Sun Chief, one of the Dominion's top pacers in his heyday, is to be retired from racing. He had more than his share of bad luck after reaching five years of age.
During the last two seasons, Sun Chief failed to return to his earlier good form, his failure to do so being due, no doubt, to his being involved in more than one accident in races.
Sun Chief commenced racing as a 2-year-old in the 1958-9 season, and met defeat only once in six starts - in the NZ Sapling Stakes. That season Sun Chief won the NZ Golden Slipper Stakes, the Canterbury Park Juvenile Stakes, the Timaru Nursery Stakes, the NZ Welcome Stakes and the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes.
At three years Sun Chief won four races, including the NZ Champion Stakes and the Great Northern Derby in 3.14 1/5. Sun Chief was also narrowly beaten in the NZ Derby by Stormont after meeting with interference.
Sun Chief commenced his 4-year-old season on a winning note in the Louisson Handicap, a success which brought him right into favour for the NZ Cup that year. His prospects of success in the big event were further strengthened when he beat a strong field in the Hannon Memorial Handicap by a length and a half. Sun Chief made a game effort to win the Cup at four years, but was caught and beaten in the last furlong by False Step - an out-and-out champion.
Sun Chief won the final of the Dunedin Festival Cup as a 5-year-old, his sole success at that age. Since then, Sun Chief has raced removes below his best form, but last season he managed a fourth in the NZ Cup won by Lordship.
Sun Chief is a handsome bay horse by My Chief from the Dillon Hall mare, Jenny Dillon, a direct descendant of the imported mare Bonnie Jenny. In all, Sun Chief won £12,360 in stakes in the Dominion, the result of 12 wins and 14 placings in 62 starts. He also won a substantial amount in Australia.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 1Apr64
False Step, leaving the barrier with machine-like precision, had cut his handicap to ribbons within half a mile, and in a tense final dual with Sun Chief he gained the ascendency in the last 50 yards and won his third New Zealand Cup in a row with bulldog courage.
False Step was still at least two lengths behind Sun Chief with a furlong to go, and when False Step was inclined to hang in it momentarily looked like Sun Chief's day, but sheer grit and superlative staying power saw False Step gradually reduce the gap and draw alongside Sun Chief, with the last 50 yards all False Step's - his official margin was half a length; his last mile was run in a torrid 1:59 1-5, last half mile in 57 4-5secs. - a phenomenal effort - and his concluding quarter in 29 4-5. His full time, 4:09, has only once been bettered in the world, by Johnny Globe in his record-breaking 4:07 3-5 in the 1954 New Zealand Cup.
"The greatest horse in the world," declared a veteran sportsman who has seen all the Cup winners and legions of others before the Cup was established. Perhaps the finest stayer, anyway.
The race was the best seen for years, and one of the cleanest. There were no incidents during the running apart from the bobble put in by Lookaway fairly early, and no excuses could be made for those who finished behind False Step.
Sun Chief lived right up to the high opinion held of him, paced a grand race, and was far from disgraced in going under to a pacer of the calibre of False Step. His driver, D Townley, who had him well placed all the way, said after the race, "I thought I had my first New Zealand Cup won half way up the straight, but the other horse was too good." Sun Chief just failed, in a game attempt, to do what Lookaway did, win the Cup at four years. Sun Chief's share of the stake, £1350, brings his total earnings in New Zealand to £8915. He has also won something over £3000 in Australia, a grand effort for one of his age. In his year, Lookaway won £10,285 in the Dominion. Lookaway, who bobbled during the journey, finished five lengths behind Sun Chief, beating Invicta by three quarters of a length. Lookaway stripped in good order and although well beaten by False Step and Sun Chief, paced a creditable race, his first at a totalisator meeting this season. He was given every assistance by driver M Holmes.
Robert Dillon broke at the start, taking no serious part in the contest, and Lady Belmer was very slow. Lady Shona, Invicta, Blue Emperor and Fourth Edition were the most prominent early, and Con Scott, Sun Chief, Responsive, Auditor, Scottish Command, Lookaway, False Step and Thunder were next. At the mile and a quarter, Con Scott lead Invicta, Fourth Edition, Lady Shona, Sun Chief, Blue Emperor, Scottish Command, Auditor, Responsive, Lookaway, False Step, Thunder and Lady Belmer. With a round to go False Step made a forward move but was forced wide at the showgrounds bend. Going down the back straight False Step was following Sun Chief and when the last named hit the front shortly after turning for home, False Step was followed by Lookaway and Invicta. When pulled out to challenge it momentarily appeared as though False Step would not get Sun Chief, but his undoubted stamina combined with his perfect condition carried the day. After Invicta came Auditor and Fourth Edition with the rest beaten off. Invicta paced a sound race for fourth after being close up all the way. He turned for home in front but could not match the finishing runs of the first three. He was produced in first class order by trainer-driver S D Edge, and raced right up to his earlier form this season. Auditor's effort for fifth points to his being seen in a winning light before very long.
False Step, who with his bracketed mate, Thunder, was sent out favourite on both machines, received a wonderful reception on return to the birdcage. False Step paced the first half mile in 61secs, mile in 2:08 2-5, mile and a quarter in 2:39 3-5, mile and a half in 3:09 4-5, and full journey from post to post in 4:07 3-5. His success on Tuesday brought his record to 20 wins and 29 placings for £31,860 in stakes, including approximately £1000 won in Australia. False Step's win gave C C Devine his fifth training and driving success in the race. Only one trainer has turned out more winners, the late James Bryce, whose score was six, and Devine is still a mere lad as trainers go. False Step's next big mission will be the Inter-Dominion Championships at Addington, possibly followed by a visit to Yonkers Raceway in the United States later
False Step was bred by his owner, Mr J Smyth, is an eight-year-old horse by the Light Brigade horse Fallacy, a New Zealand Derby winner, from Dainty Direct, by Dan Direct-Queen Betty, by Four Chimes-Dot Robbins, by Frank Robins. As in previous years, False Step's Cup preparation was timed with his trainer's usual finesse, and on the day it is doubtful if False Step has ever looked better.
Interest had been mounting weeks before the event and tension was running high as the horses were called into line by the starter. One of the biggest crowds, 20,000, seen at Addington for years filled the lawns and stands on Tuesday to see False Step do what Indianapolis did - win his third New Zealand Cup. On-course investments on the race were up on those of last year as also were the off-course figures. This year the on-course total was £21,673 10s as against £20,925 last year. Off-course, £25,977 was wagered, compared with £24,670 10s last year.
On-course totalisator figures at Addington on Tuesday reached £189,199 5s as against £160,348 10s on Cup day last year, an increase of £28,771. Off-course figures also showed a substantial rise, investors wagering £182,914 compared with £139,038 10s last year.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 9Nov60