YEAR: 1949


Gladdy McKendry & Burns Night

Burns Night overwhelmed the unlucky favourite, Young Charles, in the last 50yds of the NZ Derby Stakes and brought off the first major upset in the blue ribbon event since Air Marshal won in 1944.

Until his Derby success Burns Night was a maiden, but last season he performed consistently in a number of the leading two-year-old classics, being runner-up to Morano in the Timaru Nursery Stakes; occupying the same position to Young Charles in both the Welcome Stakes and the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes; and finishing fourth to Farlena, Young Charles and Van Dieman in the NZ Sapling Stakes. These were Burns Night's only starts as a two-year-old and no horse of his age raced more consistently last season.

The reason he drifted to seventh favouritism in the Derby was no doubt due to his failure in the Riccarton Stakes a week earlier, when he did not get away well. Morano broke up badly at the start of the Derby, slewing across the track and stopping Young Charles who lost fully 50yds. Farlena lost more than that and Van Dieman and Te Maru were slow to settle down. Racing into the back Casacando was sent in pursuit of the leaders and he soon took over from Anitra and Soangetaha. Flight Commander was hemmed in on the rails, and he never looked like finding an opening, eventually going into a tangle in the run home when literally climbing over Casacando.

Young Charles set out in earnest after the leaders with half a mile to go, but he had no sooner got within range of Casacando than Soangetaha came out from the rails to meet the challenge, thus forcing Young Charles to race three out right round the far turn. It was a fine spectacle when Casacando, Soangetaha and Young Charles wheeled for home almost abreast. Casacando was the first to weaken, and Young Charles was under a hard drive to hold a small advantage from Soangetaha. Then Van Dieman joined in. Young Charles was doing a little better than these when Burns Night came from the clouds, right on the outside, to clinch victory by more than half a length.

Burns Night won a truly-run race (the mile was run in 2:13 2-5, the mile and a quarter in 2:42 3-5 and the full distance in 3:16 1-5, a little below Croughton's race record of 3:15 4-5) in decisive fashion, but on top of his early set-back, Young Charles was desperately unlucky. None of the breaks came his way during the running, either, and the manner in which he fought off all challenges except the winner's was recognised on all sides as the effort of a young champion.

The story is told that Mr N G Mason, breeder of Burns Night, did not deliberately set out to buy the Derby winner's dam, Festival. He just happened to be passing that way when Festival was put up for auction, and he only had to part with 7 to become her owner. He bred Gay Piper from her, and sold this good pacer to G McKendry for 500 as a yearling. Gay Piper turned out to be so good that McKendry paid another 500 for Burns Night when this colt was only a few days old. Gay Piper and Burns Night are both entires and may be given stud opportunities later on, as they are attractive individuals.

The Derby result was a distinct triumph for U Scott as a sire, the first three-fillers all being by him.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 9Nov49

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