George Noble, for many years one of New Zealand's leading trainers, experienced his greatest moment in trotting when Stanley Rio won the 1976 New Zealand Cup at Addington
Seventy-six-year-old Noble, born in Australia, has prepared many of New Zealand's top pacers in his long career, but no victory gave him more pleasure than to receive the Cup from NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club president, Eugene McDermott. George Noble races Stanley Rio in partnership with Christchurch farmer and businessman Wayne Francis, and his son John Noble, who drove Stanley Rio to his convincing two and three quarters lengths victory over Captain Harcourt and Fronto Prontezza.
For young Tasmanian Kay Rainbird, it was a nostalgic moment as she sat in the stand to watch the horse she bred with her father, win New Zealand's premier standardbred event. Kay bred Stanley Rio in Launceston in partnership with her father, but on his death, the colt had to be sold to help pay death duties. The Nevele Golfer - Rio Fleur youngster was purchased by Bob and John McArdle of the International Thoroughbred Agency, Melbourne, and they in turn sold Stanley Rio to Wayne Francis and John Noble. Wayne and John then offered a third share in the colt to Gearge Noble.
Stanley Rio did his early two-year-old racing in Australia, where he was successful once at Ballarat, before he was brought to New Zealand where he entered George's stable at Roydon Lodge. As a three-year-old last season, he maintained solid improvement throughout the year and was rated good enough by the partnership to send back to Australia to contest big events there. He won the Southern Cross Stakes, a heat of the New South Wales Derby before receiving a shocking run in the final, a minor race, and then went to Brisbane in June for the Queensland Derby, won the previous year by Noodlum. After winning a heat of this classic, he did not get the best of runs in the final and failed to make it two in a row for New Zealand.
He came through a solid preparation for this year's Cup, already qualified for the event, and showed he was at peak form with a win and an unlucky fourth at Auckland last month. The odds against a New Zealand Cup are always high, for not many even reach Cup class, but Stanley Rio was following in the footsteps of such great four-year-olds as Lookaway and Lordship, the only others of his age group to win the Cup.
The race was robbed of a lot of interest when the top North Island hope Final Curtain backed away just as the tapes were released. He, Master Dean and Lunar Chance, who drifted at the start when trying to avoid the breakers in front of him were out of contention virtually from the start. Stanley Rio bounced out best from Palestine, Fronto Prontezza, Eclipse, Speedy Guest, Captain Harcourt and Mighty Gay, then there was a gap back to Wee Win, who led the straggling remainder. Palestine, Forto Prontezza, Speedy Guest, Mighty Gay, Captain Harcourt all had turns at the front until Eclipse dashed to the lead at the 1200 metres. Stanley Rio, who had been pushed back on the inner, had worked off the rails in the meantime and was well placed in the fourth line on the outer starting the last 800 metres.
He moved three wide to avoid Mighty Gay, who was making no further forward progress, at the 600 metres and though sixth at the top of the straight, he was handy to lodge his challenge. Once asked to go, Stanley Rio soon put the issue beyond doubt and only had to be reminded of his obligations to go to the line nearly three lengths clear of Captain Harcourt. Captain Harcourt looked to be held up for a stride or two behind Eclipse at the top of the straight, but he never looked like bridging the gap to Stanley Rio. Fort Prontezza, who was shuffled back as the lead changed, made a strong bid from the top of the straight where he was seventh, to take third, only half a head fron Captain Harcourt.
Speedy Guest, who had the task of getting a run inside both Eclipse and Captain Harcourt, was nearly two lengths back fourth. He looked as though he could have played a more important part in the finish had he got clear earlier, though he too would have been hard pressed to catch the winner. Final Curtain staged a remarkable run for fifth two lengths back just ahead of Eclipse, Mighty Gay, the well beaten Lunar Chance and Palestine.
Stanley Rio's time for the 3200 metres was not a fast one, 4:11.5, but there is no doubting the Cup went to a very worthy winner.
Credit: Tony Williams writing in the NZ Trotguide
1976 NZ FREE-FOR-ALL
BRISBANE - STANLEY RIO