Colin McLaughlin has never been one to complain. When the golden run by the carriers of the Royal Stewart tartan were over, Colin enjoyed his racing no less. When moderates Dainty Dish and Meadow Pam carried the flag in place of Manaroa, Allakasam, Royal Ascot, Nimble Yankee and Manawaru - who between them won 75 races in NZ - Colin didn't rush to recall how racing used to be.
But he complained to me. "I've never stopped working, but in the last month I haven't done a thing. I haven't felt like it. I've had a fairly big operation. I'm 80 in July. I hope I get there.
Colin is not as fit and well as he would like to be. He put great discomfort behind him on the day of the Hororata trots so he could see Rosy Score race at Ashburton. Physical problems have not diminished Colin's alert mind, nor his ability to succinctly give his opinion on any matter in the harness racing industry.
Two events this season, quite insignificant in themselves, have disclosed the long arm of Colin's estate in harness racing. The first was the death of Allakasam, the daughter of Fallacy and Sedate who won the McLaughlins 18 races, including the 1967 Auckland Cup, the Hannon Memorial, the New Brighton Cup and the Easter Cup. And the second was the accomplishment of exhibiting the best-presented colt - by Kanturk from Morose - at the yearling sale conducted by Pyne Gould Guinnes in January and the runner-up, one by Preux Chevalier from Alleviate.
But Colin's involvement in racing was mobile long before Allakasam. He was the strapper for Silver De Oro, winner of the Sapling Stakes in 1931, and to Blair Athol, a good Rey De Oro horse who went on to run third in Lucky Jack's NZ Cup when trained by Dick Humphreys. In 1932 he had his first horse, Llewellyn's Pride. A son of Llewellyn, Llewellyn's Pride won his first race at Motukara in 1934. Colin said he paid more than £100 in winning the Wairewa Trot. He was 16/17 in the betting, but the Year Book of the day recorded favouritism but not dividends.
At the time of this success for the young man and for a further seven years, the family farmed at Halswell, on ground leased by the Travis Cancer Research Company. In 1939, when the lease expired, Colin moved to Mount Hutt. The same year, Colin moved in the direction that within two or three generations was going to yield remarkable results on the racetracks of New Zealand and Australia.
"I was able to lease Straight from Eugene McDermott's father. She was a nice pacer, by Jack Potts. She only won the one race. That was in 1939 when the war broke out. I was told she was mad when I leased her but I liked her and later bought the freehold of her. That was the taprootof this family. The best thing I ever did in my life was taking Straight to be mated with Young Bob. I was looking for Globe Derby blood. Young Bob was by Robert Derby, by Springfield Globe, who was by Globe Derby."
Young Bob and Straight gave him Sedate, who produced the grand racemare Allakasam, and two special broodmares, Morsel (by Fallacy) and Flying Mile (by Flying Song). The best of Allakasam's progeny were Allspice (by Estes Minbar) who won eight races, and Jaunty Hanover (by Jersey Hanover) whose eight wins included the Methven Cup and the Queen's Birthday Stakes. She is also the dam of Colarno (by Locarno), who on March 11 gave Wellington OTB committeeman Ron Stechman his first success as a trainer.
The winner of four races, Morsel left Nimble Yankee, the winner of 11 races including the 1977 Pan Am Mile and Royal Ascot, whose crowning achievement was winning the Auckland Cup; his placings were in such events as three Derbies, the Miracle Mile, Inter-Dominion heats and an Inter-Dominion Grand Final. Morsel also left Morose, the dam of Colin's latest racing interest, Rosy Score.
Flying Mile left Manawaru and Manaroa, two outstanding pacers sired by Prince Charming. Like Royal Ascot, Manaroa won 18 races, but he picked up the greater part of his earnings from placings in such feature races as the Inter-Dominion Grand Final, the Auckland and NZ Cups and the Miracle Mile. "I sent Flying Mile to Morano because his staying ability appealed to me. Manaroa and Morano were two of a kind; they both had the same failing of being able to begin," said Colin.
Manawaru and Royal Ascot were by Prince Charming, a son of Springfield Globe who won a few races for Mr E E Johnson of Irwell. "He was out of a mare I used to race and he had a lovely disposition. It was the Globe Derby blood I wanted. I thought I'd get him for £100, but I was able to buy him for 70 quineas," he said. "I just did my own mares, and a few for some mates. There wasn't really a mug amongst them. The point about all of mine was that I didn't has to put a boot on them. Where they got their good gait from I've never worked out; it might have been through Lawn Derby...he was poetry in motion."
Sitting back in the sun, totally impatient with his inactivity, Colin reflected on some other aspects of his harness racing world..."I'm disappointed with the results I've had to high-bred American stallions. I've been to seven and the results have been minimal...I had faith in Regal Yankee. He gave me Nimble Yankee and Jaunty Hanover and they both measured up...I had a soft spot for Manaroa. If they had had three mile races he would have won them all. You just had to wait until he got his legs going...I've never missed a Cup since 1923, when Great Hope won...I mucked around; I still maintain they were half-trained horses.
The death occurred early in February 1998 of Colin McLaughlin.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 22Mar89
Part of the reason for Felix Newfield's consistent success in the trotting game is clear even before you reach his well laid out stables and yards. The gravel driveway is raked and neat, the facilities tidy and cared for. To quote the old saying there is a place for everything and everthing has it's place. While he doesn't actually say so it is obvious that he and his assistants place great emphasis on the finer points of running a racing stable. That attitude carried through to other areas probably explains why Felix has trained 315 winners in 25 years, making him one of the most enduringly successful horsemen of his generation. Newfield is a genial, sometimes controversial, personality but behind the quick quips there is another Felix Newfield; one who obviously puts a good deal of thought and planning into his establishment and the horses in his care.
Born in Lyttelton 49 years ago, Felix got involved with trotters when his family lived in Domain Terrace in Addington, close to the stables occupied by the late Jack Pringle. On leaving school Felix worked for Pringle for two years and when that trainer moved to Templeton the youngster joined Howie Smith in the same stable and stayed with him for eight years. His first driving experience was at the age of 16 in 1941, when he and Smith went to the Coast with Lord Brent and Blackdale. Newfield drove both without success and on his return the authorities took away his licence, there being a minor problem regarding age. Felix got his licence back when he reached 18 and his first success came shortly afterwards behind Grattan Bell at Greymouth. He won the next race, too with Sir Walter who was closely related to the Cup class pacer Cantata, the winning dividend being $288. At Westport he won three on end with Victory Boy.
Felix can tell stories about those early Coast trips which would appear almost bizarre to the modern stablehand. Jogging to the railway station in the afternoon to catch the train, clanking across to Greymouth or Reefton etc all night, jogging to the track for races, and then back to the train for another long ride home. The boys rode in the boxes with the horses with only a hurricane lamp to light up the card games or the stories of what had happened or what was going to. The trips to Dunedin, he recalls, were the worst. Sometimes the teams would be based on the Coast for weeks. Other times there would be just the day trips. Road transport in the war years was very difficult because of petrol restrictions which limited floats to being used in a 30 mile radius only. Newfield recalls on one occasion walking a team of horses with Addington trainer Joe Purdon (father of Alex) as far as Bankside where a float would be stategically placed to load the horses. You drove the thirty miles - further if you had the nerve - and then walked some more to the next float. Even meetings like Ashburton could be no cakewalk in those days.
In the early 50's Felix took up a private training position with Donald 'Sandy' Green at Methven. Success was almost immediate and in 22 months Felix trained 18 winners for Green, the mainstays being Gallant Satin, Fearless Peter, Quite Obvious (later a successful broodmare), Lothario and Robert Junior. In December 1952 at Waimate the young trainer won three races out of four for the owner with different horses. It was while at Methven that Felix got to know Colin McLaughlin and their association was to be mutually profitable for years to come.
A few months later Felix returned to Addington and set up on his own and on May 1, 1953, at the Reefton winter meeting came his first success on his own account. The horse was Marathon, owned by Mrs C Pateman, and he won an intermediate event by five lengths at odds of five to one. Not long afterwards Felix married Joan Harris fron Central Otago and moved to his present property at Templeton. It was a far cry from what it is now, having been used as a chicken farm. Felix built the stables and yards and milked cows as well to help him through the difficult early times of professional training.
His initial team was small. Main stake winners were Sedate, who was leased from Colin McLaughlin and who won four races before starting a breeding line which has proved highly successful including as it does Allakasam, Royal Ascot, Morsel and Flying Mile among its produce. Sedate was raced by Felix in partnership with Christchurch businessman Frank Kirkpatrick and Newfield's regard for his first stable patron is obvious. At the same time Frank raced Suzendy and she was a top mare winning 10 races and putting the stable well on the way to success. Frank Kirkpatrick still races horses from the stable and has remained a constant patron through the years - a trait of owners associated with Newfield.
By the end of the 1957 season Felix had reached sixth position on the trainers' table, Suzendy and Captain Free being the leading lights at that time. But it must have been hard work. With the assistance of Murray Hessey, now a trainer at Yaldhurst, Felix worked a big stable of horses and milked about 30 cows as well, which is a pretty daunting timetable even from this distance in time. His highest place on the table was third in 1962-3 when the stable produced 25 winners, only two behind the leading trainer that season, Ces Donald. Great Credit, that speedy but unruly horse was the leading stake winner. There have been any number of top horses through the stable. Johnny Guitar won a Wellington Cup and 10 other races. Queen Ngaio won 10 for the stable and ran fifth in the Cup, the closest Felix has been to achieving his great ambition of winning the big race. "There's not another race like the Cup is there?" he says, and one gets the feeling that nothing is going to be better fitted for the race than Nimble Yankee come November and all going well. Pancho Boy won nine including the Louisson Handicap and Queen Ngaio became dam of the outstanding but unsound pacer Waratah, raced by Joan Newfield and her father Jack Harris. Waratah won the Dunedin Cup and is now fashioning a creditable stud record against great odds in terms of attracting class mares.
There were other horses to recall from earlier days. Semloh was a Welcome Stakes winner, but unsound, and First Belle was a good winner for Felix which persuaded him to buy her first foal. Named John Craig, after the trainer's sons, he was sold to Australia where he was a champion three year old winning two Sires Produce Stakes and two Derbies, and he later did well in America. Earlier there had been Dilossa, Chiffon, Dacron, Seafield Hanover, Sirretta, Sirrah (Harris in reverse for the anagram pundits) and numerous others.
Felix had won his first Addington race in the late 40s with Elation, who splashed through the mud to score at long odds. Elation was later sold by his owner for two shillings and won two in a day for Colin Berkett at Addington, the first time paying a big dividend. Newfield has compiled a fine record in provincial Cup races, winning five at Greymouth for example and three Geraldine Cups, including American Chief's this season. He set some sort of record some years ago when lining five horses up in the New Brighton Cup, finishing first, second, fourth and fifth. He, of course, drove Royal Ascot in the dramatic Auckland Cup of 1973 and relates that he "didn't especially go looking for anyone" until it was announced the dividends were going to be paid out so that the Cup was safe following a controversial incident in the middle stages.
With Tronso he won a Dominion Handicap, and nearly brought off a unique finish to the Derby of 1973 when New Law beat Royal Ascot by a nose. Royal Ascot, driven by Alan Harrison, was called in first by the judge and Felix, with half shares in both horses, thought a dead-heat would have produced a most unusual Derby result.
This season has been another good one, the stable having 18 successes. Ambridge, now in the US won five and Warragamba, by Waratah from Laughlin's Lass who were both trained by Felix, won three, but the star has probably been Nimble Yankee who has risen from being a strong but unreliable pacer to a Cup prospect. American Chief has been another good winner.
Like all professional trainers, especially those who do well, Newfield no doubt has his critics. But a feature of his career has been the way his prominent owners have stuck with him through thick and thin. Frank Kirkpatrick and Colin McLaughlin have been mentioned. Another is Eugene McDermott who has been associated with the stable for more than 20 years through horses like Guinness, Black Label, Holmfield and now Americamn Chief and Gladarm. Few other trainers can match this sort of record over such a long period and it is one that Felix is rightly proud of. He doesn't expect to train so many winners in coming years as he has done in the past because things have changed in trotting. "Working them up and winning races and then selling them is the thing today and horses which might have won eight or nine in past years are now sold like Ambridge after four or five wins, or even earlier," he said.
He works about 20 to 25 now with help from Fraser Kirk, who has developed into an outstanding reinsman under Newfield, and his son Craig, who is 17 and with a good trials record behind him, is set for a probationary career next season. Bob Cole helps out in return for using Felix's track. Elder son John was more interested in machinery than horses but Felix's 15-year-old daughter Dianne is keeping the family name to the fore in pony circles. Most 15-year-old girls have their bedroom walls covered with pin-ups of pop stars. Dianne has so many show ribbons won on Bacardi Rum she doesn't have space for pop stars!
As Newfield shows you round the 36-acre complex you are soon aware that a lot of thought has gone into it's construction though there are some things he would now change. His basic training philosophy could be summed up as: "Keep them working, keep them warm and keep them well." He relates the horse's position to humans. How would you like to be shut up in one little room all day or get a cold shower in the middle of winter or run on concrete roads in steel boots? The answer is plenty of room for the horses during the day, warm water for hosing and plenty of attention to feeding and shoeing. Unlike a growing number of trainers Newfield still sets store by chaff which he uses constantly.
Newfield's training programmes have naturally been formed on what he observed as a young man. He names Ces Donald, F J Smith, Ces Devine and Jack Pringle as the best trainers he has seen. "I noticed that they always produced their horses on the big side," he says. "I try to do the same and this is partly why I race very few two year olds. They need time." He deplores the tendancy to drift away from 3200m races. "They made a lot of our horses because they didn't have to be worked up early. We could do with more of them."
Reinsmanship? Freeman and Maurice Holmes, Wes Butt, Jack Pringle and Bob Young are his tops and he also admires the driving of his good friend Jack Carmichael, who won a lot of races for the stable. "That was when Jack was younger of course," Felix adds with a grin. Newfield admits to being a collector of odds and ends. "We've three tractors on the property and never plough a paddock." He does however make a lot of his own hay, and fowls, ducks and peahens outnumber the horses on the property. His latest pride and joy are three peacocks brought from the North Island and there is the odd turkey as well.
Felix Newfield, as I said, has sometimes been a controversial figure but I found him candid answering the awkward questions. He will tell you what happened the day a Greymouth crowd gave him one of the noisiest receptions even that colourful area has witnessed. He says frankly that his own experience caused the public to miss seeing the best of Auditor, the finest horse he has ever trained. "He was phenomenal," Felix recalls, "and beat all the top horses of his day. But I was anxious to get him ready for the Cup and brought him back too soon after an attack of strangles. He was never the same again and had I known then what I know now he would have won a Cup." Auditor was owned by another long time patron in Jack Brosnan.
How does he react to the sometimes heard allegation that he is a tough cookie out on the track? "When Derek (Jones), Jack (Carmichael) and I started out years ago we were boys among men," he says, "and you had to quickly learn to look after yourself if you wanted to make it, because there were some great drivers about then. We did what we had to do and those days formed our driving patterns. These days it's easier and the old methods look worse than they are." He points out that young drivers have a much easier row to hoe today even though it is apparent that he feels the standards have slipped over the years. People in stands, he maintains, cannot properly read what is happening on a track particularly in a big race at Addington where you have to be in the race to experience what's going on. Newfield's ability in the cart was clearly evident in the Driving Championship held at Addington in March, which he won. Some of the horses he drove went a lot better that night than they had before and, in some cases, since.
He regards False Step as the finest horse he has seen and is adamant that today's horses would be hard put to match old time horses when it came to hardiness. "Jogging to the station, all night on a train, jogging to the track, having two races and jogging back to the train and so on was pretty testing," says Felix, "but they seemed to stand up to it." Returning to the topic of driving, he can recall the day he drove Swingalong in a race at Ashburton in which 40 horses started. Addington, by a mile, is the finest track he has driven on or seen.
Like I said at the start, Felix Newfield is a more complex character than he perhaps likes to appear. He has no doubt had his bouts of luck, good and bad, but there is also no doubt that he is a worker and the success he has had has not been lightly earned. Young men wanting to be top trainers should take careful note for it is consistently a hallmark of all top horsemen.
Credit: NZ Trotguide 6Jul77
STRAIGHT - Mystery Mare