Freeman (FG) Holmes, who died in Christchurch last week aged 88, apart from being one of NZ's most accomplished and successful horsemen, was an enigma. Many of the old school have insisted he was every bit as gifted a reinsman as his famous brother Maurice. His record leaves no doubt that he was not only a top driver but also an outstanding trainer.
'FG' was a loner; an introvert who shunned publicity and well wishers, and was very selective about who he even spoke to. He was harder to get on with when he'd just won a race than when he had been tipped out from a favourite. Yet catch him in the right moment and he would chat the breeze for as long as you would care to listen - and listening to him could at times be very enlightening and rewarding. Besides breeding, racing, training and driving, he had other pet pursuits, high among them hunting and shooting. He was also, in his early days, a fine athlete.
The writer well recalls as a junior in the racing department of "The Press", Christchurch, in November, 1953, calling on 'FG' at home at West Eyreton a few hours after his NZ Cup win with Adorian, in the hope of getting a feature story to phone through in time to make the next morning's paper. People were phoning to congratulate the family. Freeman refused to be called to the phone. "Don't ask them here," he insisted. "We're not having a party." Trying to get the background to Adorian from him was nigh on impossible. He insisted, with that curious humour of his, that I sang a song before he would tell me anything. When I obliged, instead of telling me about Adorian, he played for me, over and over, a record of an Australian race in which, in a skirmish with top Sydney driver Jack Watts, 'FG' had been tipped out over the rail and quite seriously injured. "He's a bloody good driver, that Jack Watts," said Freeman each time we listened to the incident. I finally got some sort of story from him - which took some working out as he spoke of horses, mares, colts and fillies without bothering about their registered racing names.
'FG' was the first son of the famous Free Holmes to come to prominence. Insofar as NZ horse racing is concerned, the Holmes saga began with Freeman Senior. Born on a farm near Ashburton in 1871, he was, as a rising 12-year-old five-stone stripling, pressed into service, because of a shortage of jockeys, to ride, laden with "ballast," in an Ashburton galloping event - which he duly won. "Old Free" as he ultimately became reverently known to the racing and trotting fraternities in NZ, successfully rode gallopers on the flat, and over jumps, and then became a prominent trainer and owner of thoroughbreds.
Turning his hand to the sister sport of trotting, Free became a leading saddle exponent, driver, trainer, importer and breeder. Race driving until he was 73, Free continued to train, and when well into his 80s was training - and riding to and from Riccarton racecourse from his property nearby - the thoroughbred Tarantella, owned by his then teenage grandson Graham (son of FG), and a winner for them.
Of Free's four sons, first Freeman, then Maurice, then Allan became actively involved as drivers and branched out to become trainers in their own right. Walter stayed at home, assisting with the stud side of Free's activities. 'FG' was a proficient jockey. He was 13 when he won the Apprentice's Plate at Wingatui in February, 1913, and subsequently won several hurdles and flat events. He first drew attention to himself riding saddle winner Law Chimes at the 1916 NZ Cup carnival. Two years later he finished third with Sungod in Author Dillon's NZ Cup.
Freeman's first classic win came in the fourth edition of the Auckland Trotting Club's Great Northern Derby in 1919, driving Lady Swithin for successful Ashburton owner and administrator H F Nicoll, later to become long-time president of the NZ Trotting Conference. In 1921, then aged 22, Freeman drove Sherwood to win the NZ Cup for owner S G Lemon. After a protest alleging interference by Holmes to the previous year's winner, straight-out trotter Reta Peter (whom he beat by two lengths), Sherwood was relegated to second and Holmes was fined £25. The incident was hotly debated for years by many who saw the race. And, when, 32 years later, 'FG' trained and drove his own good horse Adorian to win the 1953 NZ Cup, he seized the opportunity at the presentation to insist again that he should not have been disqualified with Sherwood. "It was unjust," he said.
'FG' drove NZ Sapling Stakes winners Richore (1926), Sonoma Child (1928), Captain Morant (1942)and Forward (1951). He won the NZ-GN Derbies double in 1927 with J Washington's Daphne de Oro, drove J Duffy's Native Chief to win the NZ Free-For-All that year and was the nation's leading reinsman of 1927/28 with 33 wins. He trained Graham Direct to win the 1935 Auckland Trotting Cup for J Westerman (driven by his father, Free) and drove him himself to win the 1938 NZ Trotting Gold Cup at Wellington. He won two further NZ Derbies with Bonny Bridge (1943) and Blue (1958).
Much of the credit for tough NZ-bred gelding Captain Sandy becoming the first two-time Inter-Dominion Grand Champion must go to 'FG'. At the 1950 series in Melbourne, with regular pilot James Bryce junior suspended, FG Holmes filled the breach and from the awkward 24yd mark got him into the final by gaining a fourth and a third in the heats. But Holmes himself was suspended on the third night for alleged interference to swift Melbourne Claude Derby. Jack Watts replaced 'FG' and Captain Sandy won the Grand Final by a head from Globe Direct, trained and driven by Freeman's brother, Maurice. At the same carnival, brother Allan won a Consolation with Congo Song.
At the 1953 Inter-Dominions in Perth, Freeman again did most to get Captain Sandy in the Grand Final, finishing fourth with him the first night and second in fastest time the second night. Committed to drive good NZ mare Blue Mist (with whom he won on the first two nights) in the Grand Final, Freeman had a rocky run with her on the way to finishing fifth. His replacement behind Captain Sandy, West Australian Bob Pollock junior, emerged triumphant.
'FG's 1953 NZ Cup winner Adorian was one of four good winners he and Miss P Norton bred from a very good mare for them, Coquette. Miss Norton and 'Old Free' bred Coquette by Free's importation Grattan Loyal from Bonny Logan, daughter of Free's importations Logan Pointer and Bonilene. Racing from three to ten years, Bonny Logan won 14 races for Free and his principal stable patron W H Norton, then produced nine live foals, eight of them winners. 'FG' raced and trained Coquette for eight wins including the 1942 National Cup. Apart from Adorian, Coquette's only other three foals were top winners for 'FG' in the shape of Vigilant, Morano and Forward.
In a memorable contest for the 1951 Canterbury Park Juvenile Stakes at Addington, 'FG' was skittled and tipped from Forward's sulky at the start, ran with the colt holding on to his reins for some fifty yards, climbed back into the cart, wheeled the field in the last half-mile and won. In 1953, 'FG' drove Brahman, son of the first two NZ-bred 2:00 pacers Gold Bar and Haughty, to an Australasian record 2:02.2 time trial as a two-year-old. In 1957 he drove Blue, trained and part-owned by his brother Allan, to a world yearling record of 2:09.2. Both marks lasted for more than 20 years.
In the 1960's, 'FG' became associated with champion trotter Ordeal. Seven before she won a race, she was handed to him after five wins for Reefton trainer Charlis Murcott. She won two more as a seven-year-old under Holmes. After having a season off to have a mystery foal that was destroyed because the sire was unknown, she returned to racing as a nine-year-old. Her next victories under Freeman were the Worthy Queen-Dominion Handicap double at Addington. She went on to win the 1961 Rowe Cup (driven by Maurice Holmes from 78yds in a national record 4:14), and wound up winning in America.
In later years, Holmes dabbled as an amateur trainer of gallopers, winning with good chaser Hogan. His last racing win came with Delargey at Wingatui in October,1980.
'FGs' sons Freeman ('FL') and the late Graham Holmes followed in the footstep of their father, uncles and grandfather as prominent horsemen, and 'FL' has been associated as part-owner, trainer, driver and now studmaster of a modern-day champion, Noodlum.
'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 30May51
If you read about it in a Nat Could or Edgar Wallace racing thriller you wouldn't believe it, which only goes to prove that fiction, after all, is not such a complete stranger to the truth!
It happened at Addington on Saturday (May 26): the race, the Juvenile Handicap, the horse, Forward, and the hero of the piece F G Holmes, trainer-driver of Forward.
When the barriers were released, Centennial Hall swung across and tipped up Forward's sulky on its side, throwing Holmes on to the ground. With the field well on the way, Forward instinctively went after them. Holmes, holding firmly on the reins, was smartly on his feet, and he secured a tenuous hold on Forward's sulky with one hand while holding the reins in the other.
For upwards of 50yds, Holmes was forced to put in some giant strides to keep up with Forward, and he eventually managed to get one foot in the sulky, followed immediately by the other; by the time he was seated safely again the leaders must have been 60yds in front of him; it was a wonder he retrieved the situation with no greater loss of ground.
The majority of the public had not been unaware of the incident, and Holmes was warmly applauded on passing the stands the first time round. Excitement mounted as Forward improved his position and hotly challenged the leaders with two furlongs to go. Wide out, he strode to the front at the distance and won full of running.
It was an astonishing recovery, to say the least. Most of the people who made him hot favourite must have been persuaded that all chance had vanished when Holmes was deposited on the ground at the outset. Presence of mind, a full measure of grit and determination, and an ounce of luck were the main ingredients in perhaps the most dramatic spill and its sequel ever seen at Addington; it at least ranks equal to Indianapolis's win in the Christchurch Handicap at Addington in 1934 with a broken hopple.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 4Jun87
She was only a slight little thing of 15.1 hands. She had found out a string of trainers before she pranced into a stall at Alf Wilson's New Brighton stable one fine day in the year 1919: but she earned a place among the square-gaited immortals by defeating fields of pacers two years in succession in the NZ Cup.
Do you have a youngster in your family who wants to know why we call our premier event the NZ Trotting Cup when trotters no longer appear in it; haven't for years, in fact? And are you, like us, sometimes left wondering what a marvel of trotting speed, solidity and staying power Reta Peter must have been?
To the moderns it sounds almost like a fairy tale; bewildering to the younger generation who now so rarely enjoy the exhilarating spectacle of a trotter competing successfully against any sort of pacers. Reta Peter won the NZ Cup in 1920 and 1921, and she is the only trotter with two NZ Cups to her credit.
The late A G Wilson trained and drove Reta Peter for both her successes in the premier event from his famous training establishment, 'Myosotis Lodge,' New Brighton. The story of Reta Peter is set down here in Alf's own words:
"I had just returned from World War I and was not keen on starting training horses again," said Wilson. "In fact I had decided to give it up. But it wasn't to be. Frank Robson came to me and begged me to take Reta Peter to train. I said I'd give her a trial. The first thing I did was to have a look at her feet; she had 8oz shoes in front and 4oz toe-weights and I realised her feet were just murdered by too much weight. I decided on 5oz bar shoes and threw her toe-weights out altogether. When the late Bernie Fanning first examined her feet for me he drew my attention to her weak heels, which opened right out. After I had got her shod to my liking I sent her a mile on the grass track at New Brighton and she went 2:14, real time in 1919, when she did it, and she did it on her own. I got her about 15 months before the 1920 Cup, and that trial decided me - I was still a trainer."
"And she stood to me like the beauty she was; she won three two-mile events against horses of her own gait the first season I raced her. She was six then and already a champion. I remember one day she was giving away 16 seconds - they were handicapped by the bell then - and she was in front at the end of half a mile. Jack McLennan was driving one of the front horses and when Reta Peter passed him so early he shouted out to me, 'Where the hell did you come from'?"
"I realised I had something phenomenal in Reta Peter. I felt confident I could beat the best of the pacers and we thereupon set our caps at the NZ Cup," continued Wilson. "Reta Peter continued to increase our confidence. She did everything I asked of her, and more, and as the big day drew nearer I told everybody I would win. But most of them laughed. They couldn't imagine a trotter, something of a cast-off before she came to my stable, beating the pacers in the Cup."
"It certainly looked a tall order with Author Dillon in the field, but I never had any doubts about the result. Now I will try to go over the race for you again. She was on 9 seconds (the limit under modern handicaps)and began well for a trotter. She was in the middle of the field early. The last time round she was about seventh. She moved up for me at the half, and at the quarter post she came round wide out and won without being knocked about by the best part of a length from General Link and Author Dillon. The backmarker was Author Dillon, and Reta Peter's 4:30 2/5, forced him to go 4:21 4/5, a record for many years. When Author Dillon passed me with half a mile to go his driver, Ben Jarden, turned his head and said: 'Goodbye, Alf.' I replied: 'I'll see you later,' and sure enough, I did," chuckled Alf.
"The following season Reta Peter had no opportunity of a race before the Cup. She had been pin-fired in the meantime and I had to go very carefully with her. For her second Cup - 1921 - the limit was 4:32 and she was on the same mark as Sherwood, 7 seconds. Others in the field included Man O' War, 2 seconds; Albert Cling, 3 seconds; General Link, 6 seconds; Trix Pointer 6 seconds and John Dillon, 7 seconds. There were two false starts and she was first out in both of these. Eventually she got away well. With a round to go she ran up behind the leaders, Vice Admiral and Gleaming. Dil Edwards om Vice Admiral turned round and said to Bill Warren on Gleaming: 'Go on, Bill, here comes the bloody trotter.' She had he skin taken off both her front legs in the last half-mile and after finishing second to Sherwood she was given the race after an inquiry into Sherwood crossing her. I want you to put it on record for the benefit of those who don't know the full story that I didn't enter a protest against Sherwood. The Stipendiary Steward, Mr Mabee, took it up himself. Mr Robson showed Mr Mabee the mare's bleeding legs, and it was the 'stipe' who took up the case," asserted Wilson.
The NZ Trotting Register has the following: "Sherwood finished two lengths in front of Reta Peter, with Vice Admiral two lengths away third and Willie Lincoln a length and a half further back fourth. Sherwood, 4:29, Reta Peter, 4:29 1/5, Vice Admiral, 4:31. A protest was lodged by the owner of Reta Peter (F H Robson) against Sherwood for crossing Reta Peter in the straight. After consideration the stewards upheld the protest, placing Reta Peter first and Sherwood second and fining F G Holmes, driver of Sherwood, £25." This incident is still hotly debated by people who saw the race.
It was about this time that the bell system of starting gave way to the yards system and the standing start. Reta Peter's two-mile mark in the August Handicap, of 1922, a 4:34 class, was 60 yards; or 4:29. A third Cup victory was considered within her powers by Wilson, who related how well she was going in her training until a few days beforehand. "She actually broke down four or five days before the Cup," said Wilson. "She went behind, and there was no chance of mending her again. One of the most relieved men was Nelson Price, trainer of Agathos. Not that he wished Reta Peter any harm; but he rang me up and said his chances had improved since Reta Peter had gone out. He added that Reta Peter was the only one he was afraid of. Agathos duly won and only had to go 4:33 2/5 on a good track, so it certainly looked as though Reta would have been hard to beat again," said Wilson.
Alf describes Reta Peter as "Just a little slight thing, 15.1 hands." He remarked that she did not put up phenomenal times because she did not have to. He claims she trotted her last quarter of her first NZ Cup in 29 seconds, and that under the present system of handicapping she would have won a great fortune and improved her record by several seconds. "She had a lovely temperament," he said. "My grand-daughter used to brush her hind legs and was never in the slightest danger. She was a perfect and a treat to do anything with. Some idea of her quality will be given by the fact that the night before her first Cup I was entertaining some of my friends, including A J McFlinn, the well-known steeplechase jockey. When I showed him Reta Peter he said: 'Put a saddle on her, Alf, and she would not be out of place in the galloping Cup field.' She certainly had great quality and refinement for a trotter." added Wilson.
"You don't see many American sulkies on the racetracks today," remarked Wilson. "Reta Peter raced in a real American sulky, which is pounds lighter than most of the so-called speed carts in use here today. I contend the American sulky, which sits feet closer to the horse than a speed cart, is seconds faster. To begin with, the weight of the driver is not a dead drag or dead weight as in the speed cart. The weight of the driver in the sulky actually pushes the the cart under the horse, so to speak. The speed cart has to be pulled all the way, but the centre of gravity with an American sulky is actually forward of the driver's seat. That's the best explanation of the difference between the sulky and the speed cart I can give you. I hope it's fairly clear, because I think it's most important. I've taken particular notice of many good horses racing in speed carts of recent years and I feel more and more convinced that these carts are a dead drag on the shoulder or mouth of a horse."
"I do think that our best horses would improve up to 2 seconds on their times if they were trained and driven in American sulkies," continued Alf. "At the same time, I'm well aware of why the sulky went out of favour - the sulky, being a forward-weighted vehicle with it's centre of balance in front of the driver, frequently went underneath a horse when the horses reared at the start. There was a lot of this with sulkies. Speed carts do not run under a horse so easily, which is probably one of the main reasons why they have almost pushed the American sulky off the racetrack. The standing start also had a lot to do with this change. Under the old clock system of starting, horses were constantly on the move, and there was little fear of a horse rearing and over-balancing. The standing start altered all that and made the speed cart a safer vehicle for horses having to line up at the barrier. For all that, I think our champions would be able to do a lot better in American sulkies."
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Nov65
Bridging a gap of 32 years since he drove Sherwood first past the post in the New Zealand Trotting Cup of 1921, F G Holmes won this year's race with Adorian after being no further back than third at any part of the running. Sherwood, on a protest for crossing Reta Peter, was placed second in the 1921 race, so it was F G Holmes's first Cup success.
Once again it was a newcomer's year. Adorian, who qualified for the race by winning the two principal events at the last Metropolitan August Meeting, followed in the footsteps of last year's Cup winner, Mobile Globe, who won the same August double three months before his victory in the premier event. Adorian proved himself every inch a stayer on Tuesday. His 4:13 4-5, while wide of the race record - and world's record - of 4:10 2-5 established by Highland Fling in 1948, was real stamina by any standards, particularly when it is known that he ran the last mile in 2:04 2-5 and the last half mile in better than a minute.
This brilliant climax to a spectacular race on a perfect track and in ideal weather proved to great an ordeal for the gallant favourite, Johnny Globe, who probably lost the race when he cannoned into the breaking Tactics soon after the start, thereby losing his balance and all of 60 yards before he got down to work again. This unfortunate incident drew audible sympathy from the public, who left no doubts by their investments that they had extreme confidence in the glamour horse of today.
Billy Boy, the leader out from the start, was closely attended by Adorian and Pleasant Smile. Meanwhile Tactics, drawn number 1 at the barrier (a position from which, it is claimed, she has never begun correctly yet), broke badly. Lady Rowan also broke, and Tactician set off on a bobble and went scratchily throughout. With just over three furlongs covered, Pleasant Smile ran into a clear lead from Billy Boy and Adorian (on the outer), and then came Thelma Globe, Soangetaha, Burns Night, Tactician, Vedette, Maori Home and Van Dieman, with Johnny Globe making up ground rapidly. There were few changes of any importance in the next six furlongs, but the race brightened up when Johnny Globe moved round the field with three and a half furlongs to go.
Adorian strode confidently to the lead with three furlongs to go and he was clear of Johnny Globe at the home turn. Soangetaha momentarily looked dangerous when he issued a challenge on the inside at the distance, but actually it was a two-horse race over the final furlong and Adorian always held the upper hand. The fourth horse, Burns Night, had every chance. He was two lengths behind Soangetaha. Vedette, who never looked like the champion of old at any stage, was a fair fifth, and then arrived Billy Boy, Maori Home, Van Dieman, Lady Rowan, Pleasant Smile, Tactician and Thelma Globe, with Tactics last. It was stated before the race that Tactics was suffering from seasonal trouble.
For the second year in succession the Australian-bred Springfield Globe sired the winner. It is interesting to speculate on what heights the Globe Derby sallion might have attained as a sire if he had remained in the Dominion instead of returning to Australia some six years ago.
Coquette, the dam of Adorian, who reached Cup class herself, has a 100% record as a producer of winners - her only four foals before her premature death (in 1949) were Vigilant, winner of £2327 in stakes in the Dominion (he has also won races in Australia); Morano, £9025; Forward, £4560; and Adorian, winner of twelve races and £17,217 10s in stakes and trophy - the New Zealand Gold Cup is valued at £250. Coquette's four offspring, therefore have won the grand total of £33,129 10s. Adorian and all the rest of Coquette's progeny were bred by Miss P Norton and F G Holmes, and Coquette was bred by F Holmes (venerable father of F G), and Miss Norton. Coquette was by Grattan Loyal from Bonny Logan, by Logan Pointer from Bonilene, and Grattan Loyal, Logan Pointer and Bonilene were all imported to this country by F Holmes. Springfield Globe, sire of Adorian, was out of a Logan Pointer mare, so Adorian has two close-up strains of this famous blood.
Although this was F G Holmes's first outright win in the New Zealand Cup - he owns and trains Adorian as well - he has been one of the Dominion's most capable trainers and horsemen for close on 40 years, he began driving at a very early age. "It was unjust," he declared when referring during the Cup presentation to the fate of Sherwood in 1921. He also made passing reference to some bad luck he had in one or two previous Cups, and said one of his ambitions, now that he was "not getting any younger," was to make a trip to America. He paid tribute to D McKendry, who looks after Adorian and who played a big part in turning the horse out so fit.
Mr C E Hoy, who congratulated Holmes on his skilful driving and the excellent performance and condition of Adorian, then called for cheers all round and Mrs Hoy decorated the winner with a garland of flowers. The Holmes family have a good record in the New Zealand Cup. Free Holmes, father of F G, Maurice and Allan, trained and drove Trix Pointer in 1919, Maurice drove Wrackler in 1930 and trained and drove Chamfer in 1950, and Allan Holmes drove Harold Logan in 1932 and owned and trained and drove the flying 1945 winner, Gold Bar.
Not at any stage of his career has Adorian been responsible for anything of a dazzling nature. He has been a 'late ripener' with a vengeance, coming to his full powers in easy stages until he has reached his zenith as a six-year-old; a powerful, quality horse of fine balance, a rich bay with little white about him, and no vices. He is a treat to train and drive and have around the place, according to the people who look after him, and he is as reliable and genuine as they come. Quite a reputation for a mere horse, but well earned by Adorian, a 'gentleman' in or out of harness.
Probably due to the fact that, for the first time since double betting was resumed, the first leg was run on the New Zealand Cup, there was a decided fall off in win-and-place betting on the big race. This year's on-course total was £28,331, compared with £38,336 last year; the off-course figures were £29,815 10s, against £33,943 10s last year. The record total on a New Zealand Cup is the £40,907 10s (on-course only) invested in 1951. This year's on-course total was £179,170 15s, compared with £190,930 15s last year, when the off-course figures were £86,475 15s; this year the off-course total soared to £139,707, including £49,031 on the double. The on-course double figures this year were £14,592 5s. The crowd was not as large as in some previous years.
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 11Nov53
1922 NEW ZEALAND CUP
If Reta Peter's first win was popular, the second was controversial.
She was second past the post to Sherwood and F G Holmes, but a protest was lodged and officials deemed the interference at the top of the straight serious enough to reverse the placings.
It was serious enough for Reta Peter to return to the birdcage bleeding from her front legs anyway.
In this way, Reta Peter went into the records as the second and last trotter to win the Cup, and one of only two mares to win it twice, the other being Haughty.
**Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct 2003**
The 1921 New Zealand Cup had an unprecedented climax when Sherwood, driven by F G Holmes, was first past the post but was relegated to second for crossing in front of Reta Peter at the straight entrance. The finish was an exciting one, and it was unfortunate that the race had to won on protest.
The interference in the final stages was obvious and the protest lodged by the mare's owner did not surprise the Addington public. The Judicial Committee, after considering the matter, resolved under part 25 of the Rules of Trotting, "as to keeping positions", that Holmes, the driver of Sherwood, had seriously interfered with Reta Peter. It placed Reta Peter first and Sherwood second, In addition, Holmes was fined £25. Reta Peter returned to the birdcage after the race with skin off her front legs, which were bleeding.
An appeal against the decision was immediately lodged by Holmes and accepted by the stewards. The Appeal Committee of the New Zealand Trotting Association decision met and, after studying the evidence, decided that the Judicial Committee decision was correct. Holmes never agreed with that decision, and took the opportunity when Adorian won for him in 1953 to remind officials of the grave injustice he alleged had been done to him 32 years previously.
The crowd around the birdcage in 1921 did not show much enthusiasm after the protest, and conjecture remains as to whether the interference was serious enough to warrant relegation. In the history of the race the only other disqualification from first place came in 1969, when Stella Frost, driven by Doodey Townley, was deemed to have caused a serious spill, which cost several horses their chances.
For trainer-driver Alf Wilson and Reta Peter, the 1921 victory was a triumph. Reta Peter had not raced earlier in the season, as she had been pin-fired, so her effort without lead-up races was a good one. She remains the only trotter to have won the NZ Cup twice and, along with Haughty, the only mare to have had double success.
The Cup stake was raised to 3000 sovereigns and the class tightened to 4:32. Reta Peter was opposed by 11 others, but a short limit of six seconds was set, with the Australian import Man O'War - for several weeks the race favourite - on the back mark. There was great controversy at the time about this handicap, because, by comparison with Reta Peter, he seemed badly off. Man O'War's best two-mile time was 4:29.4, yet Reta Peter, who had a best time of 4:28.6, had an advantage of five seconds over him at the start.
Trainer James Bryce was not pleased with Man O'War's trackwork and stated publicly before the race that his horse was not fit enough to run a gruelling two miles. And so it proved. Man O'War was slow away and always toiled in the rear of the field in a cloud of dust. His display was the subject of an official inquiry, at which Bryce stated he had not wanted to start Man O'War, because the horse had gone from bad to unmanageable in training the week before the race. He further stated that Man O'War bored badly during the race and struck a post coming into the straight, almost falling. Owner Joe Corrigan was bitterly disappointed with the display. "The horse will not race again at the meeting," he said.
Man O'War, a black stallion born in Australia in 1914, was a good horse, adept in bad going. Brought to New Zealand in 1920 as a six-year-old, he won the Auckland Cup for Bryce, from 84 yards. He won a second Auckland Cup the following year, from 96 yards, and was a good winner on New Zealand tracks, ending the 1921-1922 season as leading money-winner with £2935. At stud he produced the top-class mare Navy Blue, who included the 1938 Auckland Cup among her 14 wins. Man O'War's best son was Happy Man, who reached Cup class and later, as a 17-year-old, won a free-for-all in Western Australia. Man O'War mares produced Loyal Nurse, who won the Auckland Cup in 1946 and the NZ Cup in 1949, Soangetaha, who won the Auckland Cup in 1951 and 1952, and Parawa Derby.
Man O'War started second favourite behind Albert Cling, who again let down his supporters. John McLennan had him well placed all the way but he faded to sixth. the race start was not the best recommendation for the time system - there were two false starts and, on the second ocession, several horses were at top speed for three furlongs before they were pulled up. Reta Peter was first out both times. Eventually, the field was sent away at their correct bells, with the exception of Asturio, who broke, and Man O'War, who was slow away.
Gleaming (Bill Warren) and Vice-Admiral (Dil Edwards) led out from John Dillon, Sherwood, Trix Pointer, Albert Cling and Reta Peter. There was little change until the last lap, at which stage Gleaming began to tire and Vice-Admiral opened a lead of four lengths on Reta Peter, with Trix Pointer and her bracketmate, Sherwood, starting good runs. Sherwood passed Vice-Admiral and Reta Peter just as the straight was reached and, driven with great vigour by F G Holmes, appeared to have won a good race by a length from Reta Peter.
Vice-Admiral, a black gelded son of the three-year-old Cup starter of 1907, Advance, and the best of his offspring, held on for third, just ahead of Willie Lincoln, Trix Pointer and Albert Cling. Manvers Edwards, known as Dil, was a son of Manny Edwards, and had his first Cup drive behind Vice-Admiral.
Surprisingly - even for those early days at Addington - Asturio ran again on Cup Day, finishing third in the final race, the Recovery Handicap. Just as significant on this occasion was his driver, Ossie Hooper, soon to leave an indelible mark on the Addington scene. Drum Withers was also prominent among the successful new drivers at this Cup meeting.
Albert Cling, who disappointed for a second consecutive time in the Cup, ran a New Zealand race record for the mile of 2:09.6 when winning the Free-For-All from three others, Trix Pointer, Willie Lincoln and Marie Tempest. The final day of the meeting belonged to Trix Pointer, who showed why Free Holmes held her in such high regard. She won the Christchurch Handicap over two miles, her first winning run since April 1920, and later in the day ran third to Ena Bell and Chid over one mile. In the process she registered 2:08.6, breaking the race record that had been set by Albert Cling the previous day. Ena Bell was trained and driven by Gisborne's Bob Fisken, who also produced the Dominion Handicap winner Wild Moor.
The only dual winner at the meeting was the trotter Whispering Willie, who beat the pacers in the Courtenay Handicap to win in 4:29.4 and the trotters in the Middleton Handicap.
**Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct03
1921 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP
1920 NEW ZEALAND CUP
Trix Pointer, selected and imported from America in 1915 by legendary horseman Free Holmes along with Bonilene and Logan Pointer, furthered the fine record of mares when she outstayed the pacemaking Moneymaker.
Not very big and not particularly pretty either, Trix Pointer is the only mare to win the Cup and leave a Cup winner (Wrackler,1930), and in fact established one of the best families in the Stud Book. She was a grandaughter of Charles Derby, the sire of Norice.
It completed a unique double for Holmes, who had ridden Manton to win the Cup at Riccarton in 1888, and who established a famous family all of his own.
**Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct2003**
On a beautiful day and before a record crowd, the small six-year-old American-bred mare Trix Pointer, in the hands of Free Holmes, won the 1919 Cup in convincing style, by three lengths from Moneymaker (Andy Pringle), with four lengths back to Matchlight (James Bryce). Then followed Sherwood, Erin's Queen and Mintson. The winner, who was fifth favourite, paced 4:30 for the two miles.
Holmes bought Trix Pointer from her Californian breeder for a client of his Upper Riccarton stable, W H Norton, during one of his trips to the United States, and she proved to be a most consistent mare. With her Cup victory, Trix Pointer advanced her New Zealand earnings to £4399 15s from 11 wins, 11 seconds and seven thirds.
Trix Pointer was by Demonio from Bally Pointer. Demonio was by Charles Derby, the sire of Norice, who ran second to Monte Carlo in the inaugural NZ Cup.
After he retired from race driving in 1944, Free Holmes named Trix Pointer the best horse he trained and drove. After her racing days, Trix Pointer made a unique contribution at stud. To the imported Wrack she produced Wrackler, who won the 1930 NZ Cup and the 1932 Dominion Handicap. Of all the fine mares who have won Addington's big race, Trix Pointer is the only one to have later produced a Cup winner. Among the stallions, only Cathedral Chimes (Ahuriri and Kohara), Johnny Globe (Lordship, Spry and Globe Bay) and Lordship (Lord Module and Inky Lord) have produced Cup-winning offspring.
Holmes had Trix Pointer, off her handicap of six seconds, in fourth place from the start and never far away from the tearaway pacemaker Moneymaker, who started from nine seconds. Moneymaker and Erin's Queen were first into the straight followed by Trix Pointer, and under the whip she quickly gathered in the leaders.
Andy Pringle had Moneymaker in front by six lengths passing the stands for the first time and still had that advantage starting the last lap. However, as in so many of his distance races at Addington, Moneymaker failed at the business end. Matchlight, from two seconds, ran the best of the back contingent, finishing well for third. Sherwood ran a solid race for fourth, while Erin's Queen, always well up, ruined her chance for a place by losing her stride at the furlong post.
The disappointment of the race was the favourite, Author Dillon, who finished well back. In a field of 11, Author Dillon was asked to give a nine-second start to those in front. He did not get away well and was never near the leaders. In the back straight the last time he momentarily left his feet as he tried to improve. Before the race his trackwork had been excellent and, in September, when the club held a meeting to honour the visit of Viscount Jellicoe, he paced a record 2:41.4 for the mile-and-a-quarter.
Author Dillon made amends for his weak Cup performance by winning the Free-For-All on the second day. After two false starts in the race, Albert Cling, who failed to get up to the mark, was left when Author Dillon and the only two other starters, Cathedral Chimes and Admiral Wood, moved away from their flying start. Author Dillon, always in front, won by a length from Cathedral Chimes, with the other two coming in at 12-length intervals.
Trix Pointer was the season's top earner with £2635 and her owner, Bill Norton, was the season's leading owner, with £3135. Free Holmes finished the season with 16 winning drives and in fifth place. He had 22 training successes to be runner-up behind James Bryce. Only once in his long career did Free Holmes finish on top of these lists, when he trained 19 winners during the 1922-23 season.
His victory with Trix Pointer created a unique record for Holmes. In 1888, as a successful jockey, he had ridden Manton to victory in the New Zealand Galloping Cup at Riccarton. Before becoming interested in trotting, Holmes had been first a jockey, and then a trainer of thoroughbreds, and he was without doubt one of the great personalities of the racing scene in the last decades of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. His other successes as a jockey included the Canterbury Cup, Grand National Hurdles and Great Northern Steeplechase. As a trainer, his successes included the New Zealand St Leger and Auckland Cup. Holmes' achievement of winning both New Zealand Cups was later equalled by Roy Berry, who rode Sinapis to victory in the 1913 New Zealand Cup at Riccarton, then trained and drove double winner Lucky Jack (1937 and 1939) and trained Bronze Eagle (1944) to NZ Cup victories.
In 1915 Holmes made his first trip to the United States, seeking new strains of blood, and bought Logan Pointer, Bonilene and Trix Pointer. In 1922 he made another trip and bought Rey de Oro, and in 1930 he returned with Grattan Loyal and Frank Worthy. The impact on these imports on the New Zealand breeding scene has been immeasurable.
Holmes had few peers as a trainer, owner and studmaster. His ability and expertise was obviously passed down to his three sons - F G, Allan and Maurice - all of whom were associated with NZ Cup victories. The family enjoyed seven Cup victories, with Trix Pointer(1919), Wrackler(1930), Harold Logan(1932), Gold Bar(1945), Chamfer(1950), Adorian(1953) and Lookaway(1957). Quite an achievement.
The Metropolitan Club offered record stakes of 11,000 sovereigns for the 1919 meeting. The big crowd on Cup Day wagered a record £76,291, and the amount invested on the Cup race itself, of £16,147 was a record amount for either a harness or galloping race in New Zealand. The 1919 meeting was a staggering success, with Show Day betting reaching £83,684 10s and an unsurpassed £218,723 for the three days.
The meeting had other highlights, with slow class pacer Cappricio and Cello Sydney Wilkes winning half the second-day programme between them. Cappricio won the Metropolitan Handicap over one-mile-and-five-furlongs in harness, and then later in the day won the Railway Handicap in saddle. Eugene McDermott handled him both times.
Cello Sydney Wilkes won the main event, the Courtenay Handicap, and then the Royal Handicap. On the first day he had also won, and on each occasion the Harold Dillon stallion paid generous dividends. When he won the Christchurch Handicap on the third day, Cello Sydney Wilkes and his trainer-driver John McLennan carved their place in Addington's history, the horse becoming the first of only five to win four races at the November carnival. The feat has been equalled since by Red Shadow(1933), Cardigan Bay(1963), trotter Tutira(1969) and Gentle George(1978). John McLennan had an outstanding meeting, driving six winners.
**Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup 2003**
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct03
Author Dillon had only just escaped the fire at trainer Ben Jarden's stables a year before with a singed tail, but on this occasion was far too quick for 10 rivals on Cup day.
A son of leading imported sire Harold Dillon and Authoress, a sister of Wildwood Junior, Author Dillon was the champion of the time and was so superior on this day, despite giving away starts of up to seven seconds, that he had the race in safe keeping half a mile from home.
Handicapped on the benchmark of nine seconds and out of the next two Cups, Author Dillon won three consequtive NZ FFA's, comfortably having the better of Cathedral Chimes off level marks, and went on to a successful stud career despite limited opportunities.
His credits in that respect included the dam of 1940 Cup winner Marlene.
**NZ HRWeekly 1Oct 2003**
The 1918 New Zealand Cup was billed as a match race between the two outstanding horses, Author Dillon and Cathedral Chimes, the former handicapped at 4:27 and Cathedral Chimes at 4:24 in the 11 horse field. Cathedral Chimes, bracketed with Matchlight and Sherwood, Author Dillon, bracketed with John Dillon, and Randle McDonnell's Emilius carried three-quarters of the £11,158 10s invested on the race. Agathos and Admiral Wood, both of whom had lost all form, had little support. From the front, Sungod had a 10-second start from Cathedral Chimes and seven seconds from Author Dillon. But that huge advantage was not enough.
Sungod, driven by 19-year-old F G Holmes - having his first drive in the race - and Moneymaker (Andy Pringle) made the early pace, but failed to stay the distance, finishing third and fourth. Second favourite Author Dillon paced a splendid race, being patiently handled an well driven by Ben Jarden. Itwas obvious four furlongs from the winning post the Author Dillon had the race in safe keeping and he won by four lengths from Matchlight (Albert Hendricksen), who finished a game second and rescued the James Bryce trio.
Emilius broke at the start and lost a lot of ground. He made several attempts during the race to get closer by following Author Dillon, but faded and finished fifth. Adelaide Direct failed to show any dash, while Agathos, Admiral Wood, John Dillon and Sherwood were never prominent. The biggest disappointment, however, was Cathedral Chimes, who began slowly and toiled in th rear, finishing a long last.
Author Dillon's time of 4:26.4 was a national race-winning record and, when retuned to the birdcage, he and Jarden received a great reception. Cheering broke out again when the club president, Charles Louisson, presented the silver cup to Jarden. Author Dillon was hailed a champion and his subsequent form confirmed his standing as th country's best-performed pacer to that time. Two days later he won the first of his three consecutive New Zealand Free-For-Alls, beating Adelaide Direct by two lengths, with six lengths to Cathedral Chimes, and the only other starter, Admiral Wood, beaten off. Author Dillon's New Zealand Cup - Free-For-All double at the same meeting has been repeated 25 times.
Willie Lincoln, by Lord Elmo, who was second behind Matchlight in the Courtenay Handicap, won the third-day Christchurch Handicap. However, Author Dillon provided th sensation. He started 12 seconds behind the winner and was beaten by only a half-length. He paced a world-record 4:24.6. The £2000 won by Author Dillon was the largest sum won at a harness racing meeting in New Zealand. Ben Jarden raced three horses at this meeting, John Dillon and Huon Patch being the other two. All were in the money, netting Jarden £2405. Author Dillon was the season's top earner with £2350.
Cup Day racing was marred by a fall in the fourth race, the Riccarton Handicap, in which James Bryce broke his leg. No other driver was hurtand no horses suffered injuries. While the fall sidelined Bryce for a considerable time, the family name was not absent from the tracks, because James Bryce junior made his appearance at the age of 16 and won the third-day Australasian Handicap with Joan of Arc.
Author Dillon started in two further New Zeand Cups, pacing a world race record of 4:21.6 in 1920 when finishing third. Over seven seasons he was the top earner only once, though in 1920-21 he was runner-up to Willie Lincoln. He eventually went into retirement aged nine, having raced 58 times, for 18 wins and 14 minor placings. His lifetime earnings reached £7760, won during a period when stakes were very low by today's standards. He paid for his brilliant performances with increasing handicaps and from early on was starting from near-impossible marks. At the time of his retirement, Author Dillon had lowered his mile time to 2:06.4. In addition, he held the two-mile(4:21.6) and one-mile-and-a-quarter(2:41.4)records, sharing the latter with Our Thorpe who, just before the 1918 Cup, set a mile record of 2:06.2 against time at Addington. Sungod, third in the 1918 Cup, eventually went to stud in Southland, where he was the leading sire for many years.
Ben Jarden raced a big team. He later moved from Islington to Yaldhurst, where he set up his Irvington Stud and in 1940 he moved to Lower Hutt and trained a small team at Hutt Park. The Jarden name was kept to the forefront in the 1950's through the deeds of Ben Jarden's son, Ron, who became one of New Zealand's greatest rugby stars. For a time Ben Jarden stood Author Dillon at his Irvington Stud, and later Sir John McKenzie stood him at Roydon Lodge. Author Dillon proved a successful sire. He produced two Cup-class offspring (Author Jinks and Lindbergh) and a Dominion Handicap winner in Writer. His daughters produced several good winners, among them Marlene(1940 New Zealand Cup winner), Knave Of Diamonds(placed in the 1947 Cup) and Indian Clipper.
Author Dillon's sire, Harold Dillon, was an outstanding producer who took over from Rothschild as the leading sire in New Zealand. He was at the head of the list for six seasons, from 1916-17 until 1921-22. He was foaled in California in 1903 and imported to New Zealand bt Etienne Le Lievre as a yearling. The American horseman Robert McMillan stood Harold Dillon at his Santa Rosa Stud, at Halswell, with outstanding success. Author Dillon was certainly his best offspring, but others who made Cup class were Paul Default, Dolly Dillon, Oinako, Lord Dillon, Sungod, Waitaki Girl and Adonis. Harold Dillon mares also produced nemerous winners, the best being the great race and broodmare Parisienne, dam of La Mignon and Mary Wootton, La Mignon ran third in the 1957 New Zealand Cup and later produced the brilliant Garcon Roux. Mary Wootton, to U Scott, produced Scottish Command, who also recorded a third in the New Zealand Cup, in 1961. Scottish Command left his mark at stud, producing Sole Command, who won the NZ Cup in 1977, and the Auckland Cup in February 1978, and Trusty Scot, winner of the 1978 NZ Cup. Scottish Command became the third New Zealand-bred sire, after Johnny Globe and Young Charles, to break the stranglehold that the imported sires held on the New Zealand breeding scene. He finished top sire in the 1977-78 season.
**Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct03
Once more Succory was made favorite, and once again he dropped his backers. He is not steady enough in a race to punt on. In the Spring Handicap he was in the air half a dozen times. Beeswing is a greatly improved, mare. She hit the front very early in the Spring Handicap, and never once put a foot wrong, being only caught in the last fifty yards by Treasure Seeker. Just when Chub looked like getting to Beeswing for second money in the Spring Handicap, he left his feet. He had trotted a fine race all through.