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BLAST FROM THE PAST


1948 NZ TROTTING CUP: Won by Highland Fling

1948 NEW ZEALAND TROTTING CUP

Highland Fling's New Zealand Cup victory on Saturday was the most fluent, smashing and affluent run ever staged at Addington. Fluent because the faster this nonpareil travels the easier he appears to be doing it; smashing because he reduced a couple of world's records by wide margins; affluent because the £4775 he won on Saturday took his winning total to £30,160, which puts him well in front of the previous New Zealand record stake-winner - the mighty galloper Gloaming - whose total was £26,202.

Descending on the leaders with the same overwhelming purpose as the young blood in the poem who brought the good news from Aix to Ghent (or visa versa) Highland Fling had his second NZ Cup sitting on the sideboard a furlong from the post; in the remaining 220 yards he put the finishing touches to a new world's pacing record for two miles and a world's winning race record for horses of both gaits.

Highland Fling and Berkett richly earned the terrific ovation they received from the dense crowd when they passed the post six lengths clear of Plunder Bar. So secure was Highland Fling's victory that Berkett put away his whip short of the post and took a disdainful look round at the havoc he had wrought. It was a pardonable flourish on a very special occasion - Berkett's first winning Cup drive; his son, Colin, drove 'The Fling' last year. It is only fair to add that the beating of a rapid tattoo on the sulky shaft was the nearest acquaintance Highland Fling made with the whip on Saturday. Never before has the rout of a high-class field been so complete. For a high-class field it undoubtedly was: in the ultimate you had the ancient allusion to a Triton among the minnows.

Highland Fling's 4:10 3-5 is the fastest time a pacer has yet registered the world over. The only harness horse to have bettered it is Greyhound, a trotter, whose 4:06 was done against time and with many advantages not enjoyed by Highland Fling. But that is not all: from post to post Highland Fling was timed at 4:07 2-5, his last mile in 2:02 3-5 and last half-mile in 59 3-5sec, so the people who have been putting him in world class for long enough have now come into their own. Two-mile races are now becoming fairly common in America, and nothing approaching Highland Fling's achievement of Saturday has been reported from the land of his ancestors.

Highland Fling's supporters - he was apparently summed up as unbeatable by the multitude of backers who put more than a third of the total win investments on him - must have had palpitations when the champion bobbed at the start and increased his handicap by at least 24 yards. And before a furlong had been covered he narrowly averted disaster when Nyallo Scott broke. Highland Fling had repaired these setbacks with six furlongs covered, at which stage he was tucked in behind the bunch, but he gave further cause for anxiety with five furlongs to go by drifting slightly. Once he reached the clear just after entering the last half-mile, however, all fears were soon put to rest and he gathered in everthing except Plunder Bar and Single Direct smartly. He did not attenpt to dispose of his only remanining opponents until the home turn was rounded and his task proved much simpler than even his most ardent admirers could have imagined.

Single Direct ran a fine race but was a trifle disappointing. He tackled the pacemaker, Plunder Bar, early and often, but never looked like beating him. Plunder Bar made a notable contribution to light-harness history by carrying the field along at a solid pace; his 4:16 4-5 is easily his best time to date. Emulous made one of the best beginings of his career and was soon favourably placed in the running, only one sulky-width from the rails; but when Highland Fling moved up on the outside of him with three furlongs to go Emulous was plainly on the way out. He finished ninth. Knave of Diamonds, who appeared to be hampered by another horse in the back stretch the last time, was a moderate fourth, followed by Loyal Nurse, Sprayman, Dundee Sandy, and Navigate.

Highland Fling, like another great harness figure in Harold Logan, had lowly beginnings. Bred by Mrs K Bare, of Riccarton, he was sold to Mr A T Kemble, of Auckland, for a sum about £25 short of £200 by the time a contingency had been paid. Highland Fling is still a comparative youth as pacers go, being only six. By all precedents his best days should still be in front of him. He is by U Scott from Queen Ayesha, an unraced mare by Frank Worthy from Royal Empress, who was by Logan Pointer from a Silver King mare. It is what is commonly known in breeding circles as a short or lopsided pedigree. His sire is just the best, and what there is of his dam's family tree for two generations back in unimpeachable; but from Silver King onwards it falls short of what is usually expected of a champion's lines in the trotting DeBretts - the NZ Stud Book. Be that as it may, Highland Fling's greatness has gone a long way towards raising the obscure name of Silver King to the standard-bred peerage. Very little is known of Silver King, but it has been established that he was by Wallace L (imp)from a mare by Kentucky from Silver Queen.

The Cup this year was apparently looked forward to more as a spectacle because of the decrease of £6641 in the totalisator investments for the day, £4311 was recorded in the Cup total alone. Many of the estimated crowd of 32,000 must have made up their minds to take no risks in missing a vantage point to see the race, because the totalisator cues were not as long as last year, and all the money offering was handled comfortably several minutes before the totalisator closed. The NZ Cup total was £34,972, compared with the record of £39,283 last year.

Credit: 'Ribbonood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Nov48

 
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