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YEAR: 2015

SUNDON

The brilliant American-bred squaregaiter who went on to revolutionise the breeding of trotters in Australasia was both 'behind and ahead' of his time according to his trainer/driver Fred Fletcher.

Sundon, who was originally known as Sondon in the USA, immigrated to New Zealand as a yearling. "When we got Sundon he was giving his fellow trotters a six-month head start simply because of his American time breeding. That didn't stop him though because he won all 11 of his starts as a two-year-old. His first win was in January 1988. That's quite amazing considering he was only foaled in the USA in March 1986. I can't speak highly enough of him, I've worked some great horses in my time, including Roydon Glen who was also Horse-of-the-Year (1984), but I think this fellow is my sentimental favourite - simply because of what he achieved both on and off the track," 76-year-old Fletcher said.

Bred and owned by the late Sir Roy McKenzie, Sundon was inspected in New Zealand in December 1987. "I couldn't believe how much natural ability he had. He was a good sized horse who had a beautiful gait and was very quick with it. His high speed proved too much for his opposition.

"He's been a big part of Roydon Lodge (Weedons) over the years and it's very appropriate that he is buried there," Fletcher said. Fletcher stated that he was sad when he heard that Sundon had died but it was to be expected. "He was twenty nine and at that age you always have to expect it with horses, whether they are well or not. Sadly he was euthanized (April 28) because he was beginning to lose his battle with arthritis and laminitis. It was the only thing they could do. He was such a great horse, miles and miles ahead of his time," Fletcher said.

Keith Gibson, the Managing Director of Roydon Lodge Stud Limited, who owned Sundon, said it was a tough decision to put Sundon down. "It was always going to be a hard decision but it was made easier when he was in pain. He was still alert in himself but he was getting to the point where we could not manage his pain and we were always going to be kind to him," Gibson said.

Fletcher trained him during his racing career which spanned from January 1988 to September 1992. Eleven of his twenty seven victories were in partnership with Mark Smolenski, and his winning drivers were Fred Fletcher(18), Peter Jones(8) and Mike De Filippi(1). Silly question but when asked what was Sundon's most memorable win, Fletcher replied. "There were so many. You could list almost every Group One race but the one that stands out for me was at Alexandra Park when he was a three-year-old. It was a 2200m race and when the mobile released it couldn't get away from Sundon. He was so well gaited and had such high speed and momentum he could even keep up with the mobile car. That was amazing. Then he went his opening half in 56 and just kept on going at that speed for the entire race coming home in 57 and change. He later went 1:56 as a three-year-old. That was and still is sensational," Fletcher said.

He said Sundon was so relaxed that when he used to take him to the races he would fall asleep in his stall. "People couldn't believe it when they saw him dozing. Then the moment you put a cart on him he grew another hand. What he did still blows me away. The closest I have got to him in trotting terms would be Royal Aspirations when he was young," said Fletcher.

"He was such a lovely horse to do anything with. Everyone knew about his tremendous nature and I'm just so pleased his memory and family will live on for many a day yet," he added. The Arndon son of the BF Coaltown mare, Sungait Song (dam also of A Touch of Son, Arnsong, Simone Roydon, Sunning & Sunsong) Sundon was inducted into the Addington Harness Hall of Fame in 2014. Arndon was a world record holder setting a T1:54.0TT mile at The Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky in 1982.

SUNDON'S RACING RECORD includes:-

A Group One feature - Dominion Handicap; Group Two's - NZ Trotting Stakes at 2, Rosso Antico Stakes at 3(now Gp1 GN Trotting Derby), Canterbury Park Trotting Cup; Group Three's - Cambridge Trotting Stakes at 3, Three InterDominion Heats, NZ Trotting Championship(now Gp1) and other significant victories included Hambletonian at 3, Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup, Ashburton Trotters Mile(all now Group Three races).

Racing on 60 occasions solely in NZ, Sundon's record showed 60: 20 - 5 - 3, $264,085; T2:01.1. At Addington specifically, he started on 37 occasions for a record of 13 wins and 6 placings included among the 13 Addington victories were 1 Group 1, 3 Group 2s and 4 Group 3s. At one stage Sundon had an unbeaten win sequence of 14(a record for pacer or trotter) until beaten by Courage Under Fire(pacer) and the trotter Lyell Creek(20 successive wins). He was NZ 2YO, NZ 3YO, Aged and Overall Trotter of the year in 1988,1989 and 1991v respectively.

SUNDON'S SIRING RECORD reads:-

. Twice champion New Zealand Sire(Pacers and Trotters) for stakes: 2005 and 2007.
. Fourteen times champion New Zealand trotting sire(stakes and winners: 2001-2014.
. Twelve times leading Australian trotting sire(stakes): 2003-2014.
. Eleven times leading Australian trotting sire (winners): 2004-2014.
. Four times leading New Zealand trotting broodmare sire(stakes and winners): 2011-2014.
. Four times leading Australian trotting broodmare sire (stakes and winners): 2011-2014.
. Sire of 4 Harness Jewels winners(10 as broodmare sire)
. Numerous Group One winners, age group winners.

SUNDON'S PRINCIPAL TOP LEVEL PERFORMERS with emphasis on NZ include:-

ALLEGRO AGITATO(NZ Trotting Chamionship(twice) and NZ Free-For-All, Australasian Trotting Grand Prix, National Trot); DELFT(National Trot, InterDominion 4 heats & Final, Dullard Cup); DEPENDABLE(NZ Trotting Stakes, Rosso Antico Stakes); ESCAPEE(Great Northern & NZ Trotting Derbies); GALLEONS PARADISE(VIC Trotters Derby & Oaks); GALLEONS SUNSET(Bill Collins Mile, InetrDominion Final); HOUDINI STAR(GN & VIC Trotters Derbies, National Trot); HURRICANE FLYER(GN Derby); I DIDN'T DO IT(VIS Sires Stakes at 4, Grand Prix, Bill Collins Mile, Dullard Cup); IMA GOLD DIGGER(GN & NZ Trotters Derbies, NZ Trotting FFA); IRISH WHISPER(National Trot);JASMYN'S GIFT(NZ Trotting FFA & NZ Championship); KAHDON(GN Trotters Derby, VIC Trotters Oaks); LAST SUNSET(NZ Trotting FFA); MARTINA H(Rowe Cup, Dominion Handicap, Dullard Cup); Master Lavros(Dominion Handicap, Rowe Cup, NZ Trotting Champs); ONE OVER KENNY(Millionaire, GN Trotters Derby, Australasian Trotting Championship, Rowe Cup (Twice), NZ Trotting Championship, National Trot (Twice)); OUR SUNNY WHIZ(Rowe Cup); POMPALLIER(Dominion Handicap, NZ Trotting Championship); SHIRLEY TEMPLE(NZ Trotters Derby); SPECULATE(NZ Trotting FFA); SPRINGBANK RICHARD(VIC Trotters Derby, Dominion Handicap); SUNDON'S GIFT(millionaire, Grand Prix four times, Interdominion Final twice, NSW Trotters Flying Mile, Rowe Cup, Bill Collins Mile); SUNDON'S LUCK(GN & NZ Trotters Derbies); SUNDON'S WAY(Bill Collins Mile); SUNNY ACTION(NZ Trotting FFA)SUPERBOWLCHEERLEADER(Anzac Cup); SUPREME PAT(VIC Trotters Derby; WHATSUNDERMYKILT(Dominion Handicap).

His richest Australian-bred trotter is I Didn't Do It($455,554) with Sundon's Gift, bred in NZ being the richest raced in Australia($1,275,264). In NZ, One Over Kenny($1,060,394) is his richest performer.

Where speed is concerned, Sundon's fastest Australian-bred trotter is Aleppo Midas (T1:56.3) and again Sundon's Gift(T1:54.3)is his fastest in Australia. In NZ Ima Gold Digger's T1:56.7 at Ashburton is his quickest. In North America, a select band of six ANZ bred trotters haver trotted a mile in better than 1:53. Of these six trotters, four were sired by Sundon - the fastest Southern Hemisphere bred trotter is Mighty Dragon, he recorded T1:52.0US at Meadowlands in 2003. Lets Get Serious(T1:52.2US - 2009), Westland Sun(T1:52.3US - 2006)and Delft(Ti:53.0US - 2007). Note:- Lyell Creek and A Touch of Flair round out the six trotters.

SUNDON'S BROODMARE SIRE CREDITS include:

AYRA(NZ Trotting Stakes at 2); COMMANDER JEWEL(NZ Trotters Oaks); DOCTOR MICKEY(NZ Trotters Derby); FLYING ISA(Jewels Ruby at 2, Australasian Breeders Crown at 2, fastest trotter in Australasia T1:53.2); GAMELY DANSK(SA Trotters Cup); HABIBTI(NZ & NSW Trotters Derbies, NSW & VIC Trotters Oaks), MAJESTIC TIME(NZ Trotters Oaks); MIAMI H(Australasian Breeders Crown at 3), MONBET(Jewels Ruby at 2); MOUNTBATTEN(Dominion Handicap, NZ Trotting Championship, ANZ Grand Circuit Trotting Champion); MYSTIC HUSH(NSW, VIC & SA Trotters Oaks); ONE OVER DA MOON(Jewels Ruby at 2); PARAMOUNT GEEGEE($500,000 Handicap Breeders Crowns at 2 & 3, GN & NZ Trotters Derbies, Jewels Ruby at 3); PRIME POWER (Jewels Ruby at 3); ROYAL ASPIRATIONS(Jewels Ruby at 2. As a 2yo trotted a mile in 1:56.5); SOVEREIGNTY($3/4m, GN Derby, National Trot, Cambridge Flying Stakes); SPIDER GIRL(VIC Sires Stakes at 2,3&4); STENT(Anzac Cup, Australasian Grand Prix, heat VIC Great Southern Star); VULCAN($3/4m, Jewels Ruby at 3&4, NZ Trotting FFA, Dominion Handicap, Dullard Cup, Australasian Grand Prix, Heat & final VIC Great Southern Star, NZ Trotting Championship, Knight Pistol Trotters Cup, ANZ Grand Circuit Trotting Champion).

To date Sundon has sired the winners of over 2,500 races in NZ(over 700 individual winners, a handful of whom are pacers, over 100 trotters in 2:00) plus 113 individual winners born in Australia. As a broodmare sire he has 300+ winners(46 in 2:00) of over 1,000 races in NZ(60 winners in Australia).

Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed June 2015

 

YEAR: 1990

The presentation to the connections of Sundon
1990 TV3 NETWORK DOMINION TROTTING HANDICAP

Seldom has so much joy and merriment been punctured so suddenly than in the seconds of satisfaction following the Dominion Handicap. A large crowd, comforted by a warm pleasant night, had relished the return to form of Sundon in the Met's big trot. This was the very moment they had been waiting for ... the young champ back on his pedestal. Cheers laid dormant for months echoed around the course as the big bay put the cap on quality with a dashing front-running exhibition to beat southerner Game Paul and northerner William Dee. The clapping and calling started half-way down th straight when it was apparent this was Sundon's day. There was a great bubble of gaiety at the result until the siren blew it for six.

Cheers turned to out-cry of boos and confusion as word came out that the inquiry was into the winner. Clutching his notes, Metropolitan President Peter Andrews stood uncertainly in the birdcage wings as the drama unfolded. Driver Peter Jones headed for the stipes' room with the comment: "Do you know what this is about?" An emergency huddle of club officials made fresh plans for the presentation and sent Sundon off to the stalls. In the meantime, trainer Fred Fletcher stood in the shadows, bemused by the whole affair. Fay, his wife, wearing her lucky pearls, was more forthright in her opinion of the inquiry. Said Fletcher: "It's my luck lately ... and it's their right."

The inquiry was held into an incident about 350 metres from the start when Marcol's Pride and Gee Du Jour broke. The stipes went to consider whether Jones had crossed with Sundon too close and interfered with them. Tommy Knowles, the driver of Marcol's Pride, and Simon Adlam, who handled Gee Du Jour, gave evidence, the inquiry was dismissed, and Jones came out to say: "It was totally uncalled for. You usually know if you've done something. I was totally bewildered by this."

Jones paid Fletcher a tribute for the manner in which he had prepared the horse. "Fred's done a marvellous job with him. My main worry was getting him away from the second line, though Fred said it would suit him. He felt really strong all the way. I was pretty confident three from home when he pricked his ears," he said.

News of the dismissal met with instant approval and a revival of the cheers that the siren had snuffed out. Sundon was called back, decorated, and the crowd appeased, filed back to their seats. Fletcher has gone through some traumatic times with Sundon in recent months, the latest an accusation that he did not drive the horse on it's merits less than a fortnight back. Fletcher has since appealed against the suspension this charge brought, but he elected to sit the Dominion out. He engaged Jones, who has been driving members of his team with good success already this season. Fletcher had, in fact, suggested to Jones earlier this season that the Sundon drive was available if he wanted it, but a firm decision this was was not made until his recent bad news. "He's not the easiest horse to handle, but he drew what he wanted. He's got no problems and I see a lot of improvement in him yet. I don't think he's actually five until next year some time," said Fletcher.

Fletcher did not attach any extra significance to the Domininion, as he may have done for a stake of such an important race. "I said to Fay on the way in, it would be nice to win, but it is just another race." Sundon, who will now have a week off, is an easy horse to train. "He is the most placid horse I've ever had. He sleeps most of the time," said Fletcher.

Sundon won the race in 4:12.8, which was more than four seconds slower than it took Tobago - one of Saturday night's faders - to win the race last year. An excellent front runner, Sundon was in good hands. Jones took him through the first mile in 2:09.5, sharpened up near the end of that section when Tobago hurried forward to put himself in the call. It was a lonely trip and he sat parked and tired. Jones was able to back off from the mile to the half, which took 64 seconds. He was then in the choice position of being able to sprint at will from there which Sundon did with ease.

To the tune of cheers, siren, boos and cheers, the sun went down on another Dominion Handicap; one that started with drama and ended the same way.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly

 

YEAR: 2007

The tributes have been flowing for Sir Roy McKenzie since his passing and it is worth noting that most of them have not had much to do with his quite considerable standardbred interests and endeavours.

It is his extensive contributions to the community, by way of both charity and time and in very much a hands on manner, along with his gentlemanly and principled conduct generally over many years that have won the most praise and admiration. Either aspect of McKenzie's life provide for ample material to fill a book, and in fact they have, but this is a harness racing publication so in this instance we will just reflect on his contributions and influence in that sphere.

McKenzie was still a young man in his early thirties when he effectively took over Roydon Lodge with the passing of his father in 1955. The original Roydon Lodge was established as a standardbred nursery in 1928 and following the importation of Light Brigade and U Scott for racing and breeding purposes during the depression years, it grew to become the longest running and most successful standardbred stud farm outside of Walnut Hall in America. Roydon Lodge will be celebrating its 80th anniversary next year, and while Sir Roy had scaled back his involvement in more recent years and left day-to-day operations to son-in-law Keith Gibson, he could reflect on over half a century of history at the helm.

The ill-fated Captain Adios was the first sire imported by McKenzie in 1956 and the likes of Scottish Hanover and Thurber Frost would soon follow and be joined by U Scott's son Scottish Command as successful sires at Roydon Lodge. In 1978 and the year of Roydon Lodge's 50th anniversary, Scottish Command was leading sire over Scottish Hanover with his progeny headed by NZ Cup winner Sole Command, and when Adio Star was judged the 10th Broodmare of the Year, she was the eighth by a Roydon Lodge sire. Others would follow such as Desilu and Black Watch and the influence of Roydon Lodge imports, with Light Brigade and U Scott in particular, is simply inestimable.

Game Pride and Smooth Fella kept Roydon Lodge very much to the fore during the 80s and more recently, Sundon has been McKenzie's crowning glory. Just recently he was named NZ Stallion of the Year for the third time in the last five seasons. Sundon came to be after McKenzie had gone looking for mares to breed to his world champion Arndon (3,TT1.54), a son of Arnie Almahurst and the Super Bowl mare Roydon Gal that he had bred and raced in America with Del Miller. Arndon fell from favour at stud during the Speedy Crown 'onslaught', but he did sire another world champion and significant siring son in Pine Chip (4,TT1.51).

Sungait Song actually came with a colt foal at foot by Arndon and back in foal to him - she was carrying Sundon at that point - and McKenzie bred her back again before sending the package to NZ in 1987. The foals on either side of Sundon were Arnsong (t,8NZ wins) and Roydon Arnie(t,9NZ wins). Despite being a late foal, Sundon was a horse 'born ahead of his time' from the moment he stepped on a racetrack as a January 4 2-year-old, still two months shy of his second birthday. He would not be beaten in 14 races over the next 14 months, and win 18 of his 19 starts, and he would also single-handedly advance trotting breeding in NZ by 'quantum leaps'.

Arania, a daughter of U Scott and the second foal bred by Roydon Lodge from the Gold Bar mare Local Gold in 1956, was a grand racemare in NZ and in the early 60s she was among those to 'blaze a trail' when she accompanied False Step and the Australian champion Apmat to America for the 1961 International Series in New York. Later that year under Billy Haughton's guidance, Arania time trialled at The Red Mile in 1.57 to become the fourth fastest female ever and only a tick behind Her Ladyship, Dottie's Pick and trotter Rosalind. Arania won a NZ Oaks and would produce an Oaks winner in Hurrania, and the family would lead to the likes of the Christian Cullen-Personality Plus colt which sold for $200,000 at this year's sales, while Roydon Dream, a mare who descended from one of Roydon Lodge's foundation broodmares in Parisienne, would be a Broodmare of the Year. Acquired as a broodmare in 1945 on the advice of George Noble, Parisienne would for Roydon Lodge produce the likes of Mary Wootton (dam of Scottish Command) and the top mare La Mignon, a daughter of Light Brigade who to Thurber Frost produced the brilliant Garcon Roux, the first 3-year-old to break 2:00 in Australasia when he time trialled at Hutt Park in 1:59.6 in 1969. Garcon Roux was the winner of the inaugural Horse of the Year Award as a 3-year-old, and daughters of Thurber Frost in Bonnie Frost (as a 3-year-old) and Stella Frost would be next in line and followed by his son Wag in 1973.

Roydon Dream's eight winners included open class pacer Roydon Scott and Roydon Glen, a Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old in a season when he was unbeaten in 12 races for trainer-driver Fred Fletcher including the Auckland Cup and Messenger. The would also be the source of McKenzie's biggest disappointments in the game when they failed to win a NZ Cup after countless earlier attempts. For Roydon Lodge these dated back to Great Bingen, who was second way back in 1925 and who was quite clearly the winner in 1928, only to be placed second by the judge behind his brother Peter Bingen.

Roydon Scott was the pre post favourite in 1979 and 1980, but went amiss on each occasion, while Roydon Glen started the favourite in 1985 along with Preux Chevalier and was plain unlucky and a certainty beaten behind Borana. Preux Chevalier, like Roydon Dream by Lumber Dream, was from the Roydon Lodge mare Heather Frost, a daughter of Thurber Frost also tracing to Parisienne.

Roydon Glen would prove an abject failure at stud, but he did sire NZ's greatest trotter Lyell Creek. Those NZ Cup disappointments would rival the biggest in the game for McKenzie along with the demise of harness racing at Hutt Park, for which he donated Roydon Glen's Auckland Cup winning stake in order to glass in the public grandstand. Such generosity was no stranger to Sir Roy McKenzie.

The McKenzie family originally came from Ullapool on the north-west coast of Scotland and John Robert was born in Melbourne in August, 1876. As one of seven children life was not easy, and he left school at the age of 13 to do odd jobs which included newspaper deliveries. This led to buying a bicycle and later cycle racing where he won several trophies. McKenzie also encountered horses on a small farm of an uncle and this experience was put to good use when the Boer War broke out in 1899 and where he served for two years with the Victorian Bushmen's Regiment. In those days enlisted men were required to take their own horses and after securing one from his uncle, his experiences in South Africa deepened his love for them. On one occasion he was unseated when his horse took fright at gunfire, but the horse returned to be remounted and carried McKenzie to safety. Later his horse was killed and McKenzie was invalided home with a leg injury in 1901.

While convalescing McKenzie worked at times in a store and this led to plans to start up his own shop. In 1905, along with his 16-year-old sister Ella, they had saved 100 and opened up their own fancy-goods store in Collingwood, and within 12 months they had started a second in Richmond. In 1908 their main competitor, Edmonds Ltd, offered to buy them out which included an agreement to take possession in one month. McKenzie immediately organised an extensive closing down sale and before long they were virtually buying stock at the back door to sell at the front. A further offer from Edmonds to close within the week was declined.

Another condition of the sale however was that McKenzie was not allowed to set up the same line of business around Melbourne, and after setting up stores in Tasmania and Sydney, a decision was reached in 1909 to move to NZ after a tour using motor cycles. At the time there were no such things as fancy-goods stores in NZ and in 1910 the first of what became a chain opened in Dunedin. Before long a Head Office was required in Wellington and in 1918, the 42-year-old McKenzie married Miss Ann May Wrigley and they settled in Rawhiti Terrace. Their first son Don was born in 1920 and Roy followed 18 months later.

The 1920s were hectic years for 'JR', as he became affectionately known by friends and colleagues, and after observing a department store while on an overseas trip, within two years his 22 fancy goods stores had been closed down and 22 department stores had opened. During the 30s it was the largest organisation of its kind in NZ and in 1936 McKenzies (NZ) Ltd became a public company with further expansion taking place to 33 stores until the outbreak of the war.

1941 marked the year however when Don, having gained his 'wings' as a pilot in the Royal NZ Air Force, was lost over the sea near Marlborough only days before being posted. JR searched the area for days in vain and it was many weeks before he took an interest in anything. It was only after considerable effort from his wife, George Noble and Rotarian friends that he started working with horses again and he gradually recovered. He would gain great satisfaction from breaking in his youngsters and handing them over to Noble to be trained as 2-year-olds.

It had been in the early 20s when McKenzie had first taken up an interest in standardbreds and the second horse he purchased for good money was a young colt by the name of Great Bingen, a son of Nelson Bingen and the imported Peter The Great mare Berthabell who had been bred at Akaroa by Etienne Le Lievre. Great Bingen, raced with good friend Dan Glaville, became a champion and by 1926 McKenzie had purchased 100 acres with an old homestead at Yaldhurst and would name it Roydon Lodge after his sons. It was in 1928 when McKenzie moved his family to just outside Christchurch.

With the stores already well established and with a view to semi retirement, McKenzie planned to breed on a large scale and handle his own youngsters as a way of relaxing. During the 1930s and while on two business trips to America, JR purchased a few mares which included Airflow and Spangled Maiden and two young colts which were to prove two of the most influential sires at stud in Australasia ever - Light Brigade and U Scott. Airflow was a fine trotting mare and won nine races and she was the dam of top performers Aerial Scott (1948 Inter-Dominion in Auckland), Flight Commander, Highland Air (1957 Auckland Cup), Red Emperor and Slipstream (14 wins), but she only left one filly to breed on and the family died out in NZ, while Spangled Maiden proved the grandam of great Australian filly Argent and Inter-Dominion winner (for Sir Roy) Jar Ar and established a fine family all round.

Esprit, Slapfast and Widow Volo were other mares imported in those early years who contributed towards making Roydon Lodge the foremost standardbred nursery in this part of the world. And these were just some of the standardbred legacies which Sir John left to his son, with a Trust which was established in 1940 and which enabled one third of the dividends from McKenzies (NZ) Ltd to be distributed to various charities just another.

Sir Roy had casual acquaintances with the family horses while growing up and at school at Timaru Boys High, but in 1941 any of those interests went on the back burner when he went to Otago University to study accounting. There he played cricket and rugby and developed a love of tramping and skiing, which led to captaining the NZ team to the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952, although a broken bone kept him from competing, along with a successful ascent of the Matterhorn. He also enjoyed photography and playing tennis and the tramping led to a close involvement with the Outward Bound Trust as a patron. Over the years he was an active Rotarian and also gave significant support to many other charities, including Women's Refuge, Birthright, the Deaf Decade Trust, the hospice movement and the Nga Manu Native Reserve Trust. He was instrumental in setting up NZ's first hospice with Te Omanga in Lower Hutt, where he was later admitted as a patient.

In 1989 he was knighted for his services to the community and education, and was made a member of the NZ Order of Merit, while he held an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce from Victoria University and of Literature from Massey. In 1990, Sir Roy initiated Philanthrophy NZ, a regular meeting for a wide range of charitable groups. He was passionate about philanthrophy, but preferred to be as a "community volunteer".

McKenzie was in training with the army when his brother was lost late in 1941, and later he transferred to the Air Force and did training in Canada before going on to England to serve in a Bomber Command squadron for the last six months of the war. Upon returning from England, McKenzie completed his accounting studies and in 1948 he joined the family firm. Within a few months he was then reluctantly on his way back to England however to gain further work experience, and while on the ship he met Shirley Howard and they married six months later. Returning to NZ at the end of 1949, McKenzie worked at the company's head office in Wellington as Executive Director for the next 20 years.

His first horse had actually been Scottish Air, a daughter of U Scott and the first foal from Airflow who won five races in a row at one point. However, this was when Sir Roy was 'underage' and she was not in his name. George Noble had been appointed by Sir John as his private trainer and the studmaster at Roydon Lodge in 1941. It was no doubt one of his best decisions and Noble would guide the overall operation until 1969. Noble had come fron NSW where he had trained to be an architect, but when work proved difficult to find during the Depression, he had turned his attention back to horses and become the leading horseman in the state. McKenzie, knighted in 1949, had selected Noble after recognising his ability with the anvil. With the blood of Light Brigade and U Scott and those imported mares to work on, Noble had Sir John at the head of the owners' list on three occasions and following his death at the age of 79 in 1955 after taking ill while on a voyage to England, Sir Roy was the leading owner for seven consecutive years.

From the early 50s and into the 60s, Noble built up a stable which included top performers in Adioway, Arania, Bonheur, Commander Scott, Flight Commander, Garcon D'Or, Garcon Roux, General Frost, Golden Hero, Highland Air, Highland Kilt, Jay Ar, La Mignon, Red Emperor, Royal Minstrel, Roydon Roux, Samantha, Scotch Paree, Slipstream and Valencia. When Roydon Lodge was moved to 150 acres at Templeton in 1970, Fred Fletcher also took over the training after earlier being in charge of the studmaster duties. It was during the 60s that Roydon Lodge suffered some crippling blows. The first of these was the loss of Captain Adios after only three seasons at stud, while U Scott and Light Brigade soon followed in 1962 and 1964 respectively as did Thurber Frost in 1968 at the age of 14.

Noble also reached the compulsory retirement age of 65 as a driver, and those duties were assumed by Doug Mangos and Noble's son John. Noble had driven 1944 NZ Cup winner Bronze Eagle for trainer Roy Berry and continued to train a small team at Yalhurst in his twilight years during the 70s. His career was capped by preparing the 4-year-old Stanley Rio to win the 1976 NZ Cup and later at the meeting, Rustic Zephyr to win the NZ Derby, both driven by John. Rustic Zephyr was by Armbro Hurricane, one of the sires at Roydon Lodge in the early years at Templeton along with Scottish Hanover, Tarport Coulter and Keystone Way. Stanley Rio also won the Inter-Dominion in Brisbane that season and Noble won the NZ Racing Personality of the Year Award.

In 1947, a visitor to the Wellington office had made a good impression on McKenzie and he would play a leading role in his future involvement with standardbreds in the city and the region. McKenzie would set up his own training facilities near Hutt Park within a couple of years upon returning and Jack Hunter would oversee the operation. As a young man in his late 20s, McKenzie was not inclined to listen to the advice of his father and his first standardbred purchase was a horse called Rocky Reef. A brother to top trotter Barrier Reef, Rocky Reef was a pacer with a known problem for knee knocking, but McKenzie and Hunter set him for a race on the big grass track at Wanganui and he prevailed by a neck, and won two more races as a trotter before being sold to Australia. Roaming was another early winner for the partnership with a double on the same day at Awapuni, when later found to be quite heavily in foal.

The association led to Hunter training full time from a 30 acre property at Moonshine in Upper Hutt, from where he won the Trainers' Premiership in 1964 with 31 wins, while three years later he won the title again with 33 wins while training in partnership with son Charlie. Jack had been assisted in this time by sons Charlie, Kevin and Ian. Charlie was the oldest and after experience as an accountant in a textile firm and undertaking an engineering course in Australia, he had decided in 1958 to rejoin his father in Upper Hutt and work with horses full-time. In 1967 and in the same season where they won the premiership together, Jack and Charlie won nine of 17 races over a two day meeting at Wanganui, with Charlie driving eight including a record five on the second day. Jack had to retire that year with health problems and Charlie won the premiership on his own account the next season with 35 wins, when McKenzie's Golden Sands and Dominion Handicap winner French Pass were stable stars. The latter also won the National Trot in Auckland and the Taranaki Cup beating pacers from 18 yards.

George Noble won the premiership the next year, while in 1971 Charlie Hunter made the important decision to move to the more central location of Cambridge. Seven acres were leased near the Cambridge track while Hunter set up his own property so he could train professionally. It was during the early 70s that Hunter built up the Central Standardbred Agency with Brian Meale and was handed the training of a rising star from Southland - Young Quinn. Hunter would have to watch from the grandstand after an accident on the opening night of the 1974 Inter-Dominions at Alexandra Park, as protege John Langdon drove Young Quinn to triumph in the Pacing Final after earlier winning the Trotting Final with Sir Roy's Castleton's Pride. Young Quinn was by U Scott's fine son Young Charles and would make Hunter a star on the international stage in America.

Another top trotter trained by Hunter for Sir Roy was Geffin, who won the NZ Trotting Stakes and the 1971 Inter-Dominion at Addington when a 4-year-old. Geffin had gone into that series as a six-win horse and won two heats, while he won five straight races afterwards before unsoundness ended his all too short career. Hunter rates Geffin as easily the best trotter he has trained or driven.

The best horse trained by Jack for McKenzie was Scottish Command, who won 16 races including the 1959 Auckland Cup from 60 yards when driven by Ian. Jack Hunter took Scottich Command to America in 1962, but he only raced fairly before returning to stand at Roydon Lodge. McKenzie would be on hand most Saturdays at Upper Hutt to drive work, but the Hunters were surprised the day he informed them he had procured a licence to drive on raceday. It was Scottish Conmmand who would provide him with his first wins at Hutt Park when a 3-year-old. Driving was an important aspect of Sir Roy's involvement, particularly the trotters, and he would win about 50 races over the years. This pleasure was without ever affecting the chances of Hunter's sons or later his trainer Martin Lees, as McKenzie would usually buy his own horses to drive in his own colours of white with a cerise sash. Towards the end of being allowed to drive, Game Yank was a useful trotter for him with three wins, while his last win in March, 1988, came at Manawatu with Argentina, a son of Game Pride who had been purchased out of Owen Quinla's stable.

Charlie Hunter has very fond memories growing up with Sir Roy around. "He was a very special man. He was absolutely loyal to and supportive of this staff and gave people like myself and brother Ian every opportunity by having us do the stable driving right from the beginning - in effect we learned to drive on his horses," said Hunter. "Roy was initially my employer, but since then I have regarded him as a mentor over the years and was especially grateful to be able to regard him as a dear friend throughout my adult life. He was a lovely man who will be sadly missed," he added.

Sir Roy's last big win came as a part-owner when Fiery Falcon won the NZ Sires' Stakes 2yo Final at Addington in May, while his last outright win was with the Fred Fletcher-trained mare Dear Diedre at Addington in July.

FOOTNOTES: In 1998, Sir Roy published his memoirs in a book entitled Footprint - Harnessing an Inheritance into a Legacy. In 2004 a short film was made about his life called Giving It All Away. One of his three sons, John, is today the chairman of the J R McKenzie Trust.

-o0o-

Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 29Mar83

Roy McKenzie sits in his Rangitira Ltd offices in Wellington's James Cook Hotel building talking horses - or more particularly his Roydon Lodge Stud horses. Two weeks later, he is named Trotting Personality of the Year by the NZ Standardbred Breeders' Association at their prestigious Dinner of the Year in Auckland. The following week, the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame chips in with its Trotting Celebrity of the Year Award. For the man who has guided the destiny of one of NZ's premier standardbred nurseries since the death of the stud's founder - Roy's father Sir John in 1955 - such awards are recognition of the contribution he has made to harness racing in this country.

Such is Roy's involvement and commitment to trotting, he actually took the time out to write and publish, in 1978, his tribute to all his father set out to achieve. That book - "The Roydon Heritage-50 Years of Breeding and Harness Racing" - was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Roydon Lodge Stud, then based at Yaldhurst. Now, because of Roy's decision that to operate successfully the stud had to stand four stallions, and to do that needed more ground, Roydon Lodge occupies 150 acres at Templeton, with a further 150 acres at Springston where the stud mares are grazed.

The past few years have been satisfying ones for Roy - last year his American-bred trotter Arndon, under the guidance of long time friend Del Miller, became the world's fastest ever with a 1:54 time trial at Lexington. He has seen Smooth Fella, a stallion he imported in partnership with Central Standardbred Agency directors Brian Meale and Charlie Hunter, quickly rise to a prominent place among the country's stud horses. And he has retired another outstanding stallion, Scottish Hanover, knowing that he was another Roydon Lodge stallion to make an everlasting mark on the NZ breeding scene.

Roydon Lodge is a name which has long been synonymous with success on the NZ breeding scene. A roll call of stallions reflects the influence it has had. Names like Great Bingen, the first stallion to stand in the stud's name, U Scott, Light Brigade, Captain Adios, Thurber Frost, Scottish Command, Scottish Hanover, Armbro Hurricane, Game Pride and Smooth Fella, to name but a few. Their past and present influence on NZ breeding has been, and will continue to be, felt for generations.

But even with sires like this gracing the record books at Roydon Lodge, even now, Roy McKenzie is heading the stud on a slightly different tack. Rather than try and import ready made stallions for stud - "It's getting too dear over there" - Roy's latest thinking represents a change of policy for Roydon Lodge. Now, he is setting out on the time consuming - though obviously more satisfying - policy of spending more time in making horses he believes to be stallion prospects. Evidence of this line of thinking can be found at Roydon Lodge already, where, alongside established stallions Smooth Fella and Game Pride, stand the horses of the future. They are Roydon Albatross, a son of Albatross from the Adios Butler mare Poppy Butler, and Yankee Reb. Roy purchased Poppy Butler in foal to Albatross from Del Miller and the resultant foal in NZ was Roydon Albatross. Roydon Albatross did not start racing in NZ until relatively late in his 3-year-old career because he was a very late foal by NZ standards, being foaled to American time, yet won three out of four starts after failing first time up. At four, he raced only nine times for two more wins, including a Nelson Cup in track record time of 4:16, for 3200 metres on the grass, and two placings.

Roy hopes Yankee Reb will be the eventual successor to Game Pride, the leading sire of trotters in NZ for the past two seasons and heading for his third season in that position. Yankee Reb is by the Speedy Scot stallion Speedy Crown (1:57.2) out of Brazen Yankee, a mare by Hickory Pride out of Hoot Yankee. Hickory Pride is by Star's Pride while Hoot Yankee is by Hoot Mon. Rich in trotting blood, Yankee Reb represents Roy's interest in the breed, an interest enflamed even further by the preformances of Arndon, whom Roy bred himself.

Another Roydon Lodge stallion, Meddlesome (Bret Hanover-Medley Hanover), is to stand at Tony Milina's property for the next two seasons after two terms in Central Otago, while at Mangaroa in the Hutt Valley, where Martin Lees looks after the Roydon Lodge training establishment there, Dreamover (Scottish Hanover-Roydon Dream), a brother to the brilliant but ill-fated racehorse Roydon Scott, is to stand the coming season. Dreamover was originally destined for sale to America, but developed a couple of problems when being trained by Ian Hunter at Morrinsville prior to his departure. "We decided to bring him home then, and, though he may race again, there is enough support around here for him to get 20 mares," Roy said.

Alongside Dreamover at Mangaroa will be the trotting stallion Game Shooter, who up until now has stood in the Manawatu. Game Shooter (Game Pride-Shooting High, by Sharpshooter, by Worthy Boy) received limited patronage in the Manawatu, but, according to Roy, has left some magnificent foals. "Those that have his foals are delighted with them, so he should get around 20 mares," he said. A smart racehorse himself, Game Shooter won six races against some useful trotters.

While it is unlikely Roy McKenzie will be buying stallion prospects in the United States on any scale in the future, this does not mean the end of imported stallions at Roydon Lodge, for in recent years he has been steadily expanding his breeding interests in the United States. "You are looking at paying a lot of money to import a top stallion now, and $200,000 is about the most you can contemplate paying these days with the stud fees that can be charged. Therefore, we now have a situation where we will be trying to make our stallions rather than buy them ready made." Such a policy, Roy admits, is assisted by having a stallion like Smooth Fella in the barn, but it is one he would have been pursuing even without that advantage. "Having an in demand stallion like Smooth Fella has helped to the extent that he can 'support' the other stallions," Roy said. "Even so, Roydon Lodge is run at a profit - we paid a bit of tax this year - and this is the way the operation is geared to run, with or without Smooth Fella."

Smooth Fella is to stand two more seasons at Roydon Lodge before returning to the North Island, where he stood his first season at stud. "He will probably go back to Peter McMillan at Yankee Lodge, Matamata," Roy said. "He has been in such demand - though we have kept him to around 120 mares - that we have had to restrict a little the number of mares we could take to the other stallions. This summer was a particularly dry one, of course, which made it a little more difficult."

Roy McKenzie takes a great delight in all aspects of trotting and later that night, at Wellington's Hutt Park, took the reins behind Milford Merroney, a trotter trained for him by Martin Lees. "Yes, I like driving, but don't get many opportunities." One such opportunity he grabbed with both hands was to win a race at Morrinsville that carried a $50 trophy. That trophy was donated by veteran Auckland horseman George Stubbs in 1972 "to help the battler" in trotting. While Roy McKenzie could hardly be described a battler in just about any other form of endeavour, he later wrote to George Stubbs explaining that the trophy meant a lot to him, as he considered himself to be a battler as far as driving goes.

It took Roy McKenzie 177 pages in his book to detail the history of Roydon Lodge and the stud's achievments. Those two recent awards are payment in small part for the part Roy has had in filling those 177 pages.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Sep07

 

YEAR: 2012

FRED FLETCHER INTERVIEW

Q. You seemed to come into race training and driving a bit later than some. Where did it all start?

In racing not until I was 28 when I got a job at the old Roydon Lodge in Yaldhurst. We came over from the Coast when I was 12 and I was brought up with horses. Later on, I worked a team in the bush for a while. I played league right through the grades and was still playing when I went to Roydon Lodge after I answered an ad in the paper. I broke my jaw playing football soon after and that was the end of the sport. Captain Adios had just passed on when I started and Thurber Frost was the star stallion then. I worked under Ralph Bonnington who was the stallion manager.

Q. You didn't train there though? How did you find it later on taking on training a good team without the background some have had?

The granddam, Aspiring Lass, was a good mare in America and Charlie Hunter trained her down here. She had a twisted bowel at one stage. I got her back for a last season and she won the Canterbury Park Cup for us. The dam (Aspiring Gal) broke a pelvis. But she had showed plenty as a two year old. I was going to try her again but it didn't come to anything. But it was no surprise she would leave fast horses.


I spent a lot of time watching George Noble. There weren't many people who were better to learn from. A lot of it was just what you know and common sense.I started training after we set up the new Roydon Lodge at Templeton. That was a big job and it took time to get it organised. Scottish Hanover was our anchor stallion then and he did a great job. When that was up and running I was breaking horses in and thought I might as well be training them.

Q. Talking of Scottish Hanover, Roydon Scott was your first star?

He was a brilliant horse, a great horse really. I don't think people realised how good he was. I firmly believed he would be the first to run two miles in four minutes here and I think he would have done it. He had a big long stride and everything seemed effortless to him. He battled navicular disease for a long time and when Dr Irvine changed the medication rules on what we were treating him with it finished his career really.

Q. He still ran as favourite in the New Zealand Cup?

It was the owner's decision to run and you can understand wanting to win a Cup. I have to say I would probably not run had it been up to me.

Q. He was a different sort from Roydon Glen who ended up with the better record?

Roydon Glen had a lot of ability but he was always "seeing things" which made him a hard horse to drive. Peter Wolfenden drove him up north for us and didn't actually seem to think a lot of him and I had to take over when he won the Derby by lengths up there. But I could understand why Peter thought like he did. You had to be careful what you did with him in the race and where you put him. Sometimes driving him what punters might think was the right way was the wrong way.

Q. His third in the Cup must have been your biggest disappointment?

There wern't any other races to match it. He drew in, actually began too well, got into the trail and when they eased in front we were four and five back on the fence. Then when I was going to work off the fence I got held in. He flew home of course and should have won it but there wasn't a lot else I could have done.

Q. He didn't really succeed as a sire apart from the trotter Lyell Creek, and Roydon Albatross was a bit disappointing too?

Yes, you wouldn't believe Roydon Glen wouldn't have been a great success with his pedigree. Roydon Albatross was by Albatross but his maternal line was not as strong. He had the bad luck to be foaled down here late in one season instead of early in the next. That meant when he won the Nelson Cup in record time he was really a three year old and it showed what a good stayer he was.

Q. Phillipa Frost was a mighty wee mare too?

A super little mare, tough as they come. Bluey Steel, who worked at Roydon Lodge then had bred her. There was nothing of her but she wore a long hopple for the size she was (59 inch). I liked horses in long hopples. Roydon Scott wore a 64 inch hopple and Roydon Glen a 61 inch. Philippa Frost's length was really massive for her size. She had to battle Delightful Lady in the mare's races and she ran third to Hands Down and Lord Module in the NZ Free-For-All. We got a bit mixed up at the start. Slim Dykman was next to us and told me he was going to do one thing but he did it differently when the gate went. When you look back at her record and what she raced against she was a terrific mare.

Q. We always have to talk about Sundon at Roydon Lodge but Game Pride smoothed the path for him.

He was really the first of the modern trotting sires here, the ones who could leave horses with speed. He did a terrific job year after year once he got established. One thing which surprised me about him is the ability he had. His race record didn't show it but he was a dumpy little guy and we used to have to work him in the cart a bit to get the condition off him. The speed he showed when you chirped him up amazed me. There was a stallion close up in his pegigree called Bill Gallon which the Americans rated highly even though he was not as fashionable as some. He turned up in Sundon's pedigree as well so there was something in it.

Q. Sundons had a mixed reception with many trainers and probably still do. What do you put that down to?

Basically I think they have so much speed that if you let then show too much of it you can have problems. I had Jo Anne early on and she just had phenomenal speed. But Sundon was a lovely relaxed horse. He would spend a lot of time sleeping. One odd thing about him was that he would pee just before the start of every race he had. His sire Arndon was a bit different. I saw him run his world record at the Red Mile. He was sore then and drifted out into the middle of the track but still ran the fastest mile ever. Phenomenal speed. But he wasn't the relaxed horse Sundon was.

Q. There was a bit of a tizz over a positive swab with Sundon at an Inter-Dominions?

A veterinary error. I think vets should be made more responsible for their actions in these sort of cases like they are in some other countries. The owner and trainer have to carry the can.

Q. And you didn't get to drive him when he won the Dominion?

That is a bad memory. I was given three months for not giving him every chance in the Trotting Free-For-All on Cup Day. You wouldn't not try in a $35,000 race then especially a free-for-all. We were the victim of circumstances but the stewards didn't want to know. Peter Jones took the Dominion drive. He had been driving some of my team in the spring and we had talked about Sundon earlier. Then after the Dominion the siren went and they inquired into whether Sundon had checked something early in the race! My charge was quashed on appeal. It left a sour taste.

Q. Morgan James was another good horse I remember?

Just one of those great everyday horses. My friend from Perth, Mick Lombardo, talked me into selling him in a weak moment. He ended up winning $600,000 over there. Just went on and on year after year until he was about 13.

Q. First Jinja Girl and now Royal Aspirations both give you and (grandson) Sam Smolenski Harness Jewels triumphs. How confident were you this year?

Very confident. I told Sam it was his race to lose and drive accordingly and he did. Sam has a great temperament for driving. He does his homework, listens to instructions and is patient. He doesn't worry about things and thatis an asset in big races - to stay cool.

Q. On paper the immediate breed looked sort of just okay. Did you come from another angle?

The granddam, Aspiring Lass, was a good mare in America and Charlie Hunter trained her down here. She had a twisted bowel at one stage. I got her back for a last season and she won the Canterbury Park Cup for us. The dam (Aspiring Lass) broke a pelvis. But she had shown plenty as a two-year-old. I was going to try her again but it didn't come to anything. But it was no surprise she would leave fast horses.

Q. Royal Aspirations is a horse which can go on?

He's smart as well as fast. He got mixed up at the start of a race at Addington but he still tried to head for the birdcage. He knew where the winners went and wanted to be there. He has a good spell now but he can get better yet.

Q. You are a man of many talents, especially with the manipulation of horses. How did that start?

I suppose it went back to my sporting days in a way, getting over injuries and that. I started to read up on acupuncture and similar treatments and taught myself how to do them watching others and practicing. I started doing it with the race horses to stretch them before a race like an athlete does with hamstrings and other muscles and then started post race treatments. The horses are running around in circles after all and they can develop specialised ailments. A lot of problems happen in the paddock because the circles they are running in are that much smaller. So I don't like to see them turned out after a treatment as some recommend.

Q. You are also a "heartbeat" man with yearlings?

I probably did 100 horses this year at the sales. No special science, I just listen to the heartbeat. You can tell quite a lot from it. Some of them sound like a Mack truck. I think it is a fairly credible thing and more people seem to be asking me to do it. Anything you can find out about a horse someone else might not know is an advantage.

Credit: HRWeekly 25July2012

 

YEAR: 2014

SUNDON:

Sundon, outstanding trotter and trotting sire in Australasia over the past 20 years. He won 27 of his 60 starts (T2:01.1) with 13 wins at Addington. Feature wins included Dominion Hcp, NZ Trotting Stakes 2 Rosso Antico Stakes, 3 Interdominion heats, NZ Trotting Championship, Ashburton Trotters Mile. Sundon had an unbeaten sequence of 14 wins, a then record for a pacer or trotter until beaten by Courage Under Fire and Lyell Creek (20).

He was 1988 two-year-old, 1989 three-year-old, 1991 Aged and Overall Trotter of Year.

Sundon has twice been champion NZ sire(stakes); 14 times leading NZ trotting sire(stakes/winners); 11 times leading Australian trotting sire(stakes, 10 times for winners); four times NZ & Australian leading trotting broodmare sire. He has sired four Jewels winners (10 as broodmare sire), numerous Group race winners and age group champions.

Sundon has to date sired the winners of over 2,500 races in NZ (over 700 individual winners, over 100 trotters in 2:00 or faster), 113 winners born in Australia and is broodmare sire of 300+ winners(45 in 2:00) of over 1,000 races in NZ(60 winners in Australia.

His standout trotters include Allegro Agitato, Delft, Escapee, Galleons Sunset, Houhini Star, I Didn't Do It, Ima Gold Digger, Jasmyns Gift, Kahdon, Martina H, Master Lavros, One Over Kenny, Pompallier, Springbank Richard, Sundon's Gift, Sindon's Luck, Thedonsson, Whatsundermykilt.

Credit: HARNESSED Nov 2014



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