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W J MORLAND: Horseman


Gold Country, an outstanding pacer of the 1930s, died at Mr R A Boag's property, Kirwee, recently, his Christchurch owner, Mr A W Morland, told the Calendar this week. The passing of this 28-year-old gelding brings to mind one of the most colourful sagas in the history of the standardbred in NZ...that of the outstanding breeder-owner-trainer, the late Mr W J Morland, and his success with the family founded by the tap-root mare, Bonnie Bell.

In 1894, Mr H Richardson, of Taranaki, imported to the Dominion the stallions, Wildwood and Ha Ha, and the mare Alice Azmoor, and the trio was subsequently purchased by Messrs W and C Kerr. Ha Ha was not a success at stud, but Wildwood, after his racing career ended, founded a great line in the Dominion, producing some fine pacers and trotters. Alice Azmoor was mated with Wildwood and produced Alice Wood and Wildmoor.

About 90 years ago Sir Cracroft Wilson brought to NZ from India a purebred Arab stallion and several mares. From one of these horses descended a mare, which in 1895 was mated with the Young Irvington stallion, Lincoln Yet, by a Mr T Yarr. The result of this mating was Bonnie Bell, who was purchased by Mr Morland on the advice of Mr J Brake, snr, a well-known and successful sportsman in the very early days of trotting in Canterbury. Lincoln Yet, who at one time pulled a cab around Christchurch, was a grandson of Hambletonian 10, and it was through the agency of Mr Brake, that the stallion got a chance at stud.

At the stud for Mr Morland Bonnie Bell produced Curfew Bell to Wildwood, and later Country Belle to Wildmoor, a son of that stallion. Country Belle was foaled in 1908, and her owner explained many years later why he had bred Bonnie Bell to Wildmoor, who was unknown as a sire. He had previously mated Bonnie Bell with Wildwood, Curfew Bell being the result. The next two seasons the mare was mated with Prince Imperial, but her owner was not impressed with the progeny. As Curfew Bell had shown speed, he came to the conclusion that the Wildwood strain was best, but that stallion had died in the meantime, and, Wildmoor being the only Wildwood stallion about, he decided to mate Bonnie Bell with him. The judgement of Mr Morland proved correct, as he got an exceptional mare as the result.

Country Belle was a powerfully-built mare, well mannered and a great stayer, in addition to her speed. She was trained for all her races by Mr Morland (who had no superior in the Dominion as an educator) on his private track a few miles fron Rakaia township. She won nine races and was four times second and once third from 27 starts. She won the 1915 NZ Cup, after finishing second to Win Soon the previous year. Her other successes included the Auckland Trotting Club Handicap, the Forbury Cup and the New Brighton Cup Free-for-all.

She earned further distinctions by taking two NZ records within a few weeks. At Addington on December 15, 1915, she established a mile record of 2.07 1/5, beating the previous figures, 2.08 2/5 held by King Cole. A request from the Auckland Trotting Club, that the Cup winner and mile record holder should attend its meeting and attempt a two-mile record, was favourably considered by Mr Morland, and Country Belle, in charge of J Bryce, paced 4.22 4/5, smashing the previous record of 4 28 1/5.

Country Belle was then retired to stud, and in 1917 produced Good Gift to Logan Pointer, but he was not raced. The following year, to the same horse, came the brilliant but erratic Countryman, a pacer of moods and speed, who had a record of 2.10 2/5. Next season came Homestead, by Nelson Bingen. He was not a success, but the following year to the same sire, she produced the brilliant mare, Escapade, who after being worked as a pacer, was converted to the trotting gait and went 4.27 1/5, winning several races. Escapade has left a family of nine all good winners. Two years later, Country Belle produced Episode to Nelson Bingen, and, missing another year, she produced a filly by Rey de Oro in 1924, but after showing great promise she died. Another blank year followed, and to Rey de Oro she produced Gold Country.

Gold Country began racing as a 3-year-old in the 1929-30 season, and won his only start that term, over one mile and a half at Ashburton. He was then operated on for a wind affliction and 11 months later, he won at his only start as a 4-year-old, over the same distance at the same course. He brought his record to three successive wins at his first start as a 5-year-old, scoring in the Wellington Railway Handicap. Later the same day he suffered his first defeat, but at his next start he won the two-mile Gore Trotting Club Handicap. In the same season he won the Winton Trotting Club Handicap and the Express and Halswell Handicaps at Addington, all over two miles.

As a 6-year-old he won the Lincoln, Yaldhurst and Hornby Handicaps (Addington), the Mace Memorial Handicap (New Brighton), the Ashburton Cup and the Craven Handicap (Addington) in that order. The Craven Handicap was his last success, and it was a very notable one. Over one mile and a quarter, he beat Harold Logan by 10 lengths, with a similar distance back to Wrackler, and Free Advice fourth. He ended that season fourth on the list of stake-earners with £1450, this sum being £420 less than that won by Harold Logan, who topped the list. He raced again as a seven, eight and ten-year-old, but did not regain his best form. Gold Country last raced in the interest of Mr Morland's son, Mr A W Morland, and the gelding was at Kirwee since his race career ended.

Country Belle later produced another grand mare in Rustic Maid to Rey de Oro. Rustic Maid has left a long line of winners, including Scottish Lady, Free Fight, Slavonic and Chamfer.

Mr Morland's property in Ilam Road, Upper Riccarton, was one of the most select breeding establishments in NZ, and his keen study of successful bloodlines has proved of great value to trotting.

Credit: Ron Bisman writing in NZ Trooting Calendar 29Jun55

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