YEAR: 1968


The death was reported recently of Acropolis, who will be remembered by many as the pacer who beat the mighty Highland Fling in the Dunedin Centennial Cup in April, 1948.

Acropolis was rising 27. His success over Highland Fling was described as "a surprise but nevertheless sterling performance." Acropolis made only one more appearance after that win - on the second day of the meeting. He won 12,785 in stakes.

Acropolis was the first of the stock of Dillon Hall to race and was bred by the late Wm Clent, of Balclutha and as a foal at foot Acropolis and his dam were bought by the late Mr T J Atkinson, of Christchurch for 50. Acropolis was handled from the start of his career by the late R B Berry, for whom he won the NZ Sapling Stakes, Welcome Handicap, Great Northern Derby and other races.

On the death of Mr Atkinson, Acropolis was bought by Mr J E Adams, a newcomer to the sport, for 700, and for Mr & Mrs Adams he won at his first start. Of Arcropolis's total of 12,785, 10,520 was won for Mr & Mrs Adams. After he left Berry's stable, Acropolis did not win again until he joined the late J B Pringle's stable in 1947.

Acropolis was one of the best mud-larks ever seen on Dominion tracks. For Pringle he won five races on end at one stage, all on soft or heavy tracks, and when heavy rain fell at Dunedin several days before the Centennial meeting, the hopes of Acropolis's people continued to soar. But the weather on the Saturday of the Cup was fine and sunny. The track was heavy for the opening race, but it improved rapidly with racing, and by the time the Centennial Cup came up for decision if could scarcely be called a heavy track. This apparently discounted the chances of Acropolis in the estimation of backers, otherwise he would have been further up in the order of favouritism. But he won just the same, and was actually going better than Highland Fling over the last 100 yards.

As a 2-year-old Acropolis finished third in the Timaru Nursery Stakes and won the Welcome Handicap and NZ Sapling Stakes. At three years he was placed in the NZ Derby and won the Great Northern Derby. It was as a 6-year-old that he put up his sequence of five wins, these included a treble at the Auckland Winter meeting - the Freyberg, C F Mark Memorial and Farewell Handicap. Thence to Wellington, where he added the Winter and Sharpe Handicaps to his bag of heavy-weather victories. His Centennial Cup success was his first and only success as a 7-year-old. Acropolis had nine unplaced performances to his credit before he broke through for that big win at Forbury Park. He won 11 races altogether.

Seaworthy, the dam of Acropolis, was got by Man O' War from Mary Tracey, by Captain Tracey-Harold's Pride, by King Harold. Acropolis ranked as a half-brother to Heliopolis, Marshall Ney, Atlantic Charter and others. Acropolis spent the last 13 years of his life at 'Malabar Farm,' Yaldhurst, where he was cared for by Mrs L R Purvis.

Credit: 'Irvington' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 24Jan68


YEAR: 1968

ROBALAN - Bargain Buy

Robalan(1968) $950(including dam in foal) 26 wins $147,000

The Robalan story was slow to unfold but worth the wait when it got to the action part, for example, like being the 1974 Horse of the Year, one of the great achievements in the history of that competition. His rivals were New Zealand and Auckland Cups winner, Arapaho; juvenile sensation Noodlum; Young Quinn and Easton Light. But an Australasian record 12 open wins in a season beat all of them.

Robalan's history of various owners and stable changes is complicated but when his Elsinore was offered for sale with Robalan at foot and in foal to Bachelor Hanover, Ernest Broad of Southland more or less on a whim, bought them for the above sum. He leased Robalan to Alan Devery and Bob Pollock for five years with a right of purchase of $1500. Denis Nyhan and Peter Hope later bought into the horse. Pollock then dropped out, Denis took over the training and later bravely threw the hopples away. It was mostly magic from then on. He retired the fastest free-legged pacer in Australasian history and some of his more amazing runs at Addington still shine bright in the memory.

Credit: David McCathy writing in Harnessed May 2016


YEAR: 1968

ZENOVER - Classic Winner Producing Mare

ZENOVER (1968 Bachelor Hanover-zenith), NZ family of Reflection; q 2:17.0, $0; 17 foals, 15 to race for 11 winners/ 4 qualifiers. Breeder Dick (RX) Monk. All foals bred by Dick Monk except: Lady Sherwood (RG Jenkins); Nuclear Power, Interchange, Now and Zen, Went Overboard (Meadowlands Breeding Ltd); Motoring Magic, Motoring In Style, Zenagain (Steve and Ann Phillips)

Zenover's sire Bachelor Hanover (1953) was a son of Nibble Hanover from the great mare The Old Maid from Spinster, dam of Light Brigade. The Old Maid's impact was immense leaving dancer Hanover (dam of Albatross), Thorpe Hanover (1957 Fox Stakes), Spinster Hanover (third dam of French Chef). Bachelor Hanover was a leading two- and three-year-old (Fox Stakes, Little Brown Jug Trial) with stake earnings in excess of $200k.

Leading sire 1973/4, among his 245 winners, Bachelor Hanover's best performers included: Arapaho (NZ & AK Cup), Bachelor Star & Sovereign (NZ Derby), Double Cash (NZ Championship at 2), First Batch & Main Star (GN Derby), Noodlum (NZ Championship at 2, NZ & QLD Derbies). Four times (twice equal) leading broodmare sire (winners), is broodmare credits included: Bionic Chance (NZSS 2c, NZ Breeders Stakes), Bolton Byrd (GN Derby, AK Cup), Decision Time (Messenger), Galleons Paradise & Lunar Lass(VIC Trotters Oaks & Derby), Havago(Fremantle & WA Cups), Ima Orphan(VICSS - 3c&4h), Ladys Rule(NZ Oaks), Locarno(Messenger, Miracle & Pan Am Miles), Lord Module (NZ Championship at 2, NZ Cup & FFA, Pan Am Mile, 1:54.9TT), Melton Monarch(GN Derby, Messenger), Motoring Magic(NZSS-2c&3c, NZ Championship at 2), Trebaldi(NSW Oaks), Times Up(GN & NZ Oaks), Zebec(NZ Trotting Stakes)

Dam Zenith was beautifully bred being by U Scott from Roydon Star, a successful broodmare (Light Brigade-Great Burton. Roydon Star's legacy in future generations included descendants Celestial (GN Derby), Susie Maguire (NZSS-2f), Pic Me Pockets(Messenger), Mighty Me(NZ & GN Derby), Pocket Me, Vee Mee, Take Care. Besides Zenover, she left:
. Mighty Tuft (Southland Challenge)
. Froniza, dam of Timely Ace, sire of Fiona Lyn, granddam of A Touch of Flair ($m, T1:52.3US, VIC Trotters Derby, Dullard Cup twice, AUS Grand Trotting Grand Prix), Son of Flair (VICSS-3T, VIC Trotters Derby).
. 4th dam of Master Triumph (Superstar-4)

From the family of Reflection, Zenith's third dam was the founding mare herself. Reflection's starring foals were fillies Great Burton(Roydon Star; Burt Scott, Dunedin & Easter Cups) and Real Burton(Kaikoura Cup), dam of Real Nugget(Cambridge Hannon Memorial); Young Tony(Wanganui Cup); Real Scott(CF Mark Memorial twice, Adams Memorial, Louisson Hcp, Dunedin Cup).

Zenover had a series of unplaced runs at two and three before her broodmare potential was considered to outweigh her chances of racing success. She has proven to be one of the best producers in the studbook resulting in being named Broodmare of the Year in 1993.

Zenover's male progeny included:

Harvey Wilson, ran fourth in his only 2yo start. At three, he recorded six consecutive victories following three placings in his first four starts. Wins were at Timaru, Hutt Park(2 divisions of Scan Carriers, Addington (NZ Trotting Stakes, now NZ Trotting Derby) and Rosso Antico Stakes(now GN Trotters Derby) at Alexandra Park. Harvey Wilson was named 3yo Trotter of the Year before departing for North America where he was a winner and sire.

Motoring Magic, 10 race winner for Geoff Small, with 6 as a juvenile landing him 2yo Pacer of the Year title(NZSS heat & final, NZ Championship, Te Awamutu and Cambridge Juveniles; second Thames Juvenile, third Burlington Air Express Stakes). At three, his three victories from 6 starts included NZSS and NZYSS. He was sidelined for the remainder of his 3yo season. The Cambridge Classic, his solitary success at four was to be his final win. A couple of placings were Motoring Magic's only return over the next two seasons before recurring suspensory problems brought about his retirement. As a sire, he left 16 winners(9 NZ bred, 7 Australian bred) including Magic Again, 19 wins, 1:53.4US).

Zebec, winner of 10 racing from age two to eleven. His first win was a dead heat with Zigfield in a 2yo non-tote at Addington and he finished third in the NZ Trotting Stakes. Zebec set a NZ Record for 2yo trotters over 1 mile when he time trialled in T2:04.8. Five wins at three, 4 of which were consecutive including NZ Trotting Stakes and seconds in Cambridge Trotting Stakes and the Rosso Antico Trotting Stakes confirmed his standing as the leading 2 and 3yo trotter of his years. Consecutive wins at Addington's New Year meetings were his only wins at four. A solitary win at Alexandra Pack at five(second in ID heat at Mooney Valley to Scotch Notch) and at Northland off 50m at six were his final successes. Zebec continued racing for a further five seasons for a few placings for a variety of trainers.

Zenover's fillies included:

Harvey's Sister, winner of five; four from 18 starts including eight-times runner up at two and only twice out of the money(Rangiora Raceway Stakes, Roydon Lodge Mile as 2yof, USA 1:58.3US), dam of two winners and a couple who have bred on.
Jenover, winner of 5(Addington-3, Wanganui, Hutt Park) dam of 6 trotting winners including Fitxroy Thugs(Hambletonian - 3T, Dunedin Trotting Cup), Stephen Craig (5 wins - 4 at Alexandra Park, 4th NZSS 3T), Lady Sherwood, unraced, 3rd dam of Albert Jaccka(WABotra Cup, Fremantle Members Sprint), Lady Skip(Tamworth Gold Nugget).

Interchange, five race winner(NBC International Classic Series for 2F, Bathurst Gold Tiara heat as a 2f/4th final, 4th Caduceus Club Classic as a 2f), Broodmare of the Year twice, Broodmare Excellence Award, dam of seven winners including:
. Elsu, 1:53.6, $2m, 3,4&5yo Male Pacer of the Year, Pacer of the Year(twice), Grand Circuit Champion, NZ Trotting Hall of Fame inductee - 27 victories including 11 Group Ones(GN, NZ & NSW Derbies, AK Cup twice, City of Auck FFA, Taylor Mile, Messenger, Chariots of Fire, ID Pacing Final, Hunter Cup), 4 Group 2s, 3 Group 3s. Sire of over 400 winners including Group One performers Chilli Palmer(WA FHRC Classic), Outrageous El(TAS Derby).
. Les Payenz Star, dam of Copper Beach(NZ & VIC Oaks, 3f Pacer of the Year); granddam of De Lovely(1:54.0, $m, Ladyship Stakes, NZ & AUS Oaks, Jewels Diamond 3f, AUS 3yo Breeders Stakes, Queen of Hearts, NZMTC Summer Cup, NZ Breeders Stakes, 3f & 4m Pacer of the Year).
. Mombassa, 2yo SI Sales Graduate.
. Renonez, 2yo NZ Breeders Produce, 2yo NZ Championship, Morrinsville Juvenile, GN Stakes, Redcliffe & VIC Navy Cups, VHRSC Classic; sire of Game Hillray(Gawler Oaks)

Jenny Gee, twice placed, dam of:
. Jennys Comet, 6 wins, dam of SA trotter Comet Soho(10 wins, three-race Gramel series)
. Jennys Rocket, 8 wins(3yo NZ Trotting Stakes slicing 6.5 seconds off Look's 2600m 3yo NZR.3yo filly Trotter of the Year), dam of Emmas Rocket(Akaroa Cup)

Now And Zen, qualified, unplaced in two starts, dam of five winners including:
. Zenola Star, dam of:
1 Zenad, New Brighton Avon City Ford & Tauranga Grass Cups.
2 Zenola Seelster, Otaki & Tauranga Grass Cups, Northern Country Cups Championship.
3 Zenterfold, dam of Tintin in America(1:53.2, $900k, 2 NZSS, Jewels Emerald at 3&4, AUS 3c Breeders Crown, Cambridge Futurity, Messenger, Kumeu Stakes, 2nd AK Cup and NZ Derby, 4yo Male Pacer of the Year)
. Zenorita, dam of My Dusky Sound(Parkes Cup, Smoken Up & Iraklis Championship and 3rd dam of Zenable(1:51.2, Menangle).

Went Overboard, winner, dam of eight winners including:
. Cast Adrift, 2yo NI Sales Graduate.
. EssBee Doubleyou, 1:52.0, 2yop Canberra Sapling.
. Went Motoring, dam of Little Sonny Bill(Bendigo Guineas & Derby.
. Zenorly Survivor, dam of Back On Board(WA 4yo Championship)

Zenagain, four placings, dam of six winners including:
. Royal Tour, dam of:
1 Rocky Pop, Pinjarra 2yo & Classic
2 Truckers Ruffnut, WA 3yo SS & Sales Classic
3 Tuxedo Tour WA 3yo SS.
. Zen Over Again, NSW Jack Adams Memorial

Minor winners from Zenover included: Jacee, three wins; Harveys Brother, winner in USA;Bachelor Sharvid, trotting winner; Motoring in Style, winner in NZ & twice in Australia.

Credit: Peter Craig writing in Harnessed Oct 2015


YEAR: 1967


Moon Boy, one of the greatest trotters to race in NZ in the last 10 years, collapsed and died this week. Moon Boy had been used to pull a light cart at Paparoa Prison for the last few years and he was being harness for work when he collapsed.

Moon Boy started 72 times for Mr & Mrs H Morris and gained 14 wins and 26 placings worth $19,045. He still holds the NZ record of 3:23 4/5 for 13 furlongs, and for a time shared the record of 4:15 4/5 for two miles. He also recorded 3:12 for 12 furlongs at Ashburton.

Moon Boy, a 13-year-old gelding by Court Martial from Bardia, was trained for all his racing by T L Bennett at Weedons.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 18Oct67


YEAR: 1967


If Markovina succeeds this year in becoming only the third horse to win two Inter-Dominion championships, it's doubtful whether his feat could cause many more ripples in the trotting world than Captain Sandy did in taking his second title back in 1953.

Captain Sandy was ten at the time...and had not won a race since taking the Inter-Dominion title nearly three years earlier. But win the '53 final he did, confirming yet again his earlier reputation as a dour old race horse.

By Mr John Johnston's Sandydale, Captain Sandy was out of a wayward mare Waikaura. She cost Mr Bob Ludemann, a neighbour of Johnston at Oamaru, only 13gns at auction in the 1930s. Ludemann had her for some years before sending her to Sandydale for the mating which produced a small bay colt, later to be named Captain Sandy. Being bad at almost everything else apparently, Waikaura was not a good mother either, and it was only after some time of constant coaxing and supervision that she would allow her new son to suckle.

Ludemann eventually sent the colt to trainer Jock Bain for his early education...but did not like the way the youngster was shaping. Bain, obviously a shrewd judge, saw some potential and offered to take Captian Sandy on a long-term lease. He wouldn't regret the move. He started Captain Sandy 16 times at four for a win (his first start) and five placings. The next season Captain Sandy earned more than 2000 for Bain, the result of three wins and seven placings. Bain must have realised about then that this was no mere plodder he had on his hands for he was soon to engage the services of one of the country's leading reinsmen, James Bryce Junior to do the driving.

In 1948 Captain Sandy and Bryce won nine races, including the Auckland Cup. The pair took the north's premier race the next year, too, this time from 36 yards behind. It was only natural that Bain should take the horse to Melbourne for the 1950 Inter-Dominion series. Unfortunately, Bryce was taking an enforced 'holiday' at the time so the winning combination was split. However, Freeman Holmes proved an able, if only temporary substitute for Bryce.

Captain Sandy finished fourth in the first heat in the fastest time and on the second night finished a creditable seventh after being almost put out during a bad skirmish during the running. In his third race, Captain Sandy took third and fastest time again but in doing so, Holmes was found guilty of breaking the rules. So he too was given a spell from driving. Sydney driver Jack Watts was more than pleased to take over the reins for the 10,000 Grand Final, a race which Captain Sandy had just scraped into through his fastest times. What happened next is history. Watts and Captain Sandy swooped on Morrie Holmes and Globe Direct near the end of the 14 furlong trip to get the decision by a head with another kiwi, Sprayman, third.

It's difficult to pinpoint the reasons but Captain Sandy never regained anything like that form on his return to NZ. Sure, he qualified for the final of the 1951 Inter-Dominion series in Christchurch with a fourth and a second in the heats, but off long marks, he could not win a race. Bain gave up his lease and Captain Sandy spent a time in the care of Wes Butt and George Benny for very little return. He was sent home again. Perhaps now, it was John Johnston who showed just how astute a judge of horseflesh he was. For it was Johnston, who in 1952, recommended to West Australian Dinny Nolan that he buy Captain Sandy to prepare for a tilt at the next year's big series in Perth. Nolan paid only 525 guineas and took Captain Sandy home.

The 10-year-old thrived and more than paid his way. In the Championship itself Captain Sandy scored a fourth and a second (driven by Freeman Holmes) in the early heats. Then with Bob Pollock in control (Holmes had to drive one of the favourites Blue Mist) Captain Sandy finished second again to the brilliant Ribands on the third night. That placing made Captain Sandy one of the top qualifiers for the Grand Final and Nolan was more than pleased to again give the drive to Pollock, one of the state's more promising young drivers.

Captain Sandy started from 24 yards behind but soon made up his handicap and wore down Ribands in the final few yards. History had been made in more ways than one. As well as being the first horse to win the title twice (Hondo Grattan would do so in 1973 and 74) Captain Sandy also became the greatest stake-winning standardbred in either NZ or Australia at the time with earnings of more than 40,000. And just to demonstrate his toughness he went a mile in 1:59 a couple of nights later followed by another mile of 1:57.5 against time on the half-mile track only days after that. The time, a world record, was not allowed though because the pacemaker had been allowed to head Captain Sandy during the trial.

The old chap made a final Inter-Dominion appearance at Adelaide. He scored points for fastest time (he finished ninth) in the first heat from 36 yards behind, and eventually made the final with six points. For the Grand Final, run on the giddy two and a half furlong Wayville Track, Captain Sandy was to be reunited with his old driver Jimmy Bryce, flown over from NZ just for the occasion. From 48 yards behind, he had virtually no show, but his performance to get up for fourth was one of the highlights of the series. With two rounds of the track left he was still at the back of the field, ten lengths from the leaders. He was forced to improve four and five wide and still had six in front of him at the turn. But fight he did, and Captain Sandy was once more in the money, winding up in fourth place only six yards from the winner, Tennessee Sky.


Captain Sandy, the only horse to win two Inter-Dominion Championships, died recently, according to a report in the Australian 'Trotguide.'

Captain Sandy was by the imported Sandydale from Waikaura. He was driven by J D Watts when he won the Final of the 1950 Inter-Dominion series on the Melbourne Showgrounds. Driven by L Pollock, he won his second Championship at Gloucester Park in 1953.

Driven by the late Claude Tupper, Captain Sandy started from 36 yards behind in the Easter Cup at Harold Park, Sydney, and defeated Avondale(scr) and Sparkling Max(12 yards). Captain Sandy also won the Victorian Easter Cup from 48 yards behind in 1953. In attempts against time in West Australia, Captain Sandy clocked 1:59 for a mile at Gloucester Park in March, 1953. He bettered this at Bunbury on March 4, 1953, when he covered the journey in 1:57.

Captain Sandy was foaled in NZ in 1942. He was bred at Oamaru by Mr R Ludemann, who picked up Captain Sandy's dam, Waikaura, at auction for the hack price of 6 10s.

One of Captain Sandy's greatest performances in NZ was in the Flying Stakes at the Easter meeting at Addington when, in one of the most thrilling duels ever seen at headquarters, he ran the peerless Highland Fling to a head. The time was 2:35 3/5 for a mile and a quarter. In the 1949 NZ Cup Captain Sandy looked a shade unlucky when beaten into second place by a real surprise packet in Loyal Nurse, and he went on to win the Auckland Cup for the second year in a row.

Captain Sandy was raced and trained in NZ by J M Bain, Oamaru and driven in most of his races by J Bryce, Jnr.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 18Oct67

Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 6Mar79


YEAR: 1967


Meadow Skipper - Laughing Girl - Good Time

Male descendants include Smooth Fella - Oil Burner - Cam Fella - Western Ideal ( American Ideal, A Rocknroll Dance, Rocknroll Hanover, Bettor's Delight, Live Or Die, Presidential Ball, Badlands Hanover, Western Terror etc)

Though a Triple Crown winner for Stanley Dancer and the horse who "made" Meadow Skipper as a sire (he was from his first crop), Most Happy Fella was generally regarded as running against an inferior crop of horses. This was underlined when the Horse of the Year in his triumphant three-year-old season went to a Canadian-owned seven-year-old trotting mare, Fresh Yankee. He was not considered a match on the track for Albatross and at first, nor as a stallion. Within a decade it was a completely different story. Oddly, several of his best stud sons were also not necessarily dominant as three-year-old pacing colts, the usual path to instant success.

Most Happy Fella is the dominating Hal Dale line influence in modern racing. It is hard to find a leading stallion without his name in the pedigree somewhere. He was line-bred to Hal Dale and his dam was line bred to Hal Dale's sire, Abbedale but it made little difference. Even when one boom son, Oil Burner turned out a major disappointment at stud and ended his days in Australian obscurity, his line was saved by one big success.

That was No Nukes (from his first crop) a $21,000 yearling and no more than a very good racehorse. But sharp eyes rated him highly for his great action and strength and he was syndicated for US$55m. No Nukes delivered in spades, three times leading sire and establishing the Western Hanover dynasty as well as siring Jate Lobell and Die Laughing. Cam Fella's line through Bettor's Delight is the current industry leader here. Cam Fella was generally rated Most Happy Fella's greatest racing son, a one stage winning 28 in a row.

Most Happy Fella was smoother gaited than most of the Meadow Skipper - line horses, some of whom were not stylish in hopples. They wanted to be free-legged like Hal Dale but were too unreliable in the style. He made his name in the Cane Pace on a 1000m track. Besides his great colts he sired absolute superstars mares, Tarport Hap and Silk Stockings. His dominance of pacing lines is such now that mares from one descendant are regularly bred to sons of another descendant with great success. And the further success of his sons and daughters of Christian Cullen suggests his domination will continue for a long while yet.

TRIVIA FACT - Significantly, Most Happy Fella's remarkable achievements came in a shorter time frame than most of his rivals. He died at jus 16 at the peak of his stud career.

Credit: Dave McCarthy writing in Harnessed Apr 2017


YEAR: 1966

Highland Kilt, winner 1950 NZ Trotting Stakes

As a yearling Highland Kilt was bought for me for $800 from his breeder, Mrs K Barre of Templeton. This was just before his full brother Highland Fling and his three-quarter brother Caduceus, hit the world headlines. He was by U Scott out of Queen Ayesha by Frank Worthy.

He made his race track debut as a 2-year-old in 1949 at Addington in a time trial against Todd Lonzia's 2-year-old record which had stood for 17 years. There was great intertest in Highland Kilt's appearance as the year before his full brother, Highland Fling, had paced to a world record on the Addington track of 1:57 4/5. He didn't let the family down; he ran the mile in 2:19 1/5 to take the record by 3/5 of a second. The next season he won at Marlborough then took the prestigious NZ Trotting Stakes.

As a 4-year-old he won the Addington Trotting Stakes and two other races, one a heat of the Inter-Dominion championships over 1 miles in 2:40. In the middle of a packed field in the final he struck interference, broke, and lost 40 yards yet still finished a good fifth. He was at his peak in 1952, beating a field of the best trotters including Fair Isle, Single Task, Dictation and Gold Horizon. From 36 yards behind he won in the record time for the Forbury track of 3:31 1/5. It was a remarkable performance and he ran the last quarter in just under 30 seconds.

At Kaikoura, in another time trial, he recorded 2:04 3/5, running his last quarter in 29 without being driven out. It is one of my regrets that he did not go against time again while at his peak.

As a 5-year-old Highland Kilt won five races and the last of these, on a wettish track, again confirmed his top ranking. This was in the Wellington Champion Free-For-All and the field included all the top trotters of the day, Dictation, Barrier Reef, Signal Light, Precaution, Gold Horizon, Gay Belwin and others. Normally he was not suited to wet tracks but as it was the end of the season we decided to start him. We need not have worried; after running in the middle of the field he took the lead with a quarter to go and won handsomely from Dictation and Barrier Reef.

The following season he had a few starts off difficult marks before retiring to stud. With Light Brigade leaving top trotters there were only limited opportunities for him and he was eventually leased for stud duties in the North Island. He left some good trotting winners, one of the best being our own Highland Flight 2:03 2/5 raced on lease by E W Lockyer who trained at Raetihi. Highland Glen 2:02 3/5 was another of his offspring; he raced for some years in the States for Eddie Cobb.

Highland Kilt's mares have proved good breeders of trotters. One, Pipetre, was the dam of Nigel Craig, 'Horse of the Year' in 1977 and the first trotter in NZ to better 2:00. The second dam of Castleton's Pride, Highland Gift was also by him; She was out of Esprit, one of Roydon Lodge's original imports.

Highland Kilt meant a great deal to my wife and me. He was racing for me not long after we had been married and as he improved so did out home furnishings. He would have been an ideal trotter to race in the States where at his best he would have become NZ's first 2:00 trotter.


NZ Trotting Calendar 23Mar66

Highland Kilt, whose death is reported, was a champion juvenile and aged trotter.

In 1949 he lowered the 2-year-old trotting record against time to 2:19 1/5. The previous record, Todd Lonzia's 2:22 2/5, had stood for 19 years. Among his three wins as a 3-year-old was the NZ Trotting Stakes.

He won four races at four years, including the Addington Trotting Stakes, the Nicoll Handicap (two miles), and a Qualifying race of the trotters' section of the Inter-Dominion Championships, held at Addington. His five wins as a 5-year-old included the Metropolitan Greyhound Handicap and the Wellington Champion Free-For-All, in which he led home Dictation, Barrier Reef and Signal Light. Another in that field was Gold Horizon. Among his successes in later seasons were the Metropolitan Worthy Queen Handicap and the Ashburton Cup.

Highland Kilt was bought as a yearling by Sir John McKenzie from his breeder, Mrs K Bare, Halswell, and raced throughout in the McKenzie interests.

Credit: Roy McKenzie: The Roydon Heritage


YEAR: 1966


The death occurred last week of a former champion juvenile pacer in Blue, who is still the holder of the world mile yearling record of 2:09 1/5 put up in 1957. Blue was at stud at the Ascot stud of Messrs G R Shirley and G A Thomas, Invercargill.

Blue was something of a sensation from the day he first appeared in public - at the 1957 National Yearling sales when he was knocked down for the record price for a standardbred yearling at 4250 gns. Shortly after he established his world record which still stands.

Blue went on to firmly establish himself as the best two and three-year-old pacer in the country, and actually he proved himself in world class. In six starts as a two-year-old he was unbeaten, his wins including the 1958 NZ Sapling Stakes in which he established a NZ mile and a half two-year-old record of 3:15 4/5.

As a three-year-old he won the NZ Derby in 3:12 2/5, the NZ Metropolitan Challenge Stakes in 2:36 4/5, an Australasian record at the time, and also the 4000 New South Wales Derby

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 2Feb66


YEAR: 1965

Reta Peter with Trainer-Driver A G Wilson

She was only a slight little thing of 15.1 hands. She had found out a string of trainers before she pranced into a stall at Alf Wilson's New Brighton stable one fine day in the year 1919: but she earned a place among the square-gaited immortals by defeating fields of pacers two years in succession in the NZ Cup.

Do you have a youngster in your family who wants to know why we call our premier event the NZ Trotting Cup when trotters no longer appear in it; haven't for years, in fact? And are you, like us, sometimes left wondering what a marvel of trotting speed, solidity and staying power Reta Peter must have been?

To the moderns it sounds almost like a fairy tale; bewildering to the younger generation who now so rarely enjoy the exhilarating spectacle of a trotter competing successfully against any sort of pacers. Reta Peter won the NZ Cup in 1920 and 1921, and she is the only trotter with two NZ Cups to her credit.

The late A G Wilson trained and drove Reta Peter for both her successes in the premier event from his famous training establishment, 'Myosotis Lodge,' New Brighton. The story of Reta Peter is set down here in Alf's own words:

"I had just returned from World War I and was not keen on starting training horses again," said Wilson. "In fact I had decided to give it up. But it wasn't to be. Frank Robson came to me and begged me to take Reta Peter to train. I said I'd give her a trial. The first thing I did was to have a look at her feet; she had 8oz shoes in front and 4oz toe-weights and I realised her feet were just murdered by too much weight. I decided on 5oz bar shoes and threw her toe-weights out altogether. When the late Bernie Fanning first examined her feet for me he drew my attention to her weak heels, which opened right out. After I had got her shod to my liking I sent her a mile on the grass track at New Brighton and she went 2:14, real time in 1919, when she did it, and she did it on her own. I got her about 15 months before the 1920 Cup, and that trial decided me - I was still a trainer."

"And she stood to me like the beauty she was; she won three two-mile events against horses of her own gait the first season I raced her. She was six then and already a champion. I remember one day she was giving away 16 seconds - they were handicapped by the bell then - and she was in front at the end of half a mile. Jack McLennan was driving one of the front horses and when Reta Peter passed him so early he shouted out to me, 'Where the hell did you come from'?"

"I realised I had something phenomenal in Reta Peter. I felt confident I could beat the best of the pacers and we thereupon set our caps at the NZ Cup," continued Wilson. "Reta Peter continued to increase our confidence. She did everything I asked of her, and more, and as the big day drew nearer I told everybody I would win. But most of them laughed. They couldn't imagine a trotter, something of a cast-off before she came to my stable, beating the pacers in the Cup."

"It certainly looked a tall order with Author Dillon in the field, but I never had any doubts about the result. Now I will try to go over the race for you again. She was on 9 seconds (the limit under modern handicaps)and began well for a trotter. She was in the middle of the field early. The last time round she was about seventh. She moved up for me at the half, and at the quarter post she came round wide out and won without being knocked about by the best part of a length from General Link and Author Dillon. The backmarker was Author Dillon, and Reta Peter's 4:30 2/5, forced him to go 4:21 4/5, a record for many years. When Author Dillon passed me with half a mile to go his driver, Ben Jarden, turned his head and said: 'Goodbye, Alf.' I replied: 'I'll see you later,' and sure enough, I did," chuckled Alf.

"The following season Reta Peter had no opportunity of a race before the Cup. She had been pin-fired in the meantime and I had to go very carefully with her. For her second Cup - 1921 - the limit was 4:32 and she was on the same mark as Sherwood, 7 seconds. Others in the field included Man O' War, 2 seconds; Albert Cling, 3 seconds; General Link, 6 seconds; Trix Pointer 6 seconds and John Dillon, 7 seconds. There were two false starts and she was first out in both of these. Eventually she got away well. With a round to go she ran up behind the leaders, Vice Admiral and Gleaming. Dil Edwards om Vice Admiral turned round and said to Bill Warren on Gleaming: 'Go on, Bill, here comes the bloody trotter.' She had he skin taken off both her front legs in the last half-mile and after finishing second to Sherwood she was given the race after an inquiry into Sherwood crossing her. I want you to put it on record for the benefit of those who don't know the full story that I didn't enter a protest against Sherwood. The Stipendiary Steward, Mr Mabee, took it up himself. Mr Robson showed Mr Mabee the mare's bleeding legs, and it was the 'stipe' who took up the case," asserted Wilson.

The NZ Trotting Register has the following: "Sherwood finished two lengths in front of Reta Peter, with Vice Admiral two lengths away third and Willie Lincoln a length and a half further back fourth. Sherwood, 4:29, Reta Peter, 4:29 1/5, Vice Admiral, 4:31. A protest was lodged by the owner of Reta Peter (F H Robson) against Sherwood for crossing Reta Peter in the straight. After consideration the stewards upheld the protest, placing Reta Peter first and Sherwood second and fining F G Holmes, driver of Sherwood, 25." This incident is still hotly debated by people who saw the race.

It was about this time that the bell system of starting gave way to the yards system and the standing start. Reta Peter's two-mile mark in the August Handicap, of 1922, a 4:34 class, was 60 yards; or 4:29. A third Cup victory was considered within her powers by Wilson, who related how well she was going in her training until a few days beforehand. "She actually broke down four or five days before the Cup," said Wilson. "She went behind, and there was no chance of mending her again. One of the most relieved men was Nelson Price, trainer of Agathos. Not that he wished Reta Peter any harm; but he rang me up and said his chances had improved since Reta Peter had gone out. He added that Reta Peter was the only one he was afraid of. Agathos duly won and only had to go 4:33 2/5 on a good track, so it certainly looked as though Reta would have been hard to beat again," said Wilson.

Alf describes Reta Peter as "Just a little slight thing, 15.1 hands." He remarked that she did not put up phenomenal times because she did not have to. He claims she trotted her last quarter of her first NZ Cup in 29 seconds, and that under the present system of handicapping she would have won a great fortune and improved her record by several seconds. "She had a lovely temperament," he said. "My grand-daughter used to brush her hind legs and was never in the slightest danger. She was a perfect and a treat to do anything with. Some idea of her quality will be given by the fact that the night before her first Cup I was entertaining some of my friends, including A J McFlinn, the well-known steeplechase jockey. When I showed him Reta Peter he said: 'Put a saddle on her, Alf, and she would not be out of place in the galloping Cup field.' She certainly had great quality and refinement for a trotter." added Wilson.

"You don't see many American sulkies on the racetracks today," remarked Wilson. "Reta Peter raced in a real American sulky, which is pounds lighter than most of the so-called speed carts in use here today. I contend the American sulky, which sits feet closer to the horse than a speed cart, is seconds faster. To begin with, the weight of the driver is not a dead drag or dead weight as in the speed cart. The weight of the driver in the sulky actually pushes the the cart under the horse, so to speak. The speed cart has to be pulled all the way, but the centre of gravity with an American sulky is actually forward of the driver's seat. That's the best explanation of the difference between the sulky and the speed cart I can give you. I hope it's fairly clear, because I think it's most important. I've taken particular notice of many good horses racing in speed carts of recent years and I feel more and more convinced that these carts are a dead drag on the shoulder or mouth of a horse."

"I do think that our best horses would improve up to 2 seconds on their times if they were trained and driven in American sulkies," continued Alf. "At the same time, I'm well aware of why the sulky went out of favour - the sulky, being a forward-weighted vehicle with it's centre of balance in front of the driver, frequently went underneath a horse when the horses reared at the start. There was a lot of this with sulkies. Speed carts do not run under a horse so easily, which is probably one of the main reasons why they have almost pushed the American sulky off the racetrack. The standing start also had a lot to do with this change. Under the old clock system of starting, horses were constantly on the move, and there was little fear of a horse rearing and over-balancing. The standing start altered all that and made the speed cart a safer vehicle for horses having to line up at the barrier. For all that, I think our champions would be able to do a lot better in American sulkies."

Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Nov65


YEAR: 1965


Mention of the influence of the Wildwood strain in the pedigree of the NZ Cup winner Cairnbrae - and the innumerable winning descendants of Tairene - has prompted a Calendar reader to draw our attention to an article by the late F C Thomas which appeared in a Christchurch weekly paper more than 40 years ago.

Here is Mr Thomas's article:

The writer well remembers his first introduction to Wildwood, soon after the black son of Good Gift arrived in Christchurch. Though still showing traces of his journey from San Francisco, he filled the eye as quite the best-looking young horse ever brought to these shores. He was then rising three, and after a few week's spell he was put into light work at William Kerr's New Brighton track.

It was not until two seasons later, however, that he first faced a racecourse crowd, and though of practically unknown quality, he was backed for the Record Reign Handicap at the Showgrounds as if the race was all over, bar shouting. Despite his opponents including much better-performed horses such as General Tracey, Albert Victor, Little Willie, Sam Slick and Viking, he was required to give them starts ranging from 4 to ten seconds in two miles. In the field also was a little-fancied candidate hailing from Ashburton, Prince Imperial, owned by Mr A G Holmes, and driven by Newton Price. After going a fine race Wildwood just failed to concede Prince Imperial the required four-second start, though he managed to account for all the others.

It was this race that led up to the famous match race between Wildwood and Prince Imperial at New Brighton, over which big sums of money changed hands. Dave Price drove Prince Imperial, and Willie Kerr, through the indisposition of his brother, Charlie, held the reins over the black trotter. Wildwood won in two straight heats. Subsequently he showed his worth in races at the Showgrounds, New Brighton and Plumpton Park.

On retiring to the stud Wildwood was not long in establishing his speed-begetting ability, as a sire of both pacers and trotters. One of the earliest to bring him fame was Ribbonwood, who defeated the Australian champion Fritz in the greatest match ever held in NZ. Another of Wildwood's sons, Wildwood Junior, must rank against the greatest racehorses of modern times. In their home trials there was little to choose between Wildwood Junior and his son Admiral Wood. Whereas the latter gained Blue Ribbon distinction, the "black demon," who did his racing before Derbies were instituted, won the NZ Trotting Cup in 1909 and 1910.

Before both these Cups Wildwood Junior had done everthing asked of him at his home track, one of his trials being two miles in 4.31, coming home the last mile in 2.10. He was also a success at the stud, tieing for first place on the sires' list for the number of races won, with Logan Pointer, in the 1921-22 season.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 13Jan65

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