After 26 years at stud in New Zealand, the vastly-successful imported stallion Lumber Dream has been withdrawn from service.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
Bill Denton's grandfather (also Bill) ran the popular Triggs and Denton leather and harness store in central Christchurch in the 19th century. Both Denton's son, John, racecourse manager at Addington Raceway, and daughter Julie De Filippi, who trains with her husband Colin, are ensuring the horse tradition continues. Bill Denton, at 78 a gentleman of racing, talks to David McCarthy about his own era.
Were you always going to live with horses?
Well, my grandfather was president of the New Brighton Trotting Club at one stage but my father, Lionel, went into the pub business. I think he was the youngest ever licensed in Canterbury. He had the Kirwee and Kaiapoi hotels and the Mitre and Canterbury at Lyttleton. He bought a small property (15ha) on Russley Road, next to where Mark Purdon was. Maurice Holmes was there then. After I left Boy's High I did a couple of years working in Sargoods warehouse, but the horses were what I wanted to do.
Was the place meant for training?
Breeding. Standardbred stallions were hard to get then. You couldn't get permits to bring them from America because of the dollar restrictions. We had Medoro for three or four years. He was an American-bred, but Noel Simpson had brought him in from Italy which beat the system. We had some thoroughbred stallions too. Cassock (sire of Great Sensation) and Newton Pippin. But they were fill-ins until we could get out own trotting stallion. There was just a row of boxes there then. Peter Jones trained gallopers there later, but we had to sell for a railway from Hornby to the Styx planned there. They are still talking about it. So we moved to a bigger place in Pound Road.
Maurice Holmes is a legend. How did you find him?
He was my hero. Kids have heroes playing football or other sports but mine was always Maurice. I wasn't the only one either. I got quite close to him. I would get through the fence and help out there every chance I got, jogging horses and that. He would tell you what to do but in a different way. He would say "I wouldn't do that if I were you" or "I would just do such and such if it was me", but you got the message.
Garrison Hanover was the stallion you were most closely associated with. How did you get him?
Jack Shaw had a commission to go to America to buy Flying Song for Clem Scott, and Dad went with him. The permit situation had eased by then. Dad was advised by Jim Harrison, of the United States Trotting Association, who wrote that great book on training standardbreds. He recommended Garrison Hanover.
He was by Billy Direct, who was all the rage then and fairly well-bred. Because of that he got a good reception right from the start. There was no AI (artificial insemination) in the first few years. It came in later. We would do 75 to 80 mares most seasons. Bob McKay helped out with the AI. He had studied it in America and was right up with the play.
Was success instant?
More or less. From his first crop came Sally Boy. We never saw the best of him but he showed a lot of ability as a young horse and we were sort of right after that.
Good horse to handle?
A lovely horse. Not very big - about 15 hands - but kind. Anybody could do anything with him. He left some great horses (Cardinal Garrison, Apres Ski, Game Adios, Garry Dillon, Waitaki Hanover, Dandy Biar, etc). Near the end of his life when we shifted to Tai Tapu, I served a few mares with him for friends and we had to build up a mound for him to do the job. He took it all in his stride.
And the "Russley" fillies and mares started there?
Yes, and now one (Russley Song) features in the line of Auckland Reactor.
Why shift from Pound Road?
We had two blocks there and they were not connected. It was always a disadvantage. I bought land at Tai Tapu. I had had my eye on it for quite a few years because it seemed to handle rain well and I bought it when it became available. It was bigger and well-situated and we moved everthing there in the late 1970s. It was good, but I would have to say horses did not do as well there as they did at Yaldhurst. The ground is a bit colder and wetter, and it affects them.
Did you have other stallions?
My word. We had an exchange deal for a time with Clem Scott and stood Flying Song (the sire of Russley Song) for a while. Lumber Dream. He was getting the overflow from mares who couldnot get into Garrison for quite a while. He was a top sire. He was a free-legged pacer, which was unusual then, and he left a champion free-legged horse in Robalan. He was sent out by Marty Tannenbaum of Yonkers Raceway, who had a lot to do with the International series they had in the 1960s. Marty struck problems and the horses were sold up. I think Clarrie Rhodes got Lumber Dream for $2000.
An Adios horse. I remember when he got off the plane the first thing I saw was white ankles and stockings. I thought 'what have we got here?' He looked like a Hereford. He was a fertile horse but not easily aroused, which made things difficult. He left Brad Adios early on. The Adios horses did better in Australia than here. I thought they weren't tough enough for our racing. Tony Abell had him later.
Later you had Honkin Andy?
John Lischner, Paul Davies and I went to America to look for a horse. About that time Good Chase had had one stud season here and done exceptionally well. I think he got 19 winners from 21 foals. Then he had gone to America to race and whenhe came back, his stock were not nearly as good. We all suspected that some of what he was fed over there had been a factor. So we were looking for a lightly raced horse which had not been messed around with. He had only had about five starts Honkin Andy and had run 1:58. I think he cost us about $100,000.
What did you make of his stud career?
He left some very fast, very good horses (Honkin Vision, Really Honkin) but in the end I rated him a disappointment. He was the first Albatross stallion to come to New Zealand too.
You have had some big training and driving moments with Superior Chance. I think he chased Armalight home in that Free-For-All when she smashed all the records and her record stood for years. How did you get him?
He was a free-legged horse which Tom Leitch, who lived nearby and worked for me at times, owned. Superior Chance took a lot of sorting out - he could kick believe me - and I tried various things before we got it right. He used to choke-down easily. In races like the Free-For-All, he wore not one tongue-tie but two and various other bits and pieces. He collapsed and died one day on our track. We were doing an easy 3200m. He was a bit wobbly when I pulled him up, then he just collapsed.
You have developed a bit of a lean over he years. How bad was the back problem?
It is better now than it has been. I just couldn't straighten the spine and spent a long time sleeping on Bib Softees. It was inoperable, being caused by joints in the spine. Exercises have helped me a lot in recent years. I had to give up the horses in the end because of it. I had trouble getting in and out of the cart and they told me I would be in a wheelchair if I damaged it any more. One day I fell getting out of the cart and that was that. We sold up the horses and moved to Halswell. John carried on for a while but wanted to do something else. He does the track at Addington and does a good job too. Ray McNally had quite a lot of success as a junior driver with us too.
Have you missed it?
Well I go to Colin and Julie's most mornings now and jog a team and have done a bit of fast-work without problems. I got a great thrill when they won the Cup with Kym's Girl. I had quite a lot to do with her build-up and actually got a bigger thrill than anybody. A really super little mare.
Looking at young drivers making their way over the years, do you often think of (grandson) Darren?
(Darren De Filippi, a highly promising horseman, was killed in a road accident beyond his control returning from the Orari races some years ago).
It was a terrible thing. Young Darren was such a great person. You have to accept what life serves up but it was very tough for a very long time. Yes, he is always with us.
I suppose Maurice Holmes was the best you saw?
Yes, but the standard was high in that era. F G Holmes, Gladdy McKendry, Bob Young, great drivers to watch. Now we have Dexter Dunn rewriting the record books. What a great young driver he is.
Best horse you have seen?
Johnny Globe. For what he was and what he did and the people (Don and Doris Nyhan) who were associated with him. They were lovely people and he was a great hero in his time.
The breeding game. Has it changed a lot over the years?
Yes. Not always for the good. Greed has come into the game now, I'm afraid. For us it was a good living for three of four months hard work and you were grateful for it. You did a lot of the work yourself. Anybody can stand a stallion now. The vets are there all the time, doing most of the work and some horses serve ridiculously large numbers of mares because of that technology. A lot of the personal touch has gone.
And the famous colours now you don't have any horses?
They have found a good home. I said to Mandy (De Filippi, granddaughter) one day recently she might like to have them and she lept at the chance. So they will be around.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in The Press 17 March 09