"Black Sheep" of the last trotting Cup field, and looked upon until he joined R B Berry's stable as a pacer who had missed his mission in life, Bronze Eagle showed his real worth on Saturday by as game a performance as any ever put up by a Cup winner. Trained to the minute by R B Berry, and driven with consumate judgement by G B Noble, Bronze Eagle proved that years and years of near misses and frustrated endeavour had not left him with any inferiority complex.
It takes the great to make history; it takes a horse like Bronze Eagle to bury a mediocre past, toss precedents to the wind, and shine forth as one of the greatest stayers of his time. Here was the horse that went dangerously close to being eliminated from the last Cup. This was the 'ghouri' that broke in that race, caused interference, and led the committee to sigh and express a heartfelt wish that they had included Bronze Eagle among those eliminated. And here also is the horse that has sent one of the writer's long-cherished precedents for a six right out of the paddock! We have been telling you for years that horses that fail signally in the Cup do not win in later attempts. Well, Bronze Eagle has put 'paid' to that pet theory with a vengeance; we promise you it will not rear its ugly head again.
We can only admire Bronze Eagle's delayed-action triumph. His redemption, which began when he won the principal event at a Patriotic Meeting in July, came late, but now that it has come, we are glad to concede this handsome chestnut stallion his rightful place among the champions of his decade; to acknowledge that, after all, he was no Sunday horse when he worked well enough in training years ago to win any race in the land. He was merely hiding his light under a bushel, and waiting for the day when a combination par excellence, such as the Bronze Eagle-Berry-Noble trinity, should eventually come to pass.
Bronze Eagle's share of the Cup stake is £3250, and in addition, his owner, Mr W J Suttie, receives the handsome gold cup valued at £100. Bronze Eagle's total winnings now exceed £8000. He was bred by Mrs M A Tasker, Christchurch, and is an eight-year-old chestnut stallion by Wrack 2:02¾, from Lady Bridget, by Guy Parrish (imp) from Bridget Galindo, a full sister to Michael Galindo, one of the best trotters of his day and winner of the Dominion Handicap. Bridget Galindo was by Galindo (imp) from Mavoureen, by Prince Imperial from Moino, by General Tracey. This is a stout pedigree, and should give Bronze Eagle a stud value later on. Wrack was the leading sire of the Dominion for three seasons and is still prominent on the list. Wrack has now sired the winners of five NZ Cups, namely Wrackler (1930), Indianapolis(1934-35-36) and Bronze Eagle. Guy Parrish sired some good winners and trotters, notably Wild Guy (National Cup), Great Parrish (Auckland Cup) and Biddy Parrish, 2:08 trotter. He was a full-brother to Arion Guy, 1:59¾, sire of the dam of Certissimus. Galindo sired some good horses of both gaits. Prince Imperial was one of the most potent breeding forces of his time, and his blood is prominent in the pedigrees of Haughty, Gold Bar and other great ones. General Tracey, by Berlin (imp) from Jeanie Tracey (imp) was one of the best-bred horses of the early days.
Phenomenal is the only way to describe Integrity's effort to run second after losing, at a conservative estimate, 84 yards at the start. He did not settle down until Haughty, the backmarker, was well clear of him, and he could actually be counted out with half a mile covered. He certainly made up most of his lost ground by the time the last quarter was entered upon, but with Haughty now in the lead, and Pacing Power, Bronze Eagle and Countless among the others also in front of him, few were prepared for his spectacular dash down the outside of the track which took him momentarily to the front. He had disposed of Haughty, Pacing Power and Countless, and for a split second he looked like the winner, but then Bronze Eagle flashed through on the inside, where the going was not so good, and he outstayed Integrity by a length and a half.
Bronze Eagle has found a warm spot in the hearts of horselovers who know all about his struggle to reach the top, and enthusiasm knew no bounds when the horses were returned to the birdcage. Thousands literally broke the barriers and crowded onto the track to give Bronze Eagle and George Noble a memorable reception. Again, when Mr A L Matson, president of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club, and Mr Forde, Deputy-Prime Minister of Australia, spoke to the presentation of the Cup, the crowd showed approval in whole-hearted fashion.
It was a magnificent race, a popular victory, and the largest crowd ever to attend Addington watched it with bated breath. The totalisator investments on the race, £31,758, are a record, and the £154,064/10/- put through the totalisator for the day is a record for the South Island.
It was another red-letter day in a chain of red-letter days that bedeck the history of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club.
1st: W J Suttie's BRONZE EAGLE. Trained by R B Berry, Yaldhurst and driven by G B Noble, started off 24yds.
2nd: V Leeming's INTEGRITY. Driven by D C Watts, started off scratch.
3rd: G Lancaster's PACING POWER. Driven by R B Berry, started off 36yds. Bracketed with the winner.
4th: F McKendry's COUNTLESS. Driven by G McKendry, started off 24yds.
The winner won by a length and a half, with three lengths to third and a further four lengths to fourth.
Times: 4:24 4-5, 4:30 1-5, 4:28 2-5, 4:30 2-5.
Also started: Clockwork scr, Hardy Oak 12 and Haughty 60 bracketed; Parshall scr; Shadow Maid scr; Burt Scott 12; Gold Bar 12; Horsepower 12; Indian Clipper 12; Loyal Friend 12.
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
"You know, I should have made it 1917, not 1915," says a somewhat rueful Cecil Devine. No doubt he is thinking of the date of birth on his licence application, the date which decreed that as from August 1 he was no longer able to drive a standardbred racehorse in either NZ or Australia. And no doubt, too, he is thinking that those two extra years might mean he would be able to continue driving his pride and joy, champion Lord Module, until he went to stud at the end of his racing career.
But rules are rules. In the trotting world as well as anywhere else. Cecil Charles Devine, born March 23, 1915, is openly critical of Rule of Trotting 90: "A professional horseman's licence shall not be granted to any person who, though not disqualified under Rule 84 hereof (a) is under the age of 16 years; or (b) is 65 years of age or over; or..." and so on. That's the bit that got at Cecil. "I have always been against the retiring rule. I firmly believe a driver should have to give up on a strictly medical basis; It wouldn't be so bad if a man could continue driving his own horses after reaching the age of 65 as long as he was fit."
Yes, it is an argument that has cropped up previously. Just about every time that one of the more prominent drivers has turned 65. Cecil presses home the point. "Morrie Holmes, Doug Watts, 'Gladdy' McKendry, Bob Young, Maurice McTigue, they all could have kept on driving long after they had to go. They were pushed out miles before their time. They were all fit men and trotting was the loser in more ways than one when they retired. "Their expertise was lost for a start; and name drivers encourage betting. Certainly, there is no lack of drivers today and there are some top young drivers, the likes of Peter Jones and the De Filippis. But there are others who could benefit through watching a top man. When I first got into trotting, I had to get out and drive against the top men."
And when did Cecil Devine first get into trotting? Back in the days of the depression. If it weren't for the depression who knows where he might have been now? He might even have been still practising at the bar. Legal men don't have to retire at 65. "I had the idea I might like to be a lawyer when I was at school. But after two and a half years at high school the depression hit and I had to give that idea away." It was just as tough in Cecil's native Tasmania (his father was a farmer at Collinsville, "up in the hills near Hobart") as it was anywhere else. Finding work was just about impossible. Cecil couldn't get a job. A lot of others managed to exist by "chipping the grass in the domain". And it was about this time Cecil first developed an interest in horses. He got a job with his older brother Eric, a prominent trotting trainer in Hobart at the time. He's still successful with horses, but has more recently had some top gallopers through his hands.
It was only because Eric could not afford to take the time off to bring a small team over for a month at NZ Cup time that Cecil ever came to NZ. "The horses belonged to a fellow named Rudd who bred a successful family of pacers, 13 of them in fact, from a mare called Milky Way. Among them were Evicus (he topped the points list at the 1936 Inter-Dominions at Perth), open class performer Cevius and Icevus (also placed at Inter-Dominion level and later stood here at stud). They were all good horses," Cecil recalls.
"I suppose I was about 20 at the time; I took on the job and was supposed to go back when the horses returned. But Wellington looked so good - they had a beautiful six furlong grass track at Hutt Park in those days - I decided to stay on to see if the rest of the country lived up to that early promise." Live up to it's promise NZ must have done; Cecil Devine is still here even though he does return regularly to his former homeland and is known as "Tas" by closer associates.
It wasn't long before he was offered a job with Vic Leeming who was training just out of Christchurch. Colonel Grattan was his top horse about that time; E C McDermott his number one driver. Cecil had driven a winner or two in Tasmania (he'd driven close to 400 when he had to retire) but can't recall with any certainty his first winner here. "Tonioro I think it was, probably at Omoto," is his initial recollection. But a check through the records of the time show that on December 31, 1938 Tonioro, driven by C C Devine , was beaten into second by a neck.
Still Cecil is more certain about the horse that got him started on the path that led him to his current situation. "It would have to be Teddy Gregg, a Quite Sure horse I leased and named after an Australian naval officer." Cecil had also leased a 20 acre property at Prebbleton some time earlier (the stables are still there, the track is gone) and spent most of his time breaking in horses for others, as well as doing a little training. Teddy Gregg was plagued with unsoundness and when tried as a pacer he couldn't stay. "I converted him to trotting and from then on he never looked back. He was in the money about 19 times from 21 starts. And he won four or five. I'd have to say he got me started. He must have won close on £2000. And about the time of the war, that was a fortune. Cecil never went to the war - "I was unfit they said" - but gradually gathered a small but useful team about him. "I got the odd good one or two and just went on and on from there."
Cecil has never had a large team to train. "I think the most I've ever had is twelve." But right from those early days there has been a good horse in the Devine team. Cecil screws up his face in the afternoon sun and starts to remember them. Great Wonder "she was a pretty good sort" who beat Johnny Globe (on a protest); Shadow Maid who was third in Gold Bar's 1945 NZ Cup; Bronze Eagle who had won the 1944 NZ Cup before coming to Cecil's where he died of tetanus; General Sandy "a top horse who beat Caduceus" and then one day dropped dead of a heart attack in training...the names roll forth. He didn't train them all when they came to their peak. Often they came to him after a run of outs and he got them going again.
One he had from the start was the champion filly Vivanti, incidentally by Bronze Eagle. She was a top juvenile winning the 1950 Sapling Stakes, the Juvenile Handicap at Addington from 24 behind - "a phenomenal run", the Welcome Stakes, the Oamaru Juvenile and so on. She beat Johnny Globe in a lot of those races but he came out on top when they met later in the year in the NZ Derby. However, she did win the Oaks.
The next year there was Van Dieman, the horse who was to give Cecil the first of his six NZ Cups and thus the wherewithall to allow him to consider buying his own property. He had every intention of buying a place on the Main South Road, not far from his present place; and Cecil minces no words when he recalls how he lost out in the bidding to another. "I was determined to have that place but eventually had to pull out when I realised I was in too far. The other chap would have kept going all day. He knew what my limit was." That same day, however, while doing some shoeing back at Prebbleton, a friend mentioned to him that the owner of the land he now occupies might be interested in selling. Cecil made the approach. True enough. The land was for sale. One hundred and sixteen acres of bare land were Cecil's. "The best thing I ever did. I've never had to consider expanding. It's probably the time to shrink."
By this time Cecil was married with a child, Bonnie, the red-haired girl who was later to marry Kevin Williams, the man who will be behind Lord Module this season. Cecil had met his wife 'Vonnie' while at Prebbleton where she was organist at the local church for ten years previously. Marriage "was too time-consuming" to continue that. Together they designed their present home, built another on the place as well as the track, stables and men's quarters.
A lot of young men have worked for Cecil and have then gone on to make their own names in the trotting world. Men like Jack Smolenski, Leicester Tatterson, Peter Yeatman, Jim Dalgety, Faser Kirk, Paul Gallagher. He's got a reputation of being a tough boss. "If paying attention to detail is tough, then I am tough," he admits. "When you don't take outside drives or have a big team, you have the time to be particular. And if your not, there is not excuse." He laughs when you suggest he has probably been responsible for putting a lot of people on the right track in his time. And then he confesses, he has learned something from most of those who have worked for him. "You develop your own ideas over the years, but you have got to be prepared to learn off others. Anyone who is not prepared to listen to others is doing himself a disservice. I'm still learning. I learned something the other day from someone who's been in the game only three months. And then when Lord Module had those cracked hooves, I had no idea how to get them right, even though I thought I was a fair student of shoeing. The mushroom shoe we used to fix them was Delvin Miller's idea. You have got to try every avenue to solve problems."
Cecil Devine expects as much from his horses as he does from his men. His philosophy towards training a top horse: feed well, work hard and not always fast, pay particular attention to that detail again. You must respect a top horse who gives everything; any owner, trainer or driver has to." Cecil stops and laughs and, looking straight at Mrs Devine: "but I don't think you get to love them as much as some people think." Mrs Devine races Lord Brigade in partnership with Cecil and it's obvious she thinks he's a good horse, even though he was just pipped at the post in Cecil's last raceday drive. Strangely enough, Mrs Devine has never driven a racehorse - "and I don't ever want to," she laughs.
Those top horses who give everything. Cecil has raced more than his fair share of them. Van Dieman won the NZ Cup in 1951, Thunder in 1956, the mighty False Step in 1958-59-60, Lord Module just last year. "That's far too long a gap," he laughs. Then there were the likes of Terryman, Raft, Van Rush, Drum Major, Bass Strait, Star Beam, Good Review...the list goes on. He has had some great wins in trotting. He's won a fair proportion of the big ones over the years. He reels them off: "Four Dunedin Cups, two Easter Cups, three Rangiora Cups, a Nelson Cup, three New Brighton Cups, Invercargill Centennial Cup, two Timaru Nursery Stakes, two Sapling Stakes, three Flying Stakes, two NZ Derbies, a Champion Stakes, Juvenile Stakes several times at Oamaru, Canterbury Park, Geraldine, Waikouaiti, Rangiora and Timaru Challenge Stakes, a Timaru Cup, Hannon Memorial, a Royal Cup and the big International Paces at Yonkers and Roosevelt..." the list goes on.
He finds it hard to pinpoint any particular highlight over the years. False Step's win in the $50,000 National Championship Pace at Yonkers in 1961 would be one, winning the 1954 Royal Cup when Van Dieman came with a withering run to beat Thelma Globe and Zulu and then meeting the Queen is another. "That would have to be a highlight; most people would have cut off their arm to win that race. Of course in those days you didn't meet or see royalty very often. Now, with the ease of travel, royalty is almost commonplace." Cecil also remembers February 15, 1964 with particular enthusiasm. that day at Addington horses by Van Dieman filled the first three placings: Van Rush driven by Morrie Holmes, Raft (C C himself) and Young Dieman (Paul Gallagher). "They were the only three horses by him in the race; it would have to be a unique feat."
Two years ago he was loathe to compare any of those top horses against the other. But now, he doesn't hesitate to say that Lord Module is the best of all his champions. "It's hard to compare horses of different eras, but Lord Module has done so many good things. False Step didn't have as much speed as Lord Module, but he was a top racehorse, Van Dieman was probably faster but needed to be covered up; Lord Module can do it from anywhere over all distances.
Cecil has been asked time and again when and if he is taking Lord Module to America. Usually it's been accepted that he will before settling back to a life as a stud stallion. But Cecil has never sid yes or no definitely. But now he says Lord Module will go...provided he races up to last year's form. And provided "Mum lets me go". "You can go," Mrs Devine is quick to reply. There are, however, no definite plans. You get the impression Cecil would like to win another NZ Cup before heading away. The stud career is definite. Nothing is more certain. There have been offers already to stand the horse "with full books guaranteed". But there's time for that. "He's the living image of Globe Derby," Cecil says fossicking around for a photograph of "the greatest sire ever" to prove his point. "It's uncanny, even down to the one bit of white on one foot."
The Cup won't be beyond Lord Module again. If anything, says Cecil, the son of Lordship has come back bigger and better than last year. "He's matured, he's very strong. Personally I think he will be a lot better than last year. He feels good in the sulky." Which is where Cecil won't be on raceday, and that makes him just a little sad in another way too. He thinks that only by driving a horse in a race can you really tell what he needs. Still, son-in-law Kevin Williams has been handling the horse in work and at the trials without any bother so it's now up to them on raceday. No-one else has ever driven the horse before. Cecil's been told that when he takes the horse to America he "shouldn't drive the horse" himself. He should get "a good driver". "Well, what's he going to do with a good driver on him?" Cecil asks. "It would be interesting." It's hard to tell whether or not he's annoyed at having that advice given him. Still, as long as he is fit, he intends to drive himself in America. There's no rule to stop him there. And he is fit. He is up and about by 7 of 7.15 every morning, and works hard enough to keep himself fit. "You must stay pretty healthy working out in the fresh air all the time...even if it is a bit too fresh sometimes these mornings," he says.
If he weren't 65, Cecil Devine would do the same thing all over again. "It's given me a pretty good life; I started with nothing and don't need anything now. I've had a lot of luck and I've had a lot of good horses (he's figured in the finish of 11 NZ Cups with Shadow Maid and Blue Prince as well as those others) over the years. Yes, I'd do it all again."
Of his last season, he was disappointed he couldn't get anything to go right in Sydney ("Lord Module wasn't half the horse he was here") and that he was only second in the Auckland Cup. Still he has a lot of admiration for the horse that beat him on that day, Delightful Lady. "She's a good mare, of that there is no doubt. That day, she was well turned out and very well driven. No doubt about that either.
Cecil means it when he says that. He has got a reputation for straight-talking, even though he can be a bit cagey about revealing future plans. His forthrightness has often got him into trouble with officialdom on racedays but as he says: "I always call a spade a spade. And I don't believe in being run over. If your right, it pays to stick to your guns. I've always done that."
He prefers not to talk about the time he was suspended after a battle with Jack Litten down the straight at Addington, except to mention that he did lose a few good horses through his suspension. Enough said. He remembers just as well his last drive down the straightwith Lord Brigade. "It was close you know," he say a little wistfully. "I would like to have won. Still you can't win all the time. I think I've won my share."
Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 11Jul90
C C (Cecil) Devine, who died in Christchurch last week aged 75, was a battler who clawed his way from being a nonentity to fame an fortune in the hard school that is NZ harness racing.
Content to train a small team, even when big success did come his way, Devine neverthless compiled a record in the nation's most prestigious harness race - the NZ Trotting Cup - that is second to none. He won the great event six times, and, while this equalled the training feat earlier in the century of the great James Bryce, Cecil drove all his winners, whereas Bryce shared the driving honours with sons Andrew and James jnr.
Devine's record is likely to stand the test od time.
In his hey-day, with some of his owners not averse to having a punt (and embued with great confidence in the judgement of their trainer), some of NZ's best-known book-makers refused to accept wagers of any sizeable amount on horses from Devine's stable. Devine trained with a purpose. He was a man with very set ideas and, as (sometimes)officialdom and (always) those who crossed him came to learn, he stood up unflinchingly for what he thought was right. When the chips were down, he was a hard man to beat - not only on the track but anywhere. To those he liked, Devine was a generous and loyal friend; to those who got on the wrong side of him, there was almost invariably no reprieve.
Born in Tasmania in 1916, Devine was drawn into trotting through his elder brother Eric, who worked with and drove horses. Hopes to become a lawyer were dashed by lack of wherewithal and opportunity in depression times that saw Cecil, after three years at high school, leave to work in a horse stable. In 1936, when brother Eric was unable to assist trainer Fred Rudd with the good Tasmanian performers Evicus, Icevus an Emlilus on a visit to New Zealand, Cecil got the trip. He was to be here for a month, but stayed for good.
Impressed by the sport here, Devine was readily persuaded to join up with the late Vic Leeming, training at Prebbleton. But, as second-string driver in the stable to Eugene McDermott, opportunities were few and far between. In 1938, Devine went it alone on a little property at Prebbleton, from where his first success as a trainer came with Prince de Oro, whom he rode to win a saddle event at Westport on Boxing Day, 1939. It was two years before Devine won again - on the Coast with trotter Teddy Gregg; and a few weeks after that he won with the same horse a non-tote race at Addington.
It was 1945 before Devine made his first NZ Cup tilt, and this was with Shadow Maid, a good race mare who had been handed to him after losing all semblance of form. Under his guidance, she finished third to Gold Bar and Integrity in a memorable Cup race. Better horses began coming into Devine's stable, and around 1950 he was making his mark with good pacer Good Review and crack filly Vivanti. The latter, bred by Devine and sold to the late Bill Parkinson, won the Sapling Stakes and NZ Oaks and was second in the NZ Derby before Parkinson sold her to Australia.
A milestone in Devine's career came when he leased, with right of purchase for $1000, Van Dieman (U Scott-Reno) as a two-year-old colt from Brian Forest, of Kaiapoi. In an outstanding career for Devine, who eventually bought him outright, Van Dieman won the 1951 NZ Cup and Royal Cup at Addington in 1954. Devine became a national hero as he received the congratulations of the Queen and Prince Philip.
In 1953, Devine left the small Prebbleton stable for a 46-hectare property at Templeton that he transformed from a bare patch of land into a model training establishment. Apart from Van Dieman, one of the first stars from his new property was Thunder, who made a meteoric rise through the classes, culminating with success in the 1956 NZ Cup. A big, rangy son of Light Brigade and Jack Potts mare Busted Flush, Thunder's maiden winat Methven was memorable. He collided with a rival at the start, dislodging Devine, who ran behind, caught hold of the sulky and climbed back in. Making up 100 yards to catch the body of the field, Thunder continued on to win the race to rave reports praising both horse and driver.
Other good horses in Devine's stable at this stage included Starbeam, Great Wonder, Nancy Lee and General Sandy (who was on his way to the top when he dropped dead soon after downing Caduceus in the NZ Pacing Championship). Next came Invicta, who, after winning his way to a tight mark, was despatched to the stable of Steve Edge by Devine. Along with the late Jack Litten, Devine had been suspended from driving for six months for their memorable whip-fight at Addington in 1957. If he couldn't drive Invicta, Devine didn't want to train him. But for this, he would almost certainly have added another NZ Cup to his bag. Under Edge, Invicta, as an 11-year-old, sprang a boilover winning the 1961 NZ Cup.
By now Devine had taken over False Step, inheriting him from the Litten stable following an argument between Litten and owner Jim Smyth. Winner of 14 races including the NZ Derby under Litten, False Step carried on under Devine to win 19 more races in NZ, and in doing so joined Indianapolis as the only three-time winners of the NZ Cup. False Step's Cup wins were in 1958, '59 and '60. Devine then campaigned him in New York. After tragically being stood down from the first leg of the 1961 Yonkers International Series when a blacksmith drove a nail into the quick of a hoof, False Step finished unluckily second to Australian star Apmat in the second leg. And while Devine won the third and finasl leg with False Step, with Apmat fourth, the Australian was awarded the title on points. Shortly after, False Step (now sold for $115,000 to American polaroid tycoon Jack Dreyfus) was driven by Devine to win the Frontiers Pace at Yonkers, with America's champion pacer Adios Butler only fifth.
More vivid in the memory of current-day harness racing fans will be Devine's great exploits with Lord Module. Buying this son of Lordship and the Bachelor Hanover mare Module through the National Sale for a mere $3000, Devine developed Lord Module into one of the most capable pacers pacers produced to this time in New Zealand. Despite a recalcitrant streak which cost him dearly at the start of many of his races, Lord Module won 28 of 93 races ans was also 40 times placed.
Highlights of his career were his 1979 NZ Cup win and his 1:54.9 time trial in 1980 in weather conditions all against a fast time at Addington. In his final race in the 1981 Allan Matson Free-For-All at Addingtn, Lord Module came from last to first to win brilliantly in the hands of Jack Smolenski, one of several one-time employees of Devine who went on to make names for thenselvesin the game.
Devine was forced to retire from race driving at the end of the 1979/80 season. After Lord Module's retirement from racing and standing him at stud, Cecil pottered with a horse or two, but his heart never really appeared to be totally in it from that point. Though he didn't show it, Devine took great personal satisfaction from the success of his son-in-law Kevin Williams with his NZ and Auckland Cups winner Master Mood. Devine's final race win was with Cheeky Module, a son of Lord Module, driven by Smolenski to win a maiden race at Motukarara in January, 1988.
The great trainer is survived by his wife Avonnie and his daughters Bonnie (Williams) and Debbie (Carolan).
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE by Dave Cannan
He was, unquestionably, one of the old school of trotting, long before it became fashionable to call the sport harness racing. And he was proud to be a trotting man, proud sometimes to the brink of vanity and egotism.
But then Cecil Devine had a lot to be proud of and while he never, in my experience, actively sought public recognition for his numerous achievements he was not one to take the self-effacing approach when the media became interested in him or his horses. Why? I never asked him and, if the truth be known, I was probably too intimidated to risk such an impertinent question. My educated guess is that Cecil worked so hard, battling his way from anonymity to world-wide fame, that he wasn't about to give anyone else the credit. And who would deny him that?
Cecil Devine won the NZ Cup six times, training and driving False Step (three), Thunder, Van Dieman and Lord Module to win the country's greatest race. James Bryce also won six Cups but Cecil, rightfully, claimed the record outright as Bryce only drove four. Its possible, but highly unlikely, someone will eventually take that record from Cecil and if "Tassie" is looking down on Addington the day it happens I'll bet dark clouds will magically appear on a bright and sunny November day, and grumble ominously in discontent.
Cecil, who died in July, 1990, aged 75, didn't live long enough to see one of his proudest achievments wiped from the record books - Lord Module's 1:54.9 time trial mile - and while I mourned his premature passing as much as most people, in a way I'm glad Cecil was spared that. Not that I would detract an ounce from Starship's 1:54.5 effort on a hot sunny day at Richmond in 1992 but who of us present could forget the drama and excitement of that cold, wintry night at Addington in 1980 when Lord Module set his mark more than 13 years ago. Not Kevin Williams, who drove the galloping prompter with frozen fingers, not Cecil Devine, who wiped the dew from the sulky as Lord Module prepared for his epic dash, and not me or the thousands of others who stayed on after the races were over to cheer on their champion to such an astonishing time.
And 18 months later they were cheering again when Lord Module denied all odds for the last time to win the Matson Free-for-all, downing Gammalite and Armalight in a race that threatened to bring the Addington Grandstands down. Cecil, forced into unwanted retirement, had to watch like all the rest of us from the stands and before the race began he walked quietly into the press room and slipped some tickets into my pocket. Knowing I rarely risked a dollar on the tote, Cecil had backed up my wavering - and his unflinching - faith in the much-troubled Lord Module with his own cash.
But later, when I chose to spend the proceeds on a mounted action picture of Lord Module, which still (hopefully) adorns a wall in the Addington press room, Cecil was openly furious with me, pointing out the dividend could have - and should have - been spent on my wife or young children. "You always look after your own first...always," he chided me and as epitaphs go, I think it's one of several Cecil Devine would have found appropriate.
Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 9Sep80
Ron Bisman writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 14Sep55
'Jack' Pringle loves horses; and horses love 'Jack' Pringle. A brief sojourn at 'Clifton Grange,' Templeton, recently was allthat was needed to impress that upon me. And surely, every visitor to J B Pringle's training quarters would leave with the same train of thought.
When I arrived at Pringle's I was amazed at the number of old and broken down horses roaming around the paddocks. I asked him about them. "That's Acropolis, and there's Parawa derby and Lahore," and there was so and so...and he named for me the various once-talked-about-now-forgotten standardbreds who ambled up to cast bedimmed eyes upon us. "The no-hopers, I call them," he said. "If nobody wants to take them away when they've finished racing, I feed them - give them a home for life." I remarked that Acropolis looked in good order. "Yes, Mr and Mrs Adams, who raced him, bring him carrots regularly," the trainer told me. I said I thought he had enough to look after, to which he replied with a smile: "You haven't seen anything yet. There are four cats, two dogs and a magpie around the place somewhere, and always on hand at feed time."
Pringle was 'born among horses'. His father the late Andy Pringle, was a famous horseman in his day, and was for many years private trainer to the late Mr H F Nicoll. He ranked as one of the finest reinsmen in the Dominion, and his success in saddle races for trotters was outstanding. He was the leading reinsman of the Dominion in the 1914-15, 1916-17 and 1917-18 seasons. Mr Nicoll once said of him: "Andy Pringle was probably the best all-round horseman of his day; it was rarely he took my horses to a meeting without winning one or more races. His integrity was an intrinsic part of his nature...Pringle was always in great demand by other owners to ride and drive horses, and for many years there was rarely a race run, when he was present, in which he was not engaged. The sport lost an admirable exponent when he retired. I have nothing by happy memories of my association with him."
When J B Pringle left school, it was decided that he should work in an office. He could not stay away from horses for long, however and, upon his own decision, he left his office job and took up employment at Yalhurst under the late M B Edwards, a very prominent trainer at the time. From there, Pringle transferred to Sir John McKenzie's establishment, where he worked under the American horseman, R B Plaxico, in the late 1920s. Good winners from that stable at the time were Acron and Silk Thread.
Pringle was acquiring valuable knowledge, and his next employer, L O Thomas, who then trained at Hutt Park, soon entrusted him to race driving. On December 26, 1930, on the first day of the South Wairarapa Trotting Club's annual meeting, Pringle brought home his first winner - Messrs Murray and Connelly's Ailsa Bingen. On the second day of the meeting, he won again with this mare, from 48 yards, over a mile and a quarter. Later that season, he drove Glenrossie, the star member of Thomas's team, to win over a mile and a quarter at Auckland. Glenrossie, a gelding by Matchlight from Alice Dillon, owned by Mr J McDonald, was an iron horse. In 11 seasons racing he won 15 races and was 27 times placed for £6210. His successes included a consolation race of an Inter-Dominion Championship series. Pringle learned much from Thomas's early handling of this high-class performer.
In the 1932-33 season, Pringle took up private training for the late Mr J R Corrigan at Hawera, and while there prepared and drove El Merit and Arabond with success. His next move was to Tamahere, where he set up as private trainer for Mr Wilfred Johnstone in 1934. That season he won races with Transworthy and Lady Fame, but in 1936 he returned to the South Island to act as head driver for the late R J Humphreys.
In his first season with Humphreys, Pringle quickly established himself as a skilful reinsman. He had few outside drives, but ended the season with a tally of 12 successes. His winners included Windsor Lass, Esplendor, Olive King, Violet Wrack, Sonoma King, Mystery Yet and Loyal Pat. The following season he shared the driving of the horses from Humphrey's stable with G Mouritz, and gained 10 wins, four of them with Cantata.
In 1938-39 Pringle really came into his own, and he topped the reinmen's list for the first time with 29 successes. That season, Humphreys finished third on the list of trainers with a tally of 28. Pringle's best winners were Windsor Lass(5 wins), Acuity(5), Blair Athol(4 including Wellington Gold Cup), Cantata(3), and Donald Dhu(3 including Timaru Cup).
During the following season Pringle began training on his own again, at Domain Terrace, Spreydon, on the property formerly used by the late J J Kennerley. That year his success as a reinsman totalled 21 and as a trainer 12. He trained and drove Stormtost for four wins, Windsor Lass for three, Loyal Pat for two, and Passport, Mortlake and Lady Milne for one each. With a similar team the following season, he won 15 races and was successful as a reinsman on five other occasions with outside drives. Channel Fleet and Special Edition, who each won three races that term were prepared by him, while Bronze Eagle, who he drove to win three races, was an 'outsider'. Ronald Logan, Knapdale Lass and Busted Flush were good winners trained and driven by Pringle in the 1941-42 season, when he finished fifth on both lists, with 15 and 13 successes respectively.
Watcher, Busted Flush and Frank Logan kept Pringle to the fore the following season, but after three successes as a trainer in 1943-44, he gave up training. His 13 wins as a reinsman that season, however, placed him third on that list. Five of those successes were with Gold Flight, and three, including the Methven and Gore Trotting Cups, were with Dianus.
During the following two seasons he was seen to advantage with such good horses as Casabianca, Caledonian Girl, Jack's Son, Galvena, Indian Clipper, Technique, Cabin Boy, Margaret Hall and Lady Scott; but late in the 1945-46 season he transferred to Wellington to train privately for Mr J Spiers. In his brief stay at Wellington he prepared the good trotter Ariel Scott for several important placings. Pringle returned south the following season, and set up training at Hornby. Late that term, Mrs N M Adams placed the Dillon Hall-Seaworthy gelding Acropolis with Pringle, and he immediately won five races in succession with him. Another good winner from Pringle's stable that year was A H Todd's Coral Princess. Driving members of S T Webster's team, Pringle won the Wishful and Dominion Handicaps and the New Brighton Trotting Free-for-all with Casabianca, and four races with Fairy Wings. He ended the term in fourth position on the drivers' list with 23 successes.
During the 1947-48 season, Mrs Adams took Acropolis away from Pringle because he had missed the nominations for the gelding for the Inter-Dominion Championship meeting at Auckland. A few days later, after the programme for the Dunedin Centennial Cup meeting had appeared, she returned the horse to Pringle, and told him that if he won the Centennial Cup it would "square things up". Acropolis had trained off, and Pringle's ability to condition horses for major races was well illustrated when the gelding scored a clear cut win over Highland Fling in the big event. That was a training triumph if ever there was one. Other good winners for Pringle that term were Fairy Wings, Pardon Me and Maudeen. In 1948-49 Maudeen, Fortuna and Lady Averil kept Pringle well in the limelight.
In 1949-50 he trained and drove the winners of 20 races, finishing fifth on the list of drivers and seventh on the list of trainers. Mr R Lewis's Lady Averil did not win a race that term, but her placings included a grand performance to finish a close third behind Loyal Nurse and Captain Sandy in the NZ Cup. With Mr L T Paget's good Dillon Hall gelding, Parawa Derby, Pringle won six races, and he gained three wins each with Mr G Lancaster's 2-year-old, Yankiwi, and Mr E Sheed's Winston Hall.
The 1950-51 term proved a 'boom season' for Pringle. He topped the drivers' list with a tally of 31 and the trainers' list with 27. The best of his team that season was Parawa Derby, who won six races and gained a meritorious third placing in the Inter-Dominion Championship Grand Final at Addington. Parawa Derby in 1951 established a NZ and Australian mile and a half record of 3.07 2/5 which stood until first lowered to 3.07 1/5 by Rupee in 1954. Both these were race efforts.
Drs A C and A S Sandston's Thelma Globe, in her first season under Pringle, won four races as did Messrs R J Marshall and V C Caldwell's 3-year-old colt Radiant Night, and Lahore whom Pringle raced in partnership with Mr E McMaster. Thelma Globe won another five races under Pringle in 1951-52. Radiant Night(4 wins) was the next best of the team, while Parawa Derby's lone success was in a free-for-all at Hutt Park. Altogether that term, Pringle gained 12 successes as a driver and 15 as a trainer.
His major success in the 1952-53 season was in the Autumn Stakes, in which he produced Mr R Porter's Kissing Cup to win at the expense of Johnny Globe. Kissing Cup also won the Timaru Handicap under Pringle, while Lahore(3 wins), Financial(2), Thelma Globe, Radiant Night, Amarant and Thelma's Advice were other winning members of the team. In 1953-54 Pringle won four races and £9240 with Thelma Globe, and she was the leading stakes-earner for the season. Her main success was the Auckland Cup, while she beat all but Van Dieman in the Royal Metropolitan Cup. Thelma Globe was developed by Pringle into one of the greatest mares ever raced in this country and her 4.11 for two miles is still a world record for a mare.
Pringle has been several years at the 'Clifton Grange' property, which was once used as hunting grounds. Some of the old stables stand still. Mrs Pringle, who is a sister to the trainers, D G and T C Nyhan, is keenly interested in the sport, and she knows the name and breeding of every horse on the property.
As I turned to leave 'Clifton Grange,' the trainer called me back. "If you are going to write anything about this place, I'd like you to say that I've got two good boys working for me - Dave McKinley and Ian Aitken," he said. I don't wonder that he is one of the most popular men in the game. Here are his distinctions: 307 successes as a reinsman, 178 successes as a trainer, and last, but not least - a heart of gold.
'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 11Sep63
J B (Jack) Pringle's address these days is No 3 R D, Amberely. He has been successful in recent seasons with the pacer Estimation, and his name again appears among the licensed trainers and horsemen for the current season. Long may it continue to do so - Jack is one of the most talented men ever to hold the reins in the light-harness sport in this country. Few of his contemporaries would begrudge him this compliment.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 14Sep55
The death of R B Berry removes NZ's most successful trainer of pacers and trotters of modern times. His list of classic and leading handicap winners is unrivalled in Dominion light-harness history. He 'made' most of his own champions, juvenile trotter or pacer, sprinter or stayer. The eminence he attained in his profession was in large measure due to his all-round knowledge of the horse from the foal stage, to his great patience, his almost uncanny sense of balance and perfection in the gaiting and educating of young horses, his instinctive love of all animals, his innate 'horsesense.'
The Thomas Murphy of Dominion trotting will be missed. The sands of time may reveal him as the same legendary figure in trotting as the late R J Mason has become in racing.
Berry was originally associated with the gallopers, and, like many other valuable recruits from the sister sport, he was forced out of the saddle by increasing weight. As a youth, he was apprenticed to Free Holmes, and later rode for M Hobbs and T Quinlivan. His most important riding success was on Sinapis in the NZ Cup of 1913. He also won the Thompson Handicap on Lagoda, McLean Stakes on Marsa, Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes on Charmilla, and was on Stardancer when she dead-heated in the Stewards' Handicap of 1912.
It was on his return from the Great War that Berry turned his attention to trotting, and the first horse he trained and drove was Coldwater; but it was the 'Bingen mares' that played an important part in putting Berry on the road to success, just as truly as Berry proved that the 'Bingen mares,' properly handled, were equal as racehorses to those of any other breed. It must be explained here that, due to their fiery and uncertain temperament, mares by Nelson Bingen had let themselves in for wide prejudice, and many of the breed were not even raced because of this 'set' against them.
The first of the Nelson Bingen mares Berry sent to the top was Escapade, and she not only became the champion trotting mare of her time, but she also beat pacers bordering on Cup class. Sea Pearl and Jean McElwyn were two pacing daughters of Nelson Bingen who took high honours and were big money-winners for Berry's stable. Sea Pearl was the leading stake-winner one season and Jean McElwyn, who stood little over 14 hands, was the 'pocket battleship' of her time and a genuine public favourite. Machine Gun, an Australian pacer, was a big stake-winner for the stable and reached Cup class. So did Dundas Boy, a fine pacer who was placed in a NZ Cup. Bingen Starr, Koro Peter and White Satin were high-class trotters sheltered by the Berry stable upwards of 15 years ago. Koro Peter and White Satin were both juvenile champions.
Two of the greatest stayers and 'characters' Berry trained were the trotter Trampfast and the pacer Rollo. Trampfast was described by Berry as "intelligent, game and reliable." He was well into double figures when Berry took him in hand after this grand trotter had been absent from the racetracks for a period of 18 months, but he developed better form than ever, and won the Dominion Handicap and other races. He also competed successfully against high-class pacers. Rollo was the antithesis of Trampfast in temperament. He was completely devoid of brains. Berry himself declared the big Jingle pacer had a vacuum between his ears. But he became a high-class winner and was a natural stayer. A problem on the mark, he had no idea of how to fill his hopples once he mis-stepped at the start, but he never stopped trying when he did go away at all well.
Berry's first acquaintance with mares of the Rey de Oro breed was not an inspiring experience. It was his turn to become prejudiced. For years he would not have a mare of this speedy family on the place. One day Mr D R Revell plucked up sufficient courage to ask him to take a yearling filly by Rey de Oro from Yenot. Berry agreed to do so, but only under pressure. Thus arrived Parisienne, the greatest mare of her time, winner of the Sapling Stakes, NZ Derby, Great Northern Derby, and numerous other races, including the Grand Championship at the Inter-Dominion series held at Addington in 1938.
Berry achieved his life's ambition as a trainer and driver when he won the NZ Trotting Cup with Lucky Jack and so completed the NZ Cups double Sinapis(1913), Lucky Jack(1937). Lucky Jack still ranks as one of the finest stayers of all time, as he went on to finish second in the Cup of 1938 and won again in 1939. Lucky Jack was also an outstanding performer at Inter-Dominion Championships, and his other important successes included the National Handicap and Timaru Cup.
Great Jewel, who joined Berry's stable late in life, was the leading stake-winner of the Dominion one season when he was trained at Yaldhurst, and if he had been sound he would probably have been a champion. Pacing Power was a great horse for Berry from the time he won the Timaru Nursery Stakes. He went on to win the Sapling Stakes, Derby, Ashburton Cup, NZ Premier Sprint Championship, and finished third in two NZ Cups. Sprigfield Globe, who came from Australia to join the stables some three seasons back, became one of the most brilliant pacers of recent years, his successes including the Mason Handicap and the NZ Premier Sprint Champuionship
One of Berry's greatest triumphs, and his last, was to train Bronze Eagle to win the £5000 NZ Trotting Cup of 1944; a triumph because general opinion was that this grand pacer had passed his prime before going into Berry's stable. Bronze Eagle also won the National Handicap and All Aged Stakes for Berry.
As a trainer of Classic and leading handicap races. Berry had an unrivalled record. His successes included: NZ Trotting Cup(Lucky Jack, twice, & Bronze Eagle); NZ Derby(Parisienne & Pacing Power); NZ Sapling Stakes(Parisienne, Pacing Power & Acropolis); NZ Champion Stakes(Attorney & Horsepower); NZ Futurity Stakes(Horsepower & Pacing Power); Great Northern Stakes(Horsepower & Bohemian); Great Northern Derby(Valdor, Parisienne, Horsepower & Acropolis); Canterbury Handicap(Rollo & Southern Chief); Canterbury Park Juvenile Stakes(Sandiways); Canterbury Three-Year-Old Stakes(Globe Direct); Dunedin Cup(Great Jewel); National Cup(Lucky Jack & Bronze Eagle), Dominion Handicap(Trampfast & Pilot Peter); Timaru Nursery Stakes(Walter Moore & Pacing Power); NZ Sires' Produce Stakes(White Satin); NZ Trotting Stakes, Timaru(Paying Guest); NZ Trotting Stakes, Addington(Fantom); NZ Premier Sprint Championship(Springfield Globe & Pacing Power); All Aged Stakes, Ashburton(Horsepower & Bronze Eagle).
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Jan46
1945. With the end of the Second World War, the Cup Meeting reverted to a three day format and the stake of the Cup was increased from £5,000 when Bronze Eagle won the 1944 contest, to £7,500. According to “Ribbonwood” writing in the NZ Trotting Calendar at the time this stake made it not only the richest horse race in NZ, but “the largest prize for a straight-out light-harness contest in the world”.