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FEATURE RACE COMMENT

 

YEAR: 1934

LAME CUP FAVOURITE WINS AND PUBLIC IS CRITICAL

"I know I am in the gun!"

This remarkable assertion was made to "Truth" by George Barton, owner of Indianapolis, the bst pacer this country has ever seen. Barton sensed, as did very many more, that his horse's success in the Trotting Cup was not popular. That usual outburst of enthusiasm was missing. It was only a half-hearted cheer that greeted Indianapolis and driver Eugene McDermott as they returned to the 'cage when, in point of merit, the multitude should have roared it's head off. A winner of the Trotting Cup run in world's record time, and hardly a cheer!

Why this frigid reception, this handing out of the icy dook? Did punters, in light of the successive sensational rumours as to the condition of Indianapolis reset unkindly when the result of the race showed he had been able to put up a wonderful performance? Owner Barton thinks that this was the reason for the artic tinge and in an exclusive interview with "Truth" explains everything. After hearing George we can well hear him exclaiming: Save me from my friends!

Taking the public completely into one's confidence does not always pay and it was for so acting that Barton has been pilloried. George knew that Indianapolis was going to be a hot favourite for the Cup, and in his zeal to keep the thousands of the big pacer's supporters on guard, he decreed, from the moment the burst hoof started to give trouble every inquiry as to his condition should be truthfully answered. There was to be no equivocation or camoflage. It was just the old case of forewarned being forearmed, but as ill report followed ill report punters became apprehensive, and started to look around for something else to bet on.

The culminating stage was reached on Cup morning. Rumour had it that Indianapolis was lame. Rumour became established fact when this information was given out over the air, along with the statement that the pacer would start. Lame horses do not win Trotting Cups, so reasoned many, and this final announcement caused hundreds who had been saving up for months to be with him,to desert.

Came the race. No horse has ever undergone such a critical examination as did Indianapolis. The rest of the field were merely glanced at - the Barton horse was scrutinised and figuratively X-rayed. Then he moved out to do his prelim. Was he lame? A thousand mouths asked that question. "No - Yes by jove he is!" Nearly all answered that way. There was no doubt that the Barton horse was tender, and, well, a horse has to be fighting fit to win a Cup.

To the totes moved the multitude, and for a good while the Indianapolis - Mountain Dell bracket was not so well supported as Harold Logan and Red Shadow. Finally the coupled pair hit the top rung, but even at the finish of betting the price was a great one: in fact about twice the odds most expected to obtain after his win on the track at National time.

Came the race. 'Tis now history. Indianapolis, beginning slowly as per usual, soon was striding out, and, tucked in behind his stable-mate Mountain Dell, was kept there just behind the leaders till the last round was entered on. There he and the mare took the lead. Over at the tanks McDermott let the big fellow's head loose, and in a flash he opened up a gap, which Blue Mountain reduced to a length at the post. The lame horse had won!

Came the usual summeries attached to the Cup, but an indifferent crowd wasn't interested. Barton took the trophy, expressed his sorrow in not having the late Bill Tomkinson on his right on that day of days, and another Cup was over.

At least it should have been over, but tongues went on wagging - at both ends and the middle. All manner of accusations were hurled, the main allegation being that the stories were put into circulation for the purpose of "blowing" Indianapolis in the market. So wild, not to mention cruel, were the gossipers that "Truth" approached Barton and asked him to explain, an opportunity he spontaneously accepted.

"Yes, I know I'm in the gun. You can tell 'Truth' readers, however, that the rumour that Indianapolis was lame on Cup morning was no eyewash to lengthen the late price. It was only too true," emphatically said George. "Right up to the last hour there could be no certainty that he would be able to start, and even when he did line up with the others, both his trainer and myself were shivering with fear that the best horse in the world would go 'bung' in a race that I have been trying for years to win, and that those who stuck to their guns, and backed him, would lose their money on a lame horse. That's the reason both my friends, and the public, were warned of what was likely to happen. I considered it my duty to tell everbody. Had the horse gone wrong in the race, without any warning from me, it was on the cards I would never have forgiven myself. How he won is now history, but I do not think those doing the blaming have been quite fair. I only did what I thought to be best in a very awkward predicament."

George then went on to explain the trials and tribulations of both himself and trainer, Claude Dunleavy, during that morning of anxiety. "When I arrived at the stable, about 8.30, Claude met me with a face a yard long and told me that Indianapolis had taken a turn for the worse and was decidedly lame. He was then waiting for the vet. When the surgeon the horse was taken out and was so sore he could not pace at all. Up to then he had been wearing a shoe with a piece under the crack cut out to relieve the pressure. We decided that it might be better to have that shoe taken off and a full shoe put on. When that was done he was a lot better, though he was still walking with a limp. From then on he was constantly in hot fermentations until about an hour and a-half before the race, when the vet used a 'deadener' - cocaine, I think - and the treatment was kept up right to the time he went to the course.

"The committee sent one of their number to ask that unless Indianapolis was all right I should not start him, and then I went to Chief Stipe, Mr Beer to ask permission to scratch him if he should be lame in the preliminary. As far as I am concerned Indianapolis has never been a big betting horse for me. The horse has always been in the boom and the odds to be got about him in any of his races did not make wagering of big sums worth the risk attendant to all gambling on racecourses.

"He is the kind of horse I have been longing for ever since I broke into the game, and had he not been able to take his place and make a dream come true, I would have finished with trotting for good and all, as I realise only too well that it is very seldom an owner has the luck to get a second opportunity in a lifetime.
I am wonderfully pleased to have won the Cup, and if anybody blames me for what happened I can only say that I'm sorry, but I honestly thought it was for the best," concluded Barton.

"Truth," who has cheered for Indianapolis right through his career, knows only too well that the owner's statement is studded with fact. As Barton says he thought he was doing everything for the best. He did, only for his motives to be grossly and outrageously misinterperated. The insults and slanders heaped upon George's shoulder since Trotting Cup day may drive him out of ther game. We hope he will realise that the section of the game which counts appreciated his efforts.

That Barton knew what he was talking about when he said "the best horse in the world" was proved on the last day of the meeting when Indianapolis staged what must have been the most wonderful performance ever put up anywhere in the world. Giving away 36yds in the big race he broke the offside hopple before he had gone a furlong. With the loose strap tangling round his hind leg at every stride - with occasional slathers underneath for good measure - home he came, going 4.16.

"Truth" made him go his last mile under these difficulties in 2.4 with the last half-mile just on minute flat. Over that last half the hopple that was not broken was hanging below his hock and tripping him up at every stride.

ONLY A CHAMPION WITH THE STUFF THAT REAL RACEHORSES ARE MADE OF COULD HAVE MADE THE GRADE.


Credit: NZ Truth 14 Nov 1934

 

YEAR: 1935

George Barton receives the Cup from Sir Heaton Rhodes
1935 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP

Refer also 1934 Cup for comment.

Indianapolis, a son of imported parents in Wrack and Estella Amos, was bred at Durbar Lodge by Harry Nicoll's son Arthur and bought as an early 3-year-old by Dunedin's George Barton, the leading owner each year for a decade during this time, on the recommendation of Billie Tomkinson.

The entire was in 'star class' by the end of his 4-year-old season, but Tomkinson had died prior to the 1934 Cup and Indianapolis was prepared by his right-hand-man Claude Dunleavy for the remainder of his career.

His first Cup win was a mere formality from 12 yards over Blue Mountain(Fr) and Harlod Logan(72yds), but there was another star on the horizon at the meeting that year in the form of War Buoy, who was in the process of putting together an unbeaten career of 10 wins, a sequence that remained unmatched until Cardigan Bay eclipsed it some 30 years later.

War Buoy took his record to 15 wins from 17 starts when he won the August Handicap at the National Meeting as a 5-year-old, so as the Cup loomed with War Buoy off the front and Indianapolis off 48 yards, there was much anticipation. Particularly when War Buoy skipped six lengths clear turning for home for Stan Edwards, but Indianapolis was commencing his run at the same time six-wide and in the end had three lengths to spare.

It was no less exciting the following year when Indianapolis(48yds) became the first three-time winner after a great tussle with Red Shadow(24yds), War Buoy(Fr) and Harold Logan(48yds). A rejuvenated Red Shadow, back in the Bryce stable, had skipped clear at the three furlongs while Indianapolis appeared to be languishing in the rear. But with giant strides, Indianapolis drew level at the 100m for Jack Fraser and came away to confirm his status as one of the greatest stayers ever seen.


Credit: New Zealand HRWeekly 8Oct03

 

YEAR: 1936

Dunedin owner George Barton had three starters in the Cup namely Indianapolis (won the Cup for the third successive year), Cloudy Range (5th) and Grand Mogul (6th).

 

YEAR: 1937

As in the previous year's Cup, George Barton owned three starters in the race, Tempest was his best performer finishing 2nd some four lengths from the winner Lucky Jack. Cloudy Range starting from the 12 yard mark beat one home and that was his stablemate Indianapolis which stared off 72 yards and finished a long last.

 

YEAR: 1940

PERTH - GRAND MOGUL
Kiwi bred Grand Mogul, racing in Dunedin owner George Barton's name won the final but the title of Grand Champion was awarded to Logan Derby. After the 1936 result, it was poetic justice for the diminutive son of Globe Derby, who won only one of the 1940 heats and galloped for half a lap in the final, finishing fifth.
Master Dixie, a son of Phoenix Dixie, finished second in the 1940 Final to Grand Mogul. Phoenix Dixie was taken to an old veterinary surgeon for a gelding operation. The vet casually asked his breeding then putting his instruments away said "Take him home, son. You can always take them out but you can't put them back."

 

YEAR: 1936

1936 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP

A third successive win in the New Zealand Cup and a mile against time in 2min 0 2/5sec were Indianapolis' contributions last week to trotting history.

Both are records, and while the former will stand for a long time, the only horse likely to better the mile record in the near future is Indianapolis himself.

His third Cup win was achieved under difficulties. The conditions were all against him, he did not receive the best of runs, and he was forced to cover more ground than any horse in the race.

Half a mile from home he ran into a spot of trouble, which sent him to a tangle, and turning into the straight his task appeared hopeless. Red Shadow had a break of several lengths on Barton's horse and the race looked to be over. Desperate driving on Jack Fraser's part, however, saw Indianapolis gather in the leader and scramble home. It was sheer determination and grit which scored.

While his win price was exceedingly small and his place supporters received back slightly more than three quarters of their money, which was another record, this time in low prices, his victory was well deserved and highly popular.

To use his own words, George Barton was very, very thrilled. To "Truth" he stated that there had never been a race which he had so desired to win. The money end of the business was pleasing, but it was the fact that Indianapolis had done something no other horse had ever achieved and had set a record for future generations to better that really mattered. "Jack drove him admirably, I think, and it was absolutely great," he concluded.

Red Shadow ran a great race in the Cup, and at one stage Jimmy Bryce appeared to be sitting pretty. However when tackled by Indianapolis his finishing effort was weak and lacked fight. At the same time, he had the others well beaten in conditions that suited him down to the ground. War Buoy, third, was always in the picture but failed to show any speed when it was most needed.

Conditions were almost perfect when Indianapolis made his attempt on the mile record on Thursday, and with an ounce of luck he would have reached the two-minute list. That he was able to get within 2/5 of a second of that time, pulling a sulky not regarded as suitable for the job on a two-mile preparation, and after a gruelling race in the Cup, tells its own story.

The two efforts told their tale, for he was well and truly beaten on the last day, when he lined up in the Free-For-All. He showed no inclination to take his place at the start and going off slowly, he never looked likely.

It is probable that he will be allowed to freshen up and that he will make another attempt to join the two-minute brigade, and then he will take a hike across the water. His owner stated to "Truth" that he had promised the South Australian people that he would go, though trainer Claude Dunleavy was not keen on taking, or sending the horse, he would keep his promise.

In the meantime Indianapolis has two records which he will hold for a long time.

Credit: NZ TRUTH 18 Nov 1936

 

YEAR: 1923

JACK 'SONNY" TRENGROVE

When two Dunedin butchery partners decidedly to separately get into harness racing in the 1920's the results were astonishing.

One won the New Zealand Cup with his first starter in any trotting race, a unique feat. The other was the first owner to win three NZ Trotting Cups. Together they won four New Zealad Trotting Cups in 13 years and ran another six placings.

Jack "Sonny" Trengrove and George Barton were partners in Dunedin's biggest butchers shop, sited in the Octagon. Both started off racing gallopers and, in Barton's case, continued to do so. Long before Australians started paying big money for our top horses Trengrove and Barton were big spenders. In September, 1923 Trengrove paid 2000 - a million dollars today - for two horses, Alto Chimes and Great Hope.

It was money well spent. Trengrove, who had a number of successful gallopers, set a thus far unique record in the 1923 NZ Cup won by Great Hope. The little chestnut horse was driven by the then youngest driver to win the race, 21-year-old Jimmy Bryce jnr, but more incredibly it was the first time Trengrove's colours had been carried in a pacing race.

"I am delighted. Wouldn't you be it you won the Cup the first time your colours were unfurled?" Sonny asked the media. One cheeky reporter noted that "although his present condition of obesity would seem to belie it, Jack Trengove was a star of the Heathcote Valley rugby team in his earlier years". The portly butcher was also a steward of both the Forbury Park and Otago Hunt Clubs.

Great Hope was placed in two further Cups (Alto Chimes ran in one of them) and helped break new ground when, at Trengrove's insistence, he travelled all the way to Perth for the Pacing Championship, the first attempt to get an Inter-Dominion series off the ground. Great Hope won the three heat series by one point winning over 1000 for Trengrove who travelled to the meeting. The butchery business survived a huge fire in 1921 and grew even larger but Trengrove sold out in 1926 to follow his horses.

Great Hope, the best 3-year-old of his era, was originally owned by breeder Robert McMillan of Santa Rosa stud in Halswell - the Nevele R of its time - who was killed in a spectacular crash between a car and the southbound express at Templeton which also severely injured his great friend Eugene McDermott. The horse was then bought by Hawera's Joe Corrigan for 1000. Great Hope was slightly disappointing at four and Corrigan - not entirely for racing reasons - sold him on to Trengrove after the August National meeting, the horse remaining with James Bryce.

Young Bryce gave Great Hope the run of the race and he beat the first 4-year-old to run in the Cup, Acron, which would have won had he gone away.

George Barton was also a self-made man having started out as a butcher's apprentice. Uniquely, at the height of his racing fame he employed private trainers on both sides of the Tasman - a thoroughbred one in Victoria (where he had Group 1 winners) and a standardbred one in Christchurch. After the freak death of his long time harness trainer and advisor, Tomkinson, Barton bought the trainer's Derby Lodge stable and set up "Tomkys" foreman, Claude Dunleavy, in his place, with Mrs Tomkinson being allowed to live in the house.

Like Trengrove, Barton had a unique racing record. He won eight successive owner premierships in harness racing in the 1930's. The in 1938-9 was the leading thoroughbred owner in the country, a dual code feat never equalled and unlikely to ever be. He had retired from Otago's best known butchery in 1936.

Barton, a fearless punter, especially in Australia, was direct and could be ruthless. Six hours before the 1937 New Zealand Cup in which he had three runners Barton sacked trainer Dunleavy (who later went to Roydon Lodge), Tempest running third in the event for the stable with Doug Watts in the cart. Southland's Jim Walsh was (Briefly) given the horses. Dunlevy had won 23,000 in stakes for the owner in the previous three years and twice had three Cup runners the same year for him, a record which endures to this day. Barton gradually returned to thoroughbreds for his major interest though he retained his interest in trotters. His high class galloper Ark Royal was principally responsible for his leading owner status in the thoroughbred world.

Barton, who gave up his Australian galloping stable over a case on suspicious running once pointed out that at a country gallops meeting in Victoria he had won three races worth 90 but won 2000 in betting on them. In December 1934 Barton caused a sensation when resigning from the Forbury Park Trotting Club on apparent health grounds - and a "recent unpleasant incident" - which referred to a Stewards inquiry into the running of his horse, Tempest, which had earlier sensationally beaten the pacing star War Bouy ending his 9 winning streak.

Barton would nor accept his horses were not run entirely on their merits. He bought and raced stars like Free Advice, Subsequent Inter-Dominion champion, Grand Mogul, Nelson Derby, Lapland, Cloudy Range and many others.

However, Barton's greatest triumph was buying subsequent triple NZ Cup winner Indianapolis from Harry Nicoll in the depths of the Depression. Tomkinson trialled him and declared him a bargain "the greatest pacer ever foaled" at 500. It seemed a remarkable price considering what Sonny Trengrove had parted with for Great Hope a decade before. The Indianapolis story is an amazing one and owner Barton remains one of only two men to have individually owned three New Zealand Cup winners. Indianapolis's public image would dwarf most modern "superstars". Newspapers devoted entire articles to him just standing in a box recovering from injury. Had Tomkinson lived there is no doubt Indianapolis would have been our first 2 minute miler.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 31Oct12



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