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RACING HISTORY

 

YEAR: 2017

PEOPLE

Master reinsman Colin DeFilippi wasted no time landing his 2000th NZ driving win at Addington on Friday, September 8.

In his first drive for the night, he produced a customary magical drive on Izmok, a horse he co-owns and co-trains with wife Julie, to reach the milestone.

The same horse had provided DeFilippi with his 1999th at Addington on August 18, when he also positioned him perfectly behind the leaders before edging past them in the run home.

DeFilippi became the sixth New Zealand driver to join the 2000m club, joining Tony Herlihy, Maurice McKendry, Ricky May, David Butcher and Dexter Dunn, the latter becoming the youngest at Addington on July 8.

He displayed a rare show of emotion with a controlled salute at the finish.

The first of many to offer their congratulations to the popular Canterbury reinsman was former employee Sam Ottley, driving runner-up Michelle, 200 metres after the finish.

DeFilippi was welcomed back to happy scenes at the presentation area by wife and training partner, Julie, daughter Mandy, and long-time family friend, Kerryn Corbett.

He knew the milestone would come but it had proven elusive in recent weeks.

DeFilippi, who turned 65 in May, followed in the footsteps of his brother Michael, also a very successful reinsman, who drove over 1161 winners before officially retiring from race-driving four years ago.

Colin gained his first driving win behind Brother Eden, trained by his father Rod, in a one-win pace at Greymouth 43 years ago.

He says race-driving had changed over the years.

"Now you have got to be up there because they don't come back to you like they used to," said DeFilippi.

He achieved the lifetime ambition of every driver by winning the 2001 New Zealand Cup with top mare Kym's Girl, who he co-trained with wife Julie.

"You always want to win a New Zealand Cup but it’s just one race," he said.

"Courage Under Fire (former champion two and three-year-old pacer, trained by good friend Bruce Negus) was very good because he lasted two years (being unbeaten for his first 24 starts and winning a record six Derbys)."

"Going to Australia with Stent (2015 Australasian Grand Circuit trot champion he co-trains) then coming home to win the Rowe Cup was pretty good too."

"And Our Mana, even though he didn't win a New Zealand Cup, he ran second in it twice and was a good horse to have when I was getting started," he said.

He won the NZ Drivers Premiership in 2006 with 121 wins, 22 years after a premiership second to Peter Wolfenden, and has regularly featured among the top 10 on the drivers premiership.

DeFilippi, who has driven five winners on a single programme on three occasions, finished second to Belgian Christophe Martens in the 2007 World Drivers Championship, when held in Australasia.

He is an inductee in both the New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame and Addington Harness Hall of Fame


Credit: NZ Harness News writing in The Press

 

YEAR: 2017

PEOPLE

BOB NEGUS - Trainer-Driver

Bob Negus, one of a rare group of harness drivers to win both the New Zealand Cup and the New Zealand Free-For-All, with champion mare Armalight in 1981, died from cancer in Christchurch on Saturday. He was 89.

Trainer son Bruce, also associated with a champion pacer, training Courage Under Fire in the late 1990's, said his father had still been driving a tractor until the final two weeks of his life. "His mind was still pretty sharp," Bruce said. "He was good about it. He had all his affairs in order."

Bob Negus cleverly out-drove his rivals with Armalight to win the 1981 New Zealand Cup. After being left parked out, he didn't force the issue, knowing his mainrivals were back in the field. He ulitised Armalight's speed inside the final 800m, leaving their rivals flat-footed. Armailght was in a class of her own, winning by seven lengths and paying $27.

Three days later, Armalight, trained by Brent Smith, made international headlines with a world record win in the New Zealand Free-For-All. Bob Negus let her run freely in front over the mobile 2000m, winning as she liked by three lengths in an astonishing 2:23.5, at the time an unheardof mile rate of 1:55.4. He had driven Armalight in her first four wins and was back at the helm when helping Smith with the mare's preparation during her stellar five-year-old season. He also drove her to win the 1982 Kaikoura Cup and run second, off a 10m handicap toanother top mare of the era in Bonnie's Chance in the 1982 New Zealand Cup.

Good friend, former Nevele R Stud founder and Bromac Lodge proprietor Bob McArdle, was saddened by his passing. "He was one of the most talented New Zealand horsemen that has ever been," said McArdle. "The guy did amazing things without having the best bred horses. God knows what he would have done had he had the best ones."

A skilled trainer and driver with his own horses, Negus trained first at Springston and then at Broadfield. His biggest win as an owner-trainer was with Willie Win in the 1972 New Zealand Derby at Addington, in the hands of NZ's champion driver of the time, in "The Maestro", the late Maurice Holmes. After breaking and losing 30m early, his performance to recover and win in a then NZ-record time for a three-year-old was sensational. He won going away from Kotare Scott, with subsequent top pacer Young Quinn, who beaten him into second in the NZ Sapling Stakes at two, finishing fifth. Willie Win later ran second to Speedy Guest that season in the 1973 Great Northern Derby. By Good Chase, Willie Win also won the 1972 Methven 2YO Stakes in the hands of the trainer and retired winning eight of 33 starts.

Negus also owned and trained Willie Win's younger half-sister Glint to win the 1955 New Zealand Oaks and the 1956 Ashburton Cup, both driven by Holmes. She won 10 of 38 starts. Glint's first foal, Bruce (named after his son) won seven, while another of her foals in La Romolaonly won once, but left six winners including eight-race winners for other trainers in Bardolino and Winning Note, and Early Riser (four), the latter leaving a feature Victorian El Dorado winner of the 1980s, First Glimpse, for Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams.

Captain Jura, secured off Balclutha trainer Len Tilson, was another Ashburton Cup winner raced by Negus, and driven by the late Doodey Townley in 1975. It was a Negus-trained quinella, with the trainer driving Willie Win to finish second. Negus also trained the quinella in the 1972 NZ Welcome Stakes for two-year-olds at Addington with another smart youngster in Hardcraft, who beat close relative Willie Win.

Hardcraft, driven by the late Derek Jones in the Welcome Stakes, was also by Good Chase, but from Gleam, a one-win daughter of Willie Win's half-sister Glister(Whipster-Spangle), who won five. Negus bred, owned and trained Hardcraft, who won five of only 16 starts and at three won the 1973 Queens birthday Stakes at Ashburton, when driven by Maurice Holmes.

Negus also bred, owned, trained and drove Glint's son Patchy to win the 1962 NZ Golden Slipper Stakes, formerly a feature two-year-old event on the NZ Harness calendar. He had his share of success in country cups, being the owner and trainer of 1963 Waimate Cup winner Flynn, and 1967 Kurow Cup winner Bronze Lad, both in the hands of Maurice Holmes, and 1969 Geraldine Cup winner Kran, which Negus drove himself.

Legacy, who won four, was another useful pacer for him in the early 1970s, while he also won three with his namesake Robert Henry (Out To Win-Gilt), before the latter was exported to North America in 1982. He also did a good job after securing one-win pacer Piper McCardy, converting him to trotting and winning seven races as an aged trotter before retiring him as an 11-year-old in 2001.

Bob Negus also had a support role in the career of subsequent world champion driver and now successful trainer Mark Jones. He employed him when Jones was on his way to becoming NZ's top junior driver.

"In his last week he had a session playing with a jazz player as it was always something he wanted to do, which was nice," McArdle said.

Negus died 80 days after his daughter, Robyn Garrett, who also died from cancer. He is survived by sons, Bruce and Keith, and daughters Christine and Gail Dolamore

Credit: NZ Harness News appeard in The Press 5/9/2017

 

YEAR: 2017

PEOPLE

Twelve-time New Zealand training premiership winner Mark Purdon had achieved just about everything imaginable in harness racing. But at Addington on a moderate Thursday card this evening, he hit another career milestone, joining his father, Roy, and brother, Barry, as the only trainers to have accumulated 2000 training wins in New Zealand.

“It was a real thrill,” Mark said after guiding Bettor Trix to victory. He co-races Bettor Trix with Vi Hancock, wife of Inter Dominion kingpin trainer, Sydney’s Brian Hancock.

“Both Roy and Barry would be thrilled, too,” he said.
Roy and Barry Purdon won 17 premierships in partnership from 1978 until 1995. Barry then won two premierships on his own account, while Roy earlier won four on his own account, the first in 1971.

Mark, now 53, has a laugh when asked whether he has any immediate thoughts of slowing down. “Yes, I do have thoughts of taking things a bit easier. Maybe, in two years, when I turn 55 things might change as I would like to think my sons Nathan and Michael could carry on and do a bit more,” he said.

He has dominated the sport in this country for most of the new millennium, and latterly also in Australia. Of the 2000 wins, 908 came on a solo basis, 558 in partnership with Grant Payne from 2007-12 and, latterly, 534 with Rasmussen since mid-2013.

As far as a career highlight, Purdon can’t single out any one feat as being bigger than the others.

“You always focus on the most recent because they are the most vivid in your memory, but I’ve been so lucky to have had so many top horses further back like Pride Of Petite (dual 1996-97 Inter Dominion Trot champ), Il Vicolo (dual 1995/96 NZ Cup winner) and Young Rufus (2002 Auckland Cup winner). “There are so many.”

He is currently riding the crest of a wave with training partner Natalie Rasmussen with reigning NZ Harness Horse Of The Year, Lazarus. A 10-length winner of last year’s New Zealand Cup in record time, Lazarus again leads at least four leading hopes from the stable for this year’s $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup on November 14.

The landmark came after Purdon eased Bettor Trix to take a one-out trail over the last 1200m behind stablemate Major Hippie. She raced clear to win comfortably in a quick 1:56.6 mile-rate (1950m), while Major Hippie tired to run ninth. Bettor Trix is now unbeaten in two race starts and is eligible for the upcoming Alabar Sires Stakes 3YO Fillies Series.

The All Stars stable were also to the fore in the only other race they had starters in on Thursday. They ran the quinella with two three-year-old debutantes, Tennyson Bromac and Ohanzee, in a maiden event. This time it was Natalie Rasmussen to the fore as the winning driver with Tennyson Bromac, a colt by Bettor's Delight getting the decision. Tennyson Bromac pressed to the front with a lap to run, taking over from stablemate Ohanzee, driven by Purdon.

The pair had the finish to themselves with Tennyson Bromac holding by a head in a 1:58 rate (1950m), with favourite Bright Diamond, who led early, then eased three back for trainer Gavin Smith, finishing on for third.

"They both haven't done a lot yet," said Purdon.

Twelve-time New Zealand training premiership winner Mark Purdon had achieved just about everything imaginable in harness racing.


Credit: NZ Harness News - 13 October 2017

 

YEAR: 2017

MESCELLANY

FUND RAISING

Punters are being asked to kick the smoking habit for the first time in Addington Raceway's 118 year history on Friday night (8 Sept).

The home of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club will host what is thought to be the first ever smokefree harness racing meeting in New Zealand. Addington's bold initiative comes just a week after the smokefree Daffodil Raceday at Hastings on Saturday. That was believed to be the first smokefree thoroughbred race meeting in New Zealand.

Friday's meeting will be the first harness racing leg of the Daffodil Racedays - a joint venture between the New Zealand Racing Board(NZRB), New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing(NZTR) and Harness Racing New Zealand(HRNZ) to raise money and awareness for the cancer society.

Addington's acting chief executive Brian Thompson said the decision to go smokefree for the night was a no brainer that required little to no discussion. "It's a great way to show support for the Cancer Society," he said. Initial feedback has been positive but there will be no heavy handed enforcement for those who do light up.Anyone found smoking by 'Smokefree Stipendiary Stewards' at Addington, will be asked to make a donation to the Cancer Society for their breach of the smokefree rule.

Thompson was confident the smokefree policy will be supported and his optimism will be further boosted by the results from the Hastings experiment. Hawkes Bay Racing chief executive Andrew Castles said reaction to the smokefree policy at Hastings on Tarzino Trophy day had been positive. He did not receive any complaints or negative comments. "Our on-course turnover was up 30% on last year and that was on a cold wet day," he said.

Addington will look to form a partnership with the Cancer Society and has chosen it to be one of their charities of choice in the lead up to Cup Week. The smokefree race night coincides with the release of 1000 Dexter Dunn bobbleheads.

The bobbleheads are in recognition of Dunn becoming the youngest driver to achieve 2000 wins on New Zealand soil and the profits from the sale of the bobbleheads will go to the Cancer Society.

The Cancer Society is a non-government organisation totally reliant on community support and donations. Elizabeth Chesterman, chief executive of the Cancer Society's Canterbury-West Coast Division was delighted Addington had chosen to go smokefree for the evening and said it recognised the importance of the Cancer Society's goal to make New Zealand Smokefree by 2025. on

Credit: The Press 8 September 2017

 

YEAR: 2017

HORSES

COURAGE UNDER FIRE

One of New Zealand's most popular ever pacers Courage Under Fire has passed away with a record that may never be matched. The tiny pacing hero turned stallion died in Australia yesterday where he was standing at Yirribee Stud in New South Wales. He would have turned 22 on Tuesday.

While he was a very commercial stallion who sired recently-retired Inter Dominion champion Smolda, it was as the Mighty Mouse of pacing that Courage Under Fire will be best remembered. He won his first 24 starts, being unbeaten at two and three, that classic season including a record six Derby victories.

It is doubtful any galloper would ever have contested six Derbys and very few harness horses probably have either, let alone winning them all. So this rarest of places in racing history would seem to be Courage Under Fire's alone forever.

The Derbys were part of a 41-win career from 56 starts that saw him amass $1,551,941 in stakes after starting his career in New Zealand with Bruce Negus and then being transferred to champion NSW trainer Brian Hancock after a sensational failure in the 2000Inter Dominion in Melbourne. Courage Under Fire suffered his first defeat in a heat of that series, prompting Moonee Valley commentator Dan Milecki to yell "the world must be ending' as Kyema Kid surged past Courage Under Fire.

While the world survived, Courage Under Fire's career plateaued by his earlier standards and he was never as dominant as an older horse, winning a series of good races but never one of the great ones. He was narrowly beaten in both the Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup and fourth in an Inter Dominion Final but picked up Grand Circuit races like the South Australia Cup, Queensland Pacing Champs and Australian Pacing Champs.

He came back to the pack because while he was a pacing machine at three he never got much stronger or faster, forever looking a fast teenager racing grown men. But as a three-year-old he captured the racing - and some non-racing - public's imagination in a golden era that also saw Christian Cullen and Lyell Creek draw huge fan bases. The other two were better older horses, albeit all too briefly in Christian Cullen's case , but Courage Under Fire's size endeared him to race fans, his little legs whirling like a cartoon character when he was at full speed.

Off the track he was a little softy. "He loved people and was the lovliest little horse to have around," says original trainer Negus. "He had so many fans and when little kids came up to him to pat him, which happened all the time, he would lower his head down so they could get to him. Once, when Brian Hancock was training him, they couldn't find Brian's six-year-old granddaughter and they were all panicking. They couldn't believe it when they found her in Courage's paddock and she was patting him as he nuzzled her. This was when he was a seven-year-old stallion, he was just such a gentleman"

So did training a racing icon change Negus's career or even life? "If definitely helped my career because we had a lot of good horses, many for his owner Greg Brodie after Courage left the stables. But it also changed my life. I met so many people and was once asked to speak at a racing awards dinner because I was the guy who trained Courage Under Fire. I met my wife Colleen at that function, so I owe Courage more than he would ever have known."

****

Standing at only a tick over 14 hands, the little stallion certainly had a huge heart and left a lasting impact on the Australasian breeding industry where few colonial stallions have been able too.

Upon retirement he was the sire of 434 NZ Bred winners, he was also the sire of-

*7 NZ Group One winners: Secret Potion, Lancôme, Smolda & Pembrook Benny.
*16 NZ Group Two Winners
*14 Group Three Winners
*6 NZ Listed Winners

His legacy will now be in those of his daughters who are already breeding on his guts and determination, with the outstanding mare Arms of an Angel being out of a daughter of Courage.

Credit: Michael Guerin writing in Breeding Matters July 2017

 

YEAR: 2017

RACING PUBLICATIONS

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

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.

THE DAILIES

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.

THE INTERNET

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.

CHANGING TIMES

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

 

YEAR: 2016

FAMILY INTERESTS

KEN FORD - Horseman

For three seasons, Arabess was left empty and the Ford family kept their distance. Loyal Clint was the only one who put up with her bad side. His parents Ken and Diane and sister Amanda Tomlinson, more concerned, used stern words that reflected their opinion and you might guess what they were. "She was very difficult to deal with," recalled Ken. "Hard to load on the float, always wanting to kick, and you could say we were all a bit frightened of her. She was more Clint's horse and he stuck by her, and his prudent and careful management paid off with a useful race career and a breeding one that has already topped that. After winning three races from 46 starts, Arabess was sent to Sundon, leaving a colt that was to be the brilliant young trotter, Marcoola.

As far as breeding went, that was the end of it, because Arabess was then left empty. But as Marcoola developed the Fords knew the mare had left something special, and there was a gap in the line. "We look a bit silly now, not breeding her, but we've always done the mares here," said Ken, indicating the battle ahead if they had tried again with Arabess at home. They didn't want to face that. So we sent her to Nevele R and they had no trouble with her and she's in foal to Trixton."

Marcoola set a 3yo c&g national record when he defeated High Gait in the New Zealand Trotting derby, running 3:13.9(1:59.9) for the mobile 2600m and he'd run 3:14.9 the week before, so he was only getting better. Since they were given Kahlum by close family friends Peter and Ellen Smith 30 years ago, the family has always cultivated their trotting breed, and while Marcoola is not the best - Zuri won 12 and Aramid 10 - he is hot on their tails.

Back then the Ford's lived in Kaikoura where Ken's father Bruce had a transport business; gravel and tip-trucks, and selling and servicing Holdens and Vauxhalls. When Bruce returned from the war, where he served in the Middle East, he tried his luck with a galloper. It was of no account, which caused his wife Margaret to tell him:"One more and I'll go." A threat that fortunately she never carried out.

Ken's schooling was at Rangiora High School as a boarder along with his brother Brian who still runs the trucks. Both were brilliant rugby players, first 15ers and both played wing; Brian went on a bit and played for the All Blacks. Ken's first career was shearing here and in Australia which gave them the equity to buy a dairy farm. During this time, their children Clint, Amanda and Trish were into riding, eventing and pony clubs, and the Smiths taught them how to ride. At one time Clint was a youthful assistant Clerk of the Course at the annual Kaikoura meeting. When they decided to ship south, the Smiths insisted they take one of their numerous mares and suggested one they had by Noodlum.

"It was Kahlum. They had just qualified a Roydon Glen pacer from her and they liked the way he went." This was Lyell Creek and a month later he qualified as a trotter. He would win 56 races and achieve greatness. Looking for 10 acres, the Fords bought the 120 acres in West Melton owned by former Met president Peter Andrews, on the condition he left a mare, which he dis - Evelyn's Choice.

Ken's first job was driving a delivery van around the city before work at Paparoa Prison as a prison guard for years. When Ken told near neighbour, Jim Dalgety he'd been offered Kahlum, Jim told him to accept at once; furthermore, he suggested serving her with his resident stallion, Wingspread. The Progeny from this mating was Laurel Creek, who didn't race but wouldn't have been a disgrace if she had. "She could run the time and had the potential to be real good," recalled Ken, "but she got hurt on the track and we never tried her after that."

Kahlum would leave 11 foals of varying talent; Jacquimo was a smart pacer by Courage Under Fire, The Iron Gate gave Clint his first win as a driver at Hawera. Little Mo is ready to step up to the middle grade, and they always rated Lumlum, an unraced daughter of Grant Our Wishes.

From her nine foals, Laurel Creek has left six winners, with Amaretto Sun the best of them. He has one five from 16 starts, and heads to the Jewels along with Marcoola. The last of them is Laurelson, a rangy 3yo filly by Monarchy who will get her chance.

Lumlum is the dam of Spirit Of Sun, a winning daughter of Sundon, and bred with the blood of two sires Ken is soft on. Spirit Of Sun foaled a filly this season by Superfast Stuart and is in foal to Peak. With Arabess back in business, Ken says, "There is every possibility he will use semen from the deceased Sundon next season, and maybe Zsa Zsa as well."


As well as the senior members of the family, the junior ones are up to their hocks in horses; Sheree, Amanda's daughter, is a promising junior driver with Murray Brown and her sister Keryn is helping Bruce Negus whenever she can. Keryn has won the Kids Kartz New Zealand Cup three times with Dimmy and Frisbee and her younger brother Zane won the race in November with Frisbee. Earlier this year Zane was invited to compete in an Australian competition over two days in Canberra, finishing well with a second in the consolation. Clint's young boys Lochie and Sam are now into it, giving certainly to the thought that the Ford family will flourish famously both on the track and off it.



Credit: Mike Grainger writing in Harnessed May 2016

 

YEAR: 2016

PEOPLE

FELIX NEWFIELD - Horseman

You wouldn't call the recent death of Felix Newfield the end of an era. His era ended, well, eras ago. But it triggered the recall of a less sanitised harness racing time when enterprise and skill mixed with some sharp lateral thinking could take you a long way.

Felix was reportedly something g of a recluse in his final years in Queensland. That outcome seemed most unlikely given the lively approach to life and racing evident in his heyday, roughly from the late 1950s through the 1980s. There was always something happening or sometimes not happening when Felix Newfield was around.

It started when he first drove in races as a 16 year old in 1941. The problem was he was supposed to be 18 and the authorities took the licence back until he was. He lived in Domain Terrace as a youngster and worked at the major stable there firstly for Jack Pringle and later Howie Smith.

His first winner was Grattan Bells at Greymouth in October 1945, the mare's third win at the two day meeting. His good friend Jack Carmichael drove Margaret Hall to win earlier and Felix won his second drive when the trotter Sir Walter paid $288. Those were the days.

He would win five Greymouth Cups before he was through, Felix specialised in winning provincial cup staying races but the clipping he wanted to show you was one of his defeats. The headline referred to the "Biggest demonstration ever known on the West Coast" which, considering some of the others, must have been something. "When I pulled up I could hear the crowd starting to go off. I loosened one of the hopple straps and went back pointing to it. They seemed to be very upset," he quipped years later. It was probably no coincidence that his last training win(1994) was Come On Joe at Greymouth driven by Mike De Filippi.

Felix used to recall hoe tough the life of a stablehand was in the War years and after. After a full morning's work you'd jog a horse in the afternoon to the rail station and head for Greymouth, sleeping overnight in the horse boxes after card games by lamplight. You would jog from the station to the track, race, probably twice, then head back to the station for another long night on the train. During the war years horses might be walked up to 40km between horse floats with police roaming the back country roads looking for lawbreakers.

He pointed out that guys like Jack Carmichael, Derek Jones and himself were "boys among men" and you learned to make your presence felt early or make your way home. No quarter given and none asked. Perhaps that is why he gave Fraser Kirk every chance as a junior driver, the first and only of that grade to win a Pan Am Mile.

Felix made his impression as a private trainer with Methven's Sandy Green including winning three in a day at Waimate with different horses. Rare for anyone then. Not too long after that he married Joan Harris and they moved to an 18ha chicken farm at Templeton. Her father Jack raced a lot of horses with them. Hard work from both partners which included milking 30 cows, made it into a top facility for horses and a wide variety of other animals. Sadly Joan suffered from multiple sclerosis in later years and was hospitalised for a long period. Felix's younger son Craig, a good horseman and Murray Hessey were long time assistants and Bob Cole was another familiar figure at the stables.

One of Felix's first winners was Sedate leased from Colin McLaughlin and she was later a breeding source of great success for both. Names like Suzendy, Captain Free, Great Credit, Johnny Guitar, Queen Ngaio, Sirrah, Nimble Yankee(the Miracle Mile winner for Fraser) a genuine top liner in Waratah; the absolutely brilliant but erratic Great Credit later a big success from mobiles in America and Auditor whom he always regarded as the best he trained. He blamed himself for putting Auditor into work too soon after a strangles attack to get to the Cup and "He was never quite as good again. If I knew then what I know now he could easily have won a Cup."

One of his feats was lining up five horses in a New Brighton feature finishing first, second, fourth and fifth. But winning the New Zealand Cup, his greatest ambition, eluded him. No less impressive was his list of owners of long standing. Frank Kirkpatrick was the first and stayed loyal. Names like Jack Brosnan(Great Credit, Pancho Boy etc), Eugene McDermott(Guiness, Black Label, American Chief), Len Law and McLaughlin among others.

He had a big result in the 1973 NZ Derby when New Law which he trained and co-owned with Len beat Royal Ascot, which he also part owned, by a whisker, the latter being originally called the winner. "I reckon they should have called it a dead heat, that would have been something." He also won a Dominion Handicap behind Tronso for Colin Berkett.

Felix always had racing people talking. He often handled trotter Power Cut for close friend Bruce Woods and one day he was side-lined for a few weeks by the stipes for whistling loudly and calling out at the home bend causing a rival driven by George Shand(one of the great whistlers himself as Felix well knew) to gallop. Power Cut won.

Felix was and is known to all as "The Cat" but I quickly found out nobody actually called him that to his face. He didn't like it. After writing a story of bad puns based around cats("The stipes consulted the SPCA and told the Cat to 'paws' his career and curl up in the sun in the stands for a few weeks"), I was put in the deep freeze for a few months.

Another part of his gamesmanship was suddenly putting his feet on the ground and wanting some minor attention to his horse from the starting attendants just as the others were all ready to go. As the last to stand and so likely to be the first to go, this ploy often worked. All unintentional of course.

Once he and Bruce bought a horse Jimmy Wood from Doug McCormick in a Greymouth hotel late one night,(actually early the next morning) after Doug announced he was finished with the plain and lean looking little gelding. Bruce and Felix thought he just needed building up. A lease was written and signed on a piece of paper in the hotel's toilet. The partners were optimistic, they could turn him around for the second night with some tender loving care but the amiable Doug warned them they should never have taken the bell boots off. They had been on for three months! He was right. Jimmy ran last and the more condition the partners put on the little fellow the slower he got.

Felix was given a share in Royal Ascot to get him to race trim as a colt but it wasn't until he was finally gelded that Colin McLaughlin and Allan Harrison got him right. He went up a level when Felix took over the driving but even he thought he was lucky to hold the 1973 Auckland Cup after some old fashioned "argy bargy" to get off the fence in the middle stages had checked some favoured runners. "I took the whip and the Cup and just tried to keep out of the way," he recalled. He only got a two race-day suspension. Local media was furious.

Felix carried on the tradition of his younger days rather than make major changes. Cecil Devine, F J Smith, Ces Donald and Jack Pringle, all great conditioners, were his training role models. His horses were always washed down with hot water("How would you like a cold shower on a col morning?" he would ask) and did plenty of work. They won a lot of races(rising to third on the premiership with an average sized team) but they also won a lot of place money. All part of the tradition. He once told me after ensuring it was for publication that his great mate Jack Carmichael was one of the best he drove against "but that was when he was much younger of course."

F E Newfield did not have a lot of education but he was an opportunist who ha a quick mind and asked the sort of questions which could put jurnos on to good stories but also on their mettle. He told even better ones and often against himself. Plus you never quite knew what he was thinking. Nor even, at times, his owners.

There won't be another quite like Felix Newfield because the system which produced him is also history. It is now almost too demanding and clinical. Much bigger teams are raced constantly because of the need to cover costs. The plotting and scheming around a few races a week was given way to a tougher and harder routine. Felix always maintained in defence of his tactics that judging drivers from the stands was a dodgy premise. Now they see it all on camera.

A top horseman; sometimes a rascal but always a likeable one; jovial company and astute thinker, proud of his children, Felix Newfield was an old fashioned harness racing character. His passing is a sad reminder how few who can genuinely claim a similar standing, are still with us.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Aug 2016

 

YEAR: 2016

PEOPLE

JOHN REEDY

The man who trained and co-owned the late Starship to run second in the 1990 New Zealand Cup and 1991 Auckland Cup is still going strong in his beloved Westport. John Redmond Reedy is still training and breeding standardbreds and is actually one of five John Redmond Reedys in his family. His father, who introduced him to harness racing back in the early 1950s, was the original John Reedy Snr. That name has now spanned for generations.

"I'm 70 now and the oldest of 14 children(six sons) and we are all still alive. I live on Dad and Mum's(the late Jack and Bonnie)original farm but my son now farms about 300 cows on our property at Westport.

I've always loved harness racing for as long as I can remember. Starship was the best I trained. Me and a few mates went on a spending spree one day and paid $200,000 for him. He went on to win $341,000 but it could have been a lot more had it not been for one Dunedin horse," Reedy said.

That horse he was referring to was the Brian O'Meara trained Tuapeka Knight, who won 12 of his 14 starts and placed in one other. "When we bought Starship we didn't know that Tuapeka Knight was sitting in Otago waiting for us. We finished second to him in 9 races as a two-year-old. We actually beat him one night at Addington and then they relegated us. Starship was a lovely horse all right. He won 16 races for us and was a New Zealand record and track record holder in his peak," Reedy said.

Harness racing in the Reedy family dates back to the late 1930s and 1940s. "I was born when Dad got back from the Second World War. His horse, High Noon, even won for him when he was away serving his country. When he got back he still had horses but he bought a grocery shop in Westport. H was badly shot up so Roy Powell decided to take Dad to Bill Lowe's place at Hinds in Ashburton to fatten him up. Bill was the father of Ted Lowe and he went there the year Highland Fling won his first New Zealand Cup (1947). Dad was looking a bit miserable. He was 14 stone when he went away to the war and seven stone when he came back, Reedy said.

He said his father got a good insight into harness racing. He was working with some nice horses and stallions including Lucky Jack, who won the 1937 and 1939 New Zealand Cups. "Dad never trained horses because he worked too hard in the grocery shop and on the farm but he did own some nice ones. Not long after Dad bought our farm Bill sent him up a draft horse named Belle. We toyed with a few horses over the years and then came along the Garrison Hanover mare, Golden Rule.

"She was the best Dad owned. She threw herself backwards one day and strained a tendon. She went on to win several races, including an Interdom heat for her new leesees. The only reason Dad let others race her was on the condition she was returned to our farm at the end of her racing career. We then bred from her and Jason Rulz is the last one from her line to make an impression," Reedy said.

The Reedy breed is renowned for the 'Rule' name. The family has raced some nice horses over the years - Evil Roy Rule(Starship-Atomic Rule) who won 6 races; Deb's Rule(Starship-Timely Rule) 8 wins; Hi Rule(Starship- Atomic Rule) 3 wins; Sam Rule(Mystical Shark-Virginia Rule) 3 wins and Lady's Rule(Regal Yankee-New Rule) 3 wins.

"When Dad died we sold a couple of mares to Richard Dellaca. He was the man who changed the breeding name from 'Rule' to 'Rulz'. He owns and bred Jason Rulz(Courage Under Fire-Rule Zona) who has so far won 14 races. Actually the first horse I ever trained I couldn't qualify so I sold her to Richard when Dad died in the 1980s. Her name was Ima Rule. She was out of Golden Rule and left Franco Ice. He wasn't a bad gelding was he? He went on to win 20 races and more than $600,000.

While a constant figure at his home circuit on the West Coast each year as well as a prominent figure at meetings at Nelson and Blenheim as well, Reedy hasn't tasted success for quite some time. "I haven't had a winner for ages(2012-2013), and I'm getting sick of it," joked Reedy. "But it won't stop me . I absolutely love the game, and the people involved in it. I always have," he added. Reedy has trained 25 winners 1984 and although he rarely drives these days he saluted the judge eight times since 1985.

The Westport-born and educated Reedy is a past president of the Westport Trotting Club and also served on the New Zealand Racing Board. Racing is in our blood. My great grandfather was an 18-stone Irishman who I've been told never had an ounce of fat on him. He was all muscle and bone. He trained gallopers on the West Coast in the 1880s. "Our family has always loved racing and I'm no exception," said J R Reedy the second.

At last year's annual awards ceremony, Reedy was bestowed with the honour of the Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing prize for his lifetime involvement in the industry. A fitting reward for a man who lives and breathes the sport.

Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed Feb 2016

 

YEAR: 2016

PEOPLE

CHARLES KERR

The cheerful, genial Charles Frazer Kerr, a popular trotting identity, took his successes modestly, his reverses in good spirit.

Born in Christchurch in 1860 into the large family of Margaret and Peter Kerr, he grew up on the family's 6000 acre leasehold farm, Sand Hills Run, which reached from the Styx River to the Estuary. Kerr's Reach as we know it today was a drainage for the holding and later named for the prominent New Brighton family. 'Fond of horses and their ways', Charles and his brother, William, bought horses and trained and raced their own and others stack at Wainoni.

Their triumph was the purchase and training of the outstsnding American-foaled dam and sire 'Thelma' and 'Wildwood'. After Wildwood's death, the brothers split. William continued to breed and race his own horses while Charles worked as a public trainer and reinsman. He argued that, as the public provided the stakes, it was the duty of trainers and owners to provide good horses at every major event. His stables were invariably full.

Generous, a clean sport and kind to his horses, Charlie as he was known, was great company. At 46, he married Mabel Grant and two years later, a daughter, Muriel, was born.

In May 1914, William presented Charlie with Admiral Wood 'a handsome upstanding colt' which "Willie" trained. On May 16, Charlie, the leading driver, posted a career highlight driving the unbeaten rising star Admiral Wood to win the first New Zealand Derby at the New Brighton Trotting Club course (later QE2 Park). It would be his last ride. Late that night after celebrating in Woolston, he headed home.

Driving his sulky "at a fast pace", Charles lost control of his horse and gig. The gig hit a tramline pole, the wheels came off and he was thrown on the rod. Kerr, 53, was carried to hospital where he died of his injuries on May 22. Skull fractured, ribs broken, he suffered a brain laceration in the crash, an accident similar to that which claimed the life of his father in 1877.

Charles' sporting friends subscribed to a memorial fund to install a headstone with the figure of an angel. The loving inscription was testament to the measure of the man. The friends of Linwood Cemetery Trust hopes to raise the Kerr angel back onto its plinth. The angel, a casualty of the Canterbury earthquakes will also be pinned in place to current standards.

(Thanks to Richard Greenaway for research).

Credit: Anna Price writing in Ch-Ch Mail 3 Mar 2016

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