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FEATURE RACE COMMENT

 

YEAR: 1980

Hands Down & Delightful Lady
Great Races: 1980 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP.

If the 1979 New Zealand Cup had been a spectacular sight, the 1980 edition promised even more, and it didn't disappoint in going right to the wire - literally. On paper there had never been a better field of protagonists, or since for that matter, and in a full field of 15 for the first Cup to carry a stake of $100,000, a good case could have been made for at least 10 of them.

By the time the big day rolled around though, the class, form and champion status of Delightful Lady, Lord Module and Roydon Scott had been well established and it seemed the winner would come from that trio. But also in contention were such fine stayers as Greg Robinson, Sapling, Trevira, Trusty Scot and Wee Win, and then there were the Hannon winner Idolmite and Kaikoura Cup winner Sun Seeker, along with a 'young' upstart in the form of 5-year-old Hands Down.

Delightful Lady was a 7-year-old and in career best form. She had downed Lord Module in the previous Auckland Cup and been much too good for her northern rivals in five straight races in the spring, only going down in her last lead-up event when beaten two heads by frontmarkers Trio and Dictatorship fron 25m in the Rondel Handicap on October 29. Against her was the 15m backmark and the record book though - a mare had not won the Cup since Loyal Nurse in 1949, let alone from a handicap.

Lord Module looked and seemed in great shape for a second Cup win when resuming with a strong finishing second to Wee Win in the Ashburton Flying Stakes, but then things began to turn to custard when starting a hot favourite in two races at Forbury Park in mid-October. Kevin Williams, son-in-law of owner-trainer Ces Devine, had been employed to drive Lord Module at the start of the season, but on the first night in Dunedin the stallion had swung sideways at the start and taken no part in what was the first sign of things to come. Devine then engaged Jack Smolenski, but on the second night Lord Module refused to move at all, and when he repeated that performance in the Cup Trial he was made unruly.

Devine had been reluctant to race Lord Module after Forbury, as a repeat mulish display would have resulted in him being stood down from racing and starting in the Cup, and also compounding his problems was the fact that Lord Module was now also suffering from quarter cracks in his hind hooves as well as the front. Then the week of the Cup Trial, Smolenski had also been suspended for an indiscretion at Kaikoura and an appeal had failed at the 11th hour, forcing Devine to turn to the experience of John Noble. It was hardly an ideal build up, but the Cup still loomed as and promised to be an epic battle between 'The Lord' and 'The Lady.'

Roydon Scott would actually run the favourite though, on the strength of two brilliant wins at Addington in September and the Cup Trial, and the fact he was a normally smart beginner and off the front. He resumed by breaking his own NZ standing start 2000m record in the Laing Free-For-All and was no less impressive with a last to first performance in the Hutchison FFA a fortnight later. Not known at the time though was that the Cup would be the last race for the injury-troubled Scottish Hanover gelding, and that he would be humanely put down inside of a year when arthritis took its toll.

Sapling was a 7-year-old entire and coming to the end of his sterling career, but had shown with a runaway win at Forbury Park that he was still a big threat in any race. Greg Robinson was the same age and while overshadowed by Delightful Lady his staying credentials were never in question either. Another 7-year-old in Trevira, third in the Cup a year earlier, had streeted his rival in the Easter Cup that year in a track record 4:06.9, and downed Sapling at Ascot Park in the spring in NZ record time, while the 8-year-old Wee Win had shown at Ashburton that he was far from finished too. The 1978 Cup winner Trusty Scot, also now eight, had downed Trevira and Sapling at Gore in late September, also adding to the form puzzle.

Almost forgotten and neglected while all this was going on was Hands Down, who had qualified for the Cup with an outstanding double in the Louisson and National Handicaps in August. A one-time rogue who had improved to be just a very wayward customer in the early part of his racing career, Hands Down had finally turned the corner for trainer Derek Jones in breaking maiden ranks the previous December. The National was his sixth straight win and 11th in less than eight months, a sequence which had included the Canterbuy Park Winter Cup in 4:09.3 after a great tussle with Bonnie's Chance. But he had not shown up in two further races - at Forbury Park he had been tripped up by the shifty track and been stood down for a month and until trialling satisfactorily, and at Kaikoura he had been checked and galloped - nor was he placed in the Cup Trial.

But a then 25-year-old Peter Jones was still quietly confident in what would be his first Cup drive. "At that point he was still fragile and easily tripped up at the best of times (referring to his Dunedin and Kaikoura failures), but in the Cup Trial I just kept him 'in behind' and he had been travelling as easy as any of them," recalled Jones last week. "I think he fell from favour mostly because he had got there (to Cup class) so quickly, and had become overlooked particularly given the quality and experience of the others. When it might have seemed the bubble had burst, his career was actually still in the ascendency when most of the others were in the descent," he added.

The start of the 1980 NZ Cup was almost as sensational as the finish. Lord Module played up and eventually just stood there, figuring 200 metres was about his correct handicap, while Roydon Scott also missed away badly and lost all chance along with Canis Minor and Trio. Hands Down was also tardily away and settled down well behind Delightful Lady, who had started from more like a 20m handicap with on tape behind the 10m line, and had been slow starting because of it. Delightful Lady was normally a very smart starter, but a flying tape was her signal to get into gear.

Mack Dougall took up the early running from Trevira in the open, but it wasn't long before the fireworks began - Wee Win and Bob Cameron were soon off and around them when the pace eased and led a mile from home. They had been tracked forward by Hands Down, and Delightful Lady had attempted to follow him, but was shoved four-wide a lap out by Lordable and Denis Nyhan.

Jones pressed on to join Wee Win at the 1100m and Delightful Lady camped three-wide outside them, until the 700m mark when Mike Stromont tuned up the wick and Hands Down and Delightful Lady went clear and set sail for the judge, going at it hammer and tongs. The great mare seemed to have the measure of Hands Down on the home turn and Stormont glanced to his right to see no other threats were coming. Half a length up at the furlong, Delightful Lady looked certain to have the Cup in the bag, but Jones was just foxing and when he finally went for Hands Down, the rugged gelding responded and gradually pegged the mare back, in the end drawing away by a neck right on the line.

The race had been a true test of stamina - Hands Down's 4:07.2 off the front broke Johnny Globe's equivalent race record and was the fastest 3200m recorded at Addington since the introduction of metrics - and the stretch duel was a truly stirring, strength sapping and memorable one. Delightful Lady was gallant in defeat, not giving an inch until the final strides after such a tough run, while Sapling finished on gamely for third four lengths away after being held up at a crucial time by the tiring Wee Win. Greg Robinson was fourth another three lengths as the rest of the field filed in at intervals, with a last ironic and sarcastic cheer being saved for Lord Module as he actually finished the race, a very long last, only to suffer the ignominy of being barred from standing starts.

Delightful Lady, who was credited with a placed time of 4:06.1 in the Cup, underlined her greatness when she trekked back to Auckland and won the Franklin Cup three days later in 4:05.8 from 55 metres. This gave her the record 'no ifs or buts' over Young Quinn's 4:06.7 recorded at the Auckland Inter-Dominions five years earlier - Young Quinn having bowed out from the spotlight by parading at Addington on Cup Day. Delightful Lady would win 12 races that season, careering away with a second Auckland Cup in another all-comers' national record and claiming the Horse of the Year title, and was no worse than third in 18 races that year.

But Hands Down's triumph from seemingly certain defeat in the NZ Cup was certainly no less a performance that day. "I would have been quite happy to sit outside Wee Win, but when Mike (Stormont) made his move down the back, he forced me to go. Hands Down never got tired and even when Delightful Lady got half a length on us, I knew we weren't going away - it was just a matter of whether she would come back to us and in the end she did. Hands Down couldn't go the Auckland way, but on his day at Addington, he was pretty much unbeatable." He had the last say over Lord Module in an equally exciting NZ Free-For-All after trotting speedster Scotch Tar had taken them through the first mile in 1:57.4, and the Allan Matson proved a mere formality.

Hands Down would start in five more Cups without success, being third a year later behind Armalight and fourth in 1983, and only Roi l'Or, Tactician and Master Musician would start in more Cups with seven unsuccessful bids. When retired with 31 wins, 23 had come at Addington to break Lordship's record of 21, and also included three Easter Cups and four Louissons.

For Derek Jones, his son had provided him with his first Cup winner after 21 drives himself, which included the likes of Auckland Cup winners Soangetaha ( for his solitary third place behind Adorian almost 30 years earlier) and Leading Light. When informed that Hands Down was his 13th individual starter in the race during his famous quick wit - "bugger, if I had known that - I would have backed him."

For breeder/owner Bill McAughtrie, a humble and semi-retired farmer from Omarama, Hands Down's overnight success was a reminder just how fickle the game can be. As he accepted the gleaming trophy from the Duchess of Kent, McAughtrie reflected that year earlier "I knew I had a horse with a tonne of ability, but I never thought he would ever win a race."

Hands Down, by the successful Tar Heel horse Armbro Del, belonged to the maternal line of previous Cup winners Cardigan Bay and Globe Bay and a host of other top performers. McAughtrie had been involved with the family for 20 years, when he leased the first foal in Slick Chick from Snow Jane, an unraced U Scott half-sister to the dam of Cardigan Bay. Slick Chick won a race with Jack Fraser jnr as the trainer, but when he gave the game away, McAughtrie gave the Brahman gelding to Jones and he won another six. McAughtrie then bought from Christchurch breeder Harry Kay his sister Snowline for $1000. She won three as a 3-year-old, but was then so badly injured in a fence that it seemed she was finished, and McAughtrie bred he to Fallacy to get the dam of Hands Down - Snow Chick.

Put back into work, Snowline won another nine races, including a 2:00 mile in the New Year FFA at Addington. In March 1971, Snowline won her last race at Greymouth, the same night that Snow Chick won a maiden race for Jones and then training partner Jack Grant, and both were soon retired.

Snowline's dam, Snow Jane was also the dam of 1976 Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Final winner Bay Johnny, Snow Globe (10 NZ wins trotting), good Australian pacer Toliver Bay and the dam of a brilliant one in Apre Ski (Vic Marathon, US1:56).

Snowline had 10 in all with nine of them being fillies that amounted to little on the track, but the first colt from the first of them, Snow Chick, was Hands Down.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Jul06

 

YEAR: 1980

The Duchess of Kent presents the Cup to Hands Down's owner Bill McAughtrie
1980 NZ TROTTING CUP

It was only a year ago. Winning the 1980 New Zealand Cup was the furtherest thought in Bill McAughtrie's mind. "In fact," he confessed only minutes after his tough five-year-old gelding Hands Down had indeed won the Cup, "I had a horse I knew had a ton of ability, but I never thought he'd ever win a race. He was a wayward animal," Mr McAughtrie said before being hustled off to receive the gleaming trophy from the Duchess of Kent.

But in the last year, most of it in the hands of Templeton trainer Derek Jones, Hands Down has lost just about all those wayward tendencies and has won a dozen races in the meantime. From maiden to New Zealand Cup winner in a matter of months...a fairy tale of progress for Bill McAughtrie, a farmer from Omararama, and his wife.

And equally meteoric has been the rise of Hands Down's driver, twenty-five-year-old Peter Jones. Last Tuesday's was his first drive in the Cup. And in it he was able to achieve what father Derek, astute horseman that he is, has been unable to do in his twenty drives in New Zealand's premier race over the years. Peter was also able to credit his father with his first training success in the Cup after having many horses in the past who have made it to Cup class. Hands Down was Derek's thirteenth runner in the race, a point that prompted him, with usual quickness of wit, to suggest to the nearby reporters: "If I'd known that, I would have backed him."

Hands Down, though, has long been marked as a top Cup prospect. He won his first race at Timaru last December and then proceeded to win his next three as well. He missed a few times before winning a class four and five free-for-all at Addington in February, scored a third and then failed in three more races. Then again he lined up at Addington in April to begin an unbroken sequence of six unbeaten starts, four at the end of last term and two fine performances at the National meeting on the course in August.

The first of those August wins took him into the Cup and his win on the second night, a tough performance in anyone's language, marked him as the horse to watch if he lined up in New Zealand's premier staying race. A stayer Hands Down certainly is. He's taken five of his dozen victories over the exteme distance,more than any of his rivals last week.

He's big and strong and, according to Peter Jones, he's a lovely horse to work with at home. He's still relatively lightly raced (he hasn't had thirty races yet) and this, along with losing a lot of confidence after falling at the start of one of his early races at Forbury, contributes a little to his "greenness". The stipes weren't all that impressed with his Forbury performance and put him out for a month and made him trial to their satisfaction before they let him race again.

"Quietly confident" before last weeks event, Jones said he first knew the Armbro Del gelding was extra good when he missed away in a four-year-old race at Invercargill last December and yet still thrashed the likes of Lincmac, Historic Moment and Matai Dreamer.

It was no thrashing, though, Hands Down handed out to this year's star-studded Cup field. At the line, he had only a neck to spare from the brilliant northern mare Delightful Lady, whose run for her placing in an incredible 4:06.1 was a feature of the race. Hands Down's time of 4:07.2 was a record for the race. Delightful Lady, in turn, was four lengths to the good of old Sapling with another northerner in Greg Robinson three lengths further back.

Where Hands Down lost ground at the start, "The Lady" too was a little slow but soon made up her 15 metre handicap. She tagged onto the back of the main bunch, four lengths in front of the breakers Hands Down, Trio, Canis Minor, Roydon Scott - and the luckless Lord Module who let the others get 200 metres in front before moving off for John Noble. At the half-way stage Hands Down was tucked up behind the mare but soon after Jones took off in search of the lead with Wee Win, Mack Dougal and Trevira. He was outside Wee Win at the 1000 with Mike Stormont and Delightful Lady now back in the second line but three wide.

Hands Down mastered Wee Win at the 600 and at that moment Stormont started his charge. These two sorted themselves out and set sail for the judge some lengths clear of the rest. Delightful Lady actually got her head in front of Hands Down half-way down the straight but he fought back well to take the decision. Third-placed Sapling, in peak of condition, was, according to driver Doug Mangos, held up by a tiring Trevira at the 500 metres. "The leaders got away on me then and those three or four lengths I had to make up were just too much," he said. "Still, he ran on really well. It was a top run."

Greg Robinson, in the hands of Peter Wolfenden, pleased his owner Max Robinson with the way he stuck on after getting a good run mostly, even though a little wide down the back. And at the same time Robinson confessed, not without the inevitable smile however, to being a little disappointed after the race. "We thought we'd go home with the horse having won $100,000 in stakes." However his $6,000 for fourth took him to just on $96,000. "But we'll hit the target over the next few weeks once we get home," Robinson said. "They're easier up there." On his horse's performance last week, he wasn't being too optimistic. Greg Robinson was down to start in last Friday night's $20,000 Franklin Cup, a race Stormont was taking Delightful Lady back north for as well.

Stormont was a little critical of one aspect of last Tuesday's race, the lack of a tape on the 15 metre mark. "She was standing back when they went; we might have been 20 metres for all anyone knows. And then she was waiting for the tape. When it goes, she goes," he said explaining her slight tardiness at the start. He was returning home almost immediately because the stake at Franklin was better than for the Free-For-All and the northern opposition was weaker. "In the Free-For-All she'd have to go hard again and with the Addington track as hard as it is, her splints would make he a bit scratchy," he said. Besides, they'd be racing on their home track. however, he would return to Addington for another crack at the Breeders' Stakes, a race she won earlier this year.

The favourite, Roydon Scott, missed the start and really never had the chance to show the form that saw him unbeaten in his two other starts this season. Trainer-driver Fred Fletcher thought perhaps the big horse might have been "a bit fresh" in spite of some hard runs at the recent trials. "It's a long time since he's done that, and you can't do it in a race like this. It was a hopeless task trying to make up that ground".

If Roydon Scott's task was hopeless, Lord Module, well backed by the Addington crowd, set himself an impossible job by refusing to go again at the start. Last season's pacing sensation, starting from the unruly mark on 10 metres, didn't go for a long time and tailed the field by a long way all through. I was the final ignominy when he was later barred by the stipendary stewards from racing off standing starts. How quickly the mighty fall from grace. But amongst the jeers from a section of the 20,000 strong crowd, as Lord Module and John Noble went past on their own, there were more than a few murmurs of sympathy for a previously great performer. On looks alone on Tuesday, he should have won his second Cup.

But, realistacally, for the beaten lot there were no excuses. Hands Down and Delightful Lady trounced them well and truly.


Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1980

Hands Down catches Lord Module to win the FFA
1980 BENSON & HEDGES NZ FREE-FOR-ALL

Though he finally finished out of the money, champion trotter Scotch Tar was responsible for the spectacular contest which developed in the NZ Free-For-All.

Producing speed away from the gate which few thought even he could muster, Scotch Tar streaked to the lead to pull the field through the first quarter in 26.8. Maintaining amazing speed, Scotch Tar went through the first 800 metres in 58.6, then maintained the pressure as owner-trainer Slim Dykman attempted to burn off the opposition at the 800 metres. Scotch Tar reached the 1600 metres in an incredible 1:57.4, having left Be Sly struggling in his wake as the one trying to lead the chase after the trotter.

Scotch Tar was under pressure, not surprisingly, as he straightened up for the run home and Lord Module was the first to put his head in front. He took a clear lead, but then came NZ Cup winner Hands Down with a genuine stayer's finish from near the rear on the home turn to wear down Lord Module and go clear over the last 50 metres. Peter Jones said after the event that it was only his staying ability that saw Hands Down get up to beat Lord Module, a fact confirmed by trainer Derek Jones later. "That trotter made it for him. If it had turned into a sprint he wouldn't have had a chance," Derek said.

Lord Module's effort was much more encouraging, considering he had not really had a race for some weeks. He locked sulky stays with Trevira at the 400 metres as they both started to improve after Scotch Tar but driver Jack Smolenski did not think it affected his winning chances. "It was a much better race. He showed he wanted to race today," Smolenski said.

Philippa Frost showed once again just what a game little mare she is by finishing strongly for third after starting from the second line and following Lord Module round when he started to improve. Trevira wilted a shade to fourth after moving up to challenge on the home turn, then came Sun Seeker, Wee Win and Sapling.

Sapling's driver Doug Mangos and Sun Seeker's driver Richard Brosnan were both disappointed after the race. "I thought it was going to be a false start," said Mangos, who had his chances extinguished 200 metres from the start when Wee Win broke and ran out, checking Sapling badly. Sun Seeker was another to suffer and Brosnan, too, was far from satisfied with the start.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1982

LES WHEELER

A 25 investment thirteen years ago is still paying dividends for Springston dairy farmer Les Wheeler.

Back in 1968 he and a friend went halves in a 50 broodmare, Wavering Downs, deciding to take alternative foals from her. Les Wheeler's first foal was a filly, Edis Nova. She developed into a top trotter. Then, ten days ago, Novander, Edis Nova's first foal, made it two starts for two wins when she took out the 4-year-old trot at Addington. She had, earlier last month, won her debut at Oamaru after several impressive trial runs.

Wheeler, an amateur licenceholder, trains the mare and races her in partnership with his son Jeff, himself licenced to drive at matinees and trials. There is nothing much of Novander but she showed she has got a big heart when she slugged it out with Bloxett all the way down the Addington straight after getting a long way back early in the race, then improving to sit in the open. The race didn't take too much out of her. And out at Springston last week the owners suggested she could have gone another round after winning at Oamaru.

Peter Jones has driven her both times. "She can be a bit tricky at the start, you have got to watch her over that first bit," Jeff, who does a lot of the work with the horse, said last week. "Peter knows her though. We have taken her over the Derek's place a couple of times so he could get to know her. The other night they got back because Peter didn't want to hurry her early, but once on the way she's as good as gold." Novander has many of the traits displayed by her mother. She is a lazy worker and generally has to be pushed along. Edis Nova, too, was a great doer, "just like this wee thing here," said Jeff, patting the latest stable star on the flank. The Wheelers, already pleased with the way she's gone so far, will be ecstatic if Novander turns out half as good as her mother.

Edis Nova won about a dozen races and racked up more than thirty placings in her career. Les Wheeler bred her himself, his first venture into the harness game. A fellow member of the Metropolitan Milk Board, Lester Moore, had bought Wavering Downs for 50 and offered Les a half-share. He took it. "Lester wanted to toss a coin to see who would have the first foal; But I reckoned that seeing it was his mare to start with, he should have the first," Les recalled last week. She produced a colt, Arthur's Pass by Password. The next season, Wheeler sent Wavering Downs to Tuft. "I didn't know much, but I thought I would like to breed a trotter. Dudley Moore had Tuft near my run-off property down the road, so I decided on him. "He was one of the first really trotting-bred horses here, wasn't he? Even that's no guarantee you will get a trotter."

The mating couldn't have worked out much better. Little Edis Nova was a good horse almost from the day she arrived. As a 2-year-old, she won three non-tote trots at Addington in a row, the first of then by an official fifty lengths. The filly was raced in partnership by Wheeler and Freeman Holmes who trained her until Les was granted a licence himself in 1975. All told, she won close to $31,000 before being sent to stud. She was placed in both the Rowe Cup and the Dominion Handicap.

"When I was contracting I'd had a bit to do with Leo Berkett and Dave Bennett and a few other trotting people...but I had never owned a racehorse before Edis Nova, probably because I couldn't afford it. There was no way I expected my first one to turn out like that." Edis Nova was retired because she was starting to make hard work of her races. She was meeting the likes of Easton Light and company. "She probably had another win or two in her, but she had been so good to us, we didn't want to break the old girl's heart," Wheeler said.

Over the following years, Lester Moore bred Pacific Wave, Star Wave (both by Pacific Hanover), The Power Game and promising maiden trotter Proud To Be (both by Game Pride) from Wavering Downs, a half sister to 1964 Rowe Cup winner Dreaming. Proud To Be showed her ability when she bolted in in the trotter's sweepstake event at the latest Canterbury OTB trials at Addington.

Meanwhile the Wheelers, since Edis Nova, have bred their share of winners from Wavering Downs. Lord Nova was their second foal. By Lordship, he won two races for them before being sold. He was a disappointment then, until he was sent to America, where he went 1:59.8 and won more than $100,000. "We were disappointed with the way he went here. We were sure he would win a lot more," Les Wheeler said. The next foal was Nicki Nova (by Tuft). She won one race pacing before leaving the speedy young pacer Nova Light (by Winterlight). So far, then, there hadn't been many to fulfill Wheeler's hopes of breeding trotters. But Wavering Downs' ninth foal, to Gerry Mir, was the fine young trotter Gerry Nova. Trained by Les' older son Ross, then a professional trainer, Gerry Nova ran third to Thriller Dee in the NZ Trotting Stakes at his first start. Two starts later he was second again to Thriller Dee in the Rosso Antico Stakes at Auckland before winning a maiden trot at Timaru in 3:31.7, a time seldom, if ever, bettered by a novice trotter on the track. He was then sold to America for good money while, soon after, Ross moved to the Waikato where he's been share-milking for the past three years. Wavering Downs has since left Star Nova, a Crockett 4-year-old who is close to qualifying. Unfortunately, she died the day after foaling Bad News, now a 3-year-old, by Evening News, for Lester Moore.

Her racing days over, Edis Nova was left in the north where, after missing to Crockett, she produced three foals to Great Evander. Novander is the first of them. She was floated back to the South Island as a weanling and was taken along very quietly. She showed hardly any inclination to trot at all in the beginning. "As a 2 and 3-year-old she appeared a natural pacer. We worked her quietly free-legged but then, gradually, the trotting side of her came through. "She almost got to the stage where she might have qualified pacing," Jeff, who's 19, said last week. "But now she trots cleanly with no weights and only very light shoes."

Jeff drove Novander when she qualified...twice. "She went 3:38.2 when winning at Addington but she couldn't qualify because she hadn't been inspected. We went back the next time and, even though we didn't go quite as quickly, she qualified again," Jeff said. Jeff gained most of his experience through helping Ross when he trained at Springston. These days when he's not helping with the cows on the family's three blocks, he spends all his time with the horses. They have already put some time into Edis Nova's other two foals by Great Evander, the 3-year-old Nancy Nova and Ricky Nova. Nancy Nova has been turned out for a good spell while her younger brother is also out for a while. "He's pacing at the moment but I think given time, he will probably trot," Jeff said. The only other in the stable right now is a 2-year-old filly by Lumber Dream out of Nicki Nova. She's trotting. "I think she'll be okay, too," Les said. "She's not being rushed."

With all the Wheeler family riding ponies and show jumping with some success when younger, the racehorses often get a saddle put across them. The latest in the team are no exception. "They should be handled a lot when young...and riding them provides a bit of variation and gives them a bit of strength in the back," Jeff contends. "Most of all, it takes time and patience." That, it seems, is sure to pay off with Novander.

In the meantime, Edis Nova is in foal to Scottish Hanover, a champion sire who's left very few trotters. "We decided on him when we saw her other foals paced a bit," Les said. "We thought, if she wants a pacer, we'll give her a chance." But, even then, it's not certain her next foal will pace. And that's what the Wheelers find fascinating about breeding their own horese...the uncertainty of it all.

Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 9Jun82

 

YEAR: 1982

1982 NZ OAKS

Hilarious Guest took the honours in the $15,000 NZ Oaks with a brilliant display of front running, clocking a NZ record 3:20.1 for a filly over the mobile 2600 metres.

After taking the lead off northern visitor Rain Girl after 500 metres, she was never extended, beating Rain Girl comfortably with Steady Lady finishing fast to take third off Capri, Ansett and Tact Boyden.

The big Hilarious Way filly showed all the ability which has carried her through to open company this season for Rangiora owner-trainer Maurice Vermeulen. In the hands of Peter Jones, she dictated terms so commandingly that rival drivers were thinking a long way from home about the battle for the minor money. Robert Mitchell thought he had just an outside chance when he was on Hilarious Guest's back turning for home, but it was a momentary hope only and he had to be content with second.

These two were well clear approaching the home turn and it was left to Steady Lady to lodge an impressive bid for third after being held up behind Capri and Tact Boyden when the others dashed clear.


Credit: Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1982

Hilarious Guest (inner) fights off Portfolio
1982 NZ DERBY

As far as Peter Jones was concerned, there was only one horse he had to worry about in the $50,000 New Zealand Derby. That was the Noodlum colt Portfolio, trained by his father at Templeton and driven by the older Jones in the big race.

And so it proved at the end of the 2600 metres. Peter and Hilarious Guest got to the line first alright, but they had just a head to spare over Portfolio. They had been one-two all the way. Peter Jones had Maurice Vermeulen's filly away well - she did put in a few skips but, as Jones said later, "that's probably the best beginning she's ever made" - and rushed her straight to the lead. There she stayed, pressing on relentlessly and making it almost impossible for the others to catch her. And she wasn't dawdling at any stage. She went to the line in 3:20.9, a tenth of a second inside Noodlum's eight-year-old 3:21 record for the age group and inside Motu Prince's 3:21.1 race mark.

"When I still had Portfolio on my back turning for home, I didn't think there was any way I could beat him. There is really nothing between them. There are great stayers," Jones said afterwards. She had to be a good stayer. Even with the pace on throughout, she came her last mile in close to even time.

The deeds of Hilarious Guest are well known. She's raced and won over all distances and after winning the New Zealand Juvenile Championship - among her seven wins as a baby - was voted last season's top of her age. The Derby win was the Hilarious Way-New Guest filly's twelfth and it took her stake tally to well over the $80,000 mark.

Portfolio had put up a tremendous performance to take out a 3200 event on the grass at Ashburton a few days before the Derby. He proved then he had everything needed to turn in a top run in the big race, especially after having lost a lot of ground soon after the start, and powering home in the straight. Even in the Derby itself, Derek Jones thought he was on a winner, for a while anyway. "I thought I could get to her at one point but she was too good. We were just outstayed."

Mel's Boy and the favourite Enterprise finished almost two lengths and a neck behind the first two home. Jack Smolenski said later that Mel's Boy's little break at the start had put paid to his chances. Normally a good beginner from the stand, Mel's Boy was unsettled when the tape went and, once under way, had to be content to sit five and later four places back on the fence in a small field. He was running on at the end. "He ran a good race," Smolenski said. "But you can't give away any start when they're going at that pace."

Peter Shand, driver of Enterprise, had no excuses to offer. "The only problem was they went too quick. You can't come from behind and beat them when they keep up that speed. Still, it was a good run. He kept on going, anyway." Fifth home Guest of Honour made up a ton of ground in the straight after being tucked away at the rear all the way and his was an eye-catching run. But for the others there could be no excuses. They were well beaten by that big filly flying in front.

Hilarious Guest was the only filly in the race and there was no way she was going to be outshone by the boys. It had been a long time since the last time a filly had won - 1963 when Bellijily took the honours.


Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1983

1983 NZ OAKS

Preferred confirmed her ranking as the top three-year-old filly of the season, and possibly the best of her age, when she turned in an outstanding performance to win the $15,000 NZ Oaks. Though her winning margin at the post was only a head over the fast-closing Big Softie, Preferred had to call on all her class to win the feature.

In front soon after the start she was never given a rest at any stage. "There was something at her all the way," was driver Peter Jones' comment after dismounting from his second successive Oaks winner. Last year, he drove Hilarious Guest to an easy win in New Zealand record time - 3:20 - and on Monday Preferred was not far outside that, clocking 3:21.

The big, strong Boyden Hanover filly flies to Auckland to contest the Great Northern Derby. She will then remain in the north for the DB Flying Fillies' Final, C F McCarthy Stakes and the North Island Oaks. Leading northern driver Peter Wolfenden will drive Preferred in the fillies' events, but Peter Jones is behind her in the Great Northern Derby.

Preferred was bred by part-owner Wayne Francis, co-propietor with Bob McArdle of the Nevele R Stud, Prebbleton, where the winner's sire, Boyden Hanover, stands. Preferred is out of the U Scott mare Bright Highland and is trained at West Melton by Ian Shinn, whose brother Malcolm shares the ownership of the filly.

Big Softie, who joined Richard Brosnan's Kerrytown stable after finishing sixth in the Southland Oaks, was an unlucky second, being held up for a run from the 400 metres. Once clear in the straight, she flew home to take second only a head from the winner and four lengths clear of the second favourite Harvest Gold. Harvest Gold was trapped three wide early, but secured a trail after 1000 metres and was in the fourth line. She ran on well without looking like troubling the first two. Gateau, who sprinted up fast to challenge Preferred at the 900 metres and raced her as they drew four lengths clear passing the 400 metres,wilted to fourth a length and a half back when Preferred dashed away to a three length lead at the top of the straight. Tricotine fought on well for fifth ahead of Gold and Black, who came on from near the rear, and Best Seller.

Credit: Tont Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1985

Owners Doreen & John Murray, Borana, Bobby Allen & a young Mark Jones
1985 TOYOTA NZ TROTTING CUP

Thirty-year-old Templeton horseman Peter Jones was shaking. His wife Lois was nearly in tears. The couple's daughter Philippa was completely overcome. And their young son Mark just wanted to give his hero a hug and pat the horse. Borana had just won the $225,000 Toyota NZ Cup at Addington with Peter Jones at the helm. The joy of the Jones family said it all.

Five years earlier - 1980 - Peter Jones had driven in his first NZ Cup and reined home Hands Down in a great tactical victory over North Island idol Delightful Lady.

That was a feat that Jones cherished. Last Tuesday, however, Jones not only drove the Cup winner but was also the trainer. With his first runner in the NZ Cup, Peter Jones, just over 12 months into his professional training career, completed something all New Zealand trainers dream about.

This year's NZ Cup had been won by Australian visitor Preux Chevalier before the race had been run, according to the pundits. The much vaunted West Australian pacer was backed down to very short odds. But, like most short priced Cup favourites, he was beaten.

Roydon Glen was to offer the Australian his toughest opposition. A noted Australian journalist was quoted in the local Christchurch morning daily that Preux Chevalier would win by a "street". Roydon Glen's trainer-driver Fred Fletcher was in something of a quandary before the race. "I'm still trying to figure out how far a street is," said Fletcher. "Just how much do I have to get beaten by?"

Borana's chances of beating the first and second favourites were not accorded much public support. At totalisator close, he was the rank outsider of the field. His chances indeed looked remote after being well beaten in atrocious conditions in the Kaikoura Cup then finishing out of a place in the Cup trials the previous Thursday.

Someone, however, forgot to tell Borana and Peter Jones of the situation. After giving all but an earlier breaker in Spry Joker a start with 1000 metres to run, Borana came with the last run to win going away by one and a quarter lengths, returning his backers over $76 to win, the biggest Cup upset of all time. Closest to him at the line was Our Mana. He was three quarters of a length clear of Roydon Glen with a short head back to Preux Chevalier. Comedy Lad, Camelot and the pacemaking Premiership were close up next. Borana returned to a great reception, although one section of the crowd gathered by the birdcage decided they had the right to spoil Jones' occasion with booing and cat-calls.

For Borana, a six-year-old stallion by Boyden Hanover out of the Out To Win mare Aoranam, the Cup victory was his 18th career win. The $135,000 winner's cheque doubled his stake earnings to $247,645, a total brought in from 95 starts.

"It's every owner's dream to win this race, and we did it today," said Borana's part-owner John Murray at the presentation. "We owe a lot to Peter (Jones) and his boys for the way they have prepared this horse," Mr Murray added, "this win is as much for them as it is for us." Mr Murray, an administrator with the IHC in Dunedin, races Borana in partnership with his wife Doreen. The couple acquired Borana when the horse was just seven months old. The then colt was advertised for sale in the NZ Trotting Calendar. Peter Shand, son of Washdyke trainer-driver George Shand noticed the advertisement and, because he knew the couple were looking for a horse, told John Murray, who purchased the colt soon after for $2,000.

Placed in the care of George Shand, Borana quickly showed ability and at two raced 12 times for six wins, including victories in the Rangiora Raceway Stakes, Forbury Juvenile Stakes and Oamaru Juvenile Stakes. A leg injury at two sidelined the colt for a while and he missed a chance of competing in the major juvenile events.

Back at three, Borana competed with the best. He raced 18 times, winning four and being placed in 12 other races, bringing in stakes of $28,185. Two of his wins were recorded in the NZ Championship Stakes and the Mercer Mile, the latter victoy in 2:00.7.

At four, Borana was second best pacer of his age behind Nostradamus. He raced 34 times, recording seven wins and 13 placings, returning his owners $45,095. Wins at this age came in the Te Awamutu Cup (2:00.1), Cambridge Classic, DB Superstars heat and a heat of the Messenger. Borana raced 24 times last season without success. His first eight appearances were from George Shand's stable, then the stallion changed quarters soon after the NZ Cup meeting last November and joined Peter Jones' team.

A successful junior driver, holding the record for the most wins as a junior until recently beaten by his nephew Anthony Butt, Jones decided to branch out into training and acquired a property that backed on to his father's establishment at Templeton.

Borana had his first outing in Jones' black and white colours at Alexandra Park on December 22. Not 12 months later, those colours were brought back at the head of the NZ Cup field. "I was lucky I suppose," said Jones. "Not many trainers get a horse with an open-class assessment to begin with." Lucky or not, Jones has quickly made his mark as a trainer, not only with Borana but with other horses including Laser Lad, likely favourite for the $125,000 Fay, Richwhite Sires'Stakes Final last Friday. "It was a thrill to win with Hands Down in 1980," said Jones, "but to win today and also train the winner, well, I can tell you it's an incredible feeling." Jones added that he felt for the Fred Fletchers and Barry Perkins of the world. "Those blokes had all the pressure on them, press, radio, television, everything. We had no pressure on us at all, no one even came out to get our autographs during the week leading up to the race. It was nice to be able to relax and take the race as it came."

Jones said he was slightly confident of success before the race. "As confident as you can get when there is opposition like Preux Chevalier and Roydon Glen," he said. "I knew this fellow was the best I had had him since he came here, and I knew he would go a top race. It was just a matter of getting a good run and staying out of trouble. Peter Jones has no set plans for the horse. "I will take them as they come." A trip to Brisbane for the Albion Park Inter-Dominions in April? "No, no thoughts on that at this stage."

Our Mana, so often the bridesmaid in big cup events, again had to play second fiddle, as he had done to Camelot in last year's event. Left in the open early Colin De Filippi gave the Schell Hanover gelding a beautiful run in the one-one from the 1800 metres after Preux Chevalier looped the field to sit without cover. De Filippi had Our Mana poised on the leader's wheels as they swung for home. He loomed up to Premiership 150 metres out and looked set to win. "We had every chance," said Colin De Filippi. "I thought we had a chance when we got to the front inside the 200 metres but I could hear Borana coming and knew he was going much too well for us." Some consolation for owner Jenny Barron was that the $45,000 second prize money boosted Our Mana's earnings over $200,000. The gelding has now won $240,720.

Second favourite Roydon Glen was third, and looked decidedly unlucky. Away well, he ended up five back on the fence early, then four back. He had a wall of horses both in front and beside him with 600 metres to run and had no pacing room at all. Clear late, Roydon Glen accelerated too quickly and paced roughly. Once balanced by Fred Fletcher, he roared home down the outside but it was too late, Borana had the race in safe keeping.

A short head away in fourth was Preux Chevalier. Slow then into a break in the first 50 metres, the West Australian settled several lengths off the leaders early. He had caught the bunch with 2400 metres to run, then driver Barry Perkins sent his charge on a sweeping run towards the lead. Instead of continuing on, Perkins elected to sit without cover. There they stayed until the home turn. Preux Chevalier issued a challenge and kept on fighting, but the expected winning margin of a "street" was nowhere to be found.

Comedy Lad was a length back fifth. Tony Herlihy had the gelding handy on the fence but try as he might in the straight the gaps did not come.

Camelot was sixth. The 1984 Cup winner was given a good run by Robin Butt. He improved three wide to be challenging on the turn and kept coming, though not suited by the slow pace.

Premiership was next in, a nose back. He set the pace, not the 3:59 pace many had expected, but a muddling pace. He looked to be going well on the turn and still had control as close as 150 metres out. He was dive-bombed only in the final few metres.


Credit: Brian Carson writing in NZ Trotting Calendar

 

YEAR: 1986

Tussle and her constant companion Sally Marks
1986 TAUBMANS DOMINION TROTTING HANDICAP

The theory of wind resistance played an important part in Tussle's courageous Dominion Handicap win. Moments before "Shorty" moved away from the shelter of the birdcage and into the uncompromising 14 knot easterly on the track, her owner-trainer Dr Cliff Irvine untied the dust sheet on the sulky and tucked it under his arm.

Irvine successfully tried the tactic at Addington 25 years ago when Light Mood took third in the President's Hadicap at long odds. "It was blowing a gale that day, and Doug Watts said to me in the birdcage 'why don't you pull the mud sheet off?'," Irvine recalled.
the 65-year-old Lincoln College veterinary professor "hasn't had occasion" to use the ploy in the last quarter of a century, but after consulting Tussle's driver Peter Jones, and his old cobber Derek Jones, he had no hesitation. "Derek told me he had done it when Soangetaha won one of his Auckland Cups, and Peter said he didn't mind getting gravel in his face, so we took it off as quickly as we could in the birdcage. On a very windy day it acts like a sail and it would have a retarding effect - it is tough enough for her with Peter in the cart, being a little horse, let alone having a spinnaker out there."

And Irvine's snap decision was vindicated when Tussle, after her familiar beginning to land in fourth place, was left straining into the wind with still 1800 of the 3200m heartbreaker left. By then comeback hero and 1984 Dominion winner Basil Dean had his rivals struggling to stay in touch with his eager front-running, which reminded some of his awesome 2600m world record two years ago. "When he was attacked by Admiral Soanai down the back he got fired up and on the bit, so I thought it best to let him bowl along," driver Kerry O'Reilly said. "I could see Basil Dean was serious," Jones said, "and she's just as good parked as anywhere else in the field...but she was struggling to keep up with him."

Sally Marks, Tussle's faithful companion and strapper, watched dejectedly as the pack bounced down the stretch with a lap to travel. "She's hanging badly - I think she's had enough," Marks said, pulling in another lungful of Pall Mall and walking aimlessly towards the outside rail. Tussle did look beaten as the 800m peg came and went, her trotting action unusually scratchy and her head bobbing from side to side.

With a fierce tail wind down the back straight for the final time, Basil Dean punched three lengths clear and the murmurings of the crowd sensed an emotional upset. "But he wasn't quite up to it," O'Reilly said. "I knew half-way down the back he was struggling. He's still got the speed, and he's sound, but he didn't quite have the race fitness." Basil Dean's ground-devouring stride began to shorten on the last bend, and tiny Tussle quickly gathered him in and scooted two lengths ahead. And as first the sturdy warrior Jenner, who had followed Tussle throughout, and handsome favourite Melvander (who had tracked Jenner) balanced themselves before attacking, she lowered her head, flattened her ears and cut through the wind to the post. With 100m left, both Jenner and Melvander seemed poised to gun down 'Shorty', but with her new found strength this season she determinedly held the pair outto score by a long neck.

Veteran Christchurch horseman Jack Carmichael could not quite cap his successful Cup carnival, settling for second and $20,000 with Jenner. "I thought half-way down the straight he might get to her, but she was just too good," he said. Melvander finished a further long neck behind after almost exploding into a gallop 50m off the line. "I was smiling around the corner, but then he started to trot roughly and I had to take hold of him," driver Jack Smolenski said. South Auckland mare Landora's Pride rattled into fourth ahead of Simon Katz, while the others struggled home victims of a punishing last 2400m of around 3.04. "She simply outstayed them all," Jones said of Tussle later. "She can really fight them off now, and had them covered all the way down the straight."

When asked if he considered removing Tussle's dust sheet made the vital difference between winning and losing, he replied: "It was blowing quite hard and I suppose it's got to make a difference. She was battling into the wind from the 1800m, she had the worst run of all the horses that figured in the finish, but she kept going right to the line."

Irvine described Tussle's Dominion Handicap win as one of her two greatest performances, the other being her dazzling 2:31.9 national record for a flying 2000m which she set fresh-up in September. "She always surprises me how well she goes and how she keeps on improving, even this year as a ten-year-old," he said.

There are few mountains now left for the champion daughter of Tuft to climb. She has captured the two most prized trotting crowns in New Zealand: the Dominion Handicap and the Rowe Cup (1985). Her 3200m time, despite the ravaging gale, was 4:13.81, which lowered Indette's national record for a trotting mare. And the $65,000 winner's cheque bumped Tussle's earnings to $268,055 in New Zealand, making her the greatest stakewinning trotter in history.


Credit: Matt Conway writing in HR Weekly

 

YEAR: 1987

Hands Down winning the 1980 Cup from Delightful Lady
HANDS DOWN

Addington favourite Hands Down was humanely destroyed last Friday after breaking his shoulder in a paddock accident on the North Otago farm of his owners, Bill and Fay McAughtrie. The 1980 NZ Cup winner who scored 22 other wins at Addington during his brilliant career, has been buried on the McAughtrie's Omarama farm, where he retired to 13 months ago.

Trained by master Canterbury horseman Derek Jones, Hands Down - affectionately known as "Old Bill" - will be remembered as a super-tough and versatile pacer who could drain the breath from his rivals with merciless front-running performances, or scorch home from the tail to find the winning post first.

"It was quite strange, though," Derek's son Peter Jones, Hands Down's regular driver, said in a radio interview at the weekend, "I kept all the press clippings and he was never named a champion by the media. Maybe it was because of his robustness, even ugliness." He may not have bee as handsome as some, but the chunky son of Armbro Del and Snow Chick could have done nothing more to earn the accolade of "champion."

Hands Down raced once as a 3-year-old (he was unplaced) but made a huge impact at four years, winning nine races and capping his season with a typically brave win over Philippa Frost and Bonnie's Chance in the Canterbury Park Winter Cup. His stylish 4:09.3 for the 3200m stand that night reflected his staying powers, and, although not yet open class, the 1980 NZ Cup became his major 5-year-old aim.

And what a stirring performance he gave, just 11 months after clearing maidens, to deny the classy Delightful Lady by a neck in race record time of 4:07.2 after forging to the front down the back the last time. Later in the Metropolitan Cup meeting, Hands Down added the NZ Free-For-All (2000m) and Allan Matson Free-For-All (2600) - a rare and prestigious treble. Seldom at his best too far away from home, Hands Down's rollcall of successes includes the Kaikoura Cup, Waikato Cup, an Inter-Dominion Consolation and three Easter Cups.

But give "Old Bill" a 2600m stand at Addington in August and he was happy. His tremendous heart and some skillful early season conditioning by Derek Jones saw Hands Down string together four successive Louisson Handicaps in the early '80s. And it was so nearly five, with Norton and Our Mana stretched to stave off the 9-year-old (who began 25 metres behind) by a nose and half-head in 1984.

Father Time was rapidly catching up with Hands Down, but he had one surprise left for his Addington fans. It came on the final night of the 1984 NZ Cup meeting, just three months after he narrowly failed to bag his fifth Louisson. With regular partner Peter Jones sidelined with torn ligaments in an ankle, the reins were passed his then 18-year-old nephew Anthony Butt and the combination of young and old scored an emotional win in the $20,000 Christchurch Airport Travelodge Free-For-All. He rated a sensational 2:01.6 for the flying 2600m, and left struggling behind him such accomplished pacers as Camelot, Borana, Hilarious Guest, Enterprise, Our Mana and Gammalite. The race marked Hands Down's 23rd Addington victory, and also his last, surpassing the previous best of 21 held by dual NZ Cup winner Lordship.

The strapping gelding had a cluster of outings as a 10-year-old, but had long since passed his peak and was retired after failing in the Ashburton Cup on Boxing Day, 1985. Derek Jones, who named his Templeton training establishment "Soangetaha Lodge" after his dual Auckland Cup winner but leaned towards Hands Down as the best he has trained, regularly visited his mate at Omarama. "He was like an All Black; every time he went out he tried his best. He is the best horse I've ever had and probably one of the best NZ has ever seen."

Peter Jones: "I'm sure he used to sense the atmosphere. After a win at Addington he'd pause, even if for only 10 or 12 seconds and look at the crowd as if to say, "gotcha again!"

Credit: Matt Conway writing in HRWeekly 12Feb87

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