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FEATURE RACE COMMENT

 

YEAR: 1919

Mushroom trotted very evenly right through the Spring Handicap, the opening event, of the Metropolitan meeting, and with Miss Salisbury breaking 100 yards from home, he won by a length.

Granger went before his bell in the Empire and was called off, and Frost, his rider, fined a tenner. He only wanted to go two seconds before his time, which was a bit over the odds.

Ouimet, when out in front in the Empire, broke badly, and settled what looked like a fair chance of success.

Schnapps trotted very solidly and beat Dillon Eddy by over a length in the Empire Handicap. The little fellow
was beatifully handled by E. McDermott.

Moneymaker began very quickly in the Trotting Cup, and always had a good break on his field till the last furlong, when Trix Pointer ran past him and won very easy.

John Dillon broke up at the start, and took no part in the Cup. Author Dillon seemed as if Jarden had got to the bottom of him, as at no part of the Cup did he ever flatter his large army of supporters, and was well beaten a mile from home. It should be mentioned he left 1 2-5s after his time. Matchlight appeared very sore in his preliminary, but it wore off, and he gave a real good showing, finishing third.


'Cello Sydney Wilkes and Dean Dillon showed a lot of pace in the last round of the Riccarton Handicap, and cleared out from the field, finishing in that order.
Admiral Wood plugged away, and passing a lot of tired horses, got the 40sovs for third in the Riccarton Handicap.

Beeswing, who went off at a great bat, put a big break on the field in the Middleton Handicap, but broke up badly at the five furlong post and was not prominent again. Imperial Crown stayed on well and beat Lady Patricia over the concluding stages of the Middleton Handicap.

Norah Creina and Capriccio stood on the mark, and took no part in the Victoria Handicap. Brown's Nugget showed a lot of pace in the middle stages of the Victoria Handicap, but failed to see it out. Dandy Chimes finished fast, and won the Victoria Handicap in good style. Gleaming trotted solidly all through the Victoria Handicap.

Birdwood dashed away, quickly at the start of the St. Alban's Handicap, and had the race won at the first quarter. He failed badly in his next essay.

Ivan Huon and Craibwood cleared out from the field over the last six furlongs of the Whiteleigh Handicap, and Orange, riding a very confident race on the former, won nicely. The judge could have had his lunch before Grattan Chimes arrived to gather the 25 for third m the Whiteleigh Handicap.

Granger was a hot order for the November, but never looked like assisting the punters to get their money back, as he could not get near the front at any part of the race. Harold Child, when looked to have the November Handicap won, stopped to a walk over the last few yards, and Acushla Machree just grabbed the big end of the purse. Rumor says the win was not anticipated by Owner John Farrell.

'Cello Sydney Wilkes had the Courtenay' Handicap well won a long way from home, and his driver took things leisurely in the straight. Emilius was very sore, and never had a winning show in the Courtenay Handicap.

Asturlo did not leave to his bell. He went a little way with the back markers, but then turned it up altogether. Cappricio just beat Gleaming over the last bit In the Metropolitan Handicap. Rorke's Drift trotted a fair race in the Metropolitan, and easing up Norah Creina, beat him for fourth place.

They went fairly fast in the Free for All first quarter 32 2-5s, 1/2 mile 1.55, 3/4 mile 1.38 3-5s, mile 2.11 2-5s, 1 1/4 mile 2.44 4-5s. Author Dillon got a great reception on returning to the bird-cage after just outing Cathedral Chimes.

Paul Huon trotted a good race in the Sockburn, but Reta Peter was all too good, and beat him very comfortably over all the concluding stages.

Xavier, who did not leave the mark in the November Handicap, left smartly in the Railway Handicap, and
was in the picture till the last stride, heads only separating Cappricio, Pitaroa and him. Had Pitaroa not got knocked back near the tanks, there would have been no doubt about the result. Bob Reid, the Dunedin jockey who rode Pitaroa, got right through on the fence, and 'thought he' had won.

Miss Salisbury made a one-horse race of the Governor's Handicap, and carved a decent bit off her time. Billy Parole made a bad skip when he appeared to be going very well in the Governor's Handicap. Brown's Nugget had the Lyttelton Handicap well won when they had gone half-a-mile, and he never looked like being beaten.

'Cello Sydney Wilkes won the Christchurch Handicap (his fourth win at the meeting) just as easily as he did his other races. Handicapper Brinkman assessed him as the equal of Author Dillon in the last race. Emilius was very sore behind after the Christchurch Handicap, and did well to get third, just touching Erin's Queen off. The latter did not shape as well as she did in the Cup.

Granger was heavily supported for the Australasian Saddle Handicap, but he never got near the front division. Pitaroa, well-ridden by young Bob Reid, headed Silver Nut six furlongs from home in the Australasian Trot, and never putting a foot wrong, won nicely. His rider has a good idea of the game, and should get plenty of mounts.

Whist trotted solidly right through the Dominion Trotting Handicap, and won well over the last furlong. His success would get his owner square over a bad meeting. Gleaming had the Hornby Handicap won three furlongs from home. There was big money on the course to say he would win. General Link won the Enfield Handicap very easily. Like a lot of other winners he had J. McLellan on the bridge.

John Dillon showed a great burst of speed in the Recovery Handicap, but just failed to stall off a strong late run from Don Caesar. When Pitaroa got second place in the Enfield he put up 2.11 3-5s. This will be the end of the smallest horse m the Dominion for some time.

Xavier (A. Pringle) began very smartly in the Enfield Handicap, but he broke up badly in the straight. The big "skulls" thought Trix Pointer unbeatable in the concluding event, but she could not get up to John Dillon and Don Caesar, both of whom trotted well.

The conditions at Addington last week were well nigh unbearable, and it is high time the management studied the comfort of totalisator investors and put some sand and tar down to lay the dust. This should be done both inside and out. The cost would be a mere trifle to the comfort it would give the investing public.


Credit: 'Silenus' writing in NZ Truth 22 Nov 1919

 

YEAR: 1903

HAROLD DILLON

Bred in California in 1903 Harold Dillon was imported as a yearling by Mr E T Le Lievre of Akaroa who played a major part in the development of the standardbred at that time. What Mr Le Lievre's reactions were when he first saw his new purchase cannot be guessed at but Harold Dillon turned out to be a very small horse and he never grew a great deal, being little more than a pony until the day he died.

Tried as a racehorse Harold Dillon was not a success but his breeding future received a boost when a member of his first small crop (he was used at the stud before he was 2 years old) won the Futurity Stakes at the Addington Easter meeting of 1909 which was an important race in it's time. This was Dillon Bell who reached the best classes, and another to do well from an early crop was Moa Bell who also won a number of races.

Harold Dillon had mixed patronage early on but once he was transferred to the Santa Rosa Stud at Halswell near Christchurch under a master horseman in Bob McMillan his stocks received a boost. Like many sires some of his stock acquired doubtful reputations which for a time threatened his own career but in the end his progeny were so successful on the track that he downed the critics and became a great sire.

Harold Dillon was leading sire for five seasons from 1916 until 1921 taking over from Rothschild and conceding leadership to Logan Pointer though he was second and third to that sire for a number of years.He produced 182 individual winners which was an excellent record for the day. His best one was the brilliant Author Dillon the Robalan of his time whose record of 18 wins and 14 placings would have been much better but for the ridiculous handicapping of the day which saw him giving away long starts to good fields. He won three NZ Free-For-Alls and was virtually unbeatable in these types of races. Like all the Harold Dillon breed he was as tough as old boots and raced from three to nine years for his record. He was a top juvenile pacer as well and was a surprising success as a sire, his mares going particularly well, producing among others Marlene (NZ Cup), Indian Clipper and Knave of Diamonds. He himself sired among others Queen Auditor who won 13 races and produced the top mare of the 50s in White Angel.

Cello Sydney Wilkes, himself little more than a pony was another top winner for Harold Dillon and among his 11 wins was the feat of winning four races at the Cup meeting which only one other horse has done, this being Cardigan Bay. Adonis another stallion on the small side was perhaps the best pacer of them all and was also a successful sire featuring prominently in the Misfortune family. Waitaki Girl by Harold Dillon won 14 races and nearly $12,000 in stakes winning the feature race at the Canterbury Park Winter Meeting four years in succession. Some of the Harold Dillons were great mudlarks one being Sungod who reached Cup class and was placed in that event. Sungod was a sire of note himself and sired All Sunshine, an ancestress of Lunar Chance.

John Dillon was another top class pacer and quite the fastest beginner seen up to his time. He started in several Cups but was a better sprinter than a stayer. The late 'Dil' Edwards claimed that John Dillon once did a quarter in 28 seconds in training at Addington which was sensational in those days. Other Cup class performers by Harold Dillon were Antonio Oinaki (also a successful sire) Dolly Dillon and Lord Dillon.

As a broodmare sire Harold Dillon was also successful his daughters producing over 200 winners, though he was more successful with his male line than some imported sires. Two from Harold Dillon mares were Pot Luck and Parisienne winner and runner-up in the 1938 Inter-Dominion Championship. Dilworth was a national recordholder and Reporter a top class performer, Grace Dillon was the grandam of Roschana the dam of Cardinal Garrison. Highland Princess was the dam of the winners of 31 races. Eileen Dillon was the dam of Acuity (7 wins) who in turn produced Poranui and the champion Australian pacer Jackie Scott. Prolific was the dam of Manoeuvre who won eight races while Tatsy Dillon who herself won the Dunedin Cup is the founder of a successful family including Tatsydale and the good trotters Merrin and Ali Bey.

Connie Dillon was a great producer for the Benny family of Springston and included in her offspring or descendants are Gold Peg (9 wins) the grandam of the ill-fated Balcairn, Royal Fame (8 wins) Royal Counter (10 wins)and others. Sakatawea the dam of Star Classic belongs to this family. Another successful Harold Dillon mare was Flossie Dillon dam of Sonoma (Methven Cup), Tom Thumb (8 wins) and Pat Dillon ancestress of a champion trotting family including Waitaki Hanover of whom she was grandam. Protector, the sire of Nigel Craig has Harold Dillon blood through his 3rd dam Muriel Dillon.

At Santa Rosa where Harold Dillon stood for most of his career until his death in 1929 there are no horses now, just rows and rows of houses. The stud may have gone and Harold Dillon may have gone but his influence on our bloodstock cannot be erased nearly as easily.

-o0o-

David McCarthy writing in NZ Trotguide 18Nov76

We cannot let the stud career of Harold Dillon go without adding to his list a mare which we inadvertently missed at the time. This was Mirie Dillon who founded a line of fine winners for Colin McLaughlin of Mt Hutt. She was the grandam of Allakasam and ancestress of Royal Ascot. Adding further to his list was Sadie Dillon the dam of the 1923 Cup winner Great Hope.


Credit: NZ Trotguide 11Nov76

 

YEAR: 1919

Trix Pointer & Free Holmes in the winner's circle
1919 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING 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

 

YEAR: 1920

1920 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP

Reta Peter achieved a remarkable feat when she beat 11 pacers, even allowing for the fact that she received a head start of nine seconds over Author Dillon and beat him by less than a length.

Confirming her status as the best trotter bred in New Zealand up to that time, Reta Peter outfinished most of the rest off almost level marks.

She was one of the outsiders to achieve this, but returned to a rousing reception from the appreciative crowd. Reta Peter then attempted to add the 1000 sovereign Dominion at the meeting, but a 16 second handicap proved a little too much to overcome.

**Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct2003**

Seventh favourite Reta Peter, the only trotter in the field, finished brilliantly to edge out General Link and Author Dillon to win the 1920 New Zealand Cup.

Reta Peter, regarded as the best trotter bred in New Zealand to that time, was the second of her gait to win the Cup. Monte Carlo was the other. Although one of the outsiders in the 12-horse field, and paying a dividend of 20 11s, Reta Peter and driver Alf Wilson were given a great reception from the big crowd when they returned to the birdcage after covering the two miles in 4:30.4. Patrons were quick to recognise the merit of the mare's performance in beating such a strong field. In the previous 12 months, five horses - Reta Peter (who had achieved a record 4:31.6 for trotters), Cello Sydney Wilkes, Dean Dillon, General Link and Hal Junior - had qualified for Cup class. It became evident, however, that several of the 18 nominated would not make the starting post. Oinako and Agathos were early withdrawals, then John Dillon broke down, Cello Sydney Wilkes fell on the road while training and cut a knee, Hal Junior went amiss, and Moneymaker was pulled out on the eve of the race. John McLennan's Albert Cling was race favourite, with the James Bryce pair of Matchlight and Erin's Queen also strongly supported, but neither trainer had any joy. Albert Cling lost his chance when he broke badly at the start and the Bryce pair were outclassed.

Reta Peter's assignment against the top pacers was always considered difficult, even though Author Dillon was asked to give a nine-second start to the front four and, indeed, a huge start to all his rivals. The confidence of owner Frank Robson and trainer-driver Alf Wilson, who had his stables at New Brighton, was never misplaced in Petereta's seven-year-old daughter. Dean Dillon failed to begin smartly and Albert Cling broke, but the remainder of the field went away at their correct bells. Wilson had Reta Peter close up all the way, following the early leader Willie Lincoln and just in behind Erin's Queen, Mintson, General Link, Sherwood and Dean Dillon. General Link raced into the lead in the back straight the last time, pursued by Author Dillon, and the pair entered the home straight, waging a vigorous battle. Reta Peter then appeared and got up to win by a half-length from General Link, with Author Dillon a neck away third. Then came Sherwood, Erin's Queen, Willie Lincoln and Mintson.

Robson bred Reta Peter from his own mare, Tot Huon. The imported Petereta stood at Robert McMillan's Santa Rosa stud at Halswell for a fee of 10 10s. Reta Peter had her early education from Addington trainer Arthur Cox. She had several trainers before Robson asked Alf Wilson, who had just returned from the war, to take her in. She immediately impressed Wilson, whose association with harness racing went back to Addington's early days. He had driven Factory Boy in the inaugural NZ Cup in 1904 and Reta Peter was his sixth Cup drive. Reta Peter won three races for Wilson at two miles against the trotters in the 1919-1920 season, prompting Robson and Wilson to set their sights on the NZ Cup.

Runner-up General Link improved his time considerably, while Author Dillon, who came into the straight only a length behind him looked the winner, felt the strain in the last furlong. He had to run an Australasian record of 4:21.8 for his placing, beating Admiral Wood's record. Author Dillon's run deserved a better fate. Earlier in the season, he had won a treble at the August meeting, taking the International and King George Handicaps and the prestigious National Cup.

Reta Peter was made a warm favourite for the Dominion Handicap on the third day, a race that offered the trotters their first 1000 sovereign stake. However, she disappointed her connectioms, and army of supporters, by beginning badly from the back mark and had no chance of making up her handicap. The Auckland-owned and trained gelding Gold Boy, from 16 seconds, ran out an easy winner. The previous day Gold Boy had won the Sockburn Handicap.

Author Dillon made it a hat-trick of wins in the Free-For-All, taking this race without difficulty from four rivals, Trix Pointer, Matchlight, Cello Sydney Wilkes and Dean Dillon. Author Dillon started in the Christchurch Handicap on the third day, but Ben Jarden anticipated his bell and had to pull Author Dillon out of the race. The combination made amends later in the day, winning the aptly-titled Recovery Handicap, raced over a mile.

Albert Cling, the beaten favourite in the Cup, and the youngest horse in the race at six years, won the Courtney Handicap, also raced on the third day. His driver, John McLennan, and 18-year-old James Bryce junior(Erin's Queen) had first NZ Cup experiences. Bryce remains the youngest to drive in a NZ Cup. McLennan never won the NZ Cup, but he had a memorable meeting at Addington in 1920, driving three winners on both the second and third days, F G Holmes also drove six winners at the meeting, so between them they won half the three-day programme.

The totalisator handled 90,296 on Cup Day and betting on the big race rose almost as dramatically, to 20,506. Show Day reached a new peak for Addington of 91,814, and the three-day total was a record 259,076. the 1920 Show Day record turnover remained intact for 22 years and the record total turnover was not exceeded until 1943.

The outstanding driving feat of the season was achieved by Harry Gaskill who drove an unprecedented six winners on the same day at Greymouth in April 1920. It was 16 years before this feat was equalled.

Ben Jarden and John McLennan, with 25 wins each, shared the season's driving honours and for the sixth consecutive season, James Bryce was the top trainer, with 21 wins.

**Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup**

 

YEAR: 1986

Bill Bagrie & Orbiter
BILL BAGRIE

During the 1950s the Ohoka amateur trainer/driver Bill Bagrie and his wife, Elaine were farming in Southland. But after Bill suffered a haemorrhage he was told by his doctor he should give up farming and find a less physically exhausting job. Both Bill and Elaine came from farming families so when an alternative lifestyle had to be chosen it was difficult to know where to look so they decided to head north for Christchurch to see what life there had to offer.

Bill had an interest in harness racing and he had decided to buy a broodmare and begin breeding racing stock. So one of the first things he did when the family arrived in Christchurch was to attend a dispersal sale where he outlaid the considerable sum (in those days) of 450 guineas for the Dillon Hall-Tondeleyo mare Margaret Hall, a fine racemare who had won six races and was already the dam of the outstanding racemare, Rowan Star (now better known as the dam of the Australian pacer and now successful sire, Garry Rowan), and another winner in Rosslyn Rowan. Margaret Hall was in foal to U Scott but the foal was born dead. She was sent back to U Scott, the sire of her earlier winners, and in 1958 she foaled a filly whom Bill and Elaine called Kinsella.

At this time parking was just becoming a marketable commodity in Christchurch and so soon after Bill and Elaine arrived in the city they bought a parking centre - one of the first in Christchurch - close to Cathedral Square in the central city. They ran the centre - now known as the Avon Parking and Service Station Ltd - for five or six years before buying another central city business, Bennetts Shoe Store.

When it came time to begin working Kinsella, Bill leased facilities from Alan McKenzie in Harewood Road. Kinsella was the first horse Bill ever trained or drove, but she proved an outstanding introduction to harness racing, winning seven races and Bill drove her in all of them. Kinsella had given the Bagrie family a taste of success in harness racing but Margaret Hall's next foal - her 1959 colt by U Scott called Orbiter - was to achieve even better things on the racetrack.

Orbiter won 17 races in NZ including the 1963 Kaikoura Cup, the 1964 New Brighton Cup, the 1964 Hannon Memorial, the 1965 Allan Matson Stakes, the 1965 M G Pezaro Memorial, the 1965 Champion Free-For-All and the Dunedin Festival Cup Final in 1966. He also recorded a best mile time of 1:58.8 when he won the Flying Mile Free-For-All by three and a half lengths at Cambridge in 1966. From only 52 race starts in this country he finished further back than fourth in only 11 races, an outstanding record of consistency, particularly when the many miles he travelled during campaigns outside Canterbury are considered. Although he won only two races in the 1964-65 season, as a 5-year-old, he recorded four important seconds that year, three of which were at the NZ Cup meeting. He ran second to Lordship in the National Handicap at Addington in August, second to Cairnbrae in the NZ Cup, second to Lordship again in the NZ Free-For-All, and again in the Allan Matson Stakes on the final night of the Cup meeting.

Because Orbiter was racing so well, it was only a matter of time before somebody made Bill and Elaine an offer they could not refuse for the gelding. Early in 1966 the inevitable happened and an offer of $US120,000 was made for Orbiter by Noel Simpson, on behalf of a small grup of Americans. The offer did prove irresistable and Orbiter had his last race in NZ at Forbury Park on February 5, 1966 when he won the Dunedin Festival Cup Final. His American buyers wanted the gelding to race in the rich International Series at Yonkers that year and he was to be trained by Del Insko.

The geldings new owners - keen to get the best out of their purchase - invited Bill to travel to the United States with Orbiter and Elaine joined him there later. They were given an all-expenses-paid holiday in New York to enable Bill to assist Del Insko to prepare Orbiter. But somehow things did not work out as planned. Insko had his own way of doing things and he did not appreciate advice from somebody else on how he should train his horses. To make matters worse, Orbiter contracted some sort of chill or virus soon after he arrived in New York and the morning of the big race he was in an oxygen tent - fluid streaming from his nose - and obviously a very sick horse. Elaine said that it had been "heart breaking" to see him in such a bad way and if he had been at home he would not have even been worked in such a condition let alone raced. But race he did and, needless to say, he was unable to show his true ability that day. However, a NZ bred pacer did win the $100,000 International that year. The Yonkers favourite Cardigan Bay proved much too good and won easily, five lengths clear at the finish in the near race record time of 3:04.4 for the mile. Bill and Elaine returned home to NZ dissappointed and disullusioned at the way things had gone on the trip.

Soon after their return, Bill decided that the rented facilities he was using to train from in Harewood Road were no longer sufficient for his needs, so he decided to invest some of his money from Orbiter's sale in land. He sold the shoe business and bought 133 acres on Smiths Road (now known as Bradleys Road), at Ohoka, near Rangiora. The property, which has since been increased to 260 acres in two blocks, was essentially a sheep and cropping farm but even 20 years ago it was considered to be only marginally financially feasible. So the first thing Bill did was diversify the property. A large chicken shed was built and a contract to supply chickens to General Foods was undertaken. This proved a great success and today the Bagrie family have a contract to supply 100,000 chickens annually.

About six years ago Bill decided to further diversify the farm and he bought 17 hinds in calf. They now run about 120 stags and 130 hinds on the property. The deer provide three sources of revenue - velvet, venison meat and live sales. Although all three can be lucrative, live sale had been the most profitable because of the demand and subsequent inflated prices. Farming the property has always been a family concern and never more so than now, for last April Bill suffered a brain haemorrhage from which he has still not fully recovered. While Bill is recuperating Elaine and their son Peter, have continued to run the farm. Their workload is simply an extension of what they were already doing before Bill's illness.

Bill had a small team of horses in work when he became ill and Peter, an amateur trainer/driver, has been able to work them for him in the meantime while Elaine has been taking care of the mares and foals. Peter has often driven his father's horses in the past and he enjoyed an outstanding run of success in 1978 with Bill's horse, Gentle George who died at stud in 1983. Gentle George, by Bachelor Hanover from the race-winning mare Orbette (a half sister by Hal Tryax to Kinsella and Orbiter), won eight races altogether but created a big impression when he won four races at the 1978 NZ Cup Meeting. The stallion won one race at each of the two day and two night meetings (a feat equalled by only two other horses, Cardigan Bay in 1963 and the trotter Tutira in 1969), surprising many people but nobody more than the Bagrie family. Cello Sydney Wilkes (1919) and Red Shadow (1933) also won four races each at the NZ Cup meeting but not one win on each day. "We thought he might run fourth on the first day," Elaine said. "Bill usually drove him but this time he told Peter he could." And so Peter ended up driving George in all four of the wins at the meeting.

Gentle George's win on Cup Day topped off what had already been an exciting day for the Bagrie family, for earlier on Trusty Scot had won the big prize, the NZ Cup. The stallion was trained, driven and part-owned by Bill and Elaine's son-in-law Henderson Hunter, who had only been training a short time and had prepared Trusty Scot for the Cup at his in-laws property at Ohoka. The run of luck continued for both Gentle George and Trusty Scot on the second day of the meeting when Gentle George won the Cashmere Handicap and Trusty Scot won the Benson and Hedges Free-For-All.

The Bagrie's are currently breeding from five broodmares - Kinsella, Kindalla, Patronette, Roshelle and Georgelle. Kinsella who is now 28 years old was bred with Niatrix last year but she did not get in foal. She was bred to him again this season and it is not known yet is she in foal but because of her age, hopes are not high. She has been a wonderful broodmare though and left a number of good winners including Morpheus, Dalestar, Halfield Star, Hallfield Dream and Trinity.

Peter said that while they were "farmers first and foremost," his interest in horses has taken him to the United States three times working for Charlie Hunter and Brian Meale. He worked in Califoria and Chicago - at Sportsman's Park and Hawthorne. His first trip to the States was in 1972. That was in the days when horses were shipped regularly by boat. "I went on the last boat load that went," Peter said. The idea of a relaxing cruise with only a few horses to look after had instant appeal. "They thought they were going to have a leisurely trip," Elaine said. But once the trip was underway, those thoughts were soon shattered.

The trip took 22 days and the weather was rough. "We were as sick as dogs," Peter explained. But their illness was not the main problem. The horses were stabled during the trip in lightweight boxes located up on the deck and one morning, during a particularly bad storm, the grooms were told that they were not able to go up on deck too feed the horses because it was too rough. The command could not have suited them better bcause they were feeling too ill to move anyway, but they were only spared a short time. Not long afterwards they were given an urgent call to get up on deck immediately. They had two horses loose. "A big wave had smashed the boxes and left the horses starting in a heap of kindling," Peter said. The First Mate made a quick alteration of course in an attempt to "level things out" so the frightened horses out on the deck were able to be caught and put into shared quarters with the other horses until the ship's carpenter had completed replacement boxes. "We were lucky we didn't lose any over the edge," Peter said. Fortunately the rest of the trip was less eventful and all arrived at their destination safe and sound.


Credit: Shelly Caldwell writing in NZ Trot Calendar 4Feb86



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