YEAR: 1974



Eight-year-old free-legged pacer Robalan returned to the birdcage to a standing ovation from the crowd, who had just witnessed him win the New Zealand Trotting Cup at his fourth attempt.

For Robalan it was justification at last. At previous attempts at the New Zealand and Auckland Cups he had not always had luck on his side and was being hailed as a horse who could not win a big handicap. But all this went overboard as Robalan wore down Kotare Legend inside the final 60 metres and went on to win convincingly by two and a quarter lengths.

The race was a triumph for part owner-trainer Denis Nyhan who had the un-nerving experience on October 23 of having Robalan turn in a shocking performance at the race trials at Addington. A mysterious complaint was thought to be the cause of Robalan's form loss at the trials but he showed gradual improvement last week and showed that he was close to his best when he won at the Cup trials.

Favoured by a good run in the $50,000 Cup, Robalan clearly outstayed Kotare Legend and the raging favourite Young Quinn, who had to be content with third, a placing he filled last year. Robalan's victory took his lifetime earnings to $140,115 the result of 32 wins and 31 placings, one of these wins and two placings being gained at Harold Park in Sydney. The Lumber Dream-Elsinore gelding recognised as one of the fastest pacers in commission at present is raced in partnership by Nyhan, Invercargill farmer Alan Devery and company director Peter Hope. His time for the 3200 metres in the Cup was 4:09, the first 800 metres in a fast 1:02, the 1600 in 2:04.2 and the first 2400 in 3:10.2, the final 800 metres took 59.2 and the final 400 in 30.

Robalan was back in tenth place on the outer at the 1000 metres but Nyhan sent him forward to follow favourite Young Quinn up towards the leaders as Peter Wolfenden made his move. Robalan was travelling nicely in fifth place on the home turn as Kotare Legend slipped clear from Hi Foyle, Young Quinn and Noble Lord. Robalan moved to Kotare Legend 60 metres out and went on to win comfortably and in doing so he gave Denis Nyhan his third driving success in the Cup and his first training success. Previously Nyhan had won two Cups behind Lordship, a horse trained by his father Don Nyhan.

Kotare Legend who was handy throughout after leading briefly early, shot to the lead with 500 metres to run and though he looked to have a winning break at the 200 metres he had no answer to Robalan. Young Quinn was a big disappointment to his army of supporters. He opened up paying $1.25 and was still showing only $1.55 a few minutes before closing time. He started to pull about the 1600 metres and though he battled on solidly after getting up to third at the 500 he never looked like winning. Hi Foyle looked a big danger when he moved into second at the top of the straight but he wilted to fourth more than five lengths from the winner. Lightsey surprised many by battling on for fifth though four lengths further back and he was clear of Why Bill who was hampered at the start but ran past beaten runners in the final 600 metres. Well-supported Speedy Guest from the back mark of 10 metres attempted to follow Young Quinn and Robalan forward from the 1000 but he could not muster the pace and never really threatened afterwards.

Credit: 'Lookout' writing in the NZ Trotguide


YEAR: 1974



Bettor's Delight in just about ready to make the list as a "Cups King"- the most influential stallion in the two major all-aged races on out calendar, the Auckland and New Zealand Cups. He already has three winners and given his domination that might grow rapidly.

But topping some of the "old timers" won't be that easy, even if he has gone past many already. Who are the best? My top 10, based on the following statistical model.
- 10 points for each winner of the New Zealand or Auckland Cup.
- 5 point bonus for each individual winner greater than one.
- 5 points for each broodmare sire win.
- 1 point for each winner sired by a stallion son.

(Albatross-Valentine Hanover- Best of All)(Died aged 17)

One of the great 'rags to riches' sire stories, he produced four Auckland Cup winners in five years and five New Zealand winners in seven years. Amazing. Two, Chokin and Il Vicolo were dual Cup winners. His mares were a mixed bag and his sons failed but Vance Hanover was a horse for all seasons.

I used to compile my own Average Earnings Index for pacing stallions because many thoroughbred breeders regarded it as the best measure of performance. Even with huge crops Vance Hanover won year after year. A ten premiership breeding legend, he broke U Scott's/ Jack Potts long standing title records and made northern pacers a dominating force. There should be a statue of him somewhere for what that little horse achieved up there...

TRIVIAL FACT: Vance Hanover turned his reputation from "who?" to champion while based at the most remote stud in New Zealand, at Tangiteroria in Northland (no, we don't know where it is either) operated by Dave Jessop. In spite of the unfashionable mares there he turned Jessop, who had gone broke on a stallion deal in Canterbury and worked nights at the pie cart in Cathedral Square to make ends meet, a millionaire.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed 2016

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