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HORSES

 

YEAR: 1968

CARDIGAN BAY

"He's done it!"

This simple exclamation conveys more than a Poet Laureate could write to pay tribute to our one and only Cardigan Bay, the first millionaire standardbred in all light-harness history; bred at Chimes Lodge, Mataura, Southland, by D (for Davey) Todd, sold to Mrs Audrey Dean for $5000, for whom he won a fortune and was sold for a fortune; and went on to amass (overall) ten-fold the price the American syndicate paid for him.

Cardigan Bay, the seemingly indistructable pacer now in his 13th year to NZ time (he would have been 12 on August 1 last if he remained here) has already more than Tennyson's Brook - he has not only gone on for ever - he has become a worthy offspring of Old Father Thames as well!

With only three years of racing on American tracks under his belt, the durable gelding has already proved a star of stars. From coast to coast, he became recognised as a 'personality.' His duels with some of the all time greats of pacing have gone into the harness racing archives as some of the greatest races ever witnessed in the history of the sport. In 1964, he took part in three thrilling races with the speedy Overtrick, beating him only once, but two of the races were so close it took the judges several minutes to seperate the horses in the photo-finish picture. Appropriately, the two races were named after a pacing immortal, Dan Patch.

Again in 1966, another young rival, the speediest pacer ever, Bret Hanover, was the opposition. In their first meeting, 'The Pace of the Century' at Yonkers Raceway, a crowd of 36,795, which bet a season's record handle for all tracks of $2,802,745, saw Cardigan Bay beat the great Bret by a length. Bret came back to whip Cardigan Bay in subsequent races but it is that first meeting in 'The Pace of the Century' that fans still talk about.

Last year at Windsor, Ontario, for example, on March 8, despite a 22 degree temperature, he broke all kinds of records in winning the Provincial Cup Pace. Other Windsor track records racked up by Cardigan Bay were: 1) Most money bet on a horse, 2) Most money bet on a single race, 3) Most money bet on a programme, and 4) Record crowd.

It is a tribute to the training ability of Davey Todd, Peter Wolfenden and Stanley Dancer that this aged gamester kept going so long and tirelessly. He broke the two-minute mile mark many times and holds all-time track records of 1:57 2/5 for the mile at Hollywood Park, California, and 1:58 1/5 at Yonkers Raceway. He scored victories in practically every important event available to free-for-allers in America. In NZ and Australia Cardigan Bay, at least in the eyes of th present generation, replaced the legendary thoroughbred Phar Lap as the greatest equine hero Down Under.

Purchased by Stanley Dancer in 1964 for $100,000, Cardigan Bay had to end his American racing career at the close of 1969 according to an agreement Dancer signed with the previous owner, Mrs Audrey Dean of Auckland. A clause in the the contract stipulated that "Dancer will ship Cardigan Bay at his own expense back to Mrs Dean when he is retired from racing, but no later than the age of 13 years." Actually, the purchase price was $100,025.70. The $25.70 was a service charge levied by a Melbourne bank for handling the transfer of funds to Mrs Dean's account in Auckland. Add to this the shipping costs of Cardigan Bay, plus a six months quarantine in England, would be about $106,025.70. For this investment, Cardy has returned to his owners, Irving W Berkemeyer and the Cardigan Stable the bonanza of over $825,000. His grand total is $1,000,671.

The saga of our Cardigan Bay began at Chimes Lodge, a training and breeding farm at Mataura. Davey Todd, a veteran trainer, had a considerable reputation for having a knack with problem horses. With his brother Sandy, Todd runs Chimes Lodge. Cardigan Bay was gelded while a weanling, a common practice with the Todd Brothers. Cardigan Bay did not race as a 2-year-old. He started only eight times as a 3-year-old, winning twice and finishing second once. He was campaigned lightly again at four, and this was largely because he was laid aside for three months at the height of the season because of a cold. In four outings, he won three times and finished second on the other occasion. One of these races, incidentally, was in saddle on January 11, 1960. Cardigan Bay finished second. This was one of the last races in saddle in the harness sport in NZ. At the conclusion of his 4-year-old season he was sold for $5000 to Mrs Audrey D Dean of Auckland.

Today, an observer can tour NZ and literally meet hundreds of horsemen who claim that they could have bought Cardigan Bay but didn't act quickly enough to grasp the opportunity. It was ever thus. In most of his subsequent engagements, while owned by Mrs Dean, Cardigan Bay was trained and driven by Peter Wolfenden, one of the top reinsmen in NZ. Martin Tananbaum, president of Yonkers Raceway, who pioneered the International Pace in 1960, first held discussions in Perth about inviting the gelding to the International Pace held annually at Yonkers Raceway. The Inter-Dominion Grand Finals were about three days off and it appeared certain that every attendance and betting record at Gloucester Park, Perth, would be toppled when the exciting Cardigan Bay raced for the Inter-Dominion Championships.

At Cannington track, a training oval some six miles outside Perth, Cardigan Bay was put through a light jogging session by a groom attached to the stable of Billy Wilkins, who was 'standing in' for Peter Wolfenden as trainer-driver at the time. As the lad dismounted and held the reins lightly, one of the sulky wheels suddenly crumbled and collapsed, some say due to a flat tyre. The usually easy-going Cardigan Bay was startled and bolted from the grounds through an open gate dragging the damaged cart behind him. He headed, terror stricken, for his stall. Before anyone could could flag the great animal down it was too late. He had crashed his right hip severely against one of the walls tearing his flesh open to the bone and it looked as though a merciful end, at the hands of a veterinarian, was the only future for Cardigan Bay. As a matter of fact, one story current at the time was that if Cardigan Bay had been insured, he would have been destroyed there and then.

Most of the credit, according to Australian and NZ sources, for the miraculous recovery of Cardigan Bay should go to a Perth trainer named Ted Greig. He insisted the horse could be saved and arranged for special slings and contrivances to shift the weight off the injured member. The damaged hip was actually six inches lower than the other. Greig once told newsmen: "I know you'll think me silly but Cardigan Bay was almost human. He never kicked or nipped me, or anyone else and he had lots of brains. Somehow he knew he was badly hurt by his accident and so he rested for a long time, until he himself knew he had the strength to move. When I took him out to graze," Greig related, "he was very unsteady and I had to brace my body against his so he could lean on me. I'll never know how really big his heart is," concluded Greig.

Cardigan Bay was out for four months and when he went back to light training his pronounced limp was easily visible. Nevertheless, by the time the Inter-Dominions of 1963 rolled around in February, Cardigan Bay was ready. On hand at Adelaide again was president Martin Tananbaum of Yonkers Raceway with a firm invitation to Mrs Dean to bring the horse to the 1963 International. On the first night of the Inter-Dominion Championships Tananbaum met Mrs Dean and her husband, Merv, near Cardigan Bay's stall. "Mr Tananbaum," said Mr Dean, "speaking for my wife, anyone can have the horse beginning right now for 25,000 sterling ($70,000 American currency), I mean" continued the husband, "starting tonight all the purse money goes to the man who buys him."

That night, after the races, the overseas telephone operator from Adelaide was kept busy as the Yonkers track president realised that only through a purchaser could he hope to obtain the services of this obviously great horse. He had no luck after contacting several of the leading standardbred owners in America. The conversations all raged along the same lines. "Seventy thousand dollars for a 7-year-old gelding. What's the matter, Marty, are you nuts or something?" Had any of the men contacted by Tananbaum, taken his advice they would have immediately reaped a return of $30,000 from the Inter-Dominions against their $70,000 outlay.

With Peter Wolfenden back in the sulky, the year 1963 was undoubtedly a most remarkable season for Cardigan Bay. He won the Inter-Dominions after four gruelling heats. In the first qualifying heat, which he won, a horse put a foot through his wheel that almost unseated Wolfenden. Cardigan Bay also won the second qualifier easily but in the third he was unable to avoid a three-horse pile-up and somersaulted over the fallen horses. Wolfenden was hurled from the sulky onto the track. Even the Final was not without incident. Handicapped from 24 yards back,Cardigan Bay got up to the field but on the final turn was forced very wide by another pile up yet finished strongly enough to win setting a track record at Adelaide, South Australia.

That same year, 1963, Cardigan Bay also became the first horse to win both the Inter-Dominion Championships and the NZ Cup in the same year, a feat which had eluded such great horses as Caduceus, False Step, Johnny Globe and Highland Fling. He won several more classics in his native NZ and as his reputation grew so did the crowds. A record 26,107 turned out for the Auckland Cup in which he beat the field from a back mark of 78 yards. Cardigan Bay continued to break attendance and track records from handicap marks of 30, 42, 60 and 78 yards in various races. In December, 1963, at Hutt Park, he paced against time in a blazing record of 1:56 1/5(the fastest mile of his entire career) to round out a most remarkable year for a horse whose racing days had been declared finished by veterinary surgeons the previous year, and his 1:56 1/5 is still the Australian and NZ record.

The news of the last performance of Cardigan Bay was by January, 1964, well-known to most horsemen in American harness racing circles, but the alert Dancer, it appears, was first to act. He contacted some friends in Australia and NZ who confirmed that Cardigan Bay was indeed as good as the press clippings indicated. When Martin Tananbaum, made plans to attend the Inter-Dominion Championships in Melbourne, to invite horses to the 1964 International Pace, Stanley Dancer asked if he could accompany the Yonkers boss and try to purchase Cardigan Bay. Tananbaum himself, although he was to make a third attempt to invite Mrs Dean, went with little hope of collaring the fabulous gelding. Transportation plans were changed as Dancer and one of his owners, Dr Thomas Siciliano, embarked on the trip Down Under with Tananbaum.

Instead of heading directly for Melbourne a six-hour stop-over was arranged at Auckland, the home of the Deans. In the modest brick house, over traditional tea, scones and biscuits, Dancer bid $90,000 for Cardigan Bay. Mrs Dean said that her price was now $140,000, double that of a year previous. It was agreed after some preliminary discussions that they would continue their talks after Dancer had a chance to see Cardigan Bay train and perform in Melbourne. Strict orders were given that Dancer could not test-drive the swift pacer. It was a "look but don't touch" edict.

In Melbourne, one Thursday morning, before the first heat of the Inter-Dominions, scheduled two days later, Dancer saw Cardigan Bay in only one work-out. He turned to the group around him and said: "He's mine if I can buy him. I'll give her $100,000 for him." Later, in an automobile heading back to his hotel, Dancer was asked how he could make a judgement to spend so vast an amount of money after only one work-out. Dancer revealed that he was impressed with Cardigan Bay's stamina, and the way he had shrugged off an unbelievable work-load in only one week of training sold him on the gelding. That and, of course, the 1:56 1/5 mile he had paced on the small track with a heavy sulky at Wellington the previous December. Stanley said: "When I saw him work on that Thursday morning he paced an easy mile in 2:20 and then when Peter Wolfenden blew him out he did the mile in 2:03 3/5." The secret to Dancer's decision was the fact that Peter Wolfenden in conversation had revealed that on this same morning he had jogged Cardigan Bay some 17 miles. His jogging schedule seemed to run between 17 and 20 miles at least four days a week, plus a mile or more of hard work every day.

When on the following Saturday night Cardigan Bay threaded his way from a 36-yard handicap through a 12-horse field to win for fun by four lengths Dancer was determined more than ever to acquire Cardigan Bay for his syndicate, which was headed by Irving W Berkemeyer who also owned another great gelding - the trotter Su Mac Lad. Negotiations began early the following Sunday morning, Dancer was scheduled to leave for the United States at 3pm. The deal appeared to be at a standstill at the $100,000 mark until Dancer, remembering the many cups and trophies, and other momentos, back in Mrs Dean's living room in Auckland, sensed the deep devotion and affection she had for Cardigan Bay, promised to ship the horse back to her at his own expense when the gelding's racing days were ended. A hurried, hand-written agreement was drawn up, signed and witnessed, and Dancer was on the plane headed back to America with minutes to spare.

The rest is now history, and already two journalists, one in NZ, the other in America, are planning to write books about him. And he has, perhaps, also been NZ's greatest ambassador. The men in Parliament must have ideas along these lines, because it has been mooted that his feat will be marked by the issue of a special stamp in NZ. Trotting interests have made representations to the Department of Internal Affairs and to the Postmaster-General(Mr Scott), who has shown interest in the idea.

Cardigan Bay was by Hal Tryax(imp), 3, 2:00, from Colwyn Bay(4:25 for two miles), by Josedale Dictator(imp) from Pleasure Bay, by Quite Sure(imp) from Helen's Bay, by Guy Parrish(imp) from Gold Patch, by Geo M Patchen. Gold Patch, foaled at Green Island, Otago, was out of Trilby, who was claimed to have been a thoroughbred and is probably the same Trilby who appears in Vol II of the NZ (thoroughbred) Stud Book. That Trilby was by Torpedo from Christina, by Javelin from Cascade, by Sledmere. Trilby was apparently of little account on the racetrack, but some of her relatives were good - one in particular her full-brother, Torpina, won three times in a row as a 3-year-old, including a hurdle race at Riccarton. Torpedo, sire of Trilby, was by the famous imported sire Musket, sire of the immortal galloper Carbine, winner of the Melbourne Cup as a 5-year-old in 1890 carrying 10st 5lb, still the highest weight ever carried to victory in one of the world's greatest races. Carbine later went to England and became an outstanding stud success. Torpedo himself was a capable racehorse. In the 1890-91 season he won his first seven races on end and later on in the same season he won four more on end.



Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 18Sep68

 

YEAR: 1963

1963 NZ TROTTING CUP

"He will have to achieve the impossible to give Vanderford 54 yards start today," declared a seasoned racegoer after examining the track, the favourite, and the backmarker during the New Zealand Cup preliminary at Addington on Tuesday. And the totalisator investments affirmed that our seasoned racegoer was not alone in his dictum. But nothing tickles the palate of the dedicated racegoer - any brand or vintage of racegoer - more than the achievement of the 'impossible' and the warm ovation for Cardigan Bay had already broken out when he took command with two furlongs to go.

Cardigan Bay performed the 'impossible' in irreproachable style - he even exceeded all the highest estimates of his ability and duribility in the fourth fastest Cup in history - Johnny Globe 4:07.6, False Step 4:09, Highland Fling 4:10.6, Cardigan Bay 4:11.2. He reduced all his opponents of any consequence to a struggling, straggling band with surprising rapidity, even for him. This phase of his and Peter Wolfenden's strategy occurred suddenly and unexpectedly - with three furlongs to go. One moment Vanderford was still striding confidently out in front; the next was a complete metamorphosis, with Cardigan Bay taking every advantage of a trail behind the streaking Oreti on the outer, and Vanderford rapidly losing his grip of the situation down on the hub rail. The race was as good as won from that stage. Cardigan Bay, doing it the hard way, nearly three wide, got his head in front at the two furlongs, and his only effective challenger, Robin Dundee, came no closer than two lengths and a half to him in the race from the home turn.

Vanderford's first mile in 2:11.2 was not sensational, due to his slowing down the pace from a 2:07 clip to a 2:15 clip in the second half-mile. Neither was the time for the first mile and a half, 3:17, out of the way for horses of Cup class, and this no doubt was a life-saver for Cardigan Bay, already at least 24 yards closer to the leaders than at the outset. Cardigan Bay was privately timed from post to post in 4:09.6, his first half in 61, mile in 2:06.2, mile and a quarter in 2:38.8, and mile and a half in 3:10.6. So it will be readily gleaned that he tramped his last half mile in 59.6 secs and the last mile in 2.03.4.

A rather surprising third favourite, Sun Chief beat only two horses home - his youthful spring excellence has given way to autumn mediocrity. He is only a shadow of the horse who finished second in the NZ Cup of 1960. Robin Dundee was produced in rare fettle by veteran trainer J Walsh - nothing looked better - and she came home much more resolutely than any of the minor place-fillers. It was a brave showing on the part of this pocket-edition pacer.

Doctor Dan, Grouse, Oreti and King Hal were all a little slow away, and Dandy Briar broke. Vanderford tangled for a few strides but lost very little ground. Blue Prince was first to show out from Sun Chief, Urrall, Master Alan, Vanderford and Robin Dundee, with two lengths to King Hal, Doctor Dan, Oreti and Cardigan Bay last. At the end of two furlongs Vanderford had taken over, and he was followed past the stands by Blue Prince, Sun Chief, Urrall, Robin Dundee, Master Alan, King Hal, Doctor Dan, Oreti, Dandy Briar and Cardigan Bay, still at the rear. Most of the field were racing in pairs by now. There was little change till approached the three furlongs, where Oreti moved up to Vanderford, and Cardigan Bay was beginning to improve from the back in the direct path of Oreti.

Soon after, Vanderford gave way to Oreti, and Cardigan Bay, continuing his run, was in front at the two furlongs. He led into the straight and, shaken up, held his advantage to beat Robin Dundee by two lengths and a half. Robin Dundee finished strongly to beat Master Alan by a head. Two lengths back came Oreti, followed by Doctor Dan, the weakening Vanderford, King Hal, Urrall, Dandy Briar, Sun Chief, Blue Prince and Grouse last.

Cardigan Bay has now won 35 races and 48,447 in stakes and trophies. He shares with War Buoy the best winning sequence for a harness horse in the Dominion - 10. He is the first horse ever to win a New Zealand Cup and an Inter-Dominion Championship, a 'double' that eluded such greats as Highland Fling, Caduceus, Johnny Globe and False Step - one way or the other. He holds the New Zealand and Australian mile record, 1:57.6, jointly with Caduceus. He is one of the most perfect pacing 'machines' ever seen in this country - reliable, brilliant, and a renowned stayer or unflinching courage. Only two horses have won the Cup from longer marks than Cardigan Bay's 54 yards: Harold Logan and Highland Fling both won from 60 yards.

An odds-on favourite, Vanderford carried 3697 for a win on-course and 8976 off-course; for a place he carried 3580 10s on-course and 4003 off-course. Cardigan Bay, second favourite, earned 1488 10s for a win on-course and 3197 off-course; his place totals were 1666 10s on-course and 3681 off-course. The betting totals on the Cup were slightly down on last year: on-course total was 24,147 10s, compared with 24,828 10s last year; and the off-course figure was 35,930, against 36,176 last year. The on-course total for the day was 192,254, a substantial increase on the 183,633 10s handled last year; but the off-course figures showed a corresponding decrease - this year's total was 180,714 15s, against 188,535 last year. The attendance this year, 18,500, was almost the same as last year.

The result was a triumph for the Southland sire Hal Tryax (imp), who sired the first and second horses, Cardigan Bay and Robin Dundee. Colwyn Bay, the dam of Cardigan Bay, recently produced a filly foal, a full sister to the Cup winner, and there is also an older filly of the same breeding. Colwyn Bay was a brilliant pacer herself, but unsoundness cut short her racing career. She is by Josedale Dictator (imp) from Pleasure Bay, by Quite Sure (imp) from Helen's Bay, by Guy Parrish (imp) from Gold Patch, by Geo M Patchen.

Cardigan Bay was bred was developed by the Mataura trainer, D Todd. He was raced by D Todd's brother, Mr A Todd, of Mataura, who sold him to Mrs Deans. Mrs Deans related how she had decided to buy a pacer and that she and her husband had followed closely the newspaper comments made on the form and performances of Cardigan Bay. "We were quite certain that Cardigan Bay would be the horse we would buy - we had never seen him - and when we read there were some northern inquiries for him, we decided there and then to buy him before anyone else did," she said. The champion cost Mrs Dean 2500 after contingencies had been met.

Cardigan Bay's mixed fortune at the 1962 Inter-Dominion Championship in Perth is too widely known to require repetition here. His recovery will always rank as a miracle of racing. He made no mistakes about the 1963 series - his form was 'bang on' and he outclassed the opposition he met in Suoth Australia.

Describing the race as "one of the great Cups, and one of the best fields for many years" the president of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, Mr J K Davidson, congratulated the owner and trainer-driver on a "magnificent performance in which the result was under control some distance from home." After Mrs Davidson decorated Cardigan Bay with a garland of flowers, Mrs Dean replied. She paid a warm tribute to P T Wolfenden for his "careful training and skilful driving" and also thanked "Noel Bennett, who has so capably looked after the horse.




Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1963

1963 ALLAN MATSON HANDICAP

Cardigan Bay's fantastic time of 2:59.8 for the last mile and a half of the Allan Matson Handicap at the Addington Raceway on Wednesday night, November 20, is not only 3.6sec inside the world race record (unofficial of course) for the distance held jointly by the American pacers Stephan Smith (1961) and Royal Rick (1962) - it is also the first time in world harness history that two-minute speed has been sustained by any horse beyond a mile and a quarter - and Cardigan Bay also ran his last mile in 2:00 flat.

The mile and a quarter record is held by Irvin Paul, who bettered two-minute speed when he registered 2:29.6 in a race at Westbury, New York, last year. Just what 'Cardy' (as the Auckland public have nicknamed him) would be capable of under trial conditions from a flying start with a galloping pacemaker defies the imagination - no matter what the distance. Nothing he met at Addington could give him any hint of competition - particularly when he paced his dazzling 3:18.2 for a mile and five furlongs and lowered False Step's world record by nearly 3secs. His nett time (4.5secs deducted for his handicap of 54 yards) is a mile rating of 2:02 from a standing start (the world mile record from a standing start is Johnny Globe's 2:01.2).

The world record for a mile and a half still stands to the credit of Greyhound, the 'grey ghost' of tremendous stride who trotted 3:02.5 as a five-year-old at Indianapolis away back in 1937. No pacer of world class, to the writers knowledge, has ever been set against time for the distance, and there is also very few mile and a half races in the USA in any season except when 'international' events are staged. Other world records for main distances not already referred to in this article are Adios Butler's mile in 1:54.6 and Greyhound's two miles in 4:06, both made against time.

Long since the trotting scribes ran out of superlatives to fit Cardigan Bay's outstanding feats. Suffice it to say he is the greatest horse the Calendar writers have ever seen, that his Allan Matson Handicap performance was unbelievable when the time was first announced, i.e., THE most outstanding performance it has ever been our good fortune to see: that Cardigan Bay is the 'MOST' - that nothing in the world today, in our view, could match his incredible, searing brilliance and utterly dependable racing qualities. It was not altogether his record time and the unbeliefthat attended his post-to-post mile and a half time which rocked us: it was the bewildering ease with which he shook of anything that resembled a challenge once he had zoomed past his fields as though they were tied to the hub-rail.

A tribute, too, for Peter Wolfenden, Cardigan Bay's 28-year-old trainer-driver who is just as imperturbable and consistent and reliable as the prodigious steed he handles with such consumate skill and mastery. Here, then, is another affinity between man and beast that may well rank with the immortal horse lore of truth and legend of the past, the uncanny mutual understanding that had produced the incomparable combination that alone made the New Zealand Cup Carnival and Addington Raceway's Inaugural Night an unqualified sporting success. There were other good performances over the meeting, especially among the trotters, but all were mere ripples compared with the fout-in-a-row clean sweep of the Pacing Powerhouse from Pakuranga and Peter the Phantom of the same address.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 27Nov63

 

YEAR: 1963

CARDIGAN BAY AT THE 1963 CUP CARNIVAL

Hind-sight, if you like but, in retrospect, it is doubtful if Cardigan Bay, even in his defeat of Bret Hanover, 1:58 3/5, in the Pace of the Century at Yonkers Raceway in 1966, was any better than he was at the NZ Cup Carnival in 1963. Over the four days he made a four-in-a-row clean sweep of the NZ Cup, the NZ Free-For-All, the Ollivier Handicap and the Alan Matson Handicap.

Here is what appeared in the Calendar dated November 27, 1963: CARDY COULD BREAK EVERY RECORD IN THE BOOK.

Cardigan Bay's fantastic time of 2:59 4/5 for the last mile and a half in the Allan Matson Handicap at the Addington Raceway on Wednesday night, November 20, is not only 3 3/5 seconds inside the world record (unofficial of course) for the distance jointly held by the American pacers Stephan Smith(1961) and Royal Rick(1962) - it is also the first time in world harness history that two-minute speed has been sustained by any horse beyond a mile and a quarter - and Cardigan Bay also ran his last mile in 2:00 flat. The mile and a quarter record is held by Irvin Paul, who bettered two-minute speed when he registered 2:29 3/5 in a race at Westbury, New York, last year.

Just what 'Cardy'(as the Auckland public have nicknamed him) would be capable of under trial conditions from a flying start with a galloping pacemaker defies the imagination - no matter what the distance. Nothing he met at Addington could give him any hint of competition - particularly when he paced his dazzling 3:18 1/5 for a mile and five furlongs and lowered False Step's world record by nearly 3 seconds. His nett time (4 seconds deducted for his handicap of 54 yards) in a mile rating of 2:02 from a standing start (the world mile record from a standing start in Johnny Globe's 2:01 1/5).

The world record for a mile and a half still stands to the credit of Greyhound, the 'grey ghost' of tremendous stride who trotted 3:02 as a 5-year-old at Indianapolis away back in 1937. No pacer of world class, to the writer's knowledge, has ever been sent against time for the distance, and there are also very few mile and a half races in the USA in any season except when 'international' events are staged. Other world records for main distances not alredy referred to in this article are Adios Bulter's mile in 1:54 3/5 (since lowered to 1:53 3/5 by Bret Hanover) and Greyhound's two miles in 4:06, both made against time.

Long since, the trotting scribes ran out of superlatives to fit Cardigan Bay's feats. Suffice it to say he is the greatest horse the Calendar writers have ever seen, that his Allan Matson Handicap performance was unbelievable when the time was first announced, ie, the most outstanding performance it has ever been our good fortune to see: that Cardigan Bay is the 'most' - that nothing in the world today, in our view, could match his incredible, searing brilliance and utterly dependable racing qualities. It is not altogether his record time and the unbelief that attended his post-to-post mile and a half figures that rocked us: it was the bewildering ease with which he shook off anything that resembled a challenge once he had zoomed past his fields as though they were tied to the hub-rail.

A tribute too, for Peter Wolfenden, Cardigan Bay's 28-year-old trainer-driver who is just as imperturbable and consistent and reliable as the prodigious steed he handles with such consummate skill and mastery. Here, then, is another affinity between man and beast that may well rank with the immortal horse lore of truth and legend of the past, the uncanny mutual understanding that has produced the incomparable combination that alone made the NZ Cup Carnival and Addington Raceway's inaugural night an unqualified sporting success. There were other good performances over the meeting, especially among the trotters, but all were mere ripples compared with the four-in-a-row clean sweep of the Pacing Powerhouse from Pakuranga and Peter the Phantom of the same address.


Credit: 'Ribbomwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 25Sep68

 

YEAR: 1963

Cardigan Bay winning the 1963 Cup from 54yds
GREAT RACES: CARDY - ONE IN A MILLION

Picking the highlight of Cardigan Bay's career is like trying to pick the greatest cricket catch of all time - if there were 10 people on a judging panel one would no doubt get 10 different opinions.

But 1963 was the year of Cardigan Bay like no other before or after and the Auckland Cup was his crowning glory. Among other things he had won the Inter-Dominion in Wayville and the NZ Cup from 54 yards, when the entire field outside of Oreti (12yds), started from the front. To become the first horse to win an Inter-Dominion, New Zealand and Auckland Cup in the one calendar year,'Cardy'would be faced with a 78-yard handicap.

A few of the locals were let into the race off the front along with Jar Ar, but Cardigan Bay's presence had compressed most of the rest into the 12-yard handicap and they included a "young champion" in 4-year-old Tactile along with King Hal, Sun Chief, Urrall, Vandeford and the bonny, gallant wee mare Robin Dundee, who chased him home at Addington. Behind them were Robin Dundee's fine older half-brother Dundee on 18 yards and Gentry, still going strong as a 10-year-old, off 36 yards. The enormity of the task seemed over-whelming even for Cardigan Bay, and over 26,000 people packed Alexandra Park to cheer him on.

The 'Trotting Calendar' in previewing the event said..."Cardigan Bay's task of giving starts ranging up to 78 yards in this year's Auckland Cup would be a Herculean one by any yardstick of the past, but this pre-eminent pacer has so completely demolished all previous concepts of what the limit to pacing speed and stamina might be that he is assured of favouritism at Epsom on December 27. His superlative performances to win the New Zealand Cup from 54 yards; his world record of 3:18 1/5 for 13 furlongs in the Allan Matson Handicap; and his torrent of speed to outclass the free-for-all field have placed him on a public pedestal usually reserved for Olympic stars."

To set the scene further, Cardigan Bay had joined Peter Wolfenden as a late 4-year-old, having won three straight races and five in total for Mataura trainer Dave Todd and his brother Sandy. He had won twice at three, but failed to pay a dividend on five occasions - a good sale would have to wait until Todd and his driver Ken Balloch had knocked the edges off. This was achieved in the next season when Cardigan Bay was racing with a hefty price tag of 2500.

Prominent administrator Arthur Nicoll would have bought him but for an investment in Australia collapsing at the time, and Gentry's owner/trainer Bob Barry was more than interested but considered him too dear, and waited until he was beaten in the hope he could get him cheaper. However, Cardigan Bay so impressed in taking out the Renown Handicap at Forbury Park in April, 1961, that Auckland snooker hall proprietor and well established 'bookie' Merv Deans successfully bid 2000 with two 250 contingencies. Dean had been flush with success after purchasing from the Todds a Hal Tryax gelding named Motif, who had won for him at Claudelands at 40-to-one, and then when placed with a young horseman in Wolfenden, had won again at Stratford on April 15.

Placed in the name of Dean's wife Audrey, Cardigan Bay came into Wolfenden's life when he was 26 and at a time when the track was being remodelled. When the track became available again in the new season, Cardigan Bay "breezed" a half in 59 in work and led Wolfenden to declare "driving something else and then him is like stepping from a Morris Minor into a Jaguar."

A big and powerfully-built but ultimately plain bay, Cardigan Bay romped unbeaten through Auckland meetings in September and October and arrived at the 1961 NZ Cup Meeting unbeaten in seven races, easily accounting for the Final Handicap on Cup Day and Scottish Command and Smokeaway in the NZ Free-For-All, the day the granstand burned to the ground in the background. When he bolted away with the Auckland Cup by five lengths soon after, it was his 10th straight win, equalling a record established by War Buoy 40 years earlier.

Cardigan Bay had not actually travelled well to Addington and Wolfenden was then against taking him all the way to Perth for the Inter-Dominions, but Dean had other ideas and placed him under the guidance of NSW horseman Bill Wilkins. Handicapped on 12 yards with only the brilliant NSW horse James Scott behind him in the Championship, Cardigan Bay easily won on the first two nights as did James Scott, and a clash in the two-mile third round heat and the Final were eagerly anticipated. It was not to be though, as in a training mishap, Cardigan Bay crashed to the ground back at the stables and landed on a concrete curb, completely displacing his near-hind hip. About the same time, Audrey Dean went into hospital for an operation and received news of the death of a relative, and Wolfenden was kicked in the face by a horse, requiring surgery that put him on the sidelines for several months.

Negotiations had already been taking place to have Cardigan Bay competing in that year's Yonkers International Series, but it seemed his career could be over. Placed in a sling and lovingly cared for by Perth trainer Ted Greig, a month later Cardigan Bay was walking without pain, although with a noticable limp. Four months after the disaster he was shipped home, and in September at Alexandra Park he successfully resumed from 36 yards over 13 furlongs.

Unplaced when favourite from 24 yards in Lordship's 1962 NZ Cup, when the slushy conditions hindered his by now less-than-perfect pacing action, Cardigan Bay also had to take a backseat to the brilliant 4-year-old in the NZ Free-For-All, but won the Matson and Smithson FFAs. He then came up two lengths short of Ces Donald's speedy but erratic Dandy Briar in the Auckland Cup after giving him a 48-yard start, but added the Champion Handicap and another race in Auckland before heading to Adelaide and the Inter-Dominions.

The saucer-like two and a half furlong Wayville circuit did not suit Cardigan Bay's ambling action and there were incidents aplenty during the rounds of heats, one of which put Wolfenden on the deck during the third night. But ironically in the Final, Cardigan Bay had moved around the field from 24 yards and had a clear track starting the last lap when Idle Raider faltered and wiped out most of the field, and he went on to down Dusty Miller and Waitaki Hanover handsomely.

Marty Tananbaum was again on-hand to witness this, but could not persuade any of his fellow Americans to fork out the equivalent of $70,000 for a "7-year-old gelging with a suspect hip." Continuing his Australian campaign under Wilkins, Cardigan Bay won a race in Melbourne and four more a Harold Park, where he was also second from 48 yards to Waitaki Hanover in the Lord Mayor's Cup, before returning home to rest up for his 1963 NZ Cup Meeting assault and demolition.

First Cardigan Bay would be at Addington in August for the National Meeting, downing Samantha (12yds) and Lordship (18yds) in the mile and a quarter Lightning Handicap from 30 yards, and dead-heating for first with Junior Royal (Fr) in the National Handicap after starting from 42 yards. A week later at Hutt Park on the way home, Cardigan Bay easily won the Roydon Lodge FFA over Samantha and Junior Royal, and the Prsident's Handicap from 36 yards over Master Alan more easily by five lengths, and for good measure he time-trialled at Cambridge's new five-furlong track and equalled Caduceus' Australasian mile record of 1:57 3/5.

From 54 yards in the Cup, Cardigan Bay conceded favouritism to the Alf Bourne-trained and Maurice Holmes-driven 4-year-old Vanderford, a son of Great Evander, who had won seven of eight races that spring including the Ashburton Flying Stakes and Hannon. Holmes had Vanderford bowling along in front most of the way, but when Cardigan Bay received a good cart into the race by Oreti over he last lap, he pounced and won easily by a couple of lengths over Robin Dundee and Master Alan.

Another FFA proved a mere formality, and then to ceebrate the introduction of night racing at Addington a 500 bonus was offered if False Step's NZ record of 3:21 could be broken in the Allan Matson, which was worth half that of the Cup at 3500. In other words, 500 was serious money some 40 years ago. Fron 54 yards and with four others on 12 yards in the 15 horse field, Cardigan Bay romped home by almost four lengths in 3:18 1/5 - he was three-wide for practically the entire race and timed over the last two laps (mile and a half) in under three minutes - and added the Ollivier from 60 yards in 3:20 3/5 on the final night for good measure.

Realising what a drawcard Cardigan Bay would be, the Wellington TC offered 600 to break the mile record, and on a cold and blustery night Cardy scorched round the four and a half furlong track in 1:56 1/5. Wolfenden claimed that but for the windy conditions, Cardigan Bay would had threatened Adios Butler's world record of 1:54 3/5 set at The Red Mile on 1960.

On to the big night in Auckland, and time when the Handicapper has all but brought Cardigan Bay's Down Under career to a close - all but. While there may have been cause for optimism given his form, 78 yards was a monumental task when the best horses in the country are at least 66 yards ahead of you.

Cardigan Bay made his usual swift beginning though and bided his time at the tail of the big field until he commenced his run around the field from the 1200m - or about the point when the crescendo began. He forged to the lead in the backstraight, but he was being stalked by Tactile, handy all the way and now tracking Cardigan Bay into line. Tactile drew up, but Cardy would not be denied and went on to win by half a length like the champion he was.

It was heart-stoppingly spectacular stuff and C E Craig, writing for the 'Calendar' on the night, said "the thunderous ovation received has never been equalled at Epsom or probably on any other trotting course. All eyes were on him from start to finish, and when they accelerated at the three furlongs, racing around the field to be first in line for the judge it was just an uproar, and continued until they returned to the enclosure. "As President Mr Bridgens said in his Cup presentation: 'What can I say? You people have already said it for me'." The scenes would be repeated to some extent on the nights of the 1974 and 2005 Inter-Dominions in Auckland - just add about 50 metres to what was asked of Young Quinn and Elsu and double the crowd.

A few weeks later Cardigan Bay won his last New Zealand start, taking out the two-mile Pezaro Memorial from 60 yards by a length over frontmarker Jay Ar. On to the Inter-Dominions around the three-furlong Melbourne Showgrounds, and on-hand to see Cardigan Bay thread his way through 11 rivals from 36 yards to win on the first night was Tananbaum again, but this time with a special guest - Stanley Dancer. Needing no more prodding, Dancer offered US$100,000 (about 36,000) and agreed to return Cardigan Bay home at his own expense, while Tananbaum threw in a $30,000 specially chartered flight to New York.

Out of luck in the Inter-Dom Final won by Minuteman in all-the-way fashion, Cardigan Bay departed these shores having won 43 races with nine seconds from 67 starts - 36,477 in New Zealand and 24,940 in Australia.

Taking delivery of Cardigan Bay when he landed in New York in March, 1964, Dancer told reporters: "I got him cheap - $900,000 cheap. This one's worth a million." Just how prophetic was that comment?


Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 21Jun06

 

YEAR: 1969

USA TRIBUTE TO CARDIGAN BAY (From 'Hoof Beats')

A chartered cargo plane, which he had all to himself, deposited Cardigan Bay on American soil on the first day of spring, 1964. It was prophetic. For the next five years the great NZ pacing horse was destined to be the evergreen of harness racing, the hardy perennial which not even advancing old age could keep pruned for long. In the September of his years Cardigan Bay planted springtime in the hearts of millions of racing fans.

Cardigan Bay showed up in the United States with just $158,212 in his pockets. When he had cooled out for the last time beneath the blue and gold blanket of the Stanley Dancer Stable at Freehold Raceway on the late afternoon of September 14, 1968, he had accumulated earnings of $1,001,353 and so become the first millionaire horse in standardbred history.

A month later in a warm Saturday night bath of spotlights at Yonkers Raceway he was officially disarmed, relinquishing his racing shoes and equipment amidst pomp and ceremony and the Prime Minister of NZ. It had been, by formal proclamation, 'Cardigan Bay Day' in Yonkers, New York. The next evening Cardigan Bay walked down a long red carpet, which lead into the living rooms of 20-million viewers, on the Ed Sullivan television show. No immigrant had ever 'made it' any bigger any faster.

Cardigan Bay's path to greatness on the North American continent was not a charted one, nor was it paved with pushovers. In his very first race at Yonkers, he had to beat Royal Rick. He did. In his next few races he had to beat the likes of Overtrick, Irvin Paul, Henry T Adios, Country Don, Mighty Tide, Rusty Range and Cold Front. As often as not he did.

Fact is, the rest of the top free-for-allers had been waiting for him. Cardigan Bay had arrived in the United States in a cloud of press clippings. Everone knew the story. How Stanley Dancer had made the long trip to NZ expressly to see the big bay pacing machine, how he hadn't been able to swing the purchase until just 15 minutes before his plane was due to depart, and how it had still cost him $100,000 to buy an eight-year-old gelding.

Back in the United States the future enemy also quickly heard of the unbelievable training routine which Dancer witnessed the week he watched Cardigan Bay. Monday through Friday 15 to 20 miles of jogging each day, then five more jogging miles Saturday morning, a workout of one and a half miles in 3:30, then an afternoon race of a mile and a half, which he won with a 36-yard handicap. The newspapers also carried Dancer's reaction after Cardigan Bay's first workout at the farm in New Egypt, New York. "This is a million dollar horse," Dancer exclaimed as he hopped out of the cart. "I got him $900,000 cheap."

Yes, North America saw Cardigan Bay coming, but it couldn't stop him. Old Cardy, showing an elusive hip to a pursuing Father Time and straight arming one ailment after another, started in 87 races against the most choice of opposition, won 37 of them, finished second 16 times and third on an additional 19 occasions. Cardy left record performances behind him at big places like Yonkers Raceway and Hollywood Park, whipped Bret Hanover in the widely heralded 'Pace of the Century,' attracted tremendous crowds wherever he went, particularly in a series of thrilling 'challenge' and 'revenge' spectacles with Bret Hanover and Overtrick, and finally left the entire world of harness racing limp as he, at last, 'hobbled' past the historic $1-million in 2:01 for the mile.

Like a very good angel who has done so many nice things in a temporary world, Cardigan Bay's life must now go full circle, back to NZ. This clause was in the original contract which Stanley Dancer signed with Mrs Audrey Dean of Auckland. "Wherever he is, he will never really be far away," Stan Dancer said as he folded up Old Cardy's cooler for the last time and prepared to tuck it tenderly and carefully away. Stan was the spokeman for every racing devotee on this continent.

For every individual man who knew Cardigan Bay was coming, there are now 1000 who know he is leaving. Old Cardy could get to people real quick.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 5Feb69

 

YEAR: 1991

SIR HENRY KELLIHER

Though he maintained a very low profile in horse racing, Auckland brewery baron and philanthropist Sir Henry Kelliher, who died recently aged 95, was an enthusiastic and sporadically successful breeder of standardbreds and thoroughbreds.

Sir Henry will probably be remembered best in harness racing for giving Aucklander Mrs Audrey Dean's champion pacer Cardigan Bay a luxurious retirement at his island paradise, Puketutu, in the Manukau Harbour. From Match 1970 until Cardigan Bay died aged 31 in March 1988, Sir Henry doted over the internationally famous gelding, who attracted thousands of tourists from around the world to see in the flesh the first pacer to win a million dollars. "I think he must be the most photographed horse in the world," Sir Henry would often proudly say.

But Sir Henry's involvement in the standardbred sport went much deeper. His crowning achievement was to rank as the breeder of 1979 Inter-Dominion Grand Champion pacer Rondel, who was imported to NZ in embryo inside the Light Brigade mare Light Rendez. From the noted First Water family, Light Rendez had been bought in Australia on Sir Henry's behalf by Noel Simpson, and covered by the Simpson-imported American stallion Berra Hanover.

Mary Hall, a Dillon Hall mare bought from Canterbury as a breeding proposition by Sir Henry, produced a fine winner in Monsignor for Whenuapai trainer Ray Norton, while Magli, Mary Hall's 1953 foal by Loreto, left Terraton, a classic winning filly for Noel Taylor.

One of the best trotters produced in NZ, Easton Light, owes his place in immortality to Sir Henry's generosity. It was in the late 1950s when Dennis, son of Eric and Thelma Running, who were farming at East Tamaki, developed a nervous disorder that led to double pneumonia and other complications. Following hospitalisation and almost nine months in a recuperative home, Dennis returned home to mend further. To get him interested in moving around and out in the open air, Eric decided to get him a pony.

After Eric approached Puketutu stud master Jack Bainbridge, it was reasoned a pony might be too frisky. The upshot was that Sir Henry gave the Runnings an eight-year-old gelding with a deformed foot named Graham Logan, whom he had bred from a Black Globe mare, Indian Globe. Graham Logan had been tried on lease by Auckland trainer Horry Keogan and, after registering just one third placing in 14 attempts, returned to Puketutu Island with no future in sight.

When Dennis Running tired of his pet, his father, who had learned the rudiments of training horses when a freezing worker with the late Jack Brophy at Timaru in the 'forties', decided to have a go at training Graham Logan to win a race. Taking Graham Logan to the races as a 10-year-old in 1962/63, Running won three trotting races with him. It led to Eric carrying on in the game and eventually winning fame and fortune with Easton Light, NZ's biggest trotting winner to this time with 36 victories, including two Dominion Handicaps and a Rowe Cup, for $132,370.

As a thoroughbred breeder, Sir Henry earned distinction through Mister Pompous, the good Canterbury galloper of the early 1970s, while several Puketutu-based stud stallions to make an impression on New Zealand and Australia racing were headed by Ivory Hunter.

Long-term patron of the Auckland Trotting Owners, Trainers and Breeders' Association and the first patron and a grand supporter of the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame, and an occasional sponsor of juvenile pacing events in Auckland, Sir Henry refrained from racing horses in his own right.

For a non-owner, he possessed a remarkable command of bloodlines, while, probably from his early days as a third generation child of a Central Otago farming family, he had a love of horses that shone through whenever he escorted guests around the paddocks and stables of the lush Puketutu Island that was his home for half a century.


Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly

 

YEAR: 1987

Jim O'Sulivan & Dick Lee savour the triumph
CHRISTCHURCH - LIGHTNING BLUE

"It's the biggest thrill ever; he's the best horse I've had, and I've had some good ones," said Jim O'Sullivan, returning with his 1987 Lion Brown Inter-Dominion Grand Champion.

In his regular acquisition of NZ horses, O'Sullivan almost invariably uses the services of former Australian John Devlin, professionally known as the South Auckland Standardbred Agency. Devlin, who in the last 10 years has secured something close to 80 horses for O'Sullivan's clients singled out Lightning Blue for him. "He was trained by Mike Berger at Morrinsville," recalled Devlin after the Final. "I watched him at the trials, saw him win at an on-course-only meeting at Cambridge and then run an unlucky second at Alexandra Park before recommending that Jim come and trial him.

Of the three owners only Mr Conidi was at Addington for the Grand Final. "Alan will be very upset about not being here," he said. "He saw all the bad luck in the heats, got called back home on urgent business and was unable to get back here for tonight." Although his horses have won many hundreds of races, Alan Hunter's biggest victory prior to Saturday night was in the $43,000 Cranbourne Cup last December with Saturday night's First Consolation winner Quite Famous, whom he owns outright.

Apart from securing Lightning Blue (who races in Australia as My Lightning Blue) from the O'Sullivan stable, Delvin is a quarter-share owner of the 4-year-old's sire, the Meadow Skipper horse Lonero. Lightning Blue's dam Lightning is by the good Hal Tryax horse Holy Hal (second to First Lee in the 1968 Inter-Dominion Final in Auckland and winner of two heats at the 1971 Addington Inter-Dominions). Lightning's dam Lightning Lass was by Lighterman Tom, remarkably still alive in South Canterbury, aged 40. By Light Brigade, Lighterman Tom is a half-brother to Cherry Blossom whose daughter Robin Dundee shared the Inter-Dominion title in Dunedin in 1965 with Jar Ar and was fifth in Melbourne in 1964, second to Chamfer's Star in Sydney in 1966 and fourth to Binshaw in Perth in 1967.

Lightning was the first venture into harness racing of Peter and Mrs Doris Miller, semi-retired farmers of Mystery Creek, near Hamilton airport. The bought Lightning on the advice of Ngaruawahia trainer Joe Goodyer after she had won a 2-year-old parade from the Mataura stable of Dave Todd, of Cardigan Bay fame.

Goodyer won two races with Lightning for the Millers, but her race career was cut short by injury incurred in a training spill. Before putting Lighting down in 1983, the Millers bred five foals from her, the three to have raced being Lightning Blue, Rainbow Light (winer of three before injured) and Millertime (sold at two and the winner of two races so far). The Millers are breeding from Rainbow Light (by Adover Rainbow) and are looking forward to racing with Mike Berger's wife Brenda and his father Geoff her first offspring, a yearling Tudor Hanover filly they have named Lightning Belle.


Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 19Mar87

 

YEAR: 1974

'SANDY' TODD

One of Southland's best known trotting personalities Mr A ('Sandy') Todd, of Mataura, who raced the first million dollar pacer, Cardigan Bay, died last week. He was 77.

Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, not far fron Glasgow, Mr Todd came to NZ with his family at the age of 17. In partnership with his brother, Dave, he raced several horses when in his 20s, such as Sonata and Desert Star. The two brothers then bought Chimes Lodge at Mataura, then a 13 acre property and now a considerable holding. There they established one of Southland's early and most successful standardbred studs.

Dave Todd looked after the training side and 'Sandy', the stud side of the establishment. He was a competent and able studmaster and such horses as Arion Axworthy, Grattan Loyal, Bruce Walla, Cassanova, Dillon Hall, Free Fight and also the thoroughbred horse, Philamor stood at Chimes Lodge.

Highlight of the Chimes Lodge history was the arrival of Cardigan Bay, bred and trained by Dave Todd, and raced by 'Sandy' until he won his way out of Southland classes. Cardigan Bay was then sold to Mrs M B Dean, of Auckland, and he later went to America where, he became the first $1 million stake winner in trotting history. He did more to promote trotting in NZ than any standardbred before of since and his name was a house-hold word throughout NZ, Australia and America.

'Sandy' Todd not only developed Chimes Lodge into one of Southland's most successful standardbred nurseries, but he knew every aspect of the racing, breeding and training sides, and was also a successful farmer. His death breaks a further link with Southland's early pioneer breeders, a diminishing band whose early interest and enthusiasm in trotting played a salient part in the sport attaining its present day ranking.

'Sandy' Todd was a character in his own right; one whose contribution to the light harness industry can be measured by the success he achieved and the lengthy association he had. But, as he often said when referring to horses or officials. "The record has to be on the slate." And there would never be any question that Sandy had the record on the slate. He is survived by two sisters, Mrs H Brownsey (Auckland), Mrs Easterbrook, of Matamata and a brother, Dave, of Mataura.

Credit: NZ Trotguide 31Jul74

 

YEAR: 1990

MERV DEAN

Merv Dean, who died at his home in Auckland just before Christmas aged 67 after a long illness, will long be remembered as the man who bought the great Cardigan Bay from the Todd brothers of Mataura. But there was much more to Merv than just that.

Merv's parents ran tobacconists in Hamilton, and in his youth Merv assisted his uncle, Henry Lee, one of New Zealand's most notorious bookmakers. Lee operated a shoe shop at Frankton, but, it is said, sold no shoes. At one point in his colourful career he completely booked out the Duke of Marlborough Hotel at Russell and staged there an unofficial convention of New Zealand bookies.

Merv moved to Auckland, where he became a billards and snooker hall proprietor. Armed with a wide knowledge of racing and its ramifications, he also became a keen student of breeding, an ardent admirer of good horses and good racing, both standardbred and thoroughbred, and an aspiring owner. It could truthfully be said that he fashioned himself into possibly New Zealand's most successful professional punter. Those closest to him, considered Merv's judgement second to none when it came to horse racing.

Merv at times punted on a level to match the late Max Harvey, but, in direct contrast to that leviathon gambler, Merv shunned publicity and throughout his life maintained a very low profile. He never asked for a privilege to go on to a racecourse. He paid his way in, and never went onto a grandstand, preferring to go to the rail, as close as he could get to the horses that he loved to bet on. At Alexandra Park, scene of 11 of Cardigan Bay's 80 wins, including two Auckland Cups, Merv's favourite vantage point was on the rail at the two-mile start in the old Derby area, where he would buy a pie and rub sholders with the workers.

Merv with his Mother raced the good pacing mare Ruth Again in the mid-1950s. The daughter of Dillon Hall was trained for them for four wins as a four-year-old by Roy Purdon (then at Te Awamutu), and later in life won them a race from Morry Holmes' Riccarton stable and another when trained at Pukekohe by Colin Hadfield.

Rapt in the progeny of the imported American stallion Hal Tryax, Merv bought from the Todd brothers in 1961 a gelding by that sire named Motif. After this pacer had won at 40-to-1 at Claudelands in March 1961, he handed him to Peter Wolfenden, from whose Auckland stable Motif was to win four more races. Boosted by a good betting win, Merv soon after bought from the Todd brothers (for 2000 and two 250 contingencies) another Hal Tryax gelding, who, as Cardigan Bay, had won two of eight three-year-old starts and three of four starts at four.

Registered in the name of Merv's wife Audrey, Cardigan Bay under Wolfenden became a champion, his numerous wins including the Auckland Cups in 1961 and 1963, the NZ Cup in 1963 and the Inter-Dominion Grand Final in Adelaide the same year. Cardigan Bay went on to further fame and fortune in America, where under Stanley Dancer, he became, as a 12-year-old in 1968, the world's first pacer to win a million dollars.

One of Merv Dean's best thoroughbreds in New Zealand was Town Guard. At one stage of his career this good galloper was disappointing, and Merv's suggestion to his trainer was to jump him over hurdles in the centre of Pukekohe. His reasoning was that slipping and sliding on the heavy clover in the infield would teach the horse to run better on the flat. His theory was borne out when Town Guard immediately won the Stars Travel Gold Cup at Tauranga, beating Lampada. Merv then sent Town Guard to Victoria and successfully punted him to win a hurdle race in Melbourne. Brought back to Baggy Hillis' Takanini stable, Town Guard was one of the early favourites for a Great Northern Hurdles when he broke down on the eve of the race.

One of Merv's closest friends, current Auckland Trotting Club president Cliff Koefoed, labels him "the greatest judge of horseflesh I have known...He had something like 70 horses, and only one failed to win a race," he said. Koefoed added: "Very tough in business, he was generous to a fault to down-and-outers. When he learned that the guy who assisted him in the billard room at Onehunga had five kids and a Morris Minor, he and Audrey gave the guy an open cheque to buy a decent car for his family."

Koeford recalls accompanying Merv on whirlwind forays to Christchurch, Wellington and even Australia for assaults on the tote and bookmakers that were usually successful. "On a Trentham trip we put 200 on Mali Peter in the first leg of the double, and when he won we put the lot all-up on Golden Defoe," continued Koefoed. "They were 1 tickets, and had to be exchanged into five shilling units. They were still punching tickets for us after the second leg horse had won. We got 2500 each. We rang our wives, Irene and Audrey, and got them to book a table and meet us that night at the "Gourmet" in Auckland, I think it was the first time Merv had ever been into a top-class restaurant to have a meal."

Merv Dean is survived by Audrey.


Credit: HRWeekly 9Jan91



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