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 29Jul94
BUILDINGS & FACILITIES
NEW TRACK LIGHTING SYSTEM
|Some of the trenching for the lighting cables.|
Work is well underway on the $1.4 million new lighting system for the track at Addington Raceway.
Mr Jack Hartley, chairman of the Raceway directors, says the system will be ready in time for the 1995 Inter-Dominion Championships. "The track will require 417 floodlights spread over 16 existing poles as well as using the roof of the members and stewards grandstand," he said.
The floodlights are being supplied by Versalux using General Electric 1500 watt metal halide floodlights. The work involves all the underground cabling being replaced and two new substations being installed. The average illuminance on the track will be five times greater than the current light level and at over 1200 lux, higher than any other track in New Zealand or Australia.
"There is a significant Canterbury involvement in the project which will boost the local economy by over $1 millon," said Hartley.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 20Apr94
CHRISTCHURCH TROTTING CLUB
A non-totalisator trotting club, to be known as the Christchurch Trotting Club, was formed at a meeting last week.
Application for registration will be made to the NZ Trotting Conference. The club will function in co-operation with the three Christchurch Trotting Clubs and the Canterbury Trotting Owners and Breeders Association.
The Club intends running an equalisator at matinee meetings and using the revenue to provide penalty-free races with stakes or trophies to a maximum value of £100. The rules of trotting were altered at the last annual meeting of the Conference to allow races with stakes of up to £100 to be penalty-free.
Several non-totalisator clubs in the Auckland district have already taken advantage in the change in the rules. The Club hopes to run several meetings each season with perhaps one during the off-season between the end of June and the middle of August.
Officers elected were:- President, Mr W E Desmond; Vice-President, Mr E T Hubbard; Honarary treasurer, Mr B J Wilks; Committee, Messrs M Andrews, A V le Roi, A Chinnery, H Rogers, C L Rhodes, F S Ball, A E Laing, E McDermott, L S Smart; Stewards, Messrs L Barnard, H B Kay, L J Eden, O J Watson, A McDonald, C E Hoy, R Kennedy, C E Watkins, L R Clark.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 19Sep62
FIRES & THEIR PREVENTIONOn Show Day, 10th November 1961, fire broke out in the South West corner of the Main Public grandstand at 5:00pm, twenty minutes before the starting time for the last race. A plume of smoke trailing from the kitchen window of the South West corner of the stand was the first exterior indication of the fire and two hours later the stand was a smoldering ruin with flames licking through the wreckage. The fire believed to have broken out in the kitchen caught hold in the area between the ceiling and the floor under the seating. Fanned by a strong Nor’ West wind the building was ablaze from end to end within an hour. Part of the side wall fell in with a resounding crash, a shower of sparks and blazing timber and a few minutes after 6:00pm the roof collapsed and two firemen who had been under the roof playing a hose upwards onto the flames, jumped clear just in time. The then President of the NZMTC, Mr J K Davidson, said that it would cost at least £150,000 to replace the stand.
Club officials estimated that there were about 1,000 patrons in the stand when the warning was given. The fire tender used by the Club on racedays arrived at the stand soon after the smoke was first noticed. The smoke thickened and it became apparent that the fire had a very strong hold.
The fire tender crew, assisted by racecourse staff and members of the public, ran a hose quickly from the fire hydrant near the corner of the stand to the front and played water on the fire from above until the first engine arrived about five minutes later. A few items of catering equipment piled on the ground just outside the stand were removed but most of the caterers’ equipment was lost in the blaze. By 5:30pm thick smoke was pouring out of the building and while the firemen attacked the fire the crowd spilled out onto the race track and many gathered on the embankment at the top of the straight. The crowd on the course at the height of the fire was estimated at 20,000 and many went to the inside of the track and to the birdcage to obtain a better view. It was announced over the public address system that the last race would be run later than scheduled and the crowd was asked to keep away from the fire and let the firemen get a really good go at it.
No one was injured although one of the firemen who dived clear when the burning roof collapsed was kept under observation in the ambulance room for a time before being allowed to return to duties. A newspaper report on the fire said that the first notice of the fire given to the public was a laconic announcement over the course loud speaker system “Please evacuate the stand”. There was no panic and the controlling of the crowd was no problem to the police according to Inspector J G J Fitzpatrick, who was in charge. He stated that the crowd behaved excellently. The crowd was kept well back from the Stand on the lawns in front and behind but as more firemen arrived and the smoke thickened the crowd was moved off the lawns and the concrete area in front of the Totalisators, which was soon covered with water. The extension ladder was brought into operation but failed to be of any help as the dense smoke blinded the firemen operating it.
By 6:30pm the stand was gutted and by 7:00pm only part of the end wall near the Stewards Stand and the big chimney at the other end of the building were standing. Flames were still licking the wreckage at 7:30pm and the Chief Fire Officer, Mr L R Osmond, predicted that it would still be smoldering the following morning. The fire which was at first thought to have started in the kitchen occurred after two earlier outbreaks in the Stand and one in the Tea Kiosk had been extinguished. The Chief Fire Officer said the fire took hold on the centre floor well inside the building and the sprinkler system which was installed after fire destroyed the outside Public Stand 8 years previously did not hold the fire and it burst away along the ceiling above the sprinklers. Mr Osmond said that the wind and the cavity nature of the construction of the building made the firemen’s efforts ineffectual and because of the nature of the construction it was almost impossible to play water onto the seat of the fire.
The New Zealand Free-For-All, the last race on the programme was run at 6:00pm forty minutes late when the fire was at its height. The event was won by Cardigan Bay with Scottish Command second and the appropriately named Smokeaway third. Before the race could be run several hundred persons had to be cleared from the track and at the conclusion the horses were driven back along the straight and led off through a small gate near the mile and five furlong barrier.
The loss of the stand was a major blow to the Metropolitan Trotting Club and the administrators of the Course for it left the Club with greatly reduced accommodation and catering facilities for the Public on the third and forth days of the Meeting. At an emergency meeting the Committee decided that limited seating would be available on the Members Stand for the Public but there would be no stand accommodation for visitors. The Canterbury Jockey Club and the New Brighton Trotting Club offered assistance to the Metropolitan Club and as a result there was extra seating available on the banks in front of the stand areas. A marquee, which was used on Cup and Show Days, was retained and half the Tea Kiosk made available to the Public as a cafeteria and the other half as a buffet luncheon area. A public bar was provided by erecting a marquee behind the burnt out stand. After investigations it was agreed that the fire did not begin in the kitchen as many thought but underneath the seating about three rows from the front at the Western end. The general opinion was that a cigarette butt was probably the cause.
Many persons commented on the extraordinary lapse of time that occurred before the arrival of the Fire Brigade. The Chairman of the Fire Board, Mr W R Campbell, stated “I have checked with the Chief Fire Officer and found that there was positively no delay. The first call was registered from the sprinkler system at 5:01pm and the first machine from Headquarters reached the fire six minutes later. Taking into account the amount of traffic on the route at the time it can be fairly said that this represented a smart response”.
Three of the four major fires at Addington occurred during the Cup Meeting, the first on Cup Day 1916 and the latter two on Show Days 1953 and 1961. On each occasion a strong Nor’ West wind had been blowing.
On the Sunday following the fire the Directors considered the problems associated with the loss and at a later meeting the representatives of Wormald Brothers explained why the stand protected by their sprinkler system had been destroyed. The System installed had conformed to the Underwriters requirements and it was obvious that these would need to be amended to include the provision of sprinkler heads in the small areas directly under the seating as was eventually installed in the Members Stand.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker
FIRES & THEIR PREVENTIONIn 1953 fire struck again. A quarter of an hour after the last race on Show Day 1953 the grandstand nearest the Showgrounds was ablaze from end to end and at 6:37pm with a great roar the roof collapsed. On its west side the Leger Stand also caught fire but was saved with damage only to the east end wall. In the Showgrounds loose boxes were ignited by the intense heat with about eight being destroyed while others and open stalls opposite were damaged.
The last race was late and the fire was first noticed about 15 minutes after the race when hundreds were still at the payout windows. Smoke was seen in the grandstand and the Christchurch Fire Brigade was called at 6:09pm but before the units arrived flames were breaking through the roof. The seat of the fire appeared to be in the cafeteria in the middle of the building. The roof of the grandstand was of semi-cantilevered construction with few pillars and it made a huge scoop to receive the full force of the Nor’ West wind sweeping across the course. By 6:25pm the building was engulfed with flames so hot that no one could approach within fifty yards. The roof fell in at 6:37pm and thereon the remaining super structures continued to fall within the shell formed by the reinforced concrete base. Debris outside the stand area was almost entirely confined to shattered glass. Behind the grandstand the small canteen from which pies, soft drinks and other goods were sold was badly scorched. The women’s cloakroom, constructed of concrete and backing onto the Showgrounds loose boxes, escaped damage. The Christchurch Fire Brigade had been called earlier in the day to a fire in the Leger Stand believed to have been started from a cigarette butt on the flooring but this was extinguished by grounds staff and the police. Another call was received at 3:45pm but again there was no damage. When the alarm for the big fire was given at 6:09pm one unit each from Headquarters and Sydenham Stations was dispatched. A radio message for assistance was sent at 6:20pm to which another Headquarters engine and the new Land Rover unit responded.
At a joint meeting of the of the Committee of the Club and the Directors of Addington Trotting Course Limited, owners of the property, held on Saturday 14th November 1953 it was reported that the extra cost replacement value of the stand was £65,400 while the indemnity cover was £25,000, the replacement value £47,025, Architects fees £3,750 and demolition £3,000. It was decided to claim for the full amount of the extra cost replacement cover forthwith. At the meeting the provision of temporary accommodation was considered in view of the Royal Meeting to be conducted by the Club on 21st January 1954 when H M Queen Elizabeth and H R H The Duke of Edinburgh would be in attendance. Although no definite decision about rebuilding the grandstand was reached it was stated that the intention was to erect an up-to-date concrete stand in the outside enclosure as soon as possible and that there would be no temporary stand before building operations started.
The grandstand destroyed was about 20 years old and was designed by Mr J S Guthrie. During the fire, the Nor’ West wind gusted to fifty three miles an hour. Hundreds of trotting patrons were still on the ground with many waiting at the payout windows of the totalisator. Jumping events at the show also had not long finished and there were still hundreds at the Showgrounds. The Canterbury A&P Association’s loss resulting from the fire was estimated at £1,000.
The Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, Mr L R Osmond, in reporting to the Directors stated that the water supply at the course was inadequate and it would have been necessary to have hydrants within 200 feet of the fire to be effective. He suggested a ring main should be installed and further investigations made for improvements in the system to fight any future fires. In December arrangements were made for Mr W J Taylor, the Fire Boards Inspecting Officer, to take charge of fire patrols at all the Club’s Meetings.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker
ADDINGTON TROTTING COURSE LTD & ADDINGTON RACEWAY LTD
Set out below is the composition of both the Addington Trotting Course Ltd and Addington Raceway Ltd. Until the 1963-64 season New Brighton was not incuded as it raced at it's own course in New Brighton.
ADDINGTON TROTTING COURSE LTD
1952-3 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer J E W Cross W Milne Shand H H Wauchop
53-54 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer J E W Cross W Milne Shand H H Wauchop
54-55 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer J E W Cross W Milne Shand H H Wauchop
55-56 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer J E W Cross C S Peate H H Wauchop
56-57 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer J E W Cross C S Peate H H Wauchop
57-58 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer H T Fuller C S Peate H H Wauchop
58-59 C E Hoy D McCormick J Palmer H T Fuller C S Peate H H auchop
59-60 C E Hoy D McCormick J K Davidson H T Fuller C S Peate H H Wauchop
60-61 C E Hoy D McCormick J K Davidson H T Fuller C S Peate H H Wauchop
61-62 C E Hoy D McCormick J K Davidson H T Fuller C S Peate H H Wauchop
62-63 C E Hoy D McCormick J K Davidson H T Fuller H F Butland L S Smart
NZMTC CPTC NBTC
1963-4 J K Davidson C E Hoy H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson A E Laing
64-65 J K Davidson C E Hoy H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson A E Laing
65-66 J K Davidson R W Saunders H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson A E Laing
ADDINGTON RACEWAY LTD
NZMTC CPTC NBTC
1966-7 J K Davidson R W Saunders H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson W F Stark
67-68 J K Davidson R W Saunders H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson W F Stark
68-69 J K Davidson H M S Dawson H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson W F Stark
69-70 J K Davidson H M S Dawson H F Butland L S Smart A G Jamieson W F Stark
70-71 J K Davidson H M S Dawson H F Butland T A Leitch A G Jamieson W F Stark
71-72 J K Davidson H M S Dawson H F Butland T A Leitch J R Hartley W F Stark
72-73 J K Davidson H M S Dawson H F Butland T A Leitch J R Hartley W F Stark
73-74 J K Davidson H M S Dawson S C Cordner T A Leitch J R Hartley B B Woods
74-75 J K Davidson H M S Dawson S C Cordner T A Leitch J R Hartley B B Woods
75-76 J K Davidson H M S Dawson S C Cordner T A Leitch J R Hartley B B Woods
76-77 G W Blaxall H M S Dawson S C Cordner T A Leitch J R Hartley B B Woods
77-78 G W Blaxall H M S Dawson S C Cordner T A Leitch J R Hartley B B Woods
78-79 G W Blaxall H M S Dawson S C Cordner S Andrews J R Hartley B B Woods
79-80 E T McDermott H M S Dawson S C Cordner S Andrews J R Hartley B B Woods
80-81 E T McDermott H M S Dawson S C Cordner W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
81-82 E T McDermott H M S Dawson S C Cordner W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
82-83 D R McCormick H M S Dawson S C Cordner W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
83-84 D R McCormick H M S Dawson S C Cordner W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
84-85 A R Corcoran H M S Dawson R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
85-86 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
86-87 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley B B Woods
87-88 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley A F McDonald
88-89 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley A F McDonald
89-90 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley A F McDonald
90-91 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff W Cuningham J R Hartley A F McDonald
91-92 A R Corcoran M L Taylor R H Duff B Hastings J R Hartley A F McDonald
92-93 A R Corcoran M L Taylor P L Doig J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
93-94 A R Corcoran M L Taylor P L Doig J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
94-95 A R Corcoran M L Taylor J L Hughes J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
95-96 A R Corcoran M L Taylor J L Hughes J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
96-97 A R Corcoran M L Taylor J L Hughes J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
97-98 A R Corcoran M L Taylor J L Hughes J F Penney J R Hartley A F McDonald
After that time the functions of A R L were taken over by the Directors of NZMTC.
FIRES & THEIR PREVENTION
In August 1952 it was decided that a fire alarm call point with direct access to the Fire Brigade, should be installed on the grounds.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker
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