YEAR: 1963


This season the mile trotting record for NZ and Australia has been lowered to 2.02 4/5 by When; but the mile record for horses of both gaits has remained intact since Caduceus paced 1.57 3/5 against time at Addington in 1959. It does not apply with equal force today, but in early compilations of standardbred records for the two colonies, NZ and Australian pacers and trotters were thrown together from year to year.

In 1881-82, the late Mr Robert Wilkin, a wine and spirit merchant, established in Hereford Street, Christchurch, imported to his 'Holmwood' stables, Holmwood Road, Fendalton, two American stallions, Berlin and Vancleve. The latter he sent to Australia, to the stud of Andrew Towns, who then sold Vancleve to Mr John Arthur Buckland, a pioneer of the light-harness sport in Australia, and one whose activities had also an important bearing on the history of the sport in NZ. Berlin remained with Mr Wilkin to do stud duty, and one of the foals he produced Fraulein (from Woodburn Maid), was sold to Mr W Fraser Martin, of Sydney, who later passed her on to Mr Buckland.

Mr Buckland mated Vancleve with Fraulein for several successive seasons, but it was three years after their first mating that Vancleve, in an exhibition run at the Dubbo Show, in May, 1893, took a colonial mile record of 2.28, previously held by Mystery at 2.29. Another Melbourne-owned trotter, Osterley, by the famous Childe Harold, after whom Harold Park was named, lowered Vancleve's record to 2.25 in 1895.

Two years after that, Fritz, the product of the first mating of Vancleve and Fraulein created a sensation on the Moonee Valley mile track by trotting 2.14 4/5 from a flying start.

In November of the same year (1897) at the Plumpton Park Club's meeting in Christchurch, Mr A Sefton's Blackwood Abdallah gelding, Little Willie, romped home in the one mile Final Handicap to record 2.26 1/5; and according to 'Honesty' in the 'NZ Referee', this was "the fastest mile in harness from a standing start that has yet been accomplished in NZ." The mile record was already regarded as the hallmark of standardbred speed, and trials against time at this distance were frequent and popular attractions in NZ and Australia.

Around the turn of the century, Mr Buckland's Fritz became the undisputed light-harness champion of Australasia. He trotted his way to success after success before being brought by his owner to NZ, in company of eight other first-class Australian horses in 1898. On that trip he established himself as a great favourite with the Canterbury public by beating Monte Carlo (who was later to win the first NZ Cup) in a free-for-all at the Canterbury Trotting Club's meeting, held on the old Show Grounds track. On June 2, 1898 Fritz made three attempts at the Riccarton racecourse to lower his 2.14 2/5. At his first attempt he trotted 2.18 2/5, and at his next two attempts he equalled 2.14 4/5. The track was reported to be very slow. Returning to Australia, Fritz lowered his record to 2.14 on the Brighton course, Sydney.

At that time, the Californian-bred Ha Ha (2.22 from a flying start) was the fastest horse in NZ and next to Fritz's his record was the next best south of the line. Next to Fritz and Ha Ha in NZ came the imported Wildwood, who had recorded 2.24 2/5 in a match race against Prince Imperial. In his prime, Wildwood was timed to trot a half-mile in 1.06 2/5 on Mr H Mace's track at New Brighton.

In the summer of 1898-99, Fritz again visited NZ, and it was on this trip that, for a purse of 100 sovereigns, he made an attempt to lower 2.15 against time. A totalisator was opened on the result, 35 being invested. Fritz was entrusted with 27 10s, and '2.15' with 7 10s. Without being really extended at any part of the journey, he trotted around the Show Grounds track in 2.13 - a new record. The dividend was microscopic!

Fritz made further trips to the Dominion, his last being in 1903, when he was brought from semi- retirement, in a typical sporting gesture by Mr Buckland, to meet the young Christchurch pacer, Ribbonwood, who had by this time become the idol of trotting followers in the Dominion. Advancing years and a very hurried preparation were mainly responsible for Fritz going under to the late Mr Dave Price's 'little black demon', but Ribbonwood proved that his victory in three straight heats was no fluke when, on the third day of that February meeting in 1903, held on the five-furlong Addington course, he recorded a new record of 2.09 for a mile against time from a flying start. Ribbonwood was by Wildwood from Dolly, by Young Irvington out of a thoroughbred mare. At the end of his great career in NZ he went to Australia and made history as a sire.

His mile record stood for eight years, until 1911, when it was reduced to 2.08 3/5, in a trial against time at Addington, by one of his sons, 7-year-old King Cole. The chestnut King Cole was the NZ champion of his day. He was raced by Mr R O Duncan and trained by the late Newton Price. His record-breaking mile run was watched by 300-odd votaries of light-harness racing, who gave him a great ovation. He was from Kola Nut, by Rothschild from Kola, by Harold Childe, a son of Childe Harold. King Cole was later sold to Australia, where he ended his race career.

A year earlier, in 1910, the Canterbury-bred Dan Patch, at that time owned by Victoria, on a visit to the Dominion, set an Australasian grass track record of 2.09 2/5 at Auckland. Also in 1910, Revenue, a son of Rothschild, and Mr J Manson's great-producing mare Georgina, trotted a mile in saddle in 2.11 4/5 on the Forbury Park track to displace Fritz as holder of the Australasian trotting record. In May, 1912, at Forbury Park, an Ashburton-bred Rothschld mare, Mr R McDonnell's 5-year-old, Emmeline, made an attempt at Forbury Park against Revenue's track record. She paced her mile in 2.08 3/5, and in doing so equalled King Cole's Australasian record. A month earlier at Addington, Emmeline had won a major event in the race record time of 2.10 4/5.

About that time, another fine mare was making a name for herself. She was Mr W J Morland's Country Belle (Wildmoor-Bonnie Belle). In 1915 Country Belle was nearing the end of her racing career, but before announcing her farewell performance Mr Morland decided to make an attempt to lower the 2.08 3/5 held by King Cole and Emmeline. The trial took place on the Metropolitan's grounds at about 6.30 on the morning of Thursday, December 16, 1915. Driven by her owner, Country Belle had the assistance as pacemaker of the well-known hurdler, Kingsway, ridden by Free Holmes. She paced her first half in 62secs and, to the delight of her admirers, the full journey in 2.07 1/5.

This record was to stand to 1917, when the Australian-bred Directway mare, Adelaide Direct, paraded in an attempt against it, for a purse of 100 sovereigns, on the second day of the Auckland Club's summer meeting. With the late, M Edwards behind her, she covered her first half in 64secs, and flashed home in 2.06 2/5 - a truly brilliant performance at that time.

In September, 1918, Mr A Fleming's speedy 8-year-old, Our Thorpe, whose career had been interrupted by mishaps, attacked Adelaide Direct's record at Addington. Driven by his owner-trainer, the Cheviot-bred OYM stallion clipped 1/5sec off the previous record; and he was to hold the honour for nearly five years.

It lasted until April 14, 1923, when, on the New Brighton Club's grass track, Happy Voyage, an Australian-bred Direct Voyage entire who had won his way almost to enforced retirement in the Dominion, was piloted over a mile against time in 2.04 1/5 by owner-trainer W J Tomkinson. This constituted a world record for a grass track. Later that year Happy Voyage equalled that time on the six-furlong Auckland track.

November 13 of the following year was the date of one of the most memorable mile contests in the Dominion's history. Five champions stepped out for the free-for-all on the second day of the Cup meeting at Addington. J J Kennerley paraded Logan Chief and Acron, W J Tomkinson Realm, J Messervy Onyx and J Bryce Taraire. In spite of the flying start, Taraire broke and was pulled up by Bryce. Realm made the pace to the half-mile in 60 3/5, and it was then obvious a new record was in the making. Logan Chief reached the lead at the tanks, with Acron alongside him and Realm dropping back to trail. Acron had Lagan Chief's measure at the furlong, but then Realm came at Acron to run the late Sir John McKenzie's champion to a neck. Acron's time - 2.03 3/5. By Logan Pointer from Millie C, who was a daughter of Wildmoor from a mare by Ha Ha, Acron was purchased by J R McKenzie for 2000gns after winning at his initial attempt. He was extremely temperamental, but when in the right mood there was no saying how fast he would go.

Acron's record was to stand for 10 years, but some very creditable miles were paced and trotted in the interim. The year 1925 saw Acron pace 2.04 3/5, Great Bingen 2.04 4/5, and the Australian Machine Brick 2.05 3/5, all at Addington. In 1928, Native Chief paced 2.04 1/5 to beat Great Bingen in a match race at Addington; and in May, 1930, Todd Lonzia marked his introduction to the public at Forbury Park by trotting eight furlongs in the Australasian 2-year-old record of 2.22 2/5. On the Forbury Park track in 1932, Todd Lonzia lowered Revenue's 22-year-old record of 2.11 3/5 by 3/5sec. This was reduced soon after by Olive Nelson, who trotted 2.11 at Westport. In the following year Todd Lonzia was again sent against time at Addington, and registered 2.09. However, he broke several times and it was not a good exhibition upon which to hang a record. Todd Lonzia was by the imported American horse, Lorene's Todd, from Daphne Dean, a daughter of Copa de Oro, sire in America of the successful importation, Rey de Oro.

The year of 1934 had an important bearing on the history of the mile record. This was the date of the visit from Australia of two champion pacers in Walla Walla and Auburn Lad. Walla Walla contested invitation match races against NZ's best at the Easter meeting of that year, winning the mile contest from Harold Logan in 2.04 1/5, a world race-winning record from a standing start. Walla Walla struck trouble in the second match race over a mile and a half, and finished out of a place.

On Tuesday, April 17, 1934, 2000 people gathered at Addington to watch Walla Walla, Auburn Lad and J S Shaw's brilliant NZ Trotting mare, Worthy Queen, race against the watches at a matinee meeting. Walla Walla was first to step out. A fairly stiff breeze was blowing, and after pacing his first half in 58 2/5, he tired considerably to record 2.03 4/5. He was suffering from a heavy cold. Worthy Queen (J S Shaw) then came out with Olax (galloped in sulky with Free Holmes) as pacemaker. At her first attempt she broke at the end of a furlong, but at her second try she never put a foot wrong. She trotted her first half in 60 4/5, and the full journey in the remarkable time of 2.03 3/5. Her record (against time) actually still stands to this day, because Dianthus Girl, 2.03 2/5, and When, 2.02 4/5, put up their times in special match races. Shortly before Worthy Queen's trial, Biddy Parrish had trotted a mile in 2.08 2/5 - a record which stood for but a few minutes.

Although not officially announced Auburn Lad next attacked the record. His pacemaker was no use to him, as he took charge of his driver, and was always about 100 yards in front. Driven by his owner, W McKay, Auburn Lad paced his first half in 60 2/5secs; but unlike Walla Walla, he did not tire so visibly in the final section. He time 2.02 2/5 was posted, and he became the fastest standardbred in Australasia.

Another champion had won his way up the ladder about this time. This was Mr G J Barton's Wrack stallion, Indianapolis. At the NZ Metropolitan Club's Royal meeting in 1935, without any special preparation, he paced an exhibition mile in 2.01 2/5, after covering his first mile in 61secs. Later in the day, he won the main sprint by six lengths. After winning his third NZ Cup in November, 1936, Indianapolis, in a trial against time, clipped a second from his fastest time, failing by 2/5sec to achieve the distinction of being the first 2.00 horse outside America. The same year he took a track record of 2.03 3/5 at Forbury Park against time.

The main mile of note in 1937 was the 2.04 recorded at Auckland by the Pedro Pronto gelding, Nervie's Last. The following year, Mr E Tatlow's Globe Derby horse Van Derby, paced a brilliant mile in the world grass track record time of 2.00 2/5 from a flying start at Auckland; but this grand effort took second place to a performance by his elder half-brother, Lawn Derby.

This was at Addington on Friday, November 11, 1938. Mr J F MacKenney's free-legged Australian champion paraded before a record crowd and, after being given a short warm-up by trainer-driver W J O'Shea, the Robert Derby horse raced past the mile post (with Golden Direct, in sulky driven by Mr Free Holmes, as a galloping pacemaker), and proceeded to 'burn up the clay'. He reached the half in 58 4/5, and stuck to his work in solid style right to the end. The posting of his 1.59 2/5 brought from the great crowd an appreciation befitting the momentous occasion. At last two minutes had been broken outside America; and Lawn Derby's time is still a free-legged record for this part of the world.

The year after, Lawn Derby recorded 2.04 4/5 in a race at the Auckland meeting, and 2.02 2/5 in an attempt aganst time on the six-furlong grass track at Claudelands. Also in 1939, Van Derby paced a mile against time at Epsom in 2.00 2/5. The best mile in 1940 was Lucky Jack's 2.01 1/5 against time at Addington, while in 1941 Gold Bar established a world record from a standing start when, ridden in saddle by M Holmes, he won the Clarkson Handicap from Mankind and Colonel Grattan in 2.03 3/5 on the second day of the Cup meeting. Nine months earlier, Smile Again had won in saddle over this distance at Addington in time only 2/5sec slower.

At Epsom in December, 1941, Josedale Grattan, the NZ Cup winner of that year, recorded 2.02 in a mile against time. A month later in a trial against time at Addington, Gold Bar became the second in the Southern Hemisphere to break 2.00, reeling off the distance in 1.59 3/5. Gold Bar was matched with R Grice's NZ Cup winner Haughty, in a special race at a patriotic meeting held at Addington on Match 27, 1943. B Grice's Nelson Derby-Regal Voyage mare (driven by O E Hooper) beat A Holmes's brilliant stallion (driven by Free Holmes) by two lengths, accomplishing a match-race record of 2.00 2/5. After missing out in her attempt to win her third NZ Cup the following year, Haughty was put against the watch on the second day of the November meeting, and recorded 1.59 3/5. She is still the only mare to have officially broken two minutes out side America.

In 1945 good judges sat up and blinked a little when a 2-year-old named Highland Fling recorded 2.10 for a mile, bettering by 4/5sec the Juvenile record, set at Timaru five years earlier by the young champion, Walter Moore. Highland Fling then became unruly and faded into obscurity for a time before being taken over by a master trainer in L F Berkett. Under Berkett he won his way into fortune and also into the hearts of all trotting enthusiasts over all distances and in all conditions.

And it was on May 1, 1948, that he was stepped out for what was to be the first of a series of phenominal performances against time. This was at Forbury Park where his mission was Indianapolis's track record of 2.03 3/5, established 12 years earlier. A strong southerly wind and a chilly atmosphere were obviously only minor difficulties, for the 'Fling' reeled of eight furlongs in 2.01, pacing his last half mile in 57. His victory, an hour earlier in the Otago Pacing Free-for-all, in which he covered his last mile in 2.03 3/5 had served as a convenient warm-up!

During the following season, Highland Fling made four more attempts against time over one mile. After winning his second NZ Cup in the world race-winning record time of 4.10 3/5 he delighted his admirers by lining up on the second day of the November meeting for a crack at Lawn Derby's long standing record of 1 59 2/5. The ease with which he equalled this record was remarkable. He appeared to be but coasting around, so deceptive was his smooth stride; and his appearance on his return to the birdcage gave the impression that he had not been extended. It was than announced that he would make another attempt to break the record on the third day of the meeting.

Berkett, unorthodox as always, dispensed with the usual strong work-out and galloping pacemaker, and Highland Fling streaked alone around the Addington track to record 1.57 4/5 and become the fastest standardbred outside America. The trainer-driver and Mr A T Kemble's champion were cheered to the echo. Six hours later he won the NZ Premier Sprint Championship in 2.37 2/5, after being left flat-footed at the start. The following January Highland Fling made another attempt against time at Forbury Park, and lowered his previous record for the track from 2.01 to 1.58 - only 1/5sec outside his Australasian record. It was another phenomenal effort. A fortnight later, at Hutt Park, Highland Fling paced his fourth two minute mile of the season, registering 2.00 flat to establish a world grass track record for the distance. The previous record was held by Van Derby, who recorded 2.00 2/5 at Epsom in 1938.

Highland Fling's performances that season overshadowed a very creditable performance by the Bill B gelding, Single Direct, who paced a mile against time at Claudelands. Also in February, 1949, Highland Kilt, a 2-year-old brother of Highland Fling in an attempt at Addington against Todd Lonzia's long-standing juvenile trotting record of 2.22 2/5, lowered those figures to 2.19 1/5, covering his last half in 68secs.

The year 1951 saw an attempt by the brilliant square-gaiter, Dictation, against Worthy Queen's 2.03 3/5. However, J Wilson's Josedale Dictator gelding, after trotting his fist half-mile brilliantly in 61secs, spoiled his display by tangling. He settled down again after losing valuable seconds and recorded only 2.07 2/5. The trial was at New Brighton. However, Dictation enjoyed his full share of other records.

Another sensation arrived on the scene in 1953, in the form of Brahman (Gold Bar, 1.59 3/5-Haughty, 1.59 3/5). He was paraded at Addington in June of that year in an attempt to lower Convivial's Australasian 2-year-old record of 2.08 4/5, established in Melbourne in 1951. Few before the attempt ever imagined that Brahman would do what he subsequently did - a mile in 2.02 1/5, after pacing the first half in 60 2/5. B Grice's mercurial juvenile raced at least one sulky-width out from the rail all the way and, although he did not nearly break the world record of 2.00 held then by Titan Hanover, USA, he amazed the critics.

In December of the 1953-54 season, Johnny Globe, the then idol of NZ enthuisiasts, added to his laurels a new world grass track record of 1.59 4/5 in an attempt against time at Epsom, a record which still stands. Other miles of note in 1953 were Burn's Night's 2.02 3/5 from a standing start to win the Au Revoir Free-for-all at the Easter meeting at Addington: Johnny Globe's improvement on this to 2.01 1/5 to win the Flying Sprint Free-for-all at the following Cup meeting; an exhibition mile by D G Nyhan's new champion in 2.00 1/5 at Kaikoura; and 6-year-old Highland Kilt's 2.04 3/5 in a trotting exhibition, also at Kaikoura.

In July of the same season J D Litten's Royal Mile (Fourth Brigade-Sure Romance), in a trial against time at Addington, lowered Highland Kilt's 2-year-old mile trotting record to 2.16 1/5. Later the same month a bay colt by Gold Change from Princess Yenot paced a mile against time at Epsom in 2.18 3/5 - an Australasian record for a yearling. This was sensationally lowered by Blue, who put up the world yearling record of 2.09 1/5 at Addington in 1957.

Perhaps the greatest mile race in Dominion harness history was that in which Tactician established the Australasian mile race record of 1.59 4/5. That was in 1957 at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club's Easter meeting in the Flying Stakes. From a moving start Tactician (M C McTigue) won by a nose from Caduceus, who went 2.00 for second. Local Light was three-quarters of a length away third in 2.00 1/5, and Merval was fourth in 2.00 3/5. There have been other stirring mile contests in recent years, but none in which such speed was attained as in the Flying Stakes.

Highland Fling's 1.57 4/5 stood safely out of reach for 11 years until finally lowered by the narrowest of margins by his full brother-in-blood, Caduceus, who went 1.57 3/5 against time at Addington in 1959. And there the mile record remains. Royal Mile's 2-year-old record was lowered to 2.13 1/5 by Au Fait in 1957, and stands to this day. Dianthus Girl, in 1962, in a special trotters match race at Addington, won in 2.03 2/5, thus lowering Worthy Queen's 1934 time of 2.03 3/5 by a fraction. And this season When has reduced the mile trotting main to 2.02 4/5, also in a match race.

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 5Jun63


YEAR: 1948


For many years now the Wilkin Handicap has appeared on the Easter programmes of the NZMTC, but I wonder how many know why the race is so named?

It is to commemorate 'the father of trotting turf' Robert Wilkin.

Robert Wilkin was a merchant in Hereford Street, Christchurch, and had his stables at the corner of Holmwood and Garden Roads, Fendalton. Prior to 1882 there were no clean-bred trotting sires in the Dominion. With the idea of remedying this want, Robert Wilkin commissioned an American trotting authority to send him a collection of three sires and six brood mares. These duly arrived, the sires being Berlin, Blackwood Abdullah and Vancleve, and the brood mares Messenger Maid, Blue Grass Belle, Fannie Belle, Jeannie Tracey, Queen Emma and Woodburn Maid.

These horses did more to improve the type of light-harness horse in the Dominion than any who have arrived since. Vancleve, of course, went to Australia and later was a wonderful success at the stud of Mr J A Buckland, and exercised a great influence on the trotting breed in Australia. Berlin was an immediate success as a sire, his progeny being noted for their stamina and gameness. Two mares by him were also a great influence at the stud, namely Fraulein and Puella.

All the other importations left their mark on the light-harness breed and laid the foundation for the wonderful breed we have today.

Credit: H E Goggin writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 21Apr48


YEAR: 1908


Bookmakers had two terms of legal betting in New Zealand. In the early days they were licensed by the clubs, which worked with or without totalisator betting. By the turn of the century bookmakers had been banned, but in 1908 they were back, operating on the course only, at the whim of the clubs. The situation lasted until 1911, when they were finally denied access to the courses. The 1908 Gaming Act also prohibited the publication of totalisator dividends. This prohibition was not lifted until 1950, when the Totalisator Agency Board was established and off-course betting was legalised.

The Metropolitan Club issued a large number of bookmakers' licences in 1908 and they operated in the public and members enclosures. Their operations affected first-day turnover, which dropped to 10,606, compared with 13,168 on the first day of the 1907 carnival. On the second day, 24 bookmakers operated, providing the club with 480 in fees, and on the third day 30 bookmakers took out licences. On Cup Day, despite the bookmakers, a record 18,404 was handled by the totalisator. The three-day total of 41,432 was a drop of 1209 from the previous year.

At his third attempt, Durbar, owned by Harry Nicoll and trained by Andy Pringle, a combination of owner, trainer and driver that was to become a familiar sight at Addington, won a grand contest.

On the first day, Addington patrons had their first opportunity in the new seasonto see the very good four-year-old Wildwood Junior. Bill Kerr's star easily beat 14 others, most of them Cup contenders, in the Courtenay Handicap. Dick Fly was second and St Simon third. Wildwood Junior did not have a Cup run.

A small field of nine faced the starter in the New Zealand Cup. Advance, the early favourite, went amiss and was withdrawn from the carnival. Albertorious was the favourite again, after his eight-length win in the Christchurch Handicap the day before the Cup. But Albertorious, driven by Jim August, was last all the way. He was bracketed with Fusee, driven by Newton Price. Fusee fared worse. His sulky broke just after the start and he was pulled up.

Florin took an early lead and led until the last lap, when Terra Nova took control from Dick Fly, Master Poole, Lord Elmo and Durbar. Pringle sent Durbar after the leaders and he won by two lengths to Terra Nova, with eight lengths to Lord Elmo. At considerable intervals came Dick Fly and Master Poole, with the others well beaten. Durbar's time of 4:36 was just outside Ribbonwood's national record. The stake for the Cup was raised to 500 sovereigns, and for the first of many times the qualifying mark was tightened, on this occasion to 4:48.

Most of the Cup horses lined up again in ther seventh race, the Provincial Handicap, where Lord Elmo improved on his third placing in the Cup. He gave Wildwood Junior a two-second start and beat him by eight lengths. Durbar, also off two seconds was third.

Durbar was a 12-year-old Australian-bred gelding by Vancleve. Terra Nova was by Young Irvington and Lord Elmo was by Rothschild. All three sires were outstandingly successful. A tough old campaigner, Durbar raced until he was an 18-year-old, and unsuccessfully contested the 1909 and 1910 Cups. He was the top stake-earner in 1908-09, with 682. For the fifth consecutive season, John Buckland was top owner, his horses winnnig a record 1391.

In 1881 John Kerr, of Nelson, and Robert Wilkin, of Christchurch, had imported some American stock, which laid the foundation for harness racing breeding in this country. Among Kerr's stock was Irvington, and among Wilkin's importations was Vancleve, who stayed only a short whilein New Zealand and did not serve any mares before being sold to a trotting enthusiast in Sydney. He became one of the most successful sires identified with the Australian and New Zealand breeding scenes. Apart from the great trotter Fritz, and Durbar, he sired Quincey (Dominion Handicap), and a number of other top performers who were brought from Australia to win races in this country. More than 60 individual winners of hundreds of races on New Zealand tracks were sired by Vancleve, a remarkable record for a horse who spent his stud life in Australia. Vancleve mares also found their way into New Zealand studs, the most celebrated being Vanquish - granddam of the immortal Worthy Queen, who created a miler record for trotters of 2:03.6 at Addington in 1934.

Irvington was used for only a few seasons in New Zealand before he too, went to Australia. Irvington was a poor foaler. He sired only two winners - Lady Ashley and Young Irvington - and it is through the latter that the name survived. Bred in 1886 by Tom Free at New Brighton, Young Irvington was a good racehorse, not only the first "pacer" seen on Canterbury tracks, but also a natural or free-legged pacer, racing without straps. Young Irvington left about 60 winners, and his daughters were also outstanding producers at stud. Early on they produced Ribbonwood (Dolly), Our Thorpe (Lady Thorpe) and Admiral Wood (D.I.C.).

Durbar's owner, Harry Nicoll, who raced both thoroughbreds and standardbreds, was also a breeder and top administrator. For many years he was president of the Ashburton Trotting and Racing Clubs. He retired from the presidency of the New Zealand Trooting Conference in 1947, after holding that office for an uninterrupted period of 25 years. He owned his first horse in 1902 then, in 1905, Andy Pringle became Nicoll's private trainer and they started a long and successful association. Pringle was an astute horseman, often sought by other owners and trainers to drive their horses. He was top reinsman in 1914-15 and again in 1916-17 and 1917-18. His son, Jack Pringle, was also a top horseman, winning the trainers' and drivers' premierships in 1950-51. Nicoll was top owner in 1910-11 (1547 10s), 1911-12 (1222), 1912-13 (987 10s) and 1920-21 (4161). His Ashburton stud, named Durbar Lodge after his first Cup winner, produced some great pacers and trotters, with Indianapolis, Wrackler, Seas Gift and Bronze Eagle foremost. All were bred by Wrack, who was bought by Nicoll from American owners.

Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup


YEAR: 1907


In 1907 the race was again described as the New Zealand Handicap, and was transferred to the third day of the meeting.

The result was a win for A E Tasker's Marian (J Tasker) with J McDonnell's Advance (Owner) second and J A Buckland's Verax (C B Piper) third. On a heavy track Marian registered 5:16.

The 'also starteds' included Sal Tasker, Durbar, Lord Elmo, Boldrewood and The Needle.

Credit: ' Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 25Oct44


YEAR: 1906

NOTES ON HORSE AND SULKY (By THE POSSIBLE.) Jewels Heiress put up a fine performance in winning the' Shorts Handicap in 2min 19 sec. It was very bad luck for the connections of Prince Elmo to run up against such a speedy customer as the American mare. Electrician and Al F, two members of Albaugh's team, were among the mcst unlucky performers at the meeting, as they both reduced their records considerably without winning. Al F was three times third out of four starts.

The victory of Lady Inez in the last race of the meeting, the Au Revoir Handicap, was rather unpopular with a section of the crowd, who apparently found it hard to reconcile her winning performance with her defeat earlier in the meeting.

When still a lap from home in the Champion Handicap, won by Verity, Black Venus was pulled up the bank and slowed down. Her driver, Wright, was asked for an explanation, when he informed the stewards that he thought it was the last lap. The explanation was accepted.

The racing throughout the four days was uniformly good, Mr Brinkman having brought his fields well together. No records were broken, but the times recorded taken on the whole, were very fast, and more than one horse had the task of winning in future seriously affected by a big reduction on its previous record, without the compensation of annexing a stake.

Though he had to put up with second place in the Exhibition Cup, Dan Patch proved that he was quite- worthy of the reputation that preceded him to Christchurch from Melbourne. Immediately after the big race he was brought out for the Pioneer Handicap, in which he registered a mile and a quarter in 2min 53 2-5 sec, which works out at about 2min 19sec for the mile.

The big stakes offered by the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club at its recent meeting proved an excellent corrective against non-triers. All the same, there were several palpable cases of waiting tactics, and, in one case at least, the totalisator figures on the next occasion when the horse started furnished plenty of proof that a much better display could be expected.

The Allendale Stock Farm's team, under the care of the Robertson Brothers, captured a fair share of the spoil at the recent meeting. Dan Patch was the best winner, capturing the Christchurch Handicap and Pioneer Handicap, besides finishing second in the Exhibition Cup. Alice Palm won the Halswell Handicap, Birchmark the Best and Best Handican and Jewel's Heiress the Shorts Handicap. C. Piper has received many fine performers from Mr J. A. Buckland, but I doubt if he has had many more promising than Vanish and Vivid. These two Vancleve mares have only been in New Zealand for a few weeks, yet one is already close down to the 4.50 mark, and another broke 5min when beaten in her first race last week. Both mares can probably be improved a lot yet, so that they should keep the cracks moving before the season closes.

Albertorious is a greatly improved horse since he first raced on Canterbury tracks last June. At that time his owner was anxious that his horse should reach the 5min mark, but despaired of its accomplishment. He has, however, gradually gone on doing better, and now, with 4min 46 2-seec opposite his name, I would not like to say that he has reached his limit, as his last win was gained in very decisive fashion.

G. Milsom's Sydney team, though successful in several races, was a trifle unlucky, several unprofitable placed performances being recorded. The disqualification of Little Ned for starting before his time in the Lincoln Handicap was most unfortunate, but I do not see how the stewards could have done otherwise than uphold their official after he had reported the matter. I learn, by the way, that it is Milsom's intention to remain in Christchurch with his horses for a few months.

The recent meeting of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club may be described as the most successful trotting fixture ever held in New Zealand. The attendance was large on each day of the meeting, the crowd present on Friday being one of the biggest I have ever seen on the ground. The visitors were prepared to bet, too, and but for the rain which fell on Thursday afternoon the record totalisator turnover, 48,428, would have been considerably larger than it was. The grounds were in fine order, and the track provided first-class going. Although in a very bad state on Thursday night, the track was looking all right again on Friday morning, and Caretaker French must have put in a lot of work to have it in such order after the soaking it got on Thursday afternoon.

Sal Tasker, who won the Juvenile Stakes two seasons ago in the record time of 2min 20sec, made only one appearance at the meeting, this being on the last day when she came out to contest the Exhibition Cup, the most valuable prize ever given for a trotting race in New Zealand. Since she last raced in New Zealand, Sal Tasker has filled out a lot, and she now takes the eye as a beautiful specimen of the trotting horse. D. J. Price had her looking well, and the manner in which she saw out the fast two-mile journey furnished abundant evidence that her condition was all right. Drawing to the front at the start, she was never seriously challenged till a mile had been covered, when Dan Patch ran up to her. For half a mile Sal Tasker seemed to be at top, but she proved too great a sticker, and had Dan Patch beaten when the back stretch was entered. From that point she was never troubled, and won easily in 4min 44 8-ssec. That she has reached the limit of her speed yet I do not believe, and I quite expect to see her do something better before this season closes.

Mrs R. 0. Duncan, the owner of Sal Tasker, can certainly feel proud of owning such a fine performer. Quite recently, I learn, Mrs Duncan purchased Jessie and a yearling sister to Sal Tasker, and the mare has been sent to Melbourne to be mated with the Americanbred sire, Abbey Bells

Credit: The Possible writing in the Star 15 November 1906


YEAR: 1904

Monte Carlo with Bert Edwards

Monte Carlo was the winner of the first NZ Cup. Writing in "Pillars of Harness Horsedom" F C Thomas, who compiled the first volumes of the NZ Trotting Stud Book, wrote sporting notes for the Christchurch "Press" and "Weekly Press" for many years and was a racing and trotting handicapper, made the following observations.

"Of all the horses that passed through Bert Edwards hands, none gained such esteem in public estimation a did that grand old trotter Monte Carlo. Old "Monte" was owned by that fine old sportsman, Mr Tom Yarr, for whom Monte Carlo won the first New Zealand Trotting Cup, as well as many races from a mile to two miles, both in saddle and harness. In the writer's opinion "Monte" was the greatest all-rounder of his time. When he won the Trotting Cup his popularity gave rise to a remarkable demonstration at Addington. Ladies showered bunches of flowers on the unconcerned veteran and before Edwards could get him back to his stall half the hairs had been plucked from his tail as souvenirs. Monte Carlo and Reta Peter share the honour of being the only straight-out trotters to have won the New Zealand Trotting Cup."

"In 1898 the Lancaster Park Club offered a prize for any horse that could lower the two-mile Australasian record of 4.55, held by Mr Buckland's champion, Fritz. Several horses were entered for the event, but Monte Carlo was the only one to continue with his engagement. Paced by Free Holmes on the galloper Salvo Shot, the veteran trotted the journey without a mistake in 4.53, thereby getting within Fritz's time by 2 sec. Later in the same afternoon "Monte" came out and won the big two-mile handicap."

Credit: Pillars of Harness Horsedom: Karl Scott


YEAR: 1898


A major figure in our harness history because he was the first person to establish a satellite stable and in his case an international one. One of the dominant figures of Australian harness, Buckland brought a team over in 1898 headed by the champion trotter Fritz and was so impressed he set up a professional stable here at Riccarton's historic Lonsdale Lodge (the well preserved house is still there) with his foreman Claude Piper in charge. Buckland owned the leading Australasian stallion Vancleve and his stock cleaned up most of the feature races here.

In five years Buckland was the leading owner in New Zealand four times and second in the other. His 2300ha Pine Ridge station was a fabulous estate producing stud horses of both codes; stud sheep and cattle; deer, parrots, turkeys and pigeons. The trotting facility was state of the art. He also maintained a racing stable in Sydney. Unhappily he gelded all the best sons of Vancleve and so killed off his own sire line. When he died in 1932 he left an estate of millions of dollars.

Trivia Fact: Claude Piper stayed on in Christchurch. He ran hotels at Springfield, Leeston and Southbridge and later the city's leading hostelry, the Clarendon. A noted sportsman in many areas Claude also acted as stipendiary steward and was a founder of the Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Jan 2017


YEAR: 1903


The date was April 11, 1903, the arena was the newly formed Addington raceway, the event was an 1100 sovereign match race, the horses Fritz, representing Australia, and Ribbonwood, from New Zealand. 1100 sovereigns, or pounds, was a considerable sum in those days. Six months earlier Ribbonwood had won the 200 sovereign New Zealand Handicap, which became the New Zealand Cup in 1903 for a stake of 310 sovereigns.

But it wasn't the money that saw a record 11,000 people jam into Addington on that fine, clear day - it was the spectacle. Undoubtedly the finest trotter and pacer seen in Australasia were to do battle that afternoon and nobody wanted to miss it. Not only were there thousands of visitors from all over NZ present but scores from Australia, and the NZ Premier Richard Seddon. How Christchurch catered for the influx is not understood, the last vacant hotel room was taken early the previous afternoon. Never before had a single sporting event in NZ created such enthusiasm, for this was the "People's Sport". Ribbonwood was a four-year-old and had already raced himself to an impossible handicap, while Fritz was 12 years old and returning from virtual retirement.

A striking black stallion bred by Gilbert Hamilton McHaffie, the second president of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club between 1903 and 1905, Ribbonwood was owned, trained and driven by Dave Price, one of Addington's leading horsemen at the time. Known as the "little black demon", he was bought by the debonair Price as a two-year-old for 250 and was a sensation in his two year career under Price's guidance. Ribbonwood was initially owned by Jack Thompson and trained by "Manny" Edwards, and won two of his three starts for them as a juvenile. Within two starts as a three-year-old he was racing against the best horses in Canterbury, in fact giving away starts like seven seconds over a mile to them.

At Addington in November, Ribbonwood won a three-year-old event by what was officially known then as a "walk-over". All he had to do was complete the course to collect the stake, as nobody else even bothered entering a horse against him. Ribbonwood was beaten twice in eight starts that season, on the second day of the November meeting after giving the winnerWild Bill an eight second start over a mile, and then three days later, after winning the three-year-old event, he was beaten in an event against time, running a mile in 2:20 when required to beat 2:18.

In August of 1902 he had to be content with minor placings on three occasions, but then came eight straight wins, including two against time. Among them were the NZ Handicap in November, beating inaugural NZ Cup winner Monte Carlo by eight lengths after sharing the back mark with him, a similar event in February from scratch, beating Boldrewood (10 seconds), Harold C (15), Monte Carlo (6) and The Needle (8) by fifty yards in record time for two miles of 4:35 4/5, and a 50 sovereign event to beat Fritz's Australasian mile record of 2:13, in which he recorded 2:11 2/5. Under the handicapping system at that time, horses were penalised for winning times, thus Ribbonwood was never off the bit, asked to win the race and no more. With nothing able to live with Ribbonwood on the track, Price began looking for alternative challenges for his champion.

Exactly how the match race came about is a little clouded, some reports claiming Price put up 500 sovereigns for anybody to take him on, while Price himself was later quoted as saying he overheard a rather vociferous Australian claiming the greatest horse in the world was in Australia. Whatever happened, there was simply only one horse in Australasia considered worthy of stepping on to a racecourse with Ribbonwood, and that was the marvellous New South Wales trotter Fritz.

Fritz had reigned supreme as Australasia's champion for a number of years, that is, until the advent of Ribbonwood. He had already made three trips to Addington, endearing himself to the New Zealand public as much as in his homeland. In fact, in his day, Fritz was even more of a celebrity than Ribbonwood. However, no less well known was his owner, John Arthur Buckland, a wealthy New South Wales farmer who had made a hobby out of breeding standardbreds at his mammoth Wonbobbie Station about 350 miles west of Sydney. Buckland had entered the game after taking the advice of noted breeder Edgar Deane and purchased the unwanted American Stallion Vancleve for 55 guineas. Assembling a sizeable band of blue-blood mares, Buckland and his sons of Vancleve were soon dominating trotting meetings throughout Victoria and his home state. With 5000 head of cattle and over 100,000 sheep on the property, Buckland enlisted the help of the neighbouring Claude Piper to train his team, and it was a familiar sight to see Buckland and Piper fighting out finishes with the rest of the field only entering the home straight.

One of the mares Buckland had selected was Fraulien from New Zealand, who was by imported parents in Berlin and Woodburn Maid. Vancleve, Berlin and Woodburn Maid had been amongst the first imports from America by Robert Wilkin in 1882, his intention being to breed Berlin mares to Vancleve, or vice versa. It was therefore a great tragedy a few years later when Wilkin's health took a poor turn, forcing him to either sell or lease the horses he had imported. Vancleve had been leased to Andrew Town in New South Wales for two years when Wilkin passed away, leaving his ownership in the estate. After Town refused first offer and Vancleve had failed to attract a bid when sent to auction, Buckland stepped in and took the advice of Edgar Deane, who had originally advised Town to lease the horse but did not have the means himself to breed with him. Fraulien had been bought as a three-year-old in 1887 at Wilkin's disposal sale by Fraser Martin of New South Wales, who later sold her to Buckland when he was looking for mares to breed to Vancleve.

Thus it was Buckland who stumbled upon the remarkable results of crossing Berlin mares with Vancleve, as Fraulien's first foal was called Fritz. Fraulien was bred to Vancleve on six occasions, also producing two unraced fillies and good winners in their own right Franz, Frederick and The Heir. Like all of Vancleve's sons, Fritz was gelded by Buckland and brought into training as a two-year-old, and soon showed rare speed. Produced as a three-year-old, Fritz won his first two starts at Kensington so easily that when nominated in a strong field at the track, the handicapper placed him on the backmark of 400 yards, giving two stars at the time, imported J H and Ariel, a start of 100 yards. Despite this crippling handicap for the young trotter, Fritz finished second to the frontmarker Satan. At Kensington's next meeting, Fritz toyed with a free-for-all field but later in the day found the 430 yard handicap beyond him, finishing second to St Louis, who was owned by Buckland and trained and driven by Claude Piper. That was to be Fritz's last start in a handicap event in Australia. Buckland refused to start him when placed off even longer handicaps at future meetings. Fritz had highlighted the inadequacy of the handicapping system and was to spend the next two years in exile at Wonbobbie.

Suddenly free-for-all events had become extinct and nobody was foolish enough to take him on in a match race. However, in 1896, a special event was planned for the Moonee Valley grass track in Melbourne, bringing together the best trotters in Fritz's absence, Osterley, Mystery, St Louis and the former NZ mare Calista. Called the Inter Colonial Free-For-All, the event was run on a sweepstake basis, with 10 per starter and a 50 bonus to the winner. It was a meagre stake even in those days, but all Buckland wanted was a chance to race his champion again.

If the organisers were hoping for something out of the ordinary they certainly got it. A best of five series over a mile, Fritz won the first heat by 75 yards over Osterley, recording 2:19, which sliced five seconds off the Australian record. He won by a similar margin in the second heat, recording 2:16 2/5 in beating Calista, but Buckland was still only joking. In the third heat Fritz passed the winning post before the other four has even entered the straight and recorded 2:14 4/5, more than ten seconds faster than any other horse in Australia prior to that day. Not surprisingly, Fritz was to spend the next two years unchallenged as well. Periodically he was brought back into work and in later years Buckland was adamant Fritz could reel off miles in 2:06 any time of asking

During those exasperating years, Edgar Deane had suggested the NZ handicapper might be a little more lenient, and in the Autumn of 1898 Buckland arrived in Canterbury, bringing Claude Piper and a team of nine horses. At a Canterbury Trotting Club meeting, then held at the Addington Showgrounds, the stable made an auspicious debut, Piper winning the first event with Sunshine while Buckland won with Fritz and Viva. Fritz had been handicapped off the backmark of 100 yards, giving the local star of the time, imported Wildwood, a start of 50 yards in the two mile event. Fritz was untroubled to win. Fritz had his next outing in a free-for-all and won by such a wide margin over Monte Carlo and St Louis, handled by Piper, that officials had difficulty arriving at a margin.

Buckland returned home during the winter but was back later that year with Fritz and an even stronger team. At one Addington meeting he owned every winner on the programme. By now Fritz was on a virtually impossible mark in NZ as well. On Boxing Day 1898 the gelding lined up in a handicap event at Addington, giving the eventual winner, Rosewood, a 24 second start. After a false start, Fritz became unsettled and refused to begin for some time. However, on the second day, the Canterbury Trotting Club put up 100 sovereigns for Fritz to trial against the track record of 2:15. This he accomplished with ease, trotting the mile in 2:13, which bettered his own Australasian record as well.

A week later Buckland had Fritz in Wellington for their Summer meeting, but again he refused to leave the mark. Lining up in the Wellington Trotting Club Handicap, Frotz was giving half the field more than 50 seconds start, the equivalent of almost half a mile. There had been a considerable amount of criticism levelled at these events, many considering it unfair to ask the backmarkers to stand at the start and watch the rest of the field begin at intervals. Even the grand old trotter Monte Carlo, a noted beginner, had become wayward in his tendancies.

Fritz was reported to have returned to NZ in 1900, but the official "Turf Register" from those years shows no evidence of this.

Buckland was a regular visitor to Canterbury, making four trips between 1896 and 1900, while Piper became so impressed with the newly formed Addington Raceway, he settled in Christchurch and became one of the leading horsemen with Wonbobbie horses. During his first visit to Canterbury, Buckland not only established himself as a fine horseman but as a stirling sportsman. Buckland usually drove Fritz in harness, but on this occasion was riding him from his backmark. Also in the event was the pacer Weary Willie, who is believed to be the first horse in NZ raced in hopples, and was trained and driven by none other than Dave Price. After half a mile Weary Willie faltered and fell, leaving Price lying motionless on the track. In due course along came Buckland and Fritz, making up their handicap in great style. Without hesitation, Buckland turned Fritz around to help Price, and returned with the dazed driver to a rousing reception.

Such was the character of John Arthur Buckland, and it was these qualities that lead to the greatest match race of the time, which turned out to be only a sporting gesture on Buckland's part and no more. Fritz was virtually in complete retirement when Price's challenge came under Buckland's notice. The 12-year-old had not been worked for several months and right from the start everything went wrong for Buckland. With less than six weeks until the big event at Easter, they began preparing, but miserable weather in the district saw Fritz hardly benefit from any work. After a rough passage across the Tasman, Fritz arrived in Christchurch, only to be boxed in his stall for several days, as Canterbury weather was no better than at home. Thus, what was thought to be a great match race, was actually a disastrous mismatch. Despite Piper openly expressing his reservations about the race, Buckland was determined not to let the NZ public down.

The big day came around and Addington was bursting at the seams. The grounds were less than half the size they are today. Price and Ribbonwood moved onto the track to a champion's reception, but it was nothing compared to the greeting accorded Fritz. The conditions of the event were for a best of five heats, each run over a mile from a moving start. After a considerable amount of manoeuvring at the start, which Price was entirely responsible for, Ribbonwood and Fritz got underway with the young star quickly showing the way. Fritz kept in touch until the last quarter, where Ribbonwood easily spurted clear to win by five lengths. Time 2:14 1/5. Fritz drew the inside for the second heat and held his own, keeping Ribbonwood parked for three quarters of the mile, before the stallion ran clear to win by two lengths. Time 2:13. Ribbonwood had not been off the bit so far, but Price let him stretch out in the final heat, with embarrassing results. Well clear passing the grandstand for the first time, Ribbonwood gradually increased his lead to eventually cross the line 80 metres in front of Fritz. Time 2:10, which bettered his own Australasian record.

In an after match ceremony, where Ribbonwood and Fritz were paraded and speeches were heard from Price, Buckland, Canterbury Trotting Club president Victor Harris and the Right Honourable Richard Seddon, Buckland was his usual sporting self, paying tribute to the new champion. "Personally, I don't mind being beaten, but I don't like to see the old horse beaten," said Buckland. "However, if Fritz cannot do it, then I hope to have a try with another one," he added.

But that was to be Buckland's last visit to NZ. He had already sold Wonbobbie Station around the turn of the century and bought Pine Ridge Station, where he continued to breed on an extensive scale. With the death of Vancleve in August 1904, however, his days in the limelight were numbered and he later sold Pine Ridge and moved to the 500 acre Marsden Park in the Richmond area. Buckland and Fritz have long since passed away, and one can only hope that their deeds will never fade into obscurity. They loomed as large in our history as any horseman or standardbred since.

At the after race function Price had been quizzed by Vic Harris on how fast he thought Ribbonwood could go. To Harris's surprise, Price claimed Ribbonwood had never been extended during the match race, and happily accepted to time trial his horse on the third day of the meeting for a stake of 100 sovereigns. A large crowd again turned up to witness the trial and after a first half in 64 seconds, Ribbonwood completed the distance in 2:09. On returning to the birdcage this time, Price challenged Harris to a further trial, but any thoughts on this being entertained were later that day squashed

Only a few weeks earlier W Rollitt, secretary of the New Zealand Trotting Association, had been appointed the first stipendiary steward. After the sixth race Price was called before Rollitt and charged with "foul" driving, and disqualified for six months. Price continued to train for a while from his Riccarton stables, winning a number of races with the outstanding imported mare Norice. He also stood Ribbonwood at stud in the spring, the little black producing 18 foals, all of whom were later winners. Among them was King Cole, who eight years later, under the guidance of Price's brother Newton, reduced Ribbonwood's mile record to 2:08 3/5.

However, Price was becoming discontented with the financial returns of being a leading horseman in Canterbury, and early in 1905 he moved to Victoria, where he became a leading trainer of thoroughbreds. With him went Ribbonwood, who was soon sold to the New South Wales sportsman A D Playfair, who immediately placed him at stud. New Zealand's most famous sons had been adopted by Australia. Ironically, Ribbonwood soon displaced Vancleve as the leading sire in Australia, producing 258 winners, including Realm, who campaigned in NZ and reached the tightest mark. Ribbonwood was also the grandsire of Roselawn, dam of Australasia's first 2:00 horse Lawn Derby (TT 1:59 2/5) and another champion Van Derby. Ribbonwood died in 1920, but his memory has lived on in recent decades with the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club staging the Ribbonwood Handicap at its National Meeting in August this year. The event has been renamed the Moores Dry Cleaners Handicap.

Price, a few years before his death in the 1940s, was interviewed by an Australian journalist and spoke of his champion. "Ribbonwood was foaled in Christchurch in 1898. He was by Wildwood, who was bred by the famous Palo Alto Stud in the United States, out of a mare by Young Irvington, by Irvington (imp). As a two-year-old he was a little fellow, full of quality. When trotting authorities found that the system of handicapping was driving horses such as Ribbonwood out of the harness sport when at their peak, they created limit races. Ribbonwood rose to great heights as a pacer because he had intelligence as well as speed. All I had to do was talk to him. With a 'Come on laddie' he was into his stride in a flash. A slight tightening on the rein and he would increase his speed. 'Whoa laddie' was all that was required to get him to slaken speed. He raced with ears cocked like a hare. He knew every word I spoke to him. Ribbonwood knew when it was race day as well as I did. Many of my friends got amusement out of seeing Ribbonwood play his most famous trick when called on to do the last furlong. His ears would be back flat like a hare in full flight at a given signal. He waited for that command when nearing the end of a race. I have no hesitation in saying that Ribbonwood could have paced a mile in 2:05. With tracks as they are today he would have done a mile in 2:00. He was the gamest thing on four legs. He didn't know the taste of a whip and, although booted for protection, he was never known to put a mark on the boots. Now, would you not be proud and inclined to boast a little, if you were the owner of a horse such as Ribbonwood?" Price concluded.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 13Dec83


YEAR: 1903


"Horse Of The Year"? Ribbonwood was the horse of a decade! Good as horses like Lunar Chance, Easton Light and Captain Harcourt are, there would have been little hope of their being in contention for the "Horse Of The Year" award had such a prize existed in 1903.

That was the year of Ribbonwood, one of the greatest pacers ever bred in this country and one of the most successful stallions ever to stand in Australia. Only a little fellow, he possibly achieved more in his short career in advancing the popularity of trotting here than any other champion who followed him, with the possible exception of Cardigan Bay.

Bred at New Brighton by Mr Gilbert McHaffie, a prominent administrator at the time, Ribbonwood was by the imported Wildwood from Dolly, a Young Irvington mare of disputed parentage tracing to a thoroughbred source. Wildwood was bred in California and was imported by Mr Henry Richardson of New Plymouth who passed him on to the Kerr brothers of New Brighton for 500 which was not exactly pocket money in those days.

Trained at two years of age by Manny Edwards, Ribbonwood attracted the attention of Dave Price the owner of Prince Imperial and also in earlier times of his dam Princess. Price paid out 250 for Ribbonwood which was easily a record price for a racing proposition in the trotting world of those days. Although Ribbonwood was not much more than a pony, Price was right on the mark with his buying. Ribbonwood quickly established himself as the fastest pacer in NZ and by the 1902 season, when a 4-year-old, he was being handicapped out of many of the big races. In the 1902-3 season he won nine races with one second placing and two fourths. His first two wins were at the November Addington meeting in which he won the NZ Handicap (200: then our richest race) by eight lengths and the free-for-all by nearly the same margin.

In February 1903 at Addington he won the feature event by fifty yards in Australasian record time for two miles of 4:35.8. Later the same afternoon, he smashed the Australasian mile record held by Fritz, recording 2:11 2-5. Two Australasian marks on the same day must be a unigue feat.

In April of that season, Ribbonwood took part in the celebrated match races with the Australian champion trotter Fritz who was brought over from Australia by his owner J A Buckland. The match was over three heats for 500 a side. Huge crowds attended and the Prime Minister, Dick Seddon presented the trophies. Fritz had been over the Tasman before (in 1899) and was a tremendous favourite with the NZ crowds who supported him strongly on the totalisator, though many were backing from their heasts and not their heads. Fritz was then 12-years-old and well past his best, but Mr Buckland was a sportsman of the old school and refused to let Dave Price's challenge to pass.

Ribbonwood won the first heat by five lengths, the second by a length and a half and the third by eighty yards. In the last heat he again lowered the mile record, this time to 2:10 and he later lowered it again to 2:09 where it stayed for some years. After his exhibition mile of 2:09 on the final day of the meeting, Ribbonwood never raced in NZ again due largely to the six months suspension Price received during the meeting. He took his champion to Australia but there Ribbonwood was sold for stud duties before he raced.

In latter years Price regretted selling his little champion. He parted with for 1000 and the son of Wildwood earned nearly that much for his new owner in his first stud season. Before leaving NZ, Ribbonwood was lightly used as a stallion between races. He left 18 foals here and has the unique siring record of getting 18 winners or a 100% record. But even this paled beside his Australian record and the claim was made some years ago that only Globe Derby has left more winners across the Tasman than the New Brighton-bred stallion.

One of his most successful sons was Realm who was brought over to this country by Bill Tomkinson in 1921. A little black horse like his sire, Realm was enormously popular here as Ribbonwood had been before him and he also held the mile record of 2:03.8 for a time. It was a NZ son of Ribbonwood who had lowered the champion's own time. This was King Cole (2:08.4) who features in the pedigrees of many of our fastest pacers, particularly those bred by Ben Grice. Realm also had success at stud as did Blue Mountain King, a successful racing son of Ribbonwood imported to this country in the late '20s.

Down through the years Ribbonwood blood has continued to have some say in fast mile times. His full-sister Manuka never amounted to anything on the track but she was the fourth dam of Tactician the first NZ horse to break two minutes in a race in NZ and Ribbonwood's son Childewood, a very successful sire, sired Roselawn who was the dam of Lawn Derby the first horse to break two minutes in Australasia. His son King Cole is in the pedigree of Mt Eden, and Ribbonwood appears on both sides of the pedigree of the Australian speedster Reichman who recorded 1:58 on a three furlong track. There are numerous other top horses who carry Ribbonwood blood including Ribands, Apmat, Avian Derby, Dale's Gift, Thelma Globe and the wonderful Harold Logan to name but a few.

Ribbonwood died at twenty years of age. It is said Price sold him in Australia for stud duties because support for him in this country was lukewarm. If so, we encouraged the loss of one of the greatest sires ever bred here.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in NZ Trotguide 5Aug76


YEAR: 1903

Ribbonwood at Stud

There is always a concentration of interest in a match between two high-class racehorses that appeals strongly to the average racegoer. As a matter of fact matches seldom produce the vivid struggle anticipated beforehand; yet there is something magnetic about them that can always be relied on to draw the crowd. The greatest duel in the history of trotting in New Zealand was staged 41 years ago at Addington. It was between the Australian trotting king Fritz and the Dominion's champion pacer Ribbonwood.

In their respective countries these two horses stood out in a class by themselves. Fritz was bred and owned by that grand Australian sportsman the late Mr J A Buckland. Fritz was by the imported stallion Vancleve from Fraulein, the latter being by Berlin from Woodburn Maid both of whom were imported by the Canterbury sportsman Mr Robert Wilkin. From the day of his birth Fritz knew no other but the trotting gait. As a three-year-old he made history by defeating such recognised Australian cracks as Osterley, Mystery, Calista, and St Louis in a race at Moonee Valley (Victoria), and in doing so established an Australasian record of 2:14.

Towards the close of last century trotting had made such progress in Canterbury as to attract the attention of Australian owners. One of the first of these was Mr Buckland who owned two huge stations in New South Wales, and whose hobby was the breeding and racing of trotters. His first venture across the Tasman Sea was in 1898, the star performer of his team being Fritz whose reputation had preceded him. The trotter's presence at the Canterbury Trotting Club's meeting, held on the Addington Show Grounds, drew a record crowd, thousands of whom had never attended a trotting meeting previously, turning out to see the Australian crack in action.

Fritz's first race in New Zealand was in the Free-for-all, in which Mr Buckland drove him to an easy victory from Monte Carlo, also a trotter, and St Louis, a stablemate of the winner, driven by Mr Buckland's right-hand man, the late Claude Piper. Though the track was fetlock-deep in mud, Fritz gave a perfect display of effortless trotting. Some months later the Wonwobbie sportsman made another trip across, Fritz again being his star performer. On this occasion the gelding still further endeared himself to local enthusiasts by accounting for a purse of 100sovs given by the Canterbury Trotting Club for any horse lowering the then mile record of 2:15. Without being extended at any part of the journey he went the distance in 2:13, a record that stood for several years.

When the new track was opened at Addington in 1900 Mr Buckland was again a visitor. Fritz gave another masterly display in his race, while his younger brother, The Heir, a pacer, accounted for the Juvenile Stakes.

Up to this time Fritz stood out as the undoubted champion of Australasia, but then appeared "another Richmond in the field". This was the sensational Ribbonwood who was regarded as something of a freak. There was nothing about his breeding nor early appearance to suggest him as a prospective champion. He was bred by Mr Gilbert McHaffie, being by Wildwood from the Young Irvington mare Dolly, and it is worth recording that none of Dolly's subsequent contributions were of much account. As a two-year-old Ribbonwood gave outstanding promise in his contests with older horses, while next season he jumped into frame by winning the New Year Handicap at Addington in 4:46 2-5, which, in those days was hailed as an outstanding performance for a three-year-old.

Ribbonwood at that time ran in the nomination of "Dave" Price, but it is generally understood that he was owned by the crack jockey L H Hewitt. Having practically swept the boards as far as New Zealand races were concerned, the enterprising Dave looked round for higher game. His first move was to issue a challenge offering to race any horse in Australasia for 500 a side, best two of three mile heats. It was apparent that Fritz was the horse aimed at, as there was nothing else of his calibre in sight.

When the challenge came under Mr Buckland's notice he at once decided to throw down the gauntlet of battle. At the time Fritz was running out and advancing years placed him at something of a disadvantage. Seldom has a contest been undertaken under such adverse circumstances. Fritz could only be given a couple of serious work-outs before leaving Sydney, and was only half fit when put on board the steamer. On arriving at Christchurch even the elements seemed to conspire against the visitors. During the fortnight before the match the public tracks were so bad as to make fast work impossible, whereas Ribbonwood had the advantage of a comparitively dry private course. Truly it looked a forlorn hope for the Australian, but with true sporting spirit Mr Buckland determined to go on with the contest.

Fortunately the disadvantages under which Fritz laboured were not generally known, and interest in the match was general throughout the Dominion. Even a good number of Australian sportsmen made the journey across the Tasman Sea. For fully a week before the meeting, held at Addington on April 11, 1903, visitors commenced to pour into Christchurch. Special steamers were run from Wellington to cope with the North Island contingent, many of whom were making their first appearance on a trotting track. Excursion trains brought visitors from all parts of the South Island, while local enthusiasts turned out to a man. The Addington enclosures were packed; indeed never had such a huge and more representative crowd assembled at the popular convincing ground.

In the pre-totalisator betting Fitz was the early favourite with the general public, but there appeared to be unlimited money behind the Price stables. It was an inspiring sight as the two champions entered the birdcage. Cheers greetedthe debonair "Dave" as he took the "little black demon" on to the course, and seldom has a horse shown to better advantage in the matter of fitness. But Ribbonwood's reception was nothing to that accorded Mr Buckland and his champion when they came onto the scene. The twelve-year-old Australian was far from being tuned up, and he got through the preliminary in his usual sedate style. Ribbonwood, on the other hand, was so full of 'pep' as almost to pull his driver out of the sulky.

Unfortunately the match failed to produce the anticipated thrills. After considerable manoeuvring at the start, which was all against the older horse, Ribbonwood went away like a streak and was never off the bit. With three parts of the journey gone, Fritz aroused the enthusiasm of his admirers by making a gallant effort to overhaul the flying leader, and for a brief moment it looked as if he would at least make a race of it. It was only the dying effort of a game horse, however, and Ribbonwood sailed past the post an easy winner by two lengths in 2:14 1-5.

Nor were matters more favourable for the visitor in the second heat. It was quite evident from the startthat Fritz was outclassed by his younger opponent, who came home on the bit in 2:13. Contrary to expectations Mr Buckland decided to go on with the third heat more to give the public its money's worth rather than with any hope of success. On this occasion Price took the opportunity of showing what his colt was really made of. He cleared out from the start, and, with Fritz toiling hopelessly in the rear, cut out the mile in the record time till then of 2:10. It was a case of a brilliant young pacer against a half-fit veteran trotter, and youth had to be served. Had Fritz been athis best he would at least have extended his opponent, for Mr Buckland subsequently told me that in some of his earlier trials at Wonbobbie the veteran had frequently reeled of miles in 2:06 and 2:07. No doubt the Australian sportsman was a very disappointed man, but this can be said, that by his gameness in undertaking the match, he gave light harness racing the biggest 'boost' it has ever had.

Despite Fritz's failure, Mr Buckland had a good meeting at Addington, for he won races with Velox, St Simon and Verity, all driven by himself. Though this marked the Australian's last trip to New Zealand it did not conclude his racing activities. He kept on winning races in Australia, winding up a great career by a successful drive at Victoria Park, Sydney. On returning to Wonbobbie after his defeat Fritz was pensioned off, and in his later years delighted in acting as schoolmaster to many of Mr Buckland's juveniles.

Ribbonwood also subsequently found his way to Australia, where he was an outstanding success at the stud. His trainer, Dave Price, soon afterwards relinquished the light-harness sport in favour of galloping. For many years he held a high place in the ranks of Victorian trainers, and up till the time of his death, which occurred recently, was just as keen a racing enthusiast as ever.

Credit: F C Thomas writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 6Sep44

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