YEAR: 1985


The open class trotting free-for-all at the New Brighton meeting on September 13 turned out just as we'd come to expect. Off level marks Sir Castleton was just about unbeatable and so it proved, but little did we know then that his 44th career win was also to be his last. A little over a month later, the news broke, the champion trotter had been retired more or less over night by Mrs Margaret Macpherson when he showed signs of lameness in work. X-rays showed arthritic deterioration in a joint in his near-hind leg.

Mrs Macpherson, who with her late husband, Mawson, had derived so much enjoyment from the electrifying performances their diminutive dynamo turned in over the years, decided this was the end of the road for the 9-year-old. "He needed a good six months spell if we were thinking of racing him again, but I've decided he's finished. He's been too good to us to have him breaking down completely," she said. There'll always be an apple for him here every night, she said of Sir Castleton, who bowed out as NZ's greatest stakes-winning trotter.

The son of Game Pride and the 1982-83 Broodmare of the Year, Castleton Queen, raced in NZ 96 times for 39 wins and 34 placings for earnings of $255,902. He earned an additional $46,250 in two campaigns in Australia giving him a cpmbined total of $302,152.

Sir Castleton soon hit the headlines when he stared racing as a 4-year-old back in the 1980-81 season winning nine of his twelve starts (seven in succession) and being the subject of some lucrative offers. He was the quickest trotting graduate to open class in living memory, taking his open ranking in just 10 starts. Four wins in eighteen starts, including his second Ordeal Cup at Addington, were the fruits of his 5-year-old campaign, in which he finished third in the Rowe Cup to Stormy Morn and Kenwood Song after being forced very wide on the home turn.

As a 6-year-old, Sir Castleton's great potential was realised. He won a further 10 from 24 starts, including the NZ Trotting Championship at the Addington Easter meeting in a national record equalling 3:21.3 for the mobile 2600m, then blitzed his rivals in the 1983 J Rowe Memorial Gold Cup, winning easily by six lengths from Basil Dean, Thriller Dee and Jenner.

Sir Castleton, after winning an Inter-dominion heat at Alexandra Park that season and running third to Scotch Notch and Jenner in the Grand Final, went to Adelaide as a 7-year-old and defeated the champion Australian mare on her own soil in the 1984 $30,000 Inter-Dominion Trotters Final, this being the highlight of his career. Driven by Paddy Timmins, Sir Castleton was locked up on the inner for much of the running, then produced a blistering turn of speed to flash past Scotch Notch in the closing stages to win by three metres.

Sir Castleton also evened the score between the two great trotters at two apiece. Scotch Notch had earlier in the season again trekked to NZ in November and after Sir Castleton had beaten the mare in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All, she came out on top in the Dominion Handicap in a cunning battle of tactics. "Those races against Scotch Notch were our favourite memories," said Mrs Macpherson shortly after Mawson's death last year.

Sir Castleton had earlier started his 7-year-old season by winning from 40m and 50m behind respectively on both days of the National meeting in August, while after coming home from the Inter-Dominions, chased Basil Dean home in that rival trotter's brilliant 3:15.3 clocking in his unbelievable NZ Trotting Championship success. Sir Castleton trotted the second fastest time for a trotter over that distance with his 3:16.2 for second.

The performances of the half-brother to 1975 Inter-Dominion Trotters Grand Final winner, Castleton's Pride, during 1983-84 were enough for him to share Horse of the Year honours with the NZ Cup winner Steel Jaw. Sir Castleton was only the second trotter to have such an award bestowed upon him, joining No Response as recipients of their gait to win the Horse of the Year title.

Prohibitive handicaps again made things tough for the 14 hands gelding as an 8-year-old. He won a further six in NZ from 20 appearances. Winning first-up from 35m behind at the National meeting at Addington in a national-record equalling 3:21.1 for the 2600m, Sir Castleton also scored from 35m behind at Alexandra Park in October in a national record of 3:31.7 for 2700m for a colt or gelding, but still outside Scotch Notch's best of 3:28.7 for mares.

Winning the NZ Trotting Free-For-All at NZ Cup time for a second time, Sir Castleton was again out of luck in the Dominion Handicap making a mistake early but being timed post-to-post in 4:10, his last mile in 2:01.2 to finish sixth. Sir Castleton created history on January 22 to become the only trotter in modern times to win from a handicap of 55m behind at Addington, getting up to win in 3:21.8.

Taken to Moonee Valley for a rematch with Scotch Notch at the Inter-Dominions, the Tinwald trotter won a further two heats (again beating Scotch Notch in one of them) but after having a slight strain in a leg before undertaking the trip, Sir Castleton suffered a fissure fracture of a cannon bone in the Grand Final when finishing second to Scotch Notch.

Fully recovered a couple of months later, Sir Castleton was being readied for his 9-year-old campaign when owner-trainer Mawson Macpherson, died. The training of the grand trotter for his last three races and wins, was then entrusted to stable employee, Wayne Smart. Sir Castleton produced a sprint that only he could produce to win on the opening night of the National meeting, then gained a rather fortuitious win on the second night when run down late by Mendelspride, only to be promoted when his rival was disqualified for galloping over the closing stages. Win No 44 for Sir Castleton was achieved with the minimum of effort, despite being parked in the open throughout.

Doody Townley, who drove Sir Castleton in nine of his wins in latter years, rated him the greatest trotter he had driven. "He was the best alright - he never knew he was beaten and had such terrific speed," said the successful horseman.

Credit: Jeff Scott writing in 1986 Trotting Annual


YEAR: 1985

Mawson MacPherson & Castleton's Queen

Mawson Stanley Macpherson, one of NZ's best known amatuer trainers, died suddenly at his home in Ashburton last week. He was 68.

Mr Macpherson was first granted a trainers licence in March 1975. He was a keen enthusiast of the straight-out trotter and was best known as the breeder-owner-trainer of the champion trotter Sir Castleton, who has been off the racing scene for some time recovering from injury. The gelding has been a great crowd pleaser and Mr Macpherson delighted in campaigning "Sir" both here and in Australia.

Mr Macpherson bred Sir Castleton from Castleton's Queen, the 1982/83 season Broodmare of the Year, whose first foal was Castleton's Pride, the 1975 Inter-Dominion Trotters' Grand Final winner for Mr Roy McKenzie. Castleton's Queen has left two other winners to date, the trotters Miss Castleton who won eight races and Lady Castleton who won three. Both mares were raced by Mr Macpherson and are now at stud.

Although the stable star Sir Castleton was off the racing scene for much of this season, Simba Lodge was kept in the limelight with five wins from the talented young trotter Boy Castleton, two wins from his close relative Lord Castleton and one win from the pacer Uncle Hoki, who was sold recently and will do his future racing in America.

Most of Mr Macpherson's success in harness racing was with trotters. Uncle Hoki is one of only a relatively small number of pacers he raced. The speedy Tarport Coulter horse King Canute and the stallion Pacing Simba, who won three races for Mr Macpherson were others.

Mr Macpherson is survived by his wife Margaret, their daughter Rosemary and son Alick.

Credit: Shelley Caldwell writing in NZ Trot Calendar 16Jul85


YEAR: 1982


The strength of the open class trotters in the north was further demonstrated when Cal Brydon downed Thriller Dee in a memorable Dominion Handicap.

Following on from wins by Jenner and Thriller Dee on the first two days of the meeting, Cal Brydon took the Dominion Handicap back to a northern stable for the second year in a row. Owned by Gordon and Brian Newberry and trained by Gordon at Clevedon, Cal Brydon was clearly the best horse on the night and none of the beaten drivers could offer any excuses.

Cal Brydon lost a good position in midfield over the first round, but was out to track Stormy Morn from the 2000 metre mark and strode to the front, entering the straight with a lap left. "I was a little worried about being in front that early," said Gordon Newberry afterwards but it didn't matter. The six-year-old was trotting a treat and skipped clear turning for home. Sir Castleton and Triller Dee lodged determined challenges but never looked like pegging the winner back.

The event was a race of constantly changing fortunes. Sir Castleton, the south's only real hope of stemming the northern tide, was first out and led Jenner and About Now, while Thriller Dee and Stormy Morn were well back early. Charlie Hunter took Jenner off the rail to lead passing the winning post for the first time then Sir Castleton moved out to get cover as Stevie Prestige moved around to sit in the open. About Now wound up in the trail. As the field travelled down the back with 2000 metres to go, Stormy Morn made his bid four wide around McShane, but was being tracked by Cal Brydon.

With a round to go it was Cal Brydon from Stormy Morn, Jenner and McShane trailing and Brother James three wide, followed by Sir Castleton. Thriller Dee was four back on the outer at this point. Stormy Morn was being niggled at down the back and Sir Castleton was off four wide as they passed the 500 metre peg. As they turned for home, Jenner, Sir Castleton and Thriller Dee lodged their claims but they were all struggling and Cal Brydon went to the line half a length up on the fast closing Thriller Dee and Sir Castleton, who finished within a head of each other.

Thriller Dee, driven by her young part-owner John Dickie, went a fine race, considering she was checked by the breaking Kimrock with a round to go. About Now "fought on in typical style" according to driver Kevin Townley to finish fourth, three and a half lengths away. Jenner wilted to fifth and Commander Crockett, who ran on well from a bad position on the rails, was next. The rest were a tired lot, headed six lengths away by McShane.

Cal Bryon trotted his last 800 metres in little worse than even time on his way to recording a smart 4:14.6 for the 3200 metres, three seconds outside Scotch Tar's race and New Zealand record. Cal Brydon must now be considered the top trotter in the country with a record of 62 starts, 17 wins and 23 placings for $101,225, $26,275 of which was earned from five wins and five placings from 19 starts in Australia.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in NZ Trotting Calendar


YEAR: 1983


The $50,000 Dominion Handicap had more of the ingredients of a three act play than a race for trotters, and the drama unfolded to a deafening roar from the audience as the leading lady, Scotch Notch, stole the show.

Act one occupied the first 1600 metres of the 3200 metre event as Basil Dean grabbed centre stage and the lead. Veteran Stormy Morn, the 1981 Dominion winner, was cast in a supporting role in act two as he made the first move, allowing the leading man, Sir Castleton, to tack on his back, tracked all the way by the Australian star. Basil Dean was still playing a major part under the direction of Kerry O'Reilly as he gave rein in the back straight the last time, and he looked like upstaging the two stars. But the real drama was yet to come and, like the best plays, only unfolded in the dying seconds.

First Sir Castleton stode front and centre stage as he swept forward from the 400 metres to challenge Basil Dean and bit players Tussle and About Now. To the crowds acclamation, Sir Castleton strode to the lead, but it was a short lived triumph. The last and climatic scene belonged to Scotch Notch. She strode past Sir Castleton in the last 50 metres as though he were just a stage hand. In just a few strides, Scotch Notch took the final curtain all on her own.

Though supported by a cast of only eight, which was quickly reduced to seven when Para's Star broke, Scotch Notch was dominant, so much so that she made even the highly rated Sir Castleton look second rate.

Though she was only required to trot the 3200 metres in 4:17, Scotch Notch turned in a sensational last 800 metres, being clocked at 56.6 as she came from seven lengths off the pace. Her last 1600 metres took just 2:01. "The harder they went, the happier I was," was Graeme Lang's comment after the event. "No, no worries at any stage. She's done really well this week, thanks to Colin," Graeme said. Scotch Notch spent the week prior to the race quartered at Colin De Filippi's Ladbrooks stables, where she recovered from the leg problems and started to eat properly.

Pat O'Reilly junior, the driver of Sir Castleton, had no excuses. "She was just too good," Pat said. "He trotted a bit roughly on the home turn, but it didn't make any difference. She would have beaten him whatever happened. I thought maybe I had her in the straight, but he just fell in a heap the last bit."

Pat's brother Kerry gave himself some chance when he held a handy lead at the 400 metres, "but they were just too fast," he said. Basil Dean was nearly two lengths in arrears of Sir Castleton, and only a nose in front of the honest little mare About Now, who tried hard to foot it with her younger rivals, but could not muster the same sprint. Tussle enjoyed the run of the race but showed only brief fight on the home turn before wilting to fifth, while the others were comprensively beaten.

Credit: Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar


YEAR: 1984


Six hundred metres after the start of the $60,000 Taubmans Dominion Trotting Handicap the race was as good as over. It was at that point that Basil Dean took control and the point at which the remaining 11 drivers appeared to settle for fighting out the minor placings.

At the finish of the 3200 metres Basil Dean was two and three-quarter lengths clear. His time for the distance, 4:12.9, was the second fastest recorded in the race - only Alias Armbro's 4:12.3 being faster but that being set on a fine sunny day. Cal Brydon, after being very late clearing a pocket, charged home to snatch second from a gallant Jenner in the shadows of the post, with Tussle close up fourth.

Basil Dean is owned by trainer Bob Jamison of Ashburton and Tim Newton. He has now won 22 of 54 starts and over $154,000 in stakes. Basil Dean opened up a warm favourite, eventually returning $1.60 for a win and even money for a place. After taking control, Kerry O'Reilly took hold of Basil Dean and set only a steady pace for the remainder of the first mile. After that O'Reilly quickened the tempo, sprinting sharply from the 1000 metres and giving those at the back little chance to make headway. The Great Evander gelding turned for home with a handy lead and O'Reilly didn't even have to flick the whip at the eight-year-old as he coasted over his last 800 metres in 59.4 and final 400 in 30.

The race was certainly not an exciting spectacle. The only real race was that for the minor placings. Cal Brydon, back four places on the inside for much of the way, managed to clear a pocket inside the 200 metres and Peter Wolfenden sent him out after the leaders. He came quickly, taking second from Jenner, but had no chance of overhauling Basil Dean. Jenner's run was eye catching. Driver Jack Carmichael was left parked on the outside when Basil Bean assumed control. He eased Jenner back to sit on the outside of the third line for the first 2200 metres of the race. He gradually moved Jenner up going down the back for the last time and the horse fought on exceptionally well for third. "A good run," said Carmichael after. "He was doing his best without the whip. It was a good run after being left in the open."

Second favourite Sir Castleton was sixth. He bounded away from the start and added 30 metres to his ten metre handicap before Doody Townley could settle him into a trot. After catching the field with half the race completed, Townley got on to the back of Adiantum going down the back, but this proved more of a hinderence than a help. Brought wide turning for home, it was clear that he had no chance of returning a dividend, but the Game Pride eight-year-old finished on resolutely to deadheat with a tiring Game Command for sixth place.

The only real disappointment in the race was Noble Advice. A proven stayer, the gelding was backed into fifth favouritism but only battled into eigth place after enjoying a trouble free run.

Credit: Brian Carson writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

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