"We'll start in everything how except waterjumps." So said a jubilant Dr Harry Crofts after Camelot ran out a three quarter length winner of the NZ Cup at Addington.
Camelot edged past the pacemaking Dillon Dale in the final 100 metres of the $125,000 feature to score a popular win. Dillon Dale lost second in the shadows of the post to Our Mana, while Hands Down headed the remainder some four lengths away.
While all the glory of the win went to Camelot, the Cup was marred to a great extent by a melee with a little under 700 metres to run in which the chances of seven horses were extinguished. George Shand, the driver of Borana, was suspended up to and including December 15 after being found guilty of causing interference to Diamond Moose at the 700 metres. Diamond Moose (Murray Butt) was brought down in the incident, while Double Cove (Jack Smolenski) fell, Enterprise (Peter Shand) fell, Supreme Ruler (Richard Brosnan) fell, Stampede (Gavin Hampton)lost his driver, as did Stortford Lodge (Paul Young). Also hampered badly in the incident was Norton. Peter Shand and Jack Smolenski both needed hospital treatment, Shand dislocating a shoulder while Smolenski broke an ankle. None of the remaining drivers were badly injured, mainly being shaken and bruised. Several horses had skin grazes but none were seriously injured.
Camelot settled back on the outer for Robin Butt. The pre-race and race-day favourite made his move with some 950 metres to run, improving three wide and being followed all the way by Our Mana. Camelot had just joined Diamond Moose at the 700 metres when the melee took place. Dillon Dale, who had broken at the start and lost up to 40 metres, looped the field on the back of Hands Down to lead at the 1500 metres. He still had control as the field swung for home and, despite his early mistake, fought back tenaciously when challenged by Camelot. Camelot edged ahead slowly but surely as the post loomed and had three quarters of a length over Our Mana at the line. The latter fought on well after trailing Camelot up from the 950 metres and coming off his back with 150 metres to run.
For 57-year-old Harry Crofts, the Cup win was a lifetime ambition fulfilled. After running second to Steel Jaw in his record run Cup 12 months previously and then winning the NZ Free-For-All, Camelot bounced back to form with a win from 29 metres in Mid-October. That return to form, plus his effort in the Cup a year earlier, brought Camelot to the forefront of discussions.
Said Harry Crofts at the presentation: "I would have cried if he'd lost...I can cry now that he's won."
Camelot will have further chances to demonstrate his ability before the season is completed. He will leave on November 20 for Sydney where he will contest the Australian Pacing Championship at Harold Park. After that he will be aimed at the Auckland Cup, followed by the Inter-Dominions at Moonee Valley in March. "After that it's off to the Meadowlands for the World Cup," said Harry Crofts. A tilt at that rich world class event will probably depend on his efforts during the next few months.
"I was never really worried," said Robin Butt after the race. "He was a bit slow early, but I gave him time to find his feet." Butt,41, has had Camelot in his care since being broken in by Alec Wright. The horse has had his share of problems in the last 12 months, a virus attack in Auckland last December and a lot of minor setbacks since have not helped the stallion. "He has kept right on improving this spring," said Robin Butt, "and peaked on the right day." While Camelot missed the melee at the 700 metres, he was involved in minor incident on the way to the course," said Harry Crofts. "He took a bit of skin off his rump. It was probably a good thing," he added. "I think it may have woken his ideas up a bit."
Camelot's victory in the Cup was only the third occaion on which Harry Crofts had seen his horse win. "I came over for the Cup meeting last year and saw him win the Free-For-All on Show Day," said Harry. He arrived back in New Zealand last March after spending two years stationed in Saudi Arabia. "I saw him win at the Canterbury Park meeting...and now today."
Harry Crofts has been involved in the trotting industry since 1950. "I bought my first horse when I was 23," he said. "I'd just qualified as a doctor and with my first wage bought a .22 rifle and the second a horse." Whether the gun was later used on other standardbred purchases Harry didn't say, but he added that he had raced "over 40 horses" since that time, "winning the odd race here and there", but that Camelot was by far the best he had had.
Harry Crofts bred Camelot from the Blue mare Blue Brook, a mare he purchased in 1971. "I was busy in my rooms the day Alan Holmes was having a sale and I asked Wayne Francis to buy a mare for me," said Mr Crofts. "I liked Blankets but knew she would fetch too much so I told Wayne to go up to $1500 to buy her three-quarter sister Blue Brook, who was in foal to Fallacy at the time. He only had to go to $1250 to get her then, after having a look at her blood, asked if he could go halves in the mare with me. We couldn't decide on who would take the first foal from her so agreed to let our wives have the first foal and then take alternative foals, with myself starting off." Apart from Camelot, Blue Brook has left minor winners in Timely Jubilee, Cover Story (US 2:02.4) and Brookby Blue. Camelot is the first Cup winner from the Norice family to which he belongs. Norice, herself a top mare, so many years ago, ran second in the 1904 NZ Cup.
While the honours were with Camelot, good runs came from the two other placegetters, Our Mana and Dillon Dale, especially the latter. A little slow early, Our Mana sat back behind Camelot all the way. Colin De Filippi didn't miss a beat when Camelot and Butt improved with 950 metres to run. Like Camelot, Our Mana was particularly lucky to miss any interference from the melee at the 700 metres. He followed Camelot until well into the straight, pulled off his back with 200 metres to run but couldn't bridge the gap. "Every chance," said Colin De Filippi after, "we were beaten by a better horse on the day."
The effort of Dillon Dale in finishing third was a feature of the race. The Takanini-trained seven-year-old galloped away and lost 40 metres before trainer-driver Don Dwyer could settle him into a pace. After catching the body of the field with 2400 metres to run, he improved three wide following Hands Down and took command with 1500 metres to run. With the winner running the 3200 metres in 4:06.4, one would have expected Dillon Dale to be struggling when the pressure was applied, but he fought back tenaciously all the way down the straight and lost second in the last few strides, being only half a neck away from Our Mana.
Fourth, four lengths away, was Hands Down. He began well from ten metres and Peter Jones improved him wide to lead with 1900 metres to run. He took a trail when Dillon Dale swept up and into the lead with 1500 metres to run but was under pressure to hold the trail at the 400 metres. He battled bravely to the wire.
Northern hope Te Puke Expects was fifth. He trailed early then settled back on the fence. He was under pressure a fair way from home and only battled. He comfortably beat Hilarious Guest, who lead from the 2400 metres to the 1900 before trailing. She dropped away from the 600 metres and was clear of the Australian champion Gammalite. He began well from 30 metres but was forced three wide from the 2400 metres. Bruce Clarke improved the gelding to sit without cover with a lap to run but Gammalite was obviously a beaten horse with 400 metres to run.
Only Norton and Borana of the remaining eight runners completed the course. Norton broke at the start and lost 20 metres before settling. He was making a move to follow Camelot and Our Mana round when badly checked in the accident at the 700 metres, his chances being extinguished.
Credit: Brian Carson writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
If Dillon Dale's third in the NZ Cup was an outstanding effort, it paled in significance when measured against his success in the Benson and Hedges NZ Free-For-All.
The northerner credited his young Takanini trainer Don Dywer with his most satisfying success to date on his first campaign at Addington. Dwyer felt prior to the Cup Dillon Dale would distinguish himself, and he was right. The seven-year-old Gaines Minbar stallion lost 40 metres at the start, swept up to the lead in the middle stages and fought tenaciously to the wire when headed by Camelot and Our Mana even closer to the post. So the young trainer was out for revenge when he came up against Camelot and Our Mana again in the mobile 2000 metre Free-For-All, and revenge he got, albeit in the hardest possible manner.
When Cup winner Camelot and Te Puke Expects blasted out of the gate, Dillon Dale went off stride. He settled quickly, but was at the tail of the field and in trouble. Further disaster struck at the end of 300 metres when he broke again and his chances looked hopeless. But after a suicidal first quarter in 26.3, Camelot backed the pace off and Dwyer was quick to take advantage. With a round to go, he swept forward and was up outside Camelot at the 1000 metres. The pace quickened appreciably, but Camelot surrendered quickly at the 500 metres when Dillon Dale put his head in front. Under Dwyer's urgings, Dillon Dale opened up a winning break at the top of the straight, and was never seriously tested, winning by a length.
Enterprise, who lost his driver in the Cup, finished gamely after making a run wide on the turn and just took second by a neck from Cup runner-up Our Mana, who had every chance but just battled into third. He only just lasted for third by a nose from the solid finishing Stampede, another to lose his chance along with his driver in the Cup. Stortford Lodge ran on late for fifth clear of Gammalite, whose run was disappointing. He was struggling to stay in touch at the 800 metres and, though sixth home, was only a shadow of the horse who has thrilled New Zealanders on previous visits.
Just as disappointing was Camelot, who stopped badly to ninth. Trainer-driver Robin Butt attributed his defeat to "That first quarter - he's never gone that fast before in his life". Dillon Dale's time for the mobile 2000 metres was 2:28.1, a mile rate of 1:59.2.
Credit: Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
Sydney-trained Steel Jaw demonstrated just why he has been tagged the "Mittagong Mauler" in his home country when he eclipsed his nine rivals in the 1983 NZ Cup.
Steel Jaw, in the hands of trainer Norm Lang who trains the horse at Mittagong, some 100 kilometres south-west of Sydney, left the cream of New Zealand's pacers struggling in his wake as he coasted to the line nine and a half lengths clear of Camelot and Bonnie's Chance in the $100,000 Addington feature.
Steel Jaw set a race and New Zealand record in winning, running the 3200 metres in 4:05.3, a tick over a second better than Hands Down's record and five tenths of a second inside Delightful Lady's previous New Zealand best.
The celebrations surrounding the victory were quickly dampened, however, when Ossie Marr, part owner of Steel Jaw, overcome with the sensational success of his horse, collapsed shortly after the presentation. Quick action by the St John Ambulance brigade on course saved Mr Marr's condition from worsening and he was rushed into the intensive care unit of Christchurch Hospital.
Steel Jaw became the find of the early season in Australia when, after a change of ownership and trainer, he strung together 15 straight successes. Formerly owned and trained in Victoria, Steel Jaw was bought by Ossie Marr and life-time friend Stan Everett for only $5500 "including postage", said Mr Marr, meaning the transportation of the horse to Sydney. A novice class pacer (maiden) when purchased, Steel Jaw had recorded only a second and third in 11 outings. The sale was negotiated without either Mr Marr or Mr Everett seeing the horse. The two owners placed their trust in the judgement of a close friend, Peter Sandford, who had first brought the horse to their attention. It is a decision they have no regretted.
Steel Jaw is five. He is by the American import Gaviland from the unraced mare Ardeer and was bred by S G Harrison and Mrs M Maxwell of Leeton, New South Wales.
While Steel Jaw is a true Australian, he does have a slight New Zealand connection. His dam's sire, Danny Hanover, was bred in New Zealand.
He raced with distinction in and around Sydney and won a heat of the 1959 New South Wales Derby. He was by Smokey Hanover. Mr Marr and Mr Everett took charge of Steel Jaw in March and he started racing for them in May. Within four and a half months he was racing against the best pacers in Australia. He strung together 15 straight wins before the $1M pacer Gammilite broke his sequence at Harold Park late in September. Steel Jaw was only third that night - Willadios, a rival in last week's Cup - splitting the two. At his next start Steel Jaw faced up against Popular Alm at the grand opening of the new Albion Park complex. He was not disgraced in running second, after racing without a trail all the way, running his mile in just over 1:56.
Disaster nearly struck at his penultimate outing to the Cup when Steel Jaw was involved in a skirmish which saw him lose driver Norm Lang after 200 metres of a mile event at Harold Park on October 26. "I thought the trip was off when that happened," said Ossie Marr. "He's a clever horse, he clipped the gig and tipped Norm out, but, after going without a driver for a couple of hundred metres, pulled himself up and waited to be picked up by the clerk of the course." That Steel Jaw suffered on injury was apparent in his Cup victory.
Steel Jaw arrived in Christchurch last Thursday week, along with Willadios and Scotch Notch. He gave an indication of his ability when worked over 3200 metres on the Sunday prior to the Cup. That workout was completed in around 4:14 for the distance and the horse was then given barrier practice from a stand. In the 18 starts Steel Jaw has had from Norm Lang's stable, all have been mobiles and there was a train of thought that suggested the horse may not be capable of beginning with the field. At the pre-Cup dinner at Addington on Monday night, Norm Lang was asked whether the horse could improve on the time. "He could go a couple of seconds faster," was Lang's answer, which brought a round of laughter from the gathering.
Steel Jaw showed just how much he could improve on that time in the Cup. He was the best away from the start - Hands Down breaking with Camelot, and Our Mana was slow to find his feet after striking trouble. Steel Jaw led at the bell from Sun Seeker trailing, Hands Down without cover, Willadios three back, Derby one out one back, Enterprize, Camelot, Bonnie's Chance, Our Mana and Ben. Steel Jaw appeared to be pulling from the 1600 metres to the 600 but Norm Lang said after it was just "a very tight hold." When given his head, Steel Jaw raced away from his rivals and before the pair swung into line they had already established a winning break. It was increased as they ran to the line. "He went well all the way," said Lang after, "Hands Down tried to kick us along at the half way but I said "no way" to his driver when he asked for the lead."
There was no excuses for the beaten runners. Camelot provided the other feature of the race, coming from second last at the 500 metres for second. He lost ground at the start but driver Robin Butt said there was no way he could have won anyhow. If they hadn't brought him over we might have won the race," he added. Bonnie's Chance was a game third. She made up a good deal of ground over the final stages but was no match for the winner. Ben was a useful fourth, this time holding the placing - he was disqualified from a similar placing last year.
Our Mana and Derby were next home. Our Mana lost ground at the start. He made a brief run at the leaders 600 metres out but only battled in the straight, while Derby appeared to have every chance though he was hampered by the tiring Hands Down about 150 metres out. However, he was a beaten horse at that stage. Enterprise was seventh after having every chance. Hands Down was next. Peter Jones tried to wrest the lead from Steel Jaw after improving three wide at the 2300 metres. He was left without cover from that point on and was a beaten horse 400 metres out. Sun Seeker, after enjoying a perfect run in the trail, dropped out to beat to beat only the other Australian, Willadios, home. Brian Hancock, trainer-driver of Willadios, said he had no excuses. "We didn't seem to be going that fast," he said when noting the time. He added that he thought Steel Jaw was improving with every run and that he did not think the horse would be too far inferior to Popular Alm. "We Aussies got the quinella," he added, "first and last."
The day was a good one for Australia. As Ossie Marr said at the presentation, "You came over and pinched our Cup last week (Kiwi - Melbourne Cup), now we've come over and pinched your one."
Steel Jaw's success was of even more significance for Ossie Marr. Tuesday was his seventieth birthday and there is no better way to celebrate such an occasion than with victory in such a prestigious event as the NZ Cup. A retired grocer, Mr Marr has raced a few horses over the years. Elegant Jamie won 25 odd races for him and he also has a good pacer in Black Peter who won 10 races from Norm Lang's stable last season. He added that there was another horse, Dazzling Diamond, a three-year-old, ready to win more races in his colours as well.
Steel Jaw's other owner, Stan Everett, 50, could not make the trip because of business commitments. However, said Mr Marr, he was sure his partner would be over the moon with the news of the success. "I'm usually a $20 punter," said Mr Marr, "but this time I put $50 on him, so I suppose you could say we were a bit confident he could win."
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar
Constant pressure, applied for 1800 of the 2000 metres in the Benson & Hedges NZ Free-For-All, brought about the downfall of the NZ Cup winner Steel Jaw at Addington. This time rival drivers were awake to the talents of Steel Jaw, and set about putting the pressure on right from the start.
Driver Norm Lang sent Steel Jaw in search of the lead from an outside barrier draw, but Stampede, Bonnie's Chance and Our Mana all went with him, forcing the Australian to cut out the first 400 metres in 26 seconds. From then on, it was no rest as Enterprise and Bonnie's Chance re-applied pressure with a round to go, and kept it on through the first mile in 1:57.2.
In the meantime, Robin Butt, driver of New Zealand Cup runner-up Camelot, and Peter Jones, driver of beaten Cup favourite Hands Down, were biding their time. As Steel Jaw, Bonnie's Chance and Enterprise began to show signs of strain on the home turn, Camelot swept up wide with Hands Down on his outer. These two drew clear and settled down to a torrid battle, which Camelot won by a long head.
There was no more delighted man on the course than Camelot's owner, Dr Harry Crofts, who had travelled all the way from Saudi Arabia to see the Cup carnival. Though Friday's win was Camelot's eleventh win, it was the first time Harry had seen one of them. Camelot's main mission now is the $180,000 Auckland Cup in February, with possibly a tilt at the Adelaide Inter-Dominion to follow the same month.
Hands Down, showed all his old fight, was gallant in defeat, while Stortford Lodge, who only graduated to such exalted company with a win on Cup Day, fought on gamely for his third though over three lengths back. Northern visitor Ben made up a lot of ground for a close fourth after settling back, while Enterprise, trapped three wide for most of the way, fought on gallantly for fifth. Not surprisingly, the others who took part in the hectic early battle with Steel Jaw had little left at the finish, Our Mana finished seventh, Stampede eighth, Bonnie's Chance ninth and Steel Jaw tenth.
Norm Lang admitted to being a little disappointed with the Cup winner's run. "Yes, he was a bit disappointing, even though he was under such pressure all the way," he said.
Camelot paced the mobile 2000 metres in 2:27.2, a mile rate of 1:58.5.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar