YEAR: 1947


Highland Fling, Colin Berkett & Alf Kemble

The NZ Trotting Cup, 1947, was nothing more than a workout for Highland Fling. If the field he routed was high class - it must be assumed it was, because winners of three previous Cups and five free-for-all winners were strung out behind him - then Highland Fling has proved himself the greatest pacer ever bred in this country.

He elected to win the race the tough way. He took the lead off Loyal Peter within half a mile and proceeded to carry the cream of the Dominion's stayers to a state of exhaustion that gave the finish all the appearances of a walk-over. Highland Fling had only to register 4:18 2-5, nearly five seconds slower than his best time as a four-year-old last season, and the effortlessness of his win had to be seen to be appreciated. The trite saying "He did not turn a hair," was heard on all sides when he returned to the birdcage, and it was never more appropriately applied.

Only now five years old, Highland Fling is already several removes above anything else wearing harness, sprinters and stayers alike. He is the only horse since Harold Logan who looks capable of putting the longer-distance records as far out of reach of his successors as Harold Logan did, and Harold Logan's 4:12 2-5 has stood for 13 years.

And now something about the man who transformed Highland Fling from a petulant,'iffy' flying machine into a businesslike, genuine racehorse. L F Berkett, from the time he first 'talked turkey' to Highland Fling, knew that he had the greatest horse in his long and notable career, Dilworth, Imprint, Red Shadow, Royal Silk etc, notwithstanding. That was just over a year ago, and in that short space of time Highland Fling has won ten races and more than 12,000 in stakes - his total to date has reached 15,313, which is only 744/10/- short of Integrity's New Zealand and Australian record total of 16,057/10/-.

Bought by Mr A T Kemble from his breeder, Mrs K Bare, for something under 200, Highland Fling was a sensational early two-year-old, and an unsuccessful offer of 2000 for him was made by a Canterbury sportsman. His mile record of 2:10 for that age still stands, and if he had not drawn up his own set of rules as a three-year-old he would probably figure prominently on the record roster of pacers of that age. He was a winner at three years, but altogether he did not line up at the races as he should have done, although always produced in the pink of condition by his young Auckland trainer.

The first time Berkett raced Highland Fling in Canterbury he struck a very sloppy track and in both the main distance event and the sprint at the New Brighton Autumn Meeting he had to strike his colours to an honest, though not great mare in Gold Peg. Then came Highland Fling's meteoric rise to championship status. Losing upwards of 100 yards at the start of two-mile races, he still proved capable of winning decisively. Not always though, because on odd occasions he refused to lend any sort of co-operation to Berkett, Sen. or Berkett, Jnr., and took no real part in some of his races. But in 18 starts for Berkett he has won 10 races, been second twice and third once. You could scarcely call that inconsistent.

The father and son tradition in New Zealand trotting can offer no finer examples than those of the Bryce and Holmes families. Both are now producing their successful horsemen in the third generation. L F Berkett bids fair to establish a similar family saga of skilled reinsmen. Already his son, C R Berkett, who drove the Cup winner, is the leading trainer and horseman of the season, and another of his sons, N L Berkett, is also one of the most successful of the younger generation of trainers and drivers.

Highland Fling was the favourite and started from 12 yards, the second horse, owned and driven by O E Hooper was Knave of Diamonds also started from 12yds. Loyal Peter, starting from scratch was driven for W B Somerville by S A Edwards and finished third. Mr W J Doyle's In The Mood also started off scratch and was driven by the owner into fourth place. The margins were two lengths and one and a half lengths.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 5Nov47

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