YEAR: 1970

James & J A Donaldson

James, the little black iron horse from Tinwald, gave his owner-trainer, Jim Donaldson, the greatest of all pleasures with a magnificent stamina-loaded performance to win the $25,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington on a glorious Tuesday afternoon.

The manner in which he won and fought of the likes of True Averil and Stella Frost at the furlong scotched once and for all the frequently expressed view that James was no good "down here." In that final and bitter quarter James never flinched an inch, and the huge crowd that jostled into every vantage point in sight thrilled to one of the grandest finishes ever witnessed.

Before going on it must be mentioned that while James won with sheer grit and courage, Manaroa must be classed as being desperately unlucky not to have won. His break after pacing for the first few strides must have cost him a good 60 or 70 yards and one private clocker had him giving the leaders eight seconds on settling down. One watch tabbed him with gross time equivalent to 4:03 - to storm home within half a length of the winner after losing so much makes his effort astonishing to say the least.

Still thats racing - the Cup has gone to James and his wandering owner who entered the light harness sport 15 years ago. Jim, who must have been close to slipping into the roaring forties at the time, decided to have an interest in trotting after the success his brother, Hugh, had with a grey mare called Quite Contrary. His first horse was La Valla and then came horses like Dresden Blue, one of the Dominion's greatest trotters in Control, Tarseal and Rockin Robin. And ever since La Valla, every horse he has raced has won races.

Then in 1959 he arranged to go down to Gore where a dispersal sale of Mr J H Peterson's racing stock was being held. Up for sale was Responsive, an Attack mare who had already won five races and been 19 times placed, but at 275 guineas bidding stopped and she was passed in. A short time later Jim bought her for 300 guineas, and she carried on for him to win another four races including a Methven Cup, earn a total of $11,715 in stakes and compete unsuccessfully in the 1960 NZ Cup. Unfortunately, Responsive's stud career was a brief one, and James is her only progeny. Her first foal, a colt by Thurber Frost, died, her second foal was James, and 12 months later she died before foaling to Thurber Frost.

It would be hard to find a tougher piece of horse than James anywhere in the country. Up he comes week after week and from 109 all time starts has pocketed $45,425 which makes him second only to Chequer Board in total stake money won amongst all horses still racing.

Responsive was sired by Attack, a quality black horse by Light Brigade and a very good racehorse. Attack reached NZ Cup class and at one stage won eight races in succession. He gained further fame some seasons ago when his son First Variety sired the Inter-Dominion Grand Final winner, First Lee. Attack has been at stud in Australia for some years and has about 50 individual winners to his credit. Responsive was out of Russley Girl, by Grattan Loyal from Ecstatic, by Jack Potts from Ecstacy, by Logan Pointer, and thus claims three of the strongest pacing strains New Zealand has had. Responsive was the best winner left by Russley Girl, who also left Australian winners in Leyoro, L'Etoile, and others in On Probation, Russley Song and Russley Boy.

The race was soon underway with Stella Frost, James, Intrepid and Co Pilot comprising the front group, while Monsignor, Manaroa and Upper Class failed to keep their gait and Rhinegolde and Radiant Globe were slow. Shortly after the start Wipe Out and True Averil broke. For a few furlongs it was a bit ragged with James in command for a while, but he was challenged by Lords who quickly took over and led them into the last mile. James had the run with Stella Frost on his back and then we saw Co Pilot, Intrepid on the fence, Chequer Board, Garcon Roux, Radiant Globe, Wipe Out, Cuddle Doon,Leading Light, True Averil just beginning a dab three wide, Rhinegolde and Manaroa. Upon reaching the half some cards were starting to be played. James had run up and passed Lords with True Averil pressing on from Stella Frost, Radiant Globe, Intrepid, Co Pilot, Garcon Roux, Rhinegolde, Leading Light and Cuddle Doon, with Manaroa still appearing miles out of his crease.

On sweeping into line five had broken away from the bunch and True Averil was the first to tackle James with Stella Frost coming out and Intrepid not being able to produce anything extra. James fended them off with stout heart and then came Manaroa's whirlwind sprint down the fence that nine times out of ten would have won any race in the world. What a finish it was. Stella Frost was beaten in the battle for the $15,000 by a neck with Manaroa a head back, half a length to True Averil and then came Radiant Globe, Leading Light, Intrepid, Garcon Roux, Wipe Out, Chequer Board, Monsignor, Upper Class, Cuddle Doon, Co Pilot, Rhinegolde and Lords - last.

There was no loitering this year - unlike last year's contest - and the winner finished racing after 4:11.2. The first quarter was passed after 32.4, with the first half taking 64.2 and the six furlongs in 1:35.8. The first mile came up in 2:07.5, the mile and a quarter in 2:40.4, the mile and a half in 3:10.6, the mile and three-quarters in 3:41, and so the last mile was run in 3:03.3. Only those on course could appreciate the speed of the rabbit's run (Manaroa), but his last mile must have been cut out in close to two minute time or even better.

Few of the drivers had much to report after the event, although Derek Jones said he was "tickled pink" with Leading Light's great race for sixth. Before signing off one must commend Peter Wolfenden for the masterly way he handled James in winning his third New Zealand Cup. His tactics and terrific driving intuition played no small part in the success of James. Previously "Wolfie" had won with Cardigan Bay in 1963 and Garry Dillon in 1965. Generally the race lived up to everybody's expectations and the finish was as exciting as one could have ever thought possible. There were some disappointments including Intrepid's failure to do better than a plodder's seventh, Rhinegolde's 15th and Monsignor's 11th. On the other hand Radiant Globe, Leading Light and True Averil, the first three to arrive behind the placegetters, all ran solid races and appear likely to collect some of the cash prizes during the meeting.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

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