SCUSE ME - Classic Winner Producing Mare
Successful racehorse and sire Good Chase was humanely put down the Thursday before last at Rosewood Stud, Annat, age having finally caught up with him. "He was rising 29," said Dennis Watson, who drove the good son of Light Brigade, owned and trained by his father, the late Oscar Watson, to his 9 NZ wins. "He served a couple of mares this past year and got one of them in foal, but just recently he had been having difficulty breathing and getting up on his feet."
From a prolific winner-producing line nurtured over the years by the Watsons and widely recognised as the "Rosewood family", Good Chase was from the unraced U Scott-Rosewood mare Torlesse. Like Rosewood before her, Torlesse left a string of winners.
Rosewood, by the Jack Potts horse Gamble (winner of the 1934 NZ Derby and second to Lucky Jack in the 1937 NZ Cup), was unraced. She was one of only two filly foals bred by Oscar Watson from Peggywood, an unraced non-standardbred daughter of 1909 and 1910 NZ Cups winner Wildwood Junior. Lady Ngaio, Rosewood's full-sister, was trained at Yaldhurst by Basil Lynskey for Oscar Watson to win six races in the 1940s, but died before she could be bred from.
Oscar offered Good Chase as a yearling in the 1964 National Sale. The Reid brothers, Leo and Robert, of Waiuku, were about to buy him on the recommendation of the late Jack Shaw - a renowned judge of horseflesh - but shied off when Shaw detected a filling in one of the colts legs. The Reids instead paid 1000 guineas for the Garrison Hanover-Miranda Scott filly, which, as Miranda Bay, founded them an outstanding line of winners headed by Luxury Liner ($1.7m) and Christopher Vance ($1.5m).
When bidding ceased at 950 guineas on Good Chase, Watson, who wanted at least 1000 guineas for him, took him home. Good Chase became the top youngster of his day, winning eight races at two and three, including the Welcome Stakes and NZ Derby, then one of two starts at four, the National Handicap. At this point, with earnings of $13,330, Good Chase was secured in a lease arrangement by prominent American breeder-owner Allan Leavitt.
In America, Good Chase measured up to the best. He was placed in all three races of the 1970 International Pace Series at Yonkers Raceway, while his victories included the Provincial Cup in Canada and Dan Patch Aged Pace in New York. An injury to a leg, that necessitated an operation, forced Good Chase's retirement, and - with a career record of 37 starts for 25 wins, five seconds and two thirds - he returned to NZ to stand for Dennis and brother John with a full book in 1973.
Before he had left NZ for the States, Good Chase had served 20 odd mares, from which there were 11 winners. These include Willie Win (NZ Derby), Hardcraft (Welcome Stakes)and other excellent performers in Big Chase (Cambridge Gold Cup), Free Chase (placed third in the NZ Derby)and James Hadley (a big winner in America). Not able to duplicate that initial success with his first small crop, Good Chase quickly fell from favour, and over the past decade served very few mares. His daughters have bred on, among them being Millie's Choice, dam of the outstanding duo Smooth Millie and Millie's Brother.
"Good Chase was like a Rolls Royce to drive," recalls Dennis. "He actually died on the anniversary of Dad's death, which we did not realise until after he was put down. It's as if the old fellow might have him back again."
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 26May93
The death on a Hororata farm last week of Scotch Tar rekindled memories of a trotter ranked with the all-time greats. For the past three years, Scotch Tar has been cared for by Alf Phillips, and he died suddenly , aged 20.
Scotch Tar won 29 races - two Dominion Handicaps, the Dunedin Cup, the Worthy Queen Handicap, two NZ Trotting Free-For-Alls, the Ordeal Cup, a heat of the Inter-Dominions, and two Benson and Hedges Challenge Stakes. He had a versatile career, racing against pacers, setting records, and putting up some huge performances against such stars of the day as No Response, Stormy Morn, About Now, Game Way, Even Speed and Thriller Dee.
He as trained throughout his career by 'Slim' Dykman, now living in Australia, who handled him in 15 of his wins. Robert Cameron drove him in his first 10, and Peter Wolfenden in the others. Cameron was his first trainer, having bought the Tarport Coulter-Scotch Penny colt as a yearling from Sir Roy McKenzie. Scotch Penny is notable for her offspring in the case of Scotch Tar, and also for being the galloping prompter in a time trial by Garcon Roux at Hutt Park but being too slow to keep up.
The best Scotch Tar could do for Cameron in his early training was making a quarter in 36. "I wasn't getting on with him, so I put him in a dispersal sale at Ashburton and Slim bought him for $1000," said Cameron. Dykman gelded him, and the pair soon struck a chord, and Cameron was in the cart when Scotch Tar made a winning debut at Methven in September, 1977. The combination won five races that season, and five the next, including the Dominion Handicap as a 5-year-old from Spartan Prince and Framalda in NZ record time of 4:11.6 for 3200m.
Cameron and Dykman had a parting of the ways at this time, after Dykman questioned the manner in which Cameron had driven the horse. "Scotch Tar was a great competitor, but I have always said that David Moss is a better horse. He is a nice driving horse, settles and doesn't pull. But Scotch Tar was tough, and got better as he went along. In the Dominion, he was on one rein, and was beaten on the corner. But he kept trotting, kept going, and wasn't beaten in the end. And he had remarkable speed. When he raced in the Free-For-All over 2000 metres at the Cup meeting against Hands Down, he led out and went over his first quarter in 27 (26.8 in fact)," he said. In that race, Scotch Tar led for the first 1600 metres, which took him 1:57.4, until he folded over the last 200 metres.
Scotch Tar also won the Dominion Handicap as a 7-year-old from Stormy Morn and Game Way. He won once from nine starts as an 8-year-old, and he defeated Sir Castleton and Dryden Lobell in one of his two wins from seven starts as a 9-year-old.
Scotch Tar's last public appearance was at the Ashburton Trotting Club's centennial meeting in 1990. Kevin McRae prepared him for the meeting and was astonished to find that after just two weeks he covered a half in 1:05. "I'm pretty lucky if a good maiden can run a half on my track in three," he said. Once the centennial was over, Scotch Tar's final resting place was at Hororata, where his company were young horses of similar calling.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 8Dec93
Vance Hanover who died suddenly aged 17 at Vance Lodge in South Auckland on Saturday morning at the peak of his mercurial career was a sensational sire. There was no other way to describe him.
The nuggety, unraced stallion - the first son of world champion pacer and sire Albatross to be made available to NZ breeders - rocketed to a pre-eminence that could one day see him heralded as the Hambletonian 10 or the Meadow Skipper of the standardbred industry in this country.
Vance Hanover sired winners from mares of the lowliest credentials to forge himself an initial popularity that led him to attracting record numbers of matrons, eventually including the most fashionable. He shattered all previous records for mares covered, local individual winners and wins and seasonal stakemoney won by his stock. With 10 crops on the tracks, he is well on his way to dominating the sires' premiership for the fifth straight season. The quality of his representatives, who will no doubt dominate our racing for some seasons to come, embraced speed, stamina, versatility and durability, while both his sons and daughters demonstrated these assets and there were already signs that his sons and daughters would breed on successfully.
Helen Andrews, wife of Vance Lodge co-director Eric Andrews, found Vance Hanover dead in his paddock around 8.30 on Saturday morning, some 45 minutes after he had served a mare. "He had served all but three of the 115 mares booked to him here, while down at Templeton, where Kevin Williams has been inseminating South Island mares booked to him, there were about 20 to go of some 120," said Vance Lodge studmaster Fraser Kirk.
Williams confirmed that six mares were inseminated with Saturday's final collection from Vance Hanover. "There will only be about 20 mares miss out, although there are a few mares who have only been inseminated once that we have our fingers crossed for, and these include some good ones, like Bella Regazza, the dam of Giovanetto," said Williams. "We had 70 positives, and I think there will be about 80 booked here get in foal."
Vance Hanover was insured by Andrews and Graham Brown, co-directors of Vance Lodge. Said Kirk: "I thought he would live until he was 30. He was unraced and so strong, and his legs were unmarked. What the future holds now I just don't know." Said Williams: "It is such a shock. We had it teed up beautifully, allowing more than 100 South Island breeders access to him, and everything was working like clockwork. At least we pioneered this semen transportation in New Zealand, and proved that, beyond doubt, it is both viable and successful."
Vance Hanover was the 1975 foal of the Best Of All mare Valentine Hanover, who was from a prized Tar Heel mare Valentine Day. On this good breeding and his own impressive conformation, famed Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania sold him for $85,000 as a yearling. As an un-raced 2-year-old, he cracked a sesamoid. His trainer, Vernon Dancer, wanted to bring him back into work when the fracture mended, but Vance Hanover's owner indicated she didn't want the horse to race.
He was purchased for New Zealand by Aucklander Noel Taylor and Southland breeding expert Norm Pierce, who first leased him and then, a year later, sold him to the late Dave Jessop. Offered first in 1979 by Jessop at the bargain fee of $400 - to attract as many mares as possible and set his new Placid Lodge base at Waiuku on firm footing - Vance Hanover attracted big numbers of mares, albeit very few of them that could be described as other than nondescript.
While Vance Hanover's earliest sons and daughters showed excellent potential (he was leading sire of 2-year-olds with his secod crop in 1983/84), Jessop kept the fee down at $500. In 1984 he got an amazing total of 402 mares to him - definitely a NZ record and possibly a world best. At this point, Jessop, in ill health, reluctantly let Vance Hanover go to a consortium headed by North Shore accountant Graham Brown, in a deal that put the stallion's value at something close to $1m.
Vance Hanover moved a few kilometres up the road to the newly established Vance Lodge at Waiau Pa on the southern shores of the Manukau Harbour. His fee was hiked to $2000, and, with Trevor Payne his studmaster, his book there in 1985 was 347 mares. It was in this year that, for the first time, a good number of class matrons met up with him, his book including some 50 mares sent from the South Island. To Vance Hanover's everlasting credit, from the many mares booked to him in his earliest years of duty who had not produced anything of account, even to fashionable sires, he achieved an excellent strike-rate of winners to foals.
Vance Hanover was in 1986 re-negotiated to stand at Ivan Pavlovich's plush new Great Northern Bloodstock nursery at Te Aroha, in a deal that put his value close to $2m. With his fee eventually set at $6000, he covered 130 mares there in 1986, after which Pavlovich decided to let him go, by popular demand, to be available to South Island mares at his newly-leased and refurbished stud, Poplar Lane Lodge, Ashburton. At Poplar Lane in 1987, Vance Hanover, at a basic $6000 plus GST, took care of 243 bookings.
In topping the sires' list in 1987/88 for the first time, with only six crops on the tracks (and these virtually all in North Island stables), Vance Hanover set new figures for sire earnings in a season of $1,323,129 and a record number of individual winners during the term - 66. He had 139 starters for the season, who won 156 races in total, including 96 at Alexandra Park. Vance Hanover had burst into the top spot as a result of a remarkable season for his progeny across the spectrum of age-groups and classes. In 1988/89, Vance Hanover eclipsed his previous record total with two months of the term to run, and by season's end his representatives had amassed a whopping $1.62m. His 87 individual winners was another record, and also their 190 wins. In this season he served 264 mares.
Despite Vance Hanover's great work for Great Northern Bloodstock, the Te Aroha showplace was one of several major new North Island stud operations placed in receivership in 1989. Unable to meet the drip-feed financial commitments to hang on to Vance Hanover, Pavlovich was forced to return him to his former owners. Vance Lodge co-directors Graham Brown and Eric Andrews announced the stallion would be set up permanently back at Waiau Pa. With Fraser Kirk giving up training horses to become studmaster, he would cover some 220 mares per season (per medium of AI) with a basic fee of $5000.
The now 15-year-old, for the third straight season, broke records, his progeny winning 220 races and $2,182,441 in NZ. In 1990/91, Vance Hanover for the fourth straight year emerged as premier NZ sire. This time his 231 starters won a total of 173 races in NZ for $2,152,039 - just short of his 1989/90 record.
Pre-empting the official decision in July 1991 by Conference to allow fresh or chilled transported semen, Vance Lodge struck a deal with Kevin (Master Mood) Williams, master of Tall Tree Stud Farm at Templeton, announcing in June that semen for Vance Hanover would be sent south for use on mares agisted at Williams's property. Acknowledging the difficult economy, Vance Lodge dropped Vance Hanover's basic fee to $4000. Other notable stud farm operators protested the arrangement before themselves seeing the light and setting up similar inter-island semen transport for their stallions.
In the current season to date, Vance Hanover's progeny in NZ are well on the way to putting their sire on top for the fifth straight year, almost certainly with another record stake tally. Way out in front on the sires' list once more, he boasts the winners of 71 races and $1.1m - more than three times the amount won by the stock of his closest rival, Smooth Fella.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 15Jan92
Young Quinn (1:55 and $759,000), the winner of 59 races in New Zealand, Australia and North America, had to be humanely destroyed at Ota Creek, Eastern Southland, last Friday, aged 22. Old age crept up on the great gelding, who was being troubled by the onset of arthritis. Rather than see him suffer, owners Bud and Des Baynes had him put down by a veterinarian.
Young Quinn's passing deprives harness racing of one of its favourite sons. Southlanders will be quick to acknowledge he was bred and developed in their province, but the Young Charles gelding was also a great favourite in Auckland and Waikato where he was trained and raced from Charlie Hunter's Cambridge quarters. He had only two other trainers - Bud Baynes and Clem Scott. Jim Doherty served as his American caretaker trainer for a period and said Young Quinn was the finest horse he handled.
North Americans also took him to their hearts, the secretaries of harness racing clubs overwhelmingly voting him 1976 Aged Pacer of the Year. And Sydney harness racing fans marvelled at his 1975 Miracle Mile triumph from the extreme outside draw on the half mile track. He arrived in Sydney only the day before and many stated he could not win from the outside slot.
Young Quinn, a champion in the true sense, often overcame the odds, such was his class and courage. He also mastered the extreme outside draw in his 1976 American Pacing Classic triumph at Hollywood Park, California. Opposing horseman, the legendary Billy Haughton, said 'Quinn' could not win, because of the draw. For the very same reason, Haughton scratched his own representative and rival, who had drawn one closer in than Young Quinn. Reined by the great Joe O'Brien, who outfoxed his rivals, Young Quinn drove straight to the front, then trailed, and pulled out late to win.
Young Quinn often looked an equine man among boys, such was his commanding stature and presence. He stood 16.1 hands high and electrocardiographs revealed an exceptional heart score of 138, which might account in some degree for his stamina, hardiness and ability to recover. Young Quinn was once warmly dubbed the worlds fastest knee knocker. He brushed his front knees and, for that reason, generally preferred the bigger racing strips with more gradual bends.
All racing scribes are sometimes guilty of abusing the term champion. It can be an occupational hazard. After all, it is only natural to become a little carried away with outstanding horses. But nobody could deny 'Quinn' the dubbing of champion. Seasoned horsemen and critics rightly point out that Young Quinn had his record indelibly carved on the international slate. He met and mastered the best on three continents.
Young Quinn grappled with several crack pacers during the mid and late 1970s on the hectic USA Free-For-All circuit. After all, his foes, Nero, Handle With Care, Peter Lobell, Rambling Willie, Tarport Hap, Nickawupas Leroy, Sir Delrae and others were integral components of that highly competitive scene. 'So was Quinn'. "Simply, he was a brilliant and genuine free-for-aller in the top bracket...that is one thing I will always treasure about him," Des Baynes recalled of his star.
Des and his father Bud claim his 1972 NZ Sapling Stakes and 1975 Inter-Dominion Grand Final triumphs were arguably his greatest wins in this country. He was stopped in his tracks in the early stages of the Sapling Stakes, having only two behind him at the mile. Bob Cameron's clever horsemanship played a big part in his remaining on his feet and in the Sapling contest. He also lost ground early in the 1975 Grand Final, but charged to a memorable victory in the then youthful hands of John Langdon, substituting for his tutor Charlie Hunter.
Champions attract many accolades, but very few have a track named after them. The Wyndham Harness Racing Club's 1460 metre strip in the famed Lower Mataura Valley, a birthplace of champions, is named the Young Quinn Raceway. That honour will always serve as a tangible reminder of his champion qualities and popularity. Young Quinn actually bowed out of the public limelight when paraded with other greats at Addington on Cup Day, 1985. The Baynes men certainly played their part in parading him at other venues for his fans to admire.
But for recurring problems with check ligaments, Young Quinn would have probably won over $1 million. But his connections did not want to run the risk of racing him too much and breaking him down. Young Quinn's fourth in Delightful Lady's 1980 Auckland Cup was one of his finest efforts. That was his second start as a 10-year-old on his return to NZ from North America.
The winner of the 1974 edition of the race, he was retired to live out his days in peace after the 1980 Auckland Cup. He always lived out his retirement off the fat of the land on the lush Baynes property at Ota Creek. Genuine horsemen feel for their favourites. Bud Baynes demonstrated that to the very last. While burying the great gelding, he took every precaution to do things properly. He was still mindful of the fact that he didn't want to do anything that might 'hurt' the old horse when he was laying him to rest. Young Quinn certainly commanded respect to the very last. He always will.
Credit: Don Wright writing in HRWeekly 20Nov91
After 26 years at stud in New Zealand, the vastly-successful imported stallion Lumber Dream has been withdrawn from service. Although still in good health at 31, Lumber Dream is no longer fertile and will spend the rest of his days at North Canterbury's Stonegate Stud.
Lumber Dream, a son of Knight Dream, sired 39 who rated 2:00 or better. His star performer was the free-legged pacer Robalan (1:57.6) who won the NZ Cup; another was Preux Chevalier (1:54.3, Aust), now at stud. Other big winners sired by Lumber Dream were Westburn Vue, the good trotter Maudey, Dream Lustre, Guard Of Honour, Lucy Lumber, Tokorangi, Rocky Tryax, Dreamy Guy, Dreaming Neebray, Gentle Lumber (1:55.4,US), La Sharee (1:56.5,Aust), Brookfield (1:56.6,US), Josias and Best Dream.
Lumber Dream became leading broodmare sire in the 1984-85 season, with 34 winners of 79 races. This was the 4-year-old season of Roydon Glen, who supplied $235,865 of the $487,335 won by horses from Lumber Dream-sired mares. Others that season were Rollicking Dean, Maureen's Dream, Skipper Dale, Empire Lobell, Hondo's Dream, Free's Best and Fredrick.
Westburn Grant, Defoe, Cardinal Star, Lord Lenny, Yankee Loch, Khmer Jitsu, Lookahead, Tuapeka Knight, Paleface Bubble, Quite Famous, Steady Lady, Betty Adios, Cyllarus, Newt, Dictatorship, Sapling, Bronze Trail, Classic Fella and Scottish Loch are other top- liners from mares by Lumber Dream.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 15Nov89
Grand trotter Jenner, hero of 33 wins from 185 starts over 10 seasons for $281,005, has been retired.
The 11-year-old Game Pride gelding will make his final track appearance leading out the field for the $125,000 FAI/Metlife Rowe Cup in Auckland on May 20. He will be kept in light work, training with the Kenwood Stud yearling band at Cambridge under the supervision of his breeder and master, Charlie Hunter.
Jenner has been a special favourite of Hunter's from the day he was foaled. This is not surprising, as his third dam, Royal Charge, raced and trained by his father, the late Jack Hunter of Lower Hutt, on lease from Christchurch breeder the late Clarry Rhodes, gave Charlie his initial winning drive. Permitted to breed a foal from Royal Charge, Jack Hunter put her to U Scott to produce Min Scott. Raced by Charlie's mother, Min Scott was guided by Charlie to win the 1963 Dominion Handicap at Addington, giving him his first important big-race victory.
His accomplishment of being a winner in 10 consecutive seasons is a record for a standardbred in NZ - approached only by pacers Lordship and Tactician (nine consequtive seasons), while among the trotters Fantom and Johnny Gee are next best with consecutive wins in eight seasons apiece.
Raced by Hunter's wife Annette and Jeanne Meale, wife of Kenwood co-director Brian Meale, Jenner was as honest as they come. Until jarring up on hard tracks late in his career, he had no hang-ups apart from a hind fetlock injury that kept him out of the 1985 Rowe Cup. He won 20 races at Alexandra Park, six at Cambridge, four at Addington and three at Claudelands.
He trotted a mile in 2:01.5 winning the Thames Rhodes Memorial as an 8-year-old, and was placed in 4:11.8 for 3200. Hunter drove him to 19 wins, John Langdon to six, Grant Payne to three, Gary Smith to two and Barry Anderson, Kerry O'Reilly and Jack Smolenski to one each.
Apart from Hunter, Jack Carmichael, Gary Smith and Peter Wolfenden trained him at different times. While Carmichael didn't drive him to a win, he trained him for victories in the Trotting Championship and Ordeal Cup.
Credit: Ron Bisman writing in HRWeekly 3May89
TE PHYNO - Mystery Mare
The 1988 NZ Cup could not boast the depth of quality which most others could, but as a 'two-horse war' it was second to none and it showcased and splendidly capped the illustrious career of the greatest stayer of modern times.
The season had started out promising much, but one by one the likes of open class pacers in Ben, Bionic Chance, Emcee, Freightman, Metal Mickey, Rolls Hanover, Rostreiver Hanover, Sir Alba and Sossy dropped out of the picture for one reason or another.
The brilliant Bionic Chance was the one that hurt the most, being very much a Cup winning prospect but a 'last minute' defection - she fractured a pastern during her last workout two days prior to the race. She had won the Hannon that year and would attempt comebacks, but not win another race. And when the dust had settled, 1986 Cup winner Master Mood or Skipper Dale, third in the previous two years, had not raced up to their best form either.
The Cup in 1988 was in fact a sign of things to come, that is the price that would be paid at the 'other end' for poring money into juvenile racing. Billbob, Trident, Bionic Chance, Tuapeka Knight, Hammer and Honkin Vision had been Sires' Stakes 2yo Final winners at that point, while Slugger, Nardinski, Alba's Reign, Race Ruler, Godfrey, Tight Connection and Honkin Vision were winners of the Juvenile Championship within the same timeframe.
Of those fine young performers, only Bionic Chance and Tight Connection made any impression at all on the open class ranks, and even then they were sporadic and fleeting glimpses, and not a lot has changed either. People are drawn to racing and the track by horses they grow to admire, or 'champions.' The promise of a fast buck might entice a bit of investment in the breeding sector, but it does not pull people through the turnstiles, or generate turnover, which is horse racing's lifeblood. People will talk for days about Bonecrusher, Grey Way or Show Gate, or Lord Module and Lyell Creek, but how many could name a Magic Millions winner.
Anyway, Luxury Liner was one of those horses we grew to admire and November 8, 1988, would be his day. He had been runner-up the previous two years, running into one on the day that was just a bit faster (Master Mood) or tougher (Lightning Blue), but one thing would be for sure this time - he would not be a run short.
Luxury Liner had won the previous season's NZ Free-For-All, Auckland Cup (by five lengths), Easter Cup and Inter-Island Challenge Stakes along with an Inter-Dominion heat in Sydney. The four Group 1s and $585,234 in stakes that season saw him voted Horse of the Year, and his form in the spring of his 7-year-old season had also been exemplary, with a Cambridge track record for 2600m mobile of 3:13.5 (MR 1:59.7) indicating he was as good if not better than ever.
Standing in his way was a 10m handicap - the previous Cup winner from any mark had been Humphrey from six yards two decades earlier - and another Vin Knight special in (Our) Maestro, who had won that year's Inter-Dominion at Harold Park as a 4-year-old, but got in off the front as mobiles didn't count for handicaps at that point. Maestro had won 27 of 35 races and was coming off a win in the Maryborough Cup, where he started from 30 metres in downing Quite Famous, Jim O'Sullivan's 'second string' 8-year-old Cup contender when a 6-year-old (My) Lightning Blue was in a bit of a form slump.
Gina Rosa was a 6-year-old and the best mare around at the time, and she was favoured to place at least after a stout third behind Master Mood in the Ashburton Flying Stakes, while a 5-year-old Speedy Cheval was also at the top of his game, having beaten Skipper Dale and Master Mood at Forbury Park and been second at Kaikoura for new trainer Peter Ryder and owner Ron Annear. Outside the aforementioned, the only other starter given a chance was Lord Lenny, who was in good form that season for Owen Purdon with two wins at Alexandra Park over Luxury Liner.
Despite flight delays which saw the Vitorian pair arrive on the Monday morning prior to Tuesday's Cup, Knight and O'Sullivan were both "brimming with confidence." Knight had worked Maestro prior to the Kilmore Cup at that track over two miles in a 2:00 mile rate, last mile in 1:57 and half in 56, and the 5-year-old son of Gaines Minbar, bought as an unraced 2-year-old from Bryce Buchanan in Southland, had already been handed a Miracle Mile invitation. Quite Famous had also won over $500,000 and his 40 wins had included a Consolation of the 1987 Inter-Dominions at Addington after not being right in the heats. He had gone on a winning spree in the interim and O'Sullivan was sure he was "better than ever." Quite Famous was a good horse, but he was not up to being driven on a big track like Lightning Blue, a distinction he was far from alone in of course.
Several lead changes through the first mile meant that this Cup was not going to be one for the faint-hearted. Skipper Dale showed out first before Gina Rosa, Lord Lenny and Elmer Gantry took over in quick succession, and then the 'battleships' Luxury Liner and Master Mood arrived to ensure there would be no breathers during the remaining mile either. All the while Knight sat in midfield on the outer like a black cat - about to pounce. No sooner had Luxury Liner found the front with Master Mood in close attendance a lap out, than Quite Famous attacked three-wide.
Lord Lenny was the first to feel this relentless pressure in the backstraight, allowing a by now struggling Master Mood to drop onto the fence. At precisely the same point at the 600m, Knight unleashed Maestro and he whistled by Quite Famous four-wide and at such speed that his momentum carried him to a length lead over Luxury Liner turning for home. But Knight had gone for the doctor 200 metres too soon and just as Maestro started to battle at the furlong, an unflustered Tony Herlihy went for Luxury Liner. "When Maestro went past me I was still confident," said Herlihy later. "I had not hit him and didn't think it would be hard to win - just tougher. He is a tremendous stayer and you have got to wind him up."
Luxury Liner came clear to win by almost two lengths in the end, and as if the spectacle had not been enough, an applauding crowd was stunned into silence when the time was posted. Luxury Liner had recorded 4:00.4 when the previous race record had been Lightning Blue's 4:05.1 and the National record 4:04.8, set by Luxury Liner in winning the Thames Cup from 30 metres two years earlier. Four minutes for two miles from a stand was just not heard of, it had not even been contemplated as possible, even on a fine, still Christchurch day with $375,000 at stake ($400,000 for the first time from 1989).
Luxury Liner was a top horse at any time for several seasons, but over the extreme distance he 'grew another leg' and became a great horse, and pretty much unbeatable on his day. When he won a second Auckland Cup seven weeks later, from 15 metres in 4:03.8, it took his 3200m record to 10 starts for seven wins and three seconds - those defeats coming in two NZ Cups and a Franklin Cup from 30m.
The NZ Cup had made Luxury Liner the first millionaire racing in NZ alone, joining Cardigan Bay along with Bonecrusher, Empire Rose and Poetic Prince as millionaire racehorses bred in New Zealand. When retired after one start as a spring 9-year-old, Luxury Liner had won 37 of 86 races and $1,721,984, when Master Mood was the next highest stake-winning NZ-bred standardbred in Australasia with $806,925.
In the aftermath, Knight blamed the journey over for his horse being beaten, rather than conceding his drive and a better horse may have had more to do with it. "He went a bit too quick when he went. He put a good length on Luxury Liner, then came back to me. My horse stopped. He had a couple of hard runs before he came over and then had a fourteen-hour trip. He didn't feel all that good in his prelim...he felt like an old cow." Skipper Dale's driver Pat O'Reilly jnr summed up the thoughts of the remaining drivers when he said..."It was too much for him - the speed they were going."
For 30-year-old Herlihy, previously unplaced twice with Comedy Lad and second the year before - Brent Mangos was Luxury Liner's regular pilot until the start of his 6-year-old season - Luxury Liner was the first of three NZ Cups within six years. He would also score with the Purdon-trained millionaires in Christopher Vance(91) and Chokin(93), while his seven Auckland Cups to date is one more than Peter Wolfenden.
Luxury Liner was by Mercedes, one of the first sons of Meadow Skipper imported Down Under, and from the Meadow Al (Adios) mare Miranda Belle, whose fourth dam was the 1911 NZ Cup winner Lady Clare. Mercedes was not a commercial success, but his good progeny were renowned for their toughness. Gaelic Skipper, who finished in a dead-heat for fifth with Frangelico behind Luxury Liner in the '88 Cup after both were at the rear inside the last lap, was the next best pacer sired by Mercedes and also a grand stayer, as was his trotter Idle Scott. The latter won races from age four until 13, 45 and $573,081 in all, including a Rowe Cup and the NZ Trotting FFA in race record time a few days after Luxury Liner's Cup success.
That Luxury Liner had a great heart was never in doubt, but when tested he set another record of sorts. Dr Cliff Irvine pioneered heart scores in the 50s, and when he tested Light Brigade aged 23 in 1960, his score of 146 remained the standard until Luxury Liner came along with his 148.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 26Jul06