YEAR: 1934


A source of occasional amusement to spectators on the Addington trotting grounds is the "Scotsmen's Grandstand" on the far side of the course. Along the fence between the course and the road a long line of heads appears during the running of each race, and further back a line of sheep trucks left standing by an indulgent Railway Department provides precarious standing-room for still others who lack either means or inclination to secure entrance to the course.

Those on the course no doubt imagine that the "Scotsmen" must have a very dull and uncomfortable time in their exclusion from the privileges of financial spectators. But a visit behind the scenes would prove that the excluded form a community with an identity of its own, and that they have certain conveniences which they would not exchange for all the grandstands and totalisators in the world.

Yesterday the "Scotsmen's grandstand" was full to overflowing, though it appears that its capacity is limited only by the number of bicycles which it is possible to place against the fence, and the number of motor-trucks and other trade vehicles which happen to be parked in the road behind. At a rough estimate, the unofficial attendance at Addington for the New Zealand Cup was very nearly 300.

Balanced on the saddles and handle-bars of bicycles, with elbows discreetly disposed between the spikes of the barbed wire, the greater number of these keen sportsmen scanned the course at their ease or, when the making of a bet seemed to require consideration in a more comfortable position, dropped to the ground for a study of a rumpled newspaper. Besides the fortunate ones who commanded a direct view over the top of the fence, there were many who peered through holes in the corrogated iron, or stood on the tops of trucks, cars and carts.

It is pleasantly sheltered and sunny behind the "Scotsmen's grandstand." There is no need to risk cramped limbs by remaining perched on a bicycle bar between races, and the possible ways of whiling the time away are many and various. There is no well-appointed tea-kiosk where patrons may sit at decorous ease while the band plays on the lawn; but there is a most efficient pie-and-tea cart, round which a convivial group may stand eating and drinking its sixpenny-worth with equal enjoyment and considerably less restraint. There were even rumours yesterday that an enterprising person had been selling beer in small quanities, but if it were so, the unlicensed trader made no great effort to advertise his business.

When a race is in progress, the "Scotsmen" make up in enthusiasm what they lack in numbers as compared with the official spectators opposite. There is a general scramble for good positions, and a running fire of comment all along the fence.

Perhaps it is not clear just why such excitement is possible outside the area where betting is officially permitted. But an explanation will reveal another reason, and perhaps the most cogent, why the "Scotman" prefers his own way of enjoying a race meeting. For his grandstand is the happy hunting-ground for those sporting gentlemen, who for obvious reasons are not welcome on racecourses, but who none the less are most accommodating in the taking of bets, and allow their clients to risk sums which no totalisator would accept.

All along the fence can be heard subdued cries of "What's wanted, gents?" and there is no lack of response. Apart from these practitioners, there are others provide amusement in the form of certain games not favourably regarded by the police; and these seem to do very well in competition with the main business of the day.

So much for the "Scotsmen's grandstand." Not a mere scattering of the inevitable few who look continually for "something for nothing" and not exactly what it appears from the inside of the course; but a community which has gathered round it its own facilities as may best serve its own enjoyment. However questionable those facilities may be, there is no doubt that the "Scotsmen" seem to be well satisfied.

Credit: THE PRESS 7 Nov 1934


YEAR: 1960

Gentles (J G Crofts) winning from Island Mist & Count Cavan

The saddle race to be run at the winter meeting of the Canterbury Park Trotting Club on Saturday, May 28, will be the first of its kind to be run on the course since September 28, 1946.

On that day the New Brighton Trotting Club raced there and included on the programme was the Seaview Handicap, a 2.17 class mile saddle which was won by Grattan Bells. Grattan Bells was trained by H J Smith and ridden by C Thornley.


'Irvington' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 1Jun60

The saddle race at Addington on Saturday created keen public interest; the race was run in two divisions and excellent sport was witnessed, the riders displaying a surprisingly high standard of horsemanship.

A large crowd thronged the birdcage fence to watch the horses parade and the riders mount, and the 'Scotsmen's Grandstand' - the back fence - was patronised almost as well as on NZ Trotting Cup day. The increased interest was reflected in the on-course totalisator turnover for the day, which amonted to 82,318 10s, a rise of 12,195 on last year. Off-course investors wagered 54,524 10s, which represented an increase of 7165 on last year's total.

Comments after the race were varied, but the 'fors' appeared to outnumber the 'againsts'. Some of the newly initiated went so far as to say it looked silly, but the majority commented most favourably and agreed it would add variety to light-harness programmes which may perhaps be in danger of becoming too stereotyped. And the warm approval carried by acclamation as each winner returned to the birdcage on Saturday would be heartening to Canterbury Park stewards.

Veteran horseman P P Gallagher, in the vicinity of 60 years, had the mount on Dark Signal. He later gave his unqualified approval of the reintroduction of saddle racing. Gallagher was one of the best 'knights of the pigskin' in the Dominion when saddle races were an integral part of the sport, and he is unquestionably thoroughly seasoned and well qualified to judge the success or otherwise of the experiment - for such it was generally regarded on Saturday. The Murfitt family, represented in Saturday's race by F Murfitt on Alison's Pride, produced many good saddle winners in the past, and others who rode their share of winners in this department were G A Collison, J A Carmichael, T C Nyhan and C A Thornley, who all had mounts on Saturday.

In the vintage years of the weight-carrier, many good horses, including NZ Cup candidates, raced and were successful in saddle, and what better medium is there for the education of young horsemen, and many horses too, for that matter?

Gentles' smooth and decisive win in the first division was perhaps due in no small measure that he was from the south, where the odd saddle race is still to be found. Lucky Dora, who won the second division, gave some trouble at the start but soon became balanced to win comfortably after being well ridden by her owner, R J Jones.

Few would quibble over the distance of Saturday's contests - a mile and a quarter. However, there is little doubt that a mile is the ideal distance for a saddle race; but it is also appreciated that the turning start at the mile post at Addington is a distinct disadvantage, hence the Club's wise precaution in ensuring a straight run from the mile and a quarter starting post on Saturday. Perhaps Addington Trotting Course Ltd, if saddle racing becomes firmly re-established, might view favourably the suggestion af constructing a chute at the top of the track, thus providing a straight run from the start; and this could also be advantageous for mile harness races, particularly flying miles, another 'variety' contest that claims considerable merit.

A steward of ther Greymouth Trotting Club stated on Saturday that the saddle race at his club's recent centennial meeting was the second best betting race on the programme. It was also a great sporting success. After all, saddle racing has been resumed without much warning - it could scarcely have been otherwise - and with so little time available for practice or adjustment, it says a lot for trainers, horsemen and horses that the race on Saturday was such a signal success.

If saddle races have come to stay - and we sincerely hope they have - rapid improvement can be expected in all phases of this fascinating variant of the people's pastime; and the people themselves have already demonstrated only too clearly that it may be a long time before their curiosity in the nimble pacers with the weight on top is in any danger of diminishing.

To the clubs which have been courageous enough to 'give it a go,' the Greymouth Trotting Club and Canterbury Park Trotting Club, the sport as a whole should eventually be indebted.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 20Apr60

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