Having won a New Zealand Cup, an Auckland Cup, an Inter-Dominion Pacing Grand Final and an Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Final, John Langdon had no summits to climb. The record book is not the best guide of such events, however, because Langdon knew he had another big one left. "One of my ambitions long before I started out in my training career was to win a Dominion Handicap. I have always loved trotters. It's a skilful job getting a trotter right. To win a Dominion, I feel I've really achieved something as a trainer," he said.
Langdon reached that special peak with William Dee, the Canterbury-bred 7-year-old son of 1979 Dominion Handicap winner Alias Armbro who raced like a Panzer tank and didn't stop for anyone. Langdon drove him hard, the way William Dee likes it. He was a little concerned racing over the first 800 metres that his charge wasn't as sharp as he should have felt, but further on he started to feel better. After being caught a little wide early, then pressed on and reached the front 1700m out, where they stayed, winning in the end by a length and a half from Gee Du Jour, who ran right up to her best form. The rain was a blessing too. Langdon at first believed William Dee was no great shakes on puggy or soft tracks, but as he does such a lot of his work at home on Langdon's sand track there were no alarms in the camp. "The rain came just at the right time. He was just starting to feel his feet a bit, and this made a bit of a difference," he said.
William Dee now races without the gear he had when Langdon first started training him. "He had a hood with pacifiers, a noseflap, and a brush as well. It worried me a little about the dirt coming back but it hasn't bothered him," he said.
Now the winner of 17 races from 58 starts, William Dee will be kept on a busy detail, with racing coming up at Thames, Auckland, Cambridge and Melbourne Inter-Dominions. William Dee was bought by Kevin O'Gorman, one of four partners in the horse, as a 3-year-old on the recommendation of Murray Lawson. Mr O'Gorman, a stalwart of the Marist senior forward pack for 13 years, had been a dabbler for 20 years, his first attempt being Pamela Queen, a pacer by Winterlight he had with Ray Morris. "I had odds and sods after that, but nothing of note until Idle Pride and William Dee," he said.
William Dee had raced once, on the West Coast as a 3-year-old when Mr O'Gorman bought a half share, but early opinion about the prospects of the relation to former top trotting mare Harbour Light were not encouraging. He was sent to Mankind Lodge, where veterinary surgeon Merv Williamson operated on a leg and made a start on his preparation. "When Jack Carmichael didn't take him, I sent him back to Bevan Heron and he won six races with him. It was when Idle Pride looked like winning as many - and Bevan thought 'Pride' was better - that I decided to send William Dee up to John Langdon's. I consider he has been underrated. He hasn't had the limelight some of the others have had," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly