Since 14-year-old trotter Monte Carlo won the first running of the NZ Trotting Cup at Addington in 1904, this time-honoured and prestigious event has invariably provided devotees of the sport with great excitement.
Seldom more so than in 1916, when fire completely destroyed the 18-month-old steward's and member's stand overlooking the birdcage, where today stands the course's plush new edifice, completed last year to replace the one built when the first structure was razed. So vital was the Cup to the 20,000 fans on course that day 74 years ago that there was no thought of abandonment of the race.
Its start was delayed for an hour and a half, and with the crowd evacuated from the stand to watch from ground level or alternative vantage points, the Cup was run through a thick pall of smoke which swarthed part of the track and led to a three-horse spill with a lap to travel
Said "The Press" on the morning after:
"About 1:15 pm, a gentleman upstairs in the stand remarked to a friend that it seemed to be getting warm, and, being of an enquiring nature, he prodded the floor with his walking stick in several places, ceasing his inquisitiveness when his stick went through the floor and smoke and flames were seen through the hole made. Officials were notified, and several got to work with a small hose and buckets. Those persons still in the stand were quietly told to leave.
More drastic action followed. The floor-boards were torn up, and a call went to the Christchurch Fire Brigade, who did not turn up at once, owing to the racecourse being outside the fire district. Superintendent Warner, the Fire Chief, was on the course, and, when made aware of the situation, called the brigade on his own authority. The well-intentioned efforts of those who tore up the floor-boards to get at the seat of the fire misfired, as the strong draught spread the flames.
The fire took a strong hold, and soon the large glass panels at the ends of the stand cracked and fell out. Saving the building became hopeless. Shortly before 3pm, the fire had practically burnt itself out. The roof and all the big iron girders had fallen in, and only the shell of the lower story remained."
The fire had first been noticed after the second race. As the field for the Cup paraded in the bircage for the Cup (the third race on the programme), it became obvious that the fire was serious, and the horses were sent straight out on to the track. On Fire Chief Warner's observation, "the stand is doomed," the word to evacuate was given. For a time it appeared the fire might also spread to the nearby public stand, which was already blackening with the heat. At 1:45pm, not long after the last members left their stand, the roof collapsed.
While the public had an extra hour in which to place bets on the Cup race, this, according to one report was not much use, as there was so much smoke around that no one could see the tote indicators.
A capacity field of 17 contested this Cup. Eccentric (Jack Brankin) made the pace. When still in front in thick smoke with a lap to run, he skipped and brought down Succeed (Lou Thomas), Brown Bell (W R Thomas) and Erin's King (Albert Hendricksen). Cathedral Chimes, who won the race, was a top pacer of his day and later a successful sire. He gave outstanding horseman James Bryce his first win in the Cup, and was a bargain buy, having been secured by his Southland owner, J B Thomson, for a few pounds. The previous season he had won the Auckland Cup. Evelyn, driven by Andy Pringle, was second, and Admiral Wood (Free Holmes) was third. Off 36 yards, Cathedral Chimes scored by six lengths and clocked 4:31 1/5 for the two miles.
Arguments about the stand continued for days. The fact that the band employed by the club had played throughout the day, uninterrupted by the fire, was a amusing sideline. Fusing of an electric cable in the building was said to be the source of the fire. The stand had been completed at Easter, 1915. It was generally considered it could have been saved had the fire regulations permitted the brigade to be sent to Addington when the first call went out. Built at a cost of £8000, the structure was insured for £8500 to cover improvements.
Apart from all that, the event was notable for the record number of 17 starters and Cathedral Chimes providing Scotty Bryce with the first of six training wins in the race. Bryce was the leading trainer in New Zealand that season after arriving only a few years earlier. His horses on an accompanying boat had been shipwrecked, but arrived later and set him on the way to a career a one of our greatest horsemen.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 31Oct90
Australian-bred mare Adelaide Direct added another one for the fairer sex when she outstayed what was considered the finest field yet assembled, with those down the track including Cathedral Chimes, Author Dillon, Win Soon, Agathos, Steel Bell and Admiral Wood.
The latter gave up to nine seconds start to some and not surprisingly made little impression when Adelaide Direct paced a race record of 4:27 4/5.
More excitement at the meeting was caused by an explosion of benzine in a store, causing a fire which destroyed the stables of Ben Jarden at Islington.
**NZ HR Weekly 1Oct 2003**
The Australian-bred mare Adelaide Direct made it three New Zealand Cups in four years for her sex when she outstayed what was considered a field of the fastest pacers assembled for a race in New Zealand. Adelaide Direct had shown form in a number of important races since making her first excursion to New Zealand in 1915, as a member of Manny Edwards' team. She was a 10-year-old by Directway (an American stallion at stud in Australia), from an Honest Harry mare.
From her seven-second handicap, Edwards had her well-positioned all the way. She settled in fifth place behind Moneymaker, Soda, Agathos and Evelyn at the end of half-a-mile. Edwards sent her to the front in the back straight on the last lap and she turned into the home straight ahead of Cathedral Chimes, Agathos and Author Dillon. She was not tested to win by four lengths from Cathedral Chimes, with a neck to Author Dillon and a similar margin to Agathos. Then followed Evelyn, Hardy Wilkes, Soda, Moneymaker, Oinako and Admiral Wood.
This success was the second in the New Zealand Cup for the Edwards family, and its last, despite several further attempts by subsequent generations. Adelaide Direct's winning time of 4:27.8 was a New Zealand race-winning record and gave her a great double, because at this time she also held the New Zealand mile record of 2:06.4, made against time at Auckland on December 29, 1916. Admiral Wood, who started from the back, conceding the front-runners nine seconds, had the fastest two-mile mark of 4:23.6, made against time. He was always a fair way from the leaders and found his long handicap too tough.
The 1917 event was an excellent spectacle, unaffected by the accidents that had dogged recent Cups. The Metropolitan Club, determined to eliminate the poor starts and performances of the recent contests, tightened the acceptance class by two seconds to 4:34, and was rewarded with a compact field of 14.
Some new and exciting horses had emerged during the previous 12 months. The one who captured most of the attention was a Harold Dillon five-year-old named Author Dillon, soon to earn the title of champion. Authoress, his dam, was by Wildwood from Thelma, thus a sister to Wildwood Junior. Author Dillon was trained at Islington by Ben Jarden, who had two others from his stable, John Dillon and Agathos, in the race.
Author Dillon won the pre-Cup Trial and covered the mile-and-a-half in 3:15.8, a New Zealand record. Having caught the imagination of the public with some wonderful performances, he was made race favourite. Handicapped on three seconds, he had only Admiral Wood behind him, but third was the best he could do in a fast-run race.
Cathedral Chimes, again a contender for James Bryce, formed a strong bracket with Win Soon and Soda. The latter raced prominently for most of the race but tired badly over the final three furlongs, while Win Soon lost her chance with a wretched beginning. Andy Pringle's Moneymaker, off the front line, led almost from the outset, but six furlongs from the finish he surrendered his lead and gradually dropped back, while Erin's King, the National Cup winner in August, was always well back. Hardy Wilkes, the only trotter entered, and well supported, ran a fair sixth, while the sole North Islander, Steel Bell, was outclassed.
The excitement between the first and second days of the meeting came fron Ben Jarden's Islington stables. An explosion of Benzene in a store caused a blaze that razed his stables. The fire started at 8pm on the Wednesday and within an hour his building had disappeared in flames. Jarden lost all his gear, but fortunately boys on the premises saved his horses. It was a narrow escape, so narrow, in fact, that Author Dillon had his tail singed. However, he contested his first New Zealand Free-For-All in gear that Jarden borrowed, finishing second behind Cathedral Chimes, with Adelaide Direct, who attempted to lead all the way, a creditable third.
Author Dillon continued to amaze harness racing followers and paced an outstanding race on the final day, finishing fifth in the Christchurch Handicap, won by Sherwood (James Bryce). Sherwood, who enjoyed a nine-second advantage, covered the two miles in 4:29, so Author Dillon's run showed that the 4:20 goal was within reach, although not eventually bettered until 1926.
Olive L, in front all the way, won the Dominion Handicap decisively in 4:39.6, from Red Heather and the Cup contender Hardy Wilkes.
Cathedral Chimes, with £2130, was the season's leading earner and James Bryce, with £2185, was the leading owner (for the only time) and also the top trainer, with 22 wins. Once again Andy Pringle headed him off for the title of top reinsman, with 20 wins, while Bryce finished with 18.
With such outstanding horses at the meeting, the club achieved record totalisator turnover. Show Day betting reached a single-day record of £50,531 and the three-day total was £136,339.
**Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**
Author Dillon had only just escaped the fire at trainer Ben Jarden's stables a year before with a singed tail, but on this occasion was far too quick for 10 rivals on Cup day.
A son of leading imported sire Harold Dillon and Authoress, a sister of Wildwood Junior, Author Dillon was the champion of the time and was so superior on this day, despite giving away starts of up to seven seconds, that he had the race in safe keeping half a mile from home.
Handicapped on the benchmark of nine seconds and out of the next two Cups, Author Dillon won three consequtive NZ FFA's, comfortably having the better of Cathedral Chimes off level marks, and went on to a successful stud career despite limited opportunities.
His credits in that respect included the dam of 1940 Cup winner Marlene.
**NZ HRWeekly 1Oct 2003**
The 1918 New Zealand Cup was billed as a match race between the two outstanding horses, Author Dillon and Cathedral Chimes, the former handicapped at 4:27 and Cathedral Chimes at 4:24 in the 11 horse field. Cathedral Chimes, bracketed with Matchlight and Sherwood, Author Dillon, bracketed with John Dillon, and Randle McDonnell's Emilius carried three-quarters of the £11,158 10s invested on the race. Agathos and Admiral Wood, both of whom had lost all form, had little support. From the front, Sungod had a 10-second start from Cathedral Chimes and seven seconds from Author Dillon. But that huge advantage was not enough.
Sungod, driven by 19-year-old F G Holmes - having his first drive in the race - and Moneymaker (Andy Pringle) made the early pace, but failed to stay the distance, finishing third and fourth. Second favourite Author Dillon paced a splendid race, being patiently handled an well driven by Ben Jarden. Itwas obvious four furlongs from the winning post the Author Dillon had the race in safe keeping and he won by four lengths from Matchlight (Albert Hendricksen), who finished a game second and rescued the James Bryce trio.
Emilius broke at the start and lost a lot of ground. He made several attempts during the race to get closer by following Author Dillon, but faded and finished fifth. Adelaide Direct failed to show any dash, while Agathos, Admiral Wood, John Dillon and Sherwood were never prominent. The biggest disappointment, however, was Cathedral Chimes, who began slowly and toiled in th rear, finishing a long last.
Author Dillon's time of 4:26.4 was a national race-winning record and, when retuned to the birdcage, he and Jarden received a great reception. Cheering broke out again when the club president, Charles Louisson, presented the silver cup to Jarden. Author Dillon was hailed a champion and his subsequent form confirmed his standing as th country's best-performed pacer to that time. Two days later he won the first of his three consecutive New Zealand Free-For-Alls, beating Adelaide Direct by two lengths, with six lengths to Cathedral Chimes, and the only other starter, Admiral Wood, beaten off. Author Dillon's New Zealand Cup - Free-For-All double at the same meeting has been repeated 25 times.
Willie Lincoln, by Lord Elmo, who was second behind Matchlight in the Courtenay Handicap, won the third-day Christchurch Handicap. However, Author Dillon provided th sensation. He started 12 seconds behind the winner and was beaten by only a half-length. He paced a world-record 4:24.6. The £2000 won by Author Dillon was the largest sum won at a harness racing meeting in New Zealand. Ben Jarden raced three horses at this meeting, John Dillon and Huon Patch being the other two. All were in the money, netting Jarden £2405. Author Dillon was the season's top earner with £2350.
Cup Day racing was marred by a fall in the fourth race, the Riccarton Handicap, in which James Bryce broke his leg. No other driver was hurtand no horses suffered injuries. While the fall sidelined Bryce for a considerable time, the family name was not absent from the tracks, because James Bryce junior made his appearance at the age of 16 and won the third-day Australasian Handicap with Joan of Arc.
Author Dillon started in two further New Zeand Cups, pacing a world race record of 4:21.6 in 1920 when finishing third. Over seven seasons he was the top earner only once, though in 1920-21 he was runner-up to Willie Lincoln. He eventually went into retirement aged nine, having raced 58 times, for 18 wins and 14 minor placings. His lifetime earnings reached £7760, won during a period when stakes were very low by today's standards. He paid for his brilliant performances with increasing handicaps and from early on was starting from near-impossible marks. At the time of his retirement, Author Dillon had lowered his mile time to 2:06.4. In addition, he held the two-mile(4:21.6) and one-mile-and-a-quarter(2:41.4)records, sharing the latter with Our Thorpe who, just before the 1918 Cup, set a mile record of 2:06.2 against time at Addington. Sungod, third in the 1918 Cup, eventually went to stud in Southland, where he was the leading sire for many years.
Ben Jarden raced a big team. He later moved from Islington to Yaldhurst, where he set up his Irvington Stud and in 1940 he moved to Lower Hutt and trained a small team at Hutt Park. The Jarden name was kept to the forefront in the 1950's through the deeds of Ben Jarden's son, Ron, who became one of New Zealand's greatest rugby stars. For a time Ben Jarden stood Author Dillon at his Irvington Stud, and later Sir John McKenzie stood him at Roydon Lodge. Author Dillon proved a successful sire. He produced two Cup-class offspring (Author Jinks and Lindbergh) and a Dominion Handicap winner in Writer. His daughters produced several good winners, among them Marlene(1940 New Zealand Cup winner), Knave Of Diamonds(placed in the 1947 Cup) and Indian Clipper.
Author Dillon's sire, Harold Dillon, was an outstanding producer who took over from Rothschild as the leading sire in New Zealand. He was at the head of the list for six seasons, from 1916-17 until 1921-22. He was foaled in California in 1903 and imported to New Zealand bt Etienne Le Lievre as a yearling. The American horseman Robert McMillan stood Harold Dillon at his Santa Rosa Stud, at Halswell, with outstanding success. Author Dillon was certainly his best offspring, but others who made Cup class were Paul Default, Dolly Dillon, Oinako, Lord Dillon, Sungod, Waitaki Girl and Adonis. Harold Dillon mares also produced nemerous winners, the best being the great race and broodmare Parisienne, dam of La Mignon and Mary Wootton, La Mignon ran third in the 1957 New Zealand Cup and later produced the brilliant Garcon Roux. Mary Wootton, to U Scott, produced Scottish Command, who also recorded a third in the New Zealand Cup, in 1961. Scottish Command left his mark at stud, producing Sole Command, who won the NZ Cup in 1977, and the Auckland Cup in February 1978, and Trusty Scot, winner of the 1978 NZ Cup. Scottish Command became the third New Zealand-bred sire, after Johnny Globe and Young Charles, to break the stranglehold that the imported sires held on the New Zealand breeding scene. He finished top sire in the 1977-78 season.
**Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct03
The Bryce family was soon back in business when Ahuriri, a son of 1916 winner Cathedral Chimes, decisively won a memorable contest.
Ahuriri, who was often his own worst enemy with waywardness, was a classy sort who had been astutely placed since winning the Sapling Stakes and entered the 1925 Cup favourably handicapped on 12 yards and won convincingly from Great Bingen(60yds), Acron(48yds), Great Hope(72yds) and Logan Chief(60yds). Sheik(84yds) and the grand mare Onyx(90yds) had been withdrawn through injury.
Ahuriri was owned by his breeder R M Morton and was from a top class trotter in Muricato who had the ability to switch gaits when at full speed. Great Bingen confirmed his status as the best pacer in the land when he came off 84 yards to win the Christchurch Handicap by three lengths easing down.
When the qualifing standard was tightened the next year, Ahuriri was again well placed on 24 yards, the favourite and an easy winner over Prince Pointer, Talaro and Jack Potts. The unsound Jack Potts marked the first Cup drive for Ces Donald and he went on to become champion sire on 10 occasions.
Great Bingen, again handicapped out of it from 84 yards, was pulled up in a distressed state after a mile when it was thought he had suffered a heart attack.
Credit: New Zealand HRWeekly 8Oct03
James Bryce was back again with another Cathedral Chimes stallion in Kohara to win for the fourth time in five years.
Ahuriri had to be withdrawn with an injury, but with McKenzie adding Acron and Great Bingen to Bryce's bracket of Kohara and Great Hope, the stable practically had it won before the start. Bryce opted to handle Great Hope and gifted the plum drive of Kohara, from 24 yards, to his son Andy to emulate the feat of his brother James junior with Great Hope.
Rain had made track conditions difficult that year, but with a lap to go most in the 17-horse field still had a chance with Kohara leading. Kohara stayed on too well however for the fast finishing Cardinal Logan, noted 13-year-old mudlark Man O'War and Great Bingen, who from 84 yards was making a great run at the three furlongs only to be yanked to the outside fence to avoid the breaking Imprint.
Kohara had also been bred and raced by R M Morten until a year prior to his Cup win, when he was bought by Auckland's J L Webb and thus became the first North Island owned winner.
The Toff writing in NZ Truth 10 Nov 1927
J L Webb's black horse Kohara won the NZ Trotting Cup in an airey manner from Cardinal Logan which suffered two inconveniences on the trip.
Kohara began fast and was early in a handy position. With a round to go he was head and head with the leader, Logan Chief, the pair going to the ten-furlong disc in 3.4 2/5. Going out of ther straight, Kohara had Logan Chief doing his best. As they flew past the twelve-furlong peg in 3.39 4/5, Kohara drew out from Logan Chief, Peter Bingen, Man o' War, Prince Pointer, Cardinal Logan, Black Admiral, Loganwood, Great Hope, Audacious, Talaro and Great Bingen.
As they negotiated the mile and three-quaters, the watch read 4.14 3/5. Kohara was just at the head of Peter Bingen, Man o' War, Prince Pointer, Logan Chief, Cardinal Logan, Loganwood and Great Bingen. In the race to the judge, Kohara held his advantage to win by two lengths from Cardinal Logan, which finished in great style. Man o' War was a similar distance away third and Great Bingen fourth.
Acron, Sea Pearl and Queen's Own failed to move off properly. With five and a half furlongs to go, Cardinal Logan suffered interference, which he unintentionaly passed on to Sea Pearl, causing Imprint and Great Bingen to go very wide to avoid a smash. The incident cost Great Bingen fully six lengths.
The winner was driven by A Bryce, son of J Bryce, and is by Cathedral Times from Bright Alice.
Credit: New Zealand HRWeekly
Mr John Bruce Thomson, an Invercargill businessman widely known throughout the province, and throughout the South Island for his associations with racing and trotting, died suddenly in Invercargill last week, aged 83. Mr Thomson had a lifelong association with both the Southland Racing Club and the Invercargill Trotting Club, and was president of the NZ Trotting Association when it was absorbed in the NZ Trotting Conference in 1950.
Mr Thomson was managing director of Thomsons Ltd, cordial manufacturers and wine and spirit merchants. Known as a public-spirited citizen, who supported many charitable organisations, Mr Thomson will also be remembered for his part in the May Day carnivals which were a regular feature of Invercargill life 30-odd years ago. He was held in high esteem by all sectors of the community and was known for his generosity and fairness. He was known almost universally among his friends as 'J B.'
It was through the sports of racing and trotting that he became widely known. A number of attempts were made to establish a trotting club in Invercargill in the early days, and when the Southland Trotting Club was re-registered on March 5, 1913, Mr Thomson was elected president. For the next few years the club conducted non-totalisator meetings. Because of the lavish stakes, it was necessary each year for members of the club to make up the deficiency. With the promise of totalisator permits in 1924, a meeting of light-harness enthusiasts was held and the Invercargill Trotting Club as it is constituted to-day was formed. Mr Thomson became the first president, a position he held until he retired in 1952, thus ending 40 years as president of the trotting Club in Invercargill.
As early as 1927 he was elected an executive member of the NZ Trotting Association, was later made vice-president, and in 1947 president. He was president in 1950 when a change of administration embodied the Association in the NZ Trotting Conference. He was for many years a member of the stipendiary stewards committee of the Association. Soon after his arrival in Invercargill in 1906, Mr Thomson was elected a member of the committee of the Southland Racing Club, and he remained a member until his death.
Before World War I, Mr Thomson had his own stud farm and a private training track at Charlton, near Gore, with A J Scott as trainer. It was there that Cathedral Chimes, who won the NZ Cup in 1916 in his colours, and other good winners in Louvain Chimes, Dora Derby and Raeburn did their early training. At this time Mr Thomson raced on an extensive scale, and in Canterbury he had horses like Cathedral Chimes, Muricata, the best free-gaited trotter of her time, Antonio, Zara, and the great pony pacer Soda, as members of J Bryce's team at Sockburn. Zara later became the dam of Zincali, who at one time held the NZ mile and a half record of 3.10 3/5.
Cathedral Chimes was one of the greatest pacers of his day. When he won the 1916 NZ Trotting Cup it was the first time that trotting races were run from a standing start. Cathedral Chimes won a number of other big races in NZ, was second in the NZ Cup in 1917, and after being retired to the stud he sired the winners of three NZ Cups, Ahuriri (twice) and Kohara. Before leaving for service overseas in World War I, Mr Thomson sold his stud, with the exception of Cathedral Chimes whom he leased to J Bryce during his absence. His interest in horses also led to a long association with agricultural and pastoral shows, and he was a prominent exhibitor of show jumpers.
A bachelor, Mr Thomson was at the time of his death, and for something like 40 years previously, a full-time boarder at Invercargill's Grand Hotel. He took a keen interest in all organisations established for the good of the community and was a foundation member of the Invercargill Rotary Club. He was also a past president of the Invercargill Club. A keen lover of bird and forest life, he was Southland representative on the council of the Forest and Bird Protection Society. He had a fine collection of native trees at his holiday cottage.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 28Nov56
One of the greatest trainers of light-harness horses the Dominion has ever known, James Bryce has been retired from active participation in the profession in which he was such an outstanding success, for several years now; but his interest in the sport remains high and he still possesses a keen eye for a good horse.
Trainers of the calibre of James Bryce do not come along every day.
James Bryce is the head of a family of horsemen who have written their names, large and bold, on the pages of 40 years of the Dominion's light-harness history. Bryce trained the winners of six NZ Trotting Cups, an all-time record for the race, and twice as many as any other trainer before him or since.
The story was told in Glasgow that Bryce's father had a peculiar genius for a horse. James relates that even among Scottish horse-dealers his father was known as a 'hard man.' In all his long experience he has never seen his father's equal in doctoring up a horse. He would pick up a steed that looked as though it was ready for the 'boneyard' and after treating it for a couple of months or so, he would have it in condition that would make it unrecognisable by its original owner. He usually got four or five times what he paid for these horses, which were mostly draughts.
James Bryce rode his first winner in Glasgow when he was 18. By the time he was 20 he was established as a trainer in a modest way at Govan, just outside Glasgow. "In those days," he said with a reflective smile, "they used to start trotting races with a pistol, and I was getting left. So I made a study of the starter and the way he raised the pistol and fired it. In the end I got to know his ways so well that I could tell to a fraction of a second when the report was due. After that, I never got left," grinned Bryce.
Bryce was soon training some of the best horses in Scotland and England. Like NZ horses the ones in the Old Country were nearly all American-bred on one or both sides. Trotting did not make the progress Bryce had hoped for, however, and one day, after reading about trotting in NZ in 'The Referee,' and seeing some pictures of Addington in the 'Weekly Press,' he decided Maoriland was the place for him. And it was thus that the neat little man with the raw Gaelic accent came to be standing on the Wellington wharf on a dull, cheerless morning in 1913...friendless? Well, not quite. Gathered around him were his wife, his belongings and five children...A stranger approached. "Are you Mr Bryce?" - "Yes." "Well, I have some bad news for you. Your two horses have been shipwrecked, and are still in England." The day seemed even bleaker to the little man from Caledonia. Not a promising start in a new land. When he reached NZ after paying passages for himself and his family and freight for two horses, Bryce had £300 left. He did not know a soul in NZ.
He was waiting on the wharf, pondering the future, when he was told that the two mares, Our Aggie and Jenny Lind, both of whom he had seen safely shipped on the Westmeath, an old troop transport, a fortnight before he left England, were still in the Old Country. The vessel had gone aground in the Mersey, and had to put back to port, but they had been transhipped to the Nairnshire, and after a rough passage to the Dominion they arrived - strapped to the deck, after the mate had suggested putting them overboard.
Our Aggie and Jenny Lind arrived two months after the Bryce family, who had decided to go to Christchurch. When they arrived at Lyttleton and saw the hills there, 'Scotty's' first question to himself was: "Where could you race trotters?" The family was taken to a boarding-house in the city but left after his wife had discovered that the woman of the house drank 'phonic' which is the Gaelic for methylated spirits.
Bryce's first home in NZ was Woolston, where he received a horse called Little Arthur, owned by Mr Wm Hayward, to train. Bryce relates that Little Arthur was a poor, dejected animal, and that he turned over in his mind that if this was a fair sample of the horses he was going to get, the future looked pretty bleak. "But I misjudged him," he continued. "I discovered he was asthmatical. I then included in his feed cod-liver oil, beaten-up eggs and sweet milk, and this helped his lungs. He did well and won at the Met. He was my first winner in this country."
A few months after arriving in the Dominion, Our Aggie struck form and won several races. Years later she became the dam of Red Shadow, considered by 'Scotty' to be the best-performed horse he ever drove. Red Shadow won the Great Northern Derby in 1930, and the NZ Cup and Metropolitan Free-For-All in 1933, taking all four principal races at the Cup meeting. Red Shadow sired Golden Shadow, winner of the Great Northern Derby Stakes in 1943, and Shadow Maid who won the Auckland Cup in the same year.
After a short time at 'Coldstream Lodge,' Fendalton, Bryce shifted to 'Oakhampton Lodge,' Hornby, then an 'unkept, dirty place.' Hard work promptly put that right, and soon the stables - 20 stalls to begin with - were built. The amenities included hot and cold water, a swimming pool for the horses, shelter sheds, railed yards, etc; so grew up the most modern trotting establishment seen up to that time in this country. And from this faithfully-harnessed source came an ever- swelling stream of fast pacers and trotters. Out of 'Oakhampton's' stalls were led superbly-conditioned horses that put Bryce at the head of his field only two short years after his arrival from Scotland. For seven consecutive seasons, from 1915-16 until 1921-22 and again in 1923-24, Bryce was leading trainer - eight times in all. He was also leading horseman in the 1915-16, 1918-19, 1921-22, 1922-23 and 1923-24 seasons and his son James, Jnr headed the horseman's list in the 1935-36 season.
Bryce trained and drove the winner of almost every important handicap and classic event in NZ. His sons Andrew and James carried on the family traditions. Andrew drove the 1927 NZ Cup winner Kohara; in 1921 he drove Man o' War to victory in the Auckland Cup, and in 1928 and 1929 he won the same race with Gold Jacket. James, Jnr, has driven two NZ Derby winners in Double Great and Twos Loose, four Auckland Cup winners in Shadow Maid, Sea Born and Captain Sandy twice, a November Free-for-all winner in Plutus, a National Cup behind De Soto, a Dominion Handicap on Waikato Prince, two Timaru Nursery Stakes on Highland Scott and Shadow Maid, a NZ Champion Stakes and a Wellington Stakes on Gallant Chief, a Great Northern Stakes on Highland Scott, a Great Northern Derby on Golden Shadow, and hosts of other good races; he still brings home the odd winner.
Few very big dividends were paid by horses driven by 'Scotty' Bryce. That speaks for itself. "They soon tumbled to me," he explained naively. Way back in 1923, horses driven by the old master had earned more than £100,000 in stakes for their owners; his full total must be nearer £250,000. When verging on three score and ten he was still a skilled reinsman. Much of this skill was in Bryce's hands. Only as a last resort did the whip come into play on a good horse 'Scotty' was driving.
Bryce considers Cathedral Chimes the gamest horse he ever drove. Catherdal Chimes won the Auckland and NZ Cups in successive years. Taurekareka was the first horse in the Dominion to win the trotting (or pacing, as you will)'triple crown,' the NZ Sapling Stakes, NZ Derby and Great Northern Derby. Bryce still affirms that he was unlucky not win a second Cup with Great Hope and a third with Ahuriri. Ahuriri was interfered with by Padlock or, in Bryce's opinion he would have won instead of going down to Peter Bingen and Great Bingen in a blanket finish in 1928.
He also thinks Matchlight, with an ounce of luck, would have won the NZ Cup. "I had a lot of time for Matchlight," said Bryce. "He won the President's Handicap at Forbury Park giving Trix Pointer 60 yards start, and then won both the big handicaps at the Canterbury Park June meeting when that club raced at Sockburn. He won those three races on end. Author Dillon was a bit lucky to beat Matchlight in the NZ Cup," declared Bryce. "Hendriksen, who drove Matchlight for me that year - I broke a leg and was in hospital - admitted he made a mistake in the way he drove him. Next day Matchlight won the Courtenay Handicap easily from the backmark," said Bryce.
"I always feel I had two horses that could have beaten two minutes," continued Bryce. "Red Shadow, from a standing start went 2.04 4/5 for third. Ahuriri was the other. As a 2-year-old before the 1922 Sapling Stakes he worked a mile in 2.10, his last half in 62sec. That was good work for any 2-year-old," remarked Bryce, who went on to say that he did not like the idea of sending his horses against time because there was so little inducement to do so.
J Bryce's principal training successes were in the NZ Cup (Cathedral Chimes 1916; Great Hope 1923; Ahuriri 1925 and 1926; Kohara 1927 and Red Shadow 1933); Auckland Cup (Cathedral Chimes 1915; Admiral Wood 1916; Man o' War 1920 and 1921; Ahuriri 1927 and Shadow Maid 1943; NZ Sapling Stakes (Ahuriri 1922; Taurekereka 1923 and Kohara 1924); NZ Derby (Great Hope 1922; Taurekereka 1923 and Kohara 1925); Great Northern Derby (Chid 1916; Tuarekareka 1923, Red Shadow 1930 and Golden Shadow 1943); NZ Champion Stakes - Metropolitan (Queen Chimes 1918; Great Hope 1922; Taurekareka 1924 and Kohara 1925); Taranaki Futurity Stakes (Queen Chimes 1918; Lochnagar 1919 and Ratana 1922); NZ Trotting Stakes - Forbury Park (Katute 1926); November Free-For-All (Admiral Wood 1916; Cathedral Chimes 1917 and Red Shadow 1933); Dominion Trotting Handicap (Whispering Willie 1916; Whist 1919; Moneyspider 1928 and Waikato Prince 1937); National Handicap (Matchlight 1918; Man o' War 1921 and Alto Chimes 1923); Timaru Nursery Stakes (Shadow Son 1938; Shadow Maid, division 1940); New Brighton Challenge Stakes (Shadow Son 1938); NZ Trotting Gold Cup - Wellington (Taraire 1923); Canterbury Handicap (Cathedral Chimes 1918 and 1919); and Rowe Cup - Auckland (Bluewood 1919), a record unapproached by any other trainer, past or present.
James Bryce tells some good stories against himself. Can you imagine the worthy Scot trying to get over the fence at Addington? Bryce will tell you how he was caught in the act, and how he came to be on the outside looking in. Two days of the Addington Cup meeting had passed - this was in August, 1928 - and between the second and third days the Trotting Association fonally made a decision on Bryce's appeal against a term of suspension in connection with the much-fought Free Advice case. Bryce had to take his medicine. Thinking that all the suspension did was to prevent him from driving, he went on the third day with his team only to be told he was not allowed on the track according to the rules.
After being graciously allowed to pay his acceptance fees and to see that the stable boys knew how to gear the team, Bryce left. On an upturned bucket in Bill Tomkinson's yard, just across the road, 'Scotty' indulged in a little self-pity and sympathy for himself. "After a' the years a mon's been in the game, nae tae be alooed on the coorse," he soliloquised. Telling Claude Dunlevey, Tomkinson's head man, how anxious he was to see if Native Chief would stand on the mark for the umpteenth time, Claude told him that if he went through the motor paddock he could see the start over the gate. Away went Bryce, and before he reached the gate he saw a "mon wi' a bit o' timber" leaning against the tin fence having a free view, so Bryce joined him. But not for long. Soon appeared authority in the form of a gateman, who ordered the pair down, waxing sarcastic as he escorted Bryce through the motor paddock, at the same time delivering a homily about getting through the proper channels and paying his bob like a man. And once again Native Chief stood on the mark.
Bryce made a notable contribution towards placing training on a higher plane here. A fellow trainer of his pays him the compliment of saying that Bryce was years ahead of most NZ trainers in the conditioning and driving of horses in those days. "We must never lose sight of the fact," said this admirer of Bryce's methods, "that it took men like 'Scotty' to improve the spit and polish part of our training methods. He was as meticulous, clean and thorough as any trainer I've ever known. Detail was his second name. The horse had to be fit and healthy, inside and outside, and he was kind to his horses, was proud of the 'guid yins.' Those of us with any savy tried to copy him."
Bryce was a great believer in swimming exercise for his horses, especially unsound ones, and at "Oakhampton Lodge" he built a luxurious swimming pool, 18ft at its deep end, as part of his comprehensive training routine. Many a lame horse was kept fit or saved from early racing oblivion by this pool, which was availed of by other trainers in the district, men who continue to acknowledge the debt they owe to the many refinements of conditioning and gaiting, and to the profound horsesense that took James Bryce to the top of the ladder and kept him there year after year.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 14Aug57
The end of what was once a beautiful romance with trotting for the long-renowned Bryce family finally came (it would seem) when last Tuesday, the day of the 1972 running of the NZ Trotting Cup - a race whose history the Bryces played an outstanding part in - James Bryce, jun. died in Christchurch aged 70.
The father and sons triumvirate of James (Scotty) Bryce and Andy and Jim Jnr really hogged NZ's trotting limelight almost right from the time Scotty, in his mid-30s in 1913, shipped out to NZ with his family and continued his remarkable career as a trotting trainer. It is said that Scotty was so good with horses that the Scottish bookmakers were delighted to see him leave his homeland. And it took no time at all for Scotty in NZ to show why.
This was despite atrocious luck at the start of the Bryce family's venture; and the story can be taken up when the little man from Glasgow stood on the Wellington wharf on a dull, cheerless morning in 1913 with his wife, his belongings and five children clustered around him, and had to take on the chin a blow that would have flattened anyone but the strongest. In surroundings where he knew no-one, wondering what the future would hold. Scotty was approached by a stranger. "Are you Mr Bryce?" And hearing the raw Gaelic accent: "Yes? Well,I have had some bad news for you. Your two horses have been ship-wrecked and are still in England." The day must then have seemed really dismal to the little man from Glasgow. Hardly a promising start in a new land. But Scotty was a real horseman - one of the world's best - and he was about to prove it in no uncertain terms.
Stakes were small and bookmakers big in the halcyon days when Scotty Bryce learned to drive imported American horses in trotting races in Glasgow; but he was a canny Scot who soon earned a reputation for reliability in getting horses first past the post. Reading some NZ newspapers from London Bryce saw the pictures of the race crowds, which decided him to come and try his luck here. When he left Scotland, he was given a great send off. Owners and trainers presented him with a purse of 100 guineas in gold. Here is Scotty's own quote on that farewell, recorded in the Auckland Star in the mid 1940s by C G Shaw: "I have never tasted liquor in my life. I thought port wine was a tea-total drink. I never remember leaving the place."
Fares and freight for the family and the horses left Bryce with £300 when he landed in Wellington, and it was at this stage that he learned that his two mares he was shipping out, Our Aggie and Jennie Lind, had gone aground in the Mersey on an old troop transport, the Westmeath, and were still in England. Subsequently, they were transhipped to the Nairnshire and after a rough passage arrived in NZ strapped to the deck after the mate had suggested putting them overboard. The mares reached here two months after the Bryce family, who had decided to go to Christchurch. The family was taken to a boarding house in the city but left after Mrs Bryce had discovered the woman of the house drank 'phonic', which is the Gaelic for methylated spirits. They went to Lancaster Park and there they settled.
Three months after reaching NZ, Our Aggie, driven by Scotty Bryce, won her first race - but she did not get it. She had not been sighted by the judge as she finished on the outside, and his verdict went to a mare called Cute whose driver said after the race: "I did not win but I could not tell the judge that." Our Aggie was placed second and the crowd staged a riot. Our Aggie won seven races in NZ and became the dam of Red Shadow, considered by Scotty to be his best performed horse ever. Red Shadow won the Great Northern Derby in 1930 and the NZ Cup and Metropolitan Free-For-All in 1933, taking all four principal races at Addington. He sired Golden Shadow winner of the 1943 Great Northern Derby, and Shadow Maid, who won the Auckland Cup in the same year.
When they first arrived with their dad and the rest of the family, James Jnr was 13 and Andrew 11. James Jnr, to begin with, got a brief grounding with the thoroughbreds, being introduced to a famed galloping trainer George Cutts at Riccarton. Before he could go far in his role as a racing apprentice, however, increasing weight forced young Jim out of the thoroughbred sport without him riding a winner. But he had been quick to learn and had what it took, Jim, who got his trotting driver's ticket when he was 15, quickly showed when he won at each of his first three rides in saddle events for the standardbreds.
Scotty had two horses engaged in a race, but the owner of one of them, the favourite, would not allow the trainer to put James Jnr up on that horse (as Jimmy had been promised) and a bitterly disappointed lad took his seat on a little mare called Soda. This happened again on another horse, whose owner, with a magnificent gesture, presented the boy with a cigarette holder and 2s 6d. However, to this Scotty added a £5 note. Finally, the first owner who had been so reluctant to avail himself of James Jnr's services asked him to take the ride, and history records that the young boy this time prevailed on the horse he had twice earlier beaten - for three wins out of three in saddle races.
It speaks volumes for Scotty Bryce's reputation that the biggest dividend paid by a horse driven by him was £14. Way back in 1923 horses driven by the old master earned over £100,000 in stakes. Scotty retired from driving when compulsorily retired aged 69 and died 20 years later. He had topped the trainers' list eight times from 1915/16 to 1923/24, being headed out in that period only by Free Holmes in 1922/23. As a driver, Scotty took the premiership five times, while Jim Jnr. was to top it in 1935/36.
In 1925 Jim and Andy were entrusted by their dad to take Great Hope and Taraire to Perth for the first edition of the Australasian Championship, the forerunner of the Inter-Dominion Championships. Both horses fared well, but on the eve of the Grand Final, the father of West Australian trotting, J P Stratton, came to the brothers and candidly informed them that Great Hope, the weaker stayer of the pair, would have to win the final if the boys were to take the championship on points. Andy, driving Taraire, got behind Jim driving Great Hope in the race, amazing horsemanship being displayed by both brothers, literally pushed Great Hope to the line to take the honours. Scotty, knowing what the lads were like, tied up the money from those successes, and Andy and Jim, needing cash, decided to trade Taraire for an Australian horse and some cash when the carnival was over.
To his mortification, Scotty Bryce not only failed to win a race with Planet, the horse got in trade for Taraire by his sons, but when he himself returned to Perth the following year with Sir John McKenxie's Great Bingen, he was beaten in the final by none other than his former stable member, Taraire. Episodes like this and the one in which Great Bingen, swimming in the Perth river, got away, swam to the bank, made his way though the city and back to his stable unscathed were part and parcel of the Bryce saga.
At his model Oakhampton set-up in Hornby near Christchurch, with it's lavish appointments that included a swimming pool for his horses, Scotty and his sons lorded over the trotting world for many happy years. Between them they were associated with six NZ Cup winners and 10 Auckland Cup winners - either in training or as drivers while they won every other big race there was to win in NZ.
Scotty trained the NZ Cup winners Cathedral Chimes(1916), Great Hope(1923), Ahuriri(1925 and 1926), Kohara(1927) and Red Shadow(1933). Of these he drove Cathedral Chimes and Ahuriri (twice) and Red Shadow, while Jimmy Jnr. drove Great Hope and Andy handled Kohara. Scotty prepared the Auckland Cup winner Cathedral Chimes(1915), Man o' War(1920 & 1921), Ahuriri(1927), and Shadow Maid(1943). Of these he drove Cathedral Chimes, Man o' War the first time and Ahuriri while Andy drove Man o' War the second time and Jimmy Junr. Shadow Maid. Then Andy for owner Ted Parkes and trainer Lauder McMahon won the Auckland Cup in 1928 & 1929 with Gold Jacket, while Jimmy Jnr. drove Sea Born to win for Charlie Johnston in 1945 and Captain Sandy for Jock Bain to score in 1948 and 1949.
Their individual victories are far too many to enumerate, but while Andy was associated with such stars as Man o' War, Kohara, Gold Jacket and, in later years, Jewel Derby and Tobacco Road, James Jnr. took the limelight with Shadow Maid, Sea Born and that mighty pacer Captain Sandy.
Eighteen months ago, Andy, at 66, was admitted to hospital with hernia trouble, told his daughter "I'm in the starter's hands," and died peacefully. James Jnr. left to join up with the other two sides of the redoubtable triangle early this week. Among the grandsons of Scotty, Colin(son of Jim) and Jim(son of Andy) were involved for a time in trotting but both gave the practical side, at least, away. It would seem the Bryce saga is over. But, who knows? Perhaps there will be a great-grandson to kindle the flame again. I wouldn't be surprised.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in NZ Trotting 18Nov72
The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club commenced its Spring meeting on Tuesday last in fine weather. After the second race a high wind sprang up. The track was in excellent order, and there was a very large- attendance. The New Zealand Trotting Cup, which has for some considerable time been the chief topic, reached its zenith when the horses went on to the track.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 24Mar81