One of the more surprising successes at the stud in NZ was Quite Sure, a double-gaited horse imported her in 1938 by Miss Julia Cuff, then based in Southland. The Peter Volo stallion stood for some years in that province and his last years in Rakaia when Miss Cuff moved north.
Although most of his best offspring were trotters Quite Sure actually took his best lifetime mark of 2:01.8 pacing, though his sire, a son of Peter The Great, was a champion trotting stallion as a yearling and each season through to four years. Quite Sure's sons and daughters had mixed reputations but properly handled gave great results to patient trainers.
For a stallion whose offspring generally needed time to show their best, Quite Sure made an instant impact. From his first crop came 26 individual winners of 102 races. They included the juvenile champion Walter Moore, another top pacer Special Force and many others. The best known is the almost legendary Certissimus who, Even Speed and all, is probably the best young trotter this country has ever seen.
Certissimus had a tremendous action and in a tragically short career (he died from an accident as an early 4 year old) he became a wonder horse, returning one scintillating performance after another in the war years. Another champion trotter from the sire's early crops was Will Cary, the first trotter in NZ to better 4:20 for two miles and a Dominion Handicap winner.
Quite Sure's first winner was Bomber, trained by Bill Doyle at Leeston. Bomber went on to win a Dominion Handicap, and Bill has another cause to remember the stallion for he later leased and trained Gold Horizon. A lot of people will tell you that Gold Horizon's equal as a trotter is yet to be produced in NZ. He won more stakes than any other of his gait either here or in Australia at the time and won more than 20 races though the Dominion eluded him.
There were numerous other grand trotters by Quite Sure. Jimmy Dillon won 16 races and held two Australasian records. Blue Horizon was a mighty trotter, also holding records for some years, and he numbered the Ashburton Cup among his many wins. Then there was the brilliant, but unsound Toushay, holder of the 1¼ mile record for a number of years and winner of the Trotting Free For All. Sure Gift was another topliner and with Fairy Dell gave Quite Sure wins in the Trotting Stakes.
Ripcord was another champion trotter by Quite Sure, winning over all distances against top company and holder for a while of a world record over 11 furlongs. He won 11 races in all. Like another top trotter in Super Note, by Quite Sure he had some success at stud.
There were a number of other top horses by Quite Sure. Included among them were Copper Trail, a good Southland pacer and winner of the Gore Cup, Sandy Duval, Rerewaka (NZ Trotting FFA), Karnak (who beat a handicap field at two years), Stuart Lee (who won seven successive races), Imperial Trust, Monagh Leagh, Minora, Quite Happy and Quite Likely, holder of a two-year-old national mark over a mile for fillies. His best pacing son however was Whipster who won eight races until injury terminated his career. Whipster was a successful sire of Massacre, Don Hall and Glint among others.
Quite Sure also had considerable success as a broodmare sire. Quite Sound produced a top class trotter in Rock'n Robin. Glamour Girl was the dam of Flying Maiden and Halberg who won 15 races between them, Flying Maiden being the dam of current top three-year-old Cool Cat. Pleasure Bay is a Quite Sure mare assured of undying fame through her grandson Cardigan Bay. Ballyhaunis was the dam of Jennifer who has produced eight winners at stud and Sure Romance was the dam of Royal Mile, a juvenile trotter of great speed who held the national mile record for a time. Quite Evident, who won five races herself, was the dam of eight winners including Call Boy, who won nine including the Great Norther Derby, and Farlena an Australasian record holder and winner of four including the Sapling Stakes.
Little Doubt, a daughter of Quite Evident, produced six winners including For Certain, an Oaks winner. Maid Myra won five and was the dam of Pohutukawa, winner of 11 races in this country, and Cosy Del produced five winners and is grandam of Balgove. Karnak was the dam of five winners including Scimitar, winner of nine, and Ruer, who is the dam of the champion Australian trotter and sire Delvin Dancer. Credere was the dam of Deodatus, who won seven including the Trotting Stakes, and Salamis produced several winners including Sally Walla and Similas, the dam of Viking Water.
Luronne produced Ascot King a top Australian winner. Sporting Edition was the dam of Spring Edition, who won seven and produced five winners. Quite Contrary is the grandam of Ripper's Delight, Ilsa Voss and Rip Silver. Other good winners fron Quite Sure mares include the juvenile champion Vivanti (winner of the Oaks, Sapling Stakes, Welcome Stakes and holder of several records), Lassoloc winner of seven, Rascal five wins, Knighthood six wins (at either gait), Sure Charge winner of 11 (trotting), Dourglo, Prince Garry and April Hall, the dam of six winners.
Quite Sure sired 254 winners all told of 891 races and $705,749. In his second eligible season he was ninth on the list and remained in the top ten until 1954. His higest placing on the overall list was third in 1948-49, his offspring winning nearly $83,000. Other sons of Quite Sure made their mark at the stud including Desmond's Pride, a brother of Certissimus who himself served a few mares as a colt with success, Concord and Rest Assured.
Some trainers were not keen on Quite Sure's stock and Bill Doyle, who had more success with them than most explains why: "They could be very flighty and hard to handle," recalls the Leeston sportsman, "and didn't take kindly to harsh treatment. But once they were sorted out they were top horses and especially top stayers."
Credit: David McCarthy writing in NZ Trotguide 8Jun77
It was back in October 1948 or 1949, the year doesn't matter much. Bill Doyle had his trotting mare Passive down at Oamaru and was with her in the box before the race when a stranger stuck his head over the door. "Do you want to sell your horse?" was the visitor's opening gambit. "No." "Are you sure you don't want to sell her?" "Quite sure. I brought her down here to race, not to sell," was Bill Doyle's firm reply. The stranger left. The race over - she was either third of nowhere depending on the year - Passive was on her way back to her stall when they encountered the would-be buyer again. "You haven't changed your mind?" he asked. Hopefully. "No." "You know you've got the best bred mare in the country there, don't you? Seeing your not going to sell, you may as well have this."
And with that the stranger handed the visiting trainer a piece of paper and walked away. Now, more than thirty years later, Bill Doyle scrambles around a draw in the lounge in his spacious old home and produces that piece of paper. The ink-pen writing is still easily legible, even though the paper itself is almost coming apart through many foldings. "There it is," he says. "Passive's breeding right back. He must have spent countless hours, months, finding all this out and putting it down." And there it is too, Passive's pedigree all the way back to the pure-bred imported Arabian mare who was mated to Traducer in the 1860's sometime. Traducer, an English thoroughbred, was by The Libel and foaled in 1857.
Bill Doyle had never seen the would-be buyer before that day...and he hasn't seen him since. Didn't even find out his name. "But he must have been right," Doyle concedes. Passive's breeding record bears that out. Her record is better than just about any other in the Stud Book. At the end of her racing career - and she won a good number of races for Doyle - she produced foals to Ripcord twice, champion sire Light Brigade six times and Flying Song once. Eight of those were winners, six producing winners themselves, while even Passive's grand-daughters have kept the current chain going.
Currently keeping the Doyle name among the leading lights of trotting owners is About Now, a pet around his Leeston property and winner of 22 races as well. She's won four this term for stakes of more than $21,000 and, at this stage, must be a Rowe Cup prospect. But back to Passive.
Bill Doyle bred her himself out of Violet Wrack (by Wrack from Violet Wilkes), a mare he trained and raced for his friend Dan Robertson from Hakataramea. "I won a lot of races with her. When she finished I asked Dan if I could breed from her. 'Take the first foal,' he said, so I put her to U Scott to get Passive." The youngster couldn't have pleased her breeder more. "I'll tell you how good she was, I would have started her in the Sapling Stakes as a trotter if she hadn't broken a leg when she was two. She was a real flying machine," Doyle recalls with obvious pleasure. Later, when the leg mended, she showed a fair amount of ability. Still, it was some years after the accident she finally hit the track again. Doyle hadn't intended to race her but was persuaded by a friend from down south to at least try her again. "She trotted with a stiff leg, a real old peg-leg getting along, she was."
Her first foal was Reflective, by Ripcord. Reflective herself left winners in Jeepers Creepers (dam of Deep Hanover and Kenwood Song), Journey Home, All Alone, In Disguise and Let's Think. Chances Are (by Light Brigade) left five winners, Big Spender (dam of Ready Money and Lay Off), Rebel Statesman, Main Chance, Chichester and Smart Move. As well, her three other daughters Chance Again (Sly Chance), Hello Stranger (Espiritu) and Passive Lady (Leica Lady and Poker Night)have produced winners. Then came When.
"What a great mare she was." Doyle, relaxed in his lounge, surrounded by photographs of some of his winning horses, trophies galore, savours the memory. "She was the fastest of them all." When held the NZ mile record at 2:02.8 in 1963 when Doyle took her to America. "She was never right over there. The virus got to her but not as badly as it did some. They were dragging horses out of the barns only two or three days after we had got there. And it seems to hang on to them."
That trip, as Doyle assesses it, could have produced a sensation in NZ breeding circles. Ha almost bought a Russian mare to cross with the local blood. "What a horse. I can see her now as plain as day. The length of that lovely big chestnut...I fell in love with that mare." A pause in proceedings to search the myriads of photographs and cuttings from the time so the beauty of the beast can be shared. Apparently she'd been stabled in the box next to When. Both were down to contest the international trot series at Yonkers, an event conceived by raceway owner Martin Tananbaum. "I really took a fancy to her. I'd be into the box with her all the time. She was being looked after by a doctor and a professor and, while they couldn't speak English, I got on well with them through an interpreter." The Russians told Doyle she was for sale, along with another mare, a grey, they had brought over for the series. I told them I couldn't afford to pay too much but would talk to them again."
Off on a different tack for a moment to explain how the series was organised. The Americans would pay all expenses for owner and horses and then would share any winnings, fifty-fifty. "Tanabaum himsef was out here and he wanted When so much, he agreed to my terms in the end. The first race was mine...I'd play ball with the rest. We really sweated over that." That first race was for about $65,000, Doyle recalls. He was confident that after it he'd be able to buy the Russian mare. But it wasn't to be. When finished only second, beaten by an Italian 'gentleman' driver, a count, and his horse. He disorganised half the field at one stage and the stipes were waiting for him. They asked me to testify that the Italian had been to blame, but I wouldn't. I would not have liked to win the race that way."
Doyle produced a huge photograph of two smiling drivers, himself and the count, shaking hands after the event. "I really felt like kicking him. In the end, he bought both those Russian horses with his prize money. They would have provided a great cross for our blood. They belonged to the old Vladivostok line." (Incidentally, they finished at the rear of the field.)
Back home, When made a brief and successful reappearance on the racetrack before going into the broodmare paddock to produce winners in Now Charles, Time To Go, Now, Live Twice, Dining Out, Forget It and Now or Never.
So Rare, another by Ripcord, produced Perfect Answer, who qualified and a winner in Rarify. Asia Minor, winner of a host of races, was Passive's next foal by Light Brigade. At three the gelding - "I wouldn't have a colt on the place" - won the NZ Trotting Stakes for Doyle. Then came Remember When, a winner herself and dam of Boadicea, Anniversary Day and Now Then. Remember When, too, was by Light Brigade and was a sister to Wipe Out who developed into a Cup class pacer. "He was a big flat-footed horse who took a 65 to 67 inch hopple. He started off trotting but one day he just broke into a pace. We put the hopples on then ...and we never took them off." He was a good horse all through, but Bill Doyle especially remembers his double at the Auckland winter meeting in May, 1969. There, in the hands of Peter Wolfenden, he won the Mark Memorial on the first night and then the Adams Gold Cup on the second. Those trophies rest on the mantlepice today. Wipe Out made it three in a row when he returned home to Canterbury to take out the Louisson Handicap at Addington at his next start, early the following season.
Someday, a top trotter, was the next of Passive's progeny. As well as trotting a winning mile in 2:06, she also became the dam of About Now and Some Evander, an unraced colt who is now at stud. Snoopy, by Flying Song, was Passive's last foal and he was a good winner in America.
Passive, though, isn't the only broodmare to have given Bill Doyle a top-line family. He has just as much time for Within, a Wrack mare from Lady Swithin who raced in the 1930s and early 40s. For instance, she trotted an Australasian record 3:32.2 for the 13 furlongs of the Holmwood Handicap at Addington in 1941. "Often I'd line her up against the pacers...and we'd beat them too," he says, producing the photograph of the finish of her record breaking run. He'd bought her off her Auckland breeder, Jim Paul, "a great man with trotters."
Doyle was up there in the north with Bomber some years later to win a Dominion Trotting Handicap for his trainer. "Bomber had never raced before. He chased every seagull off the course that day at Alexandra Park and still won. He could trot." Bomber was by Quite Sure. And that win gave Bill Doyle something to laugh about to this day. Apparently Miss Julia Cuff, from Hinds, had promised a new suit to the trainer of the first Quite Sure winner in NZ. Eventually it went to the owners of that trotting machine Certissimus. "But Bomber's win came months before," Doyle contends. "After that I'd often remind her she owed me a new suit. I never did get it."
Among several talented trotters (With You and Encircle for instance), Within also left Circlette, herself a winner and dam of half a dozen more. Circlette (by U Scott) left Certain Smile, Caught Napping, Villa Caprina, Country John, Going and Mercury Montego. Certain Smile is the dam of Emme Smile and Mini Smile and the grandam of an up-and-coming young trotter, Mini's Pride. Villa Caprina is the dam of Villa Katrina and top-flighter Relinquish, and grandam of recent double winner The Stag. There are more to come. Going, of course, is the dam of Sid and Let's Go.
Pictures around the wall. Every one evokes a story. Some can be told, others shouldn't. Horses, top horses almost without exception. Horses like Gold Horizon, another by Quite Sure, and the top trotter of his era. Bill Doyle leased him as a 9-year-old. At that stage he had had six wins from 24 starts. Then he really started to blossom. Over four seasons he lined up 35 times for another 14 wins and 11 placings and stakes of more than £15,000. When he retired in the late 1950s, Gold Horizon had won £18,260, a record amount for a trotter in Australasia. He was second twice in the Dominion Handicap, the first time to Barrier Reef, and the second when he conceded the winner, Vodka, 60 yards. He also won a couple of NZ Trotting Free-For-Alls and an Ashburton Cup against some of the better pacers around.
There was Lament, too, original wearer in the 1930s of the white bridle the Doyle horses used for more than forty years. "I think it's probably still around here somwhere," Doyle, now 77, says. Lament won "just about every trotting free-for-all there was" for Doyle.
Top mare In The Mood provided one of the most sensational incidents of his racing life. She was by U Scott, out of Princess Napoleon, and was a yearling buy from J R McKenzie. "I should have won the NZ Cup with her but she got into trouble early, was last into the straight, only to finish fourth," he reckons. He then took In The Mood and War Form north "to win the Auckland Cup." About the time of the war, Doyle recalls, and there were only five or six starters that year. His horses finished a furlong last. An incredible result. And, if that wasn't bad enough, when they got home they hardly had any hair left. And neither had the attendant who had been with them all through the trip. Doyle shakes his head. It's not the heat, or the screeching of the tame guinea fowl outside, which give him cause to wonder. "They were got at," he said. "Good and proper." He did, though, have some luck in Auckland Cups. He drove the winners of two...Nedworthy in 1940 and Loyal Friend in 1943. Betty Boop also took the big Auckland prize in 1944. She won the NZ Futurity for Doyle. "I sold her lease the night before the Futurity, win lose or draw."
In The Mood, the winner of £12,000, left three colts, all to Light Brigade. The first was Showdown who won an Ashburton Cup in 1958, the second was Reason Why who went on to make his mark as a sire in Western Australia, and the other was Light Mood, one of the few horses Doyle has sold through the yearling sales. Light Mood won nine races, beating Robin Dundee by three lengths in his last victory.
Part two NZ Trotting Calendar 16Feb82
Bill Doyle has had a huge amount of success with his horses, pacers and trotters, over the years. He's bred his own and he's bought them. So what does he look for in a potentially good horse?
"First there's is the feet, then the legs, the body, and some character should show through the head," he says. "A good horse should have decent wide black feet. I feel your judgement's slipping a bit if you look at a foot with a lot of white in it. They can give you a lot of trouble."
His training methods, he reckons, are "pretty orthodox." Feeding and individual attention are essential for all horses. "If you can't feed them properly and get attached to them, you shouldn't have horses." And is Bill Doyle attached to all his horses? "I should say so. There's the occasional one you've got to square up, but once you've won that round, yes, then you get attached to them."
The Doyle horses lack nothing in attention. He spends hours every day getting the mud out of their feet and brushing hooves with tar and oil; interminable hours grooming the racehorses, a master practitioner of the dying art of 'dressing' a horse. He studies each one carefully and works out what they need to eat. Those ready for racing usually get their evening meal in two halves, rather than filling up all at once. And when the season's right, they can take their share of wind-blown pears which lie on the ground under the old tree in the yard. Even pick the ones which haven't fallen , if they like. He can call out to any of them - his youngsters, too - and they'll respond. Come to his hand.
He admits he's past doing his own shoeing these days and says there's no real secret to it - rather a method of trial and error until you come up with something that works. "I often get asked for advice. 'Try everything' I say." Variety in training is also essential, although the days of working around the roads are gone now. "There's too much traffic...and most of the drivers show no consideration to anyone with a horse on the road. It's out of the question." But there's plenty of room on Doyle's property for the horses in work to have a change of scenery nearly every other day. "They've got to have variety. They get sick of being bottled up in one place." Sometimes, by way of a change, the horses are sent to another Doyle property, where they're hacked around his cattle.
Bill Doyle is, in his own assessment, first and foremost a farmer, a cattle farmer with a hungry market to satisfy. "Cattle breeding and fattening is my priority always." He held a professional licence once but gave up public training a long time ago to put the farming first. Even these days, when he's gradually cutting down his cattle operation, his horses remain a hobby, a relaxation.
The Doyle family has always farmed in the area around Leeston...and it's always had horses. Bill's grandfather, J H Doyle, came out from Scotland in the 1860s and settled not far from Leeston in the area now known as 'Doyleston'. He, too, was a successful horseman. Bill Doyle provides the proof. Amongst racing books spanning almost a century, there's one with results from a Southbridge race meeting some time during 1875-76. There, winning a three mile saddle trot for the princely sum of five sovereigns, is one J H Doyle. "My grandfather." Bill's father, also W J, was also a farmer and worked with a lot of horses, quite apart from his racing team. He handled a lot of horses during World War I, mainly gun horses. And then, too, he supplied many of the local fishermen down at Lake Ellersmere with horses for their traps.
It was more than sixty years ago that the present Bill Doyle started with racehorses, riding in saddle races. He particularly remembers his first win, on a horse called Wirey trained by his father. "It was a one and a quarter mile saddle race at Greymouth. I remember Dad saying to me before the race 'if you don't come first in this , there won't be a home for you'." Doyle chuckles at the memory. "I won that race by ten lengths." And from that time the wins have come regularly. How many over the years? "I couldn't tell you within a hundred." He's even owned a Grand National Steeplechase winner, Thurina, who took out the country's premier jumping event in 1933. Bert Ellis rode the horse that day. The trainer was Bill's sister. Bill himself says he was always too heavy for the thoroughbreds.
Today, Bill Doyle regrets that trotting has grown to "too big a business. The sport's gone, the pleasure of being involved with a sport has been lost. There are so many horses around (and there's usually no more than a dozen on his property at once) it's become a liability to have one. More and more people are buying horses and breeding them, going into it thinking it's an easy game. But it's not. It's tough." You can't make it just by training a small team. You have to sell. "The American market keeps most going. They'd be shot without that." Rules and regulations now had taken most of the pleasure away. Which is why he is drifting away slowly. "I feel my hands are tied now." Those same rules and regulations had allowed the inexperienced to get licences, to allow people who might not have even seen a horse until a couple of years previously to drive. "In the early days you found that those with licences had worked with stock all the time. They had a big advantage."
"You only had to compare the attitudes of some of the less experienced drivers today with those of men like Maurie Holmes, Peter Wolfenden and Bob Cameron. The topliners think about their drives for days, during the preliminary all they're concentrating on is the job in front of them. You don't see them chatting away to other drivers during the preliminaries. And at the start, they're not waiting for the tape to go past them, they're watching the starter all the time.By the time the tape's gone, so too have the top men. They don't wait."
Doyle's also critical of drivers pushing and shoving during races. "Those old hands don't push and shove...but at the same time, they wouldn't give you an inch. They know where everyone else is, and once they get to where they want to be, they stay there. And they're entitled to. Generally you get only one chance in a race and you've got to take it when you can. Not barge your way through when it's too late. They're not plough horses these fellows are driving. They're sensitive racehorses and must be nursed through, otherwise they're ruined." Doyle fully agrees with stipendiary stewards taking a hard line for interference. "They must be given the message somehow," he contends.
He recalls with some feeling the days when he could drive himself. "I had my greatest fun then. You pitted yourself against some of the finest chaps in the world, men like Gladdy McKendry, Dil Edwards, Freeman Holmes, Ces Donald, Ossie Hooper, Maurice Holmes, Maurice McTigue...the list goes on. They asked for no quarter, you gave them none. They were good friends, and if you fell out, well you just started off again."
It's time to bring the horses in, to start to get them settled for the night. There are some hours of work left yet and the bookwork hasn't been done this afternoon. Bill Doyle calls out as he goes from paddock to paddock, talks to those in their separate yards. The ones he wants follow him into the barn where they'll get their feet seen to...a brush and a feed.They're all individuals with their own needs. You've got to see they get them. Good food and good shelter. That's the story.
You leave him oiling a hoof. Late afternoon. Bill Doyle will be out and about again at five the next morning. A bit tough when your 77? Not really. That is when his morning helper arrives. "And I probably take the record for going to bed early. That helps."
Article in HRWeekly 28Apr88
The death occurred on Monday of Bill Doyle. Regarded as someone special with the trotter, Bill was 82.
From Leeston, a farming area half an hour south of Christchurch, Bill Doyle became a legendary horseman right from the start of his career in harness racing.
At the age of 20, Bill took over a team of horses trained by his father. One of them was Prince Author, who soon after won the Reefton and Hokitika Cups. Like his father, Bill trained gallopers as well as trotters, and in 1933 prepared Thurlina to win the Grand National Steeplechase in the hands of his good friend Bert Ellis.
While his father had the store at Doyleston and ran his team from there, Bill bought a property at Leeston during the depression years. Prince Author was followed by the top trotter Mountain Mist, All Peters, Olson and the top racemare Violet Wrack, who left Passive. From nine foals, Passive produced eight winners - Reflective, Chances Are, When, So Rare, Asia Minor, Remember When, Wipeout, Someday and Snoopy.
In 1934, the stable was represented by the fine young pacer Subsidy, who finished second in the Sapling Stakes, then came out the next season to win the Great Northern Derby. Then came some outstanding trotters, notably the dashing Gold Horizon, When, Lament, Bomber, Going, About Now and Elite Rey.
Gold Horizon won the Worthy Queen Handicap, the Hambletonian Handicap (twice) and the NZ Trotting Free-For-All (twice). Lament won nine free-for-alls. Bomber won the Dominion Handicap in 1943 and When was invited to race in New York by Yonkers officials in the early 1960s.
Top pacers trained over the years included Betty Boop (winner of the 1944 Auckland Cup and the NZ Futurity Stakes). In The Mood (placed in the NZ Cup), Ned Worthy (winner of the Auckland Cup in 1940), Wipeout (10 wins), Showdown, Warform, Reason Why, Chances Are, Encircle, Now, Someday, All Alone and many others.
Until about 18 months ago, Bill was still training the young trotter Look. Quiet and modest. Bill Doyle was never one to dwell on the past.
Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 9&16Feb82