The 1924 Cup Meeting brought together a number of fine performances, with individual highlights being recorded by the likes of Acron, Great Bingen, Great Hope, the imported Jack Potts, the 3-year-old Kohara and the trotting mare Nikora, who downed a field of 17 in the Dominion.
The Cup itself was another triumph for Australia, with Sheik, owned, trained and driven by Sydney's Peter Riddle, stalling off the game bid of the little Great Hope and Andy Bryce, who was the third member of his family to drive in the race. Riddle was a fine horseman and had been competing with success for a decade at Addington, where he had a team of six at this time.
Sheik was among them, having arrived the previous season, and his form was such that he was favourite along with Acron, both appearing well handicapped on 36 yards.
Great Bingen, in his first attempt at the Cup, was given 72 yards however and owner John McKenzie was so unhappy that he withdrew him, only to then watch Acron go the wrong way at the start.
Acron, who won the Free-For-All on the second day in Australasian record time for the mile of 2:03 3/5, was to be the beginning of a long history of disappointments for the McKenzie family in the great race.
**Credit - New Zealand HRWeekly 8Oct 2003**
The seven-year-old stallion Sheik became the third Australian-bred horse, after Durbar(1908) and Adelaide Direct(1917), to win the New Zealand Cup. Only two more Stanley Rio(1976) and Steel Jaw(1983), have followed.
Sheik's victory was a popular one because he had shown himself to be a top-class horse. He was well supported, being the second favourite after Acron. Betting on the race reached £17,000, with Acron and Sheik carrying half of the invested sum.
Sheik's sire Bonnie Chief was by Chieftain from Clare, by Childe Harold. Francesca, his dam, was by Franz from Phoebe, both by Vancleve. John Cameron, of Moree in New South Wales, bred Sheik and was on the course to see the horse win. Sheik had been leased to trainer Peter Riddle, who in the previous year had bought the horse outright when Cameron disposed of his racing stock. Riddle was Sydney-based and had his first experience of Addington racing in 1914, when he unsuccessfully campaigned a team at the Cup meeting.
In the 1923-24 season Sheik was campaigned in New Zealand and from six starts had two wins, two seconds, a third and a fourth. Riddle had six horses in training at Addington for this meeting and Sheik, because of his good form the previous season, was always one of the favoured candidates after the handicapper had set h9im on 36 yards. One owner far from satisfied with the 60-yard handicap given his horse, Great Bingen, was J R McKenzie. McKenzie withdrew Great Bingen from the race. He was left with his other representative, race favourite Acron, but the horse whipped around at the start and was out of the race.
The outstanding mare Onyx was handicapped on the back mark of 84 yards in the 12-horse field. She had won the August Handicap and National Cup from 72 yards in August and earned her impostion. However, Onyx was always too far back in the fast-run race to have any chance. First Carbine, like Acron, lost his chance at the start. Paul Default, from the front, led out, and was followed by Blue Mountain King, Great Hope, Tatsy Dillon and Sheik. After a mile Sheik took the lead, and entered the last lap ahead of Realm, Great Hope, Taraire and Vilo. Taraire and Great Hope, the Bryce pair, closed on Sheik nearing the home bend and Taraire looked the likely winner. However, Sheik shook him off and then withstood a secod challenge, from Great Hope, eventually winning by a length from Great Hope, with two lengths to Taraire. Then came Realm (who went a fine race for Bill Tomkinson from 72 yards), Vilo, Tatsy Dillon, Paul Default, Alto Chimes, Blue Mountain King, Onyx, Acron and First Carbine. The Auckland pair, Blue Mountain King (who had won the 1923 Auckland Cup) and First Carbine, were disappointing. Blue Mountain King and Realm were by Ribbonwood and were bred in Australia.
Only one saddle race was programmed on the first day, with these events gradually being phased out in favour of sulky racing. Although Addington's betting had peaked, the club kept faith with it's many owners and trainers and offered £15,450 in stakes over the three days. Racing on the second and third days was exceptional, with Acron, Great Hope, Great Bingen, Jack Potts, Kohara and Nikora providing the highlights. Acron, who failed completely in the Cup, gave a great display of pacing, winning the Free-For-All in a record 2:03.6, beating the previous best Australasian time of 2:04.2, set by Happy Voyage against time. Realm was second and Logan Chief third. Great Hope won the Courtenay Handicap in a record race-winning time of 4:24.4 from Sheik, and capped a fine meeting when he won the final event, the Spring Handicap. Great Hope started from 60 yards and paced the mile in 2:07.8. From the three races at the meeting the Bryce star performer recorded two wins and a second.
Great Bingen, heavily backed, won the Hagley Handicap on Cup Day and Jack Kennerley reappeared with his budding champion in the Christchurch Handicap on the final day. Already on a 72-yard handicap, Great Bingen was just beaten into third by Vilo and Dolly Dillon.
Jack Potts won the Metropolitan Handicap and then the Victoria Handicap, recording his fourth victory in nine months. The American-bred stallion became one of New Zealand's most successful sires. For nine seasons in succession (1937-38 to 1945-46) he was leading sire.
In his first outing as a three-year-old, Kohara won the Australasian Handicap. The previous June, Kohara had won the 1923 Sapling Stakes at Ashburton. He proved his juvenile form was the promise of better things to come when he won the 1927 New Zealand Cup for James Bryce. Nikora, an aged mare, won the Dominion Handicap from 16 others.
The horses did not take all the limelight at the 1924 carnival. Andrew Bryce became the third member of the Bryce family to sit behind a NZ Cup contender, taking the drive behind Great Hope. Owner George Barton had the pleasure of seeing his Bell Harold win the St Albans Handicap on Cup Day. Barton's name was to appear 10 times on top of the owners'list between the years 1927-28 and 1937-38 - unquestionably he was one of the most successful owners in New Zealand harness racing history.
The opening event on the third day was the Governor's Handicap for trotters. A youthful Maurice Holmes, then only 16, drove Wonder Why, from the 60-yard mark, into third place, but he had to wait a little longer for his first success.
**Credit - Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**