Since 14-year-old trotter Monte Carlo won the first running of the NZ Trotting Cup at Addington in 1904, this time-honoured and prestigious event has invariably provided devotees of the sport with great excitement.
Seldom more so than in 1916, when fire completely destroyed the 18-month-old steward's and member's stand overlooking the birdcage, where today stands the course's plush new edifice, completed last year to replace the one built when the first structure was razed. So vital was the Cup to the 20,000 fans on course that day 74 years ago that there was no thought of abandonment of the race.
Its start was delayed for an hour and a half, and with the crowd evacuated from the stand to watch from ground level or alternative vantage points, the Cup was run through a thick pall of smoke which swarthed part of the track and led to a three-horse spill with a lap to travel
Said "The Press" on the morning after:
"About 1:15 pm, a gentleman upstairs in the stand remarked to a friend that it seemed to be getting warm, and, being of an enquiring nature, he prodded the floor with his walking stick in several places, ceasing his inquisitiveness when his stick went through the floor and smoke and flames were seen through the hole made. Officials were notified, and several got to work with a small hose and buckets. Those persons still in the stand were quietly told to leave.
More drastic action followed. The floor-boards were torn up, and a call went to the Christchurch Fire Brigade, who did not turn up at once, owing to the racecourse being outside the fire district. Superintendent Warner, the Fire Chief, was on the course, and, when made aware of the situation, called the brigade on his own authority. The well-intentioned efforts of those who tore up the floor-boards to get at the seat of the fire misfired, as the strong draught spread the flames.
The fire took a strong hold, and soon the large glass panels at the ends of the stand cracked and fell out. Saving the building became hopeless. Shortly before 3pm, the fire had practically burnt itself out. The roof and all the big iron girders had fallen in, and only the shell of the lower story remained."
The fire had first been noticed after the second race. As the field for the Cup paraded in the bircage for the Cup (the third race on the programme), it became obvious that the fire was serious, and the horses were sent straight out on to the track. On Fire Chief Warner's observation, "the stand is doomed," the word to evacuate was given. For a time it appeared the fire might also spread to the nearby public stand, which was already blackening with the heat. At 1:45pm, not long after the last members left their stand, the roof collapsed.
While the public had an extra hour in which to place bets on the Cup race, this, according to one report was not much use, as there was so much smoke around that no one could see the tote indicators.
A capacity field of 17 contested this Cup. Eccentric (Jack Brankin) made the pace. When still in front in thick smoke with a lap to run, he skipped and brought down Succeed (Lou Thomas), Brown Bell (W R Thomas) and Erin's King (Albert Hendricksen). Cathedral Chimes, who won the race, was a top pacer of his day and later a successful sire. He gave outstanding horseman James Bryce his first win in the Cup, and was a bargain buy, having been secured by his Southland owner, J B Thomson, for a few pounds. The previous season he had won the Auckland Cup. Evelyn, driven by Andy Pringle, was second, and Admiral Wood (Free Holmes) was third. Off 36 yards, Cathedral Chimes scored by six lengths and clocked 4:31 1/5 for the two miles.
Arguments about the stand continued for days. The fact that the band employed by the club had played throughout the day, uninterrupted by the fire, was a amusing sideline. Fusing of an electric cable in the building was said to be the source of the fire. The stand had been completed at Easter, 1915. It was generally considered it could have been saved had the fire regulations permitted the brigade to be sent to Addington when the first call went out. Built at a cost of £8000, the structure was insured for £8500 to cover improvements.
Apart from all that, the event was notable for the record number of 17 starters and Cathedral Chimes providing Scotty Bryce with the first of six training wins in the race. Bryce was the leading trainer in New Zealand that season after arriving only a few years earlier. His horses on an accompanying boat had been shipwrecked, but arrived later and set him on the way to a career a one of our greatest horsemen.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 31Oct90
Lady Clare, the second mare to win the New Zealand Cup, was a six-year-old by Prince Imperial from Clare, who was by Lincoln Yet, the sire of Monte Carlo.
Her trainer, James Tasker, who had been successful with Marian in 1907, took the drive behind her more favoured bracketmate Aberfeldy, and entrusted the drive behind Lady Clare to Jack Brankin. The Cup field was not a strong one, with Wildwood Junior out of the way. Also missing from nominations was King Cole, the star of the August meeting. King Cole, winner of the King George Handicap from Bribery and Dick Fly, and the National Cup from Havoc and Bright, had been temporarily retired to stud. The club received 14 nominations, but the early favourite, St Swithin, was injured and withdrawn. Sal Tasker, who had not raced for four years, and Manderene were two other defections. The front starter, Imperial Polly, received five seconds from the back marker, Bright. Al Franz, because of some outstanding trials, was race favourite, with the bracketed pair of Dick Fly and Redchild, from the stable of Manny Edwards, also well supported. Redchild was the only trotter entered.
The field did not get away at the first attempt because Free Holmes, the driver of Bribery, jumped the start. Medallion stood on the mark and took no place in the race, while Bribery went only one lap and then pulled up lame. Lady Clare led from the start and at the halfway stage was still in front, followed by Al Franz, Dick Fly, Imperial Polly, Aberfeldy, Havoc and Redchild. The mare held on to the lead to win by a length, in 4:38, from Dick Fly, with necks to Al Franz and Redchild. Then came Aberfeldy, Bright and Havoc.
The Cup victory was the last of Lady Clare's seven career wins, but she showed her durability by racing over eight seasons. Indirectly, she featured again in the Cup in 1988, when Luxury Liner turned the clock back 77 years. Lady Clare was the firth dam of Luxury Liner. Lady Clare's £700 from the Cup stake of 1000 sovereigns was the only money she won during the season. Emmeline, an outstanding mare by Rothschild from Imperialism, a Prince Imperial mare, won £949 and was the season's top earner. Rothschild and Prince Imperial were both still standing at stud in the Canterbury area. Rothschild was at Durbar Lodge, in Ashburton, available at a fee of 10 guineas. Prince Imperial and his son, Advance, stood at James McDonnell's Seafield Road farm, also in Ashburton. Prince Imperial's fee was also set at 10 guineas, but Advance was available at half that rate. Franz, the sire of Al Franz (third in the Cup), stood at Claude Piper's stud at Upper Riccarton, at 10 guineas. Franz was a full-brother to Fritz, by Vancleve from Fraulein.
A new surname at that time, but a very familiar on now, Dan Nyhan, introduced another great harness racing family to Addington. Nyhan trained at Hutt Park and ha won the 1909 Auckland Cup with Havoc. He was the father of Don Nyhan, later to train the winners of three New Zealand Cups with his legendary pair of Johnny Globe and Lordship, and grandfather of Denis Nyhan, who drove Lordship (twice) and trained and drove Robalan to win the Cup.
Of all the stallions in Canterbury, Wildwood Junior commanded the biggest fee, 12 guineas, but he held that honour only until 1914, when Robert McMillan, an expatriate American horseman, stood his American imports Nelson Bingen and Brent Locanda at fees of 15 guineas at his Santa Rosa stud at Halswell. He also had Harold Dillon and Petereta on his property. Harold Dillon, sire of the champion Author Dillon, was the top sire for six seasons, from 1916-17 until 1921-22, while Petereta gained some fame by siring the double New Zealand Cup winner Reta Reter.
The outstanding feature of the 1911 Cup meeting was the introduction of races restricted to trotters, particularly the Dominion Handicap. The move, prompted by the Metropolitan Club, came at an appropriate time to save horses of this gait from extinction in New Zealand racing. In the 1880s and 1890s there were two trotters for every pacer in New Zealand, but by 1911 the reverse ratio applied. With the advent of the sulky and harness from the United States, trainer in the 1890s found pacers easier to gait and easier to train, and learned that they came to speed in less time, so many trotters were converted to the pacing gait. Generally, the trotter could not match the pacer on the track.
Coiner won the Middleton Handicap on the first day, in saddle, and raced over two miles in 4:52. Quincey, who had been successful against the pacers on several occasions, got up in the last stride to dead-heat with Clive in the Dominion Handicap, with Muricata, a promising five-year-old, third. Muricata became the dam of double New Zealand Cup winner Ahuriri. The Dominion Handicap carried a stake of 235 sovereigns and was raced in harness for 5:05 class performers. Quincey's time was 4:37.4 slightly faster than Lady Clare recorded in the Cup on the Tuesday. Another of the 13 trotters in this race was the Australian-bred Verax, who started in the New Zealand Cup six times.
The meeting ended with some high-class racing on Show Day. In the Enfield Handicap, in saddle, Aberfeldy, from scratch, beat 14 rivals in 2:12.6, a New Zealand race-winning record for one mile. St Swithin, who had to miss the Cup, won the Christchurch Handicap from Emmeline and Little Tib. The Andy Pringle-trained pacer confirmed how unfortunate it was for his connections that injury denied him a Cup start.
Further improvements had been made at Addington, with a large new 10-shilling totalisator housebeing used for the first time. With bookmakers outlawed, the totalisator turned over a record £27,418 on Cup Day, and betting on the Cup of £6096 10s was a single-race record. The total for the three days of the carnival of £68,329 was an increase of £17,440 over the previous year.
Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup