Day At The Track

Delightful Lady supreme in 1980-1981

10:19 PM 03 Nov 2008 NZDT
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Delightful Lady in full cry
Delightful Lady in full cry

If Delightful Lady was something special at the end of the 1970s, she was supreme in 1980-81, the season in which she was an overwhelming choice for Harness Horse of the Year - winning by 35 votes to Hands Down's 7 and Scotch Tar's 1.

Also the New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame Society elected Delightful Lady as the 11th member of its list of immortals; along with Caduceus, Cardigan Bay, Easton Light, Great Evander, Harold Logan, Highland Fling, Johnny Globe, Ordeal, Petite Evander and Young Quinn.

With the Grants' lease of her renewed for another season, Delightful Lady looked night invincible in her northern lead-up for the New Zealand Cup. She won the first four starts of her seven-year-old Campaign, all in September and October at Alexandra Park and the last of these victories in the $20,000 Max Harvey Inter-Island Stakes, Cruising always from Jawa Boy, Matai Dreamer and Greg Robinson in 3:26for 2700 metres mobile, a 2:02.8 mile rate.

Delightful Lady's only defect of the season before her New Zealand Cup tilt Came on October 29 when from 25 metres on an ‘off' track she could manage only third to Trio and Dictatorship (both off the front mark) in the 2700 -metre Rondel Handicap at Alexandra Park.

Starting on 15 metres in the New Zealand Cup, Delightful Lady began sweetly enough, but when trying to improve from the back starting the last round she was pushed very wide. She worked all the way from there to join Hands Down in front just under 600 metres out. Hands Down after a slow beginning had also worked hard to get to the front just before Delightful Lady came into contention.

From there it was a two-horse race. Driven right out, Delightful Lady headed Hands Down, but the Hardy gelding, nursed judiciously by Peter Jones, fought back when called on and got his neck in front where it counted. They were four lengths clear of third-placed Sapling. Hands Down, from the front, clocked 4:07.2, Delightful Lady being timed in 4:06.1.

Three nights after that dour struggle, Delightful Lady lined up on 55 metres for the $20,000 Franklin Cup in Auckland. In winning comfortably from Greg Robinson (20 metres) she clocked an amazing 4:05.8 - carving nine-tenths of a second from Young Quinn's 4:06.7 national Mark established on the course at the 1975 Auckland Interdominions.

A week later Delightful Lade won the 1ZB Allarounder at the Park, While at the Auckland Christmas carnival she took the Benson and Hedges Flying Mile and Pezaro Memorial. On the third night, from 30 metres, she beat all but Jawa Boy (front) at 3200 metres won in 4:10.5.

Grey Robinson beat Delightful Lady by a nose in 1:59.8 on a bad track in the Festival'81 Mile on the Taranaki club's new track at New Plymouth on 17 January, and Bonnie's Chance, with a start of 25 metres, best her by three lengths at 2200 metres on opening night of the Auckland Cup meeting.

With 18,681 watching the $120,000 1981 Auckland Cup, Delightful Lady, from 6 behind the gate, was in front after 300 metres. Stormont steadied her to trail Pail's Byrd after 700 metres, and, capitlising on a rought race, shot her clear again800 metres out. She was never in danger of defeat, coasting to the line with 3½ lengths to spare in a national record 3:22.9 for the 2700 metres mobile, her last mile timed in 1:59.1. Idolmite, Lord Module and Sapling filled the minor placings.

It was Delightful Lady's 32nd win, of which 26 were scored at Alexandra Park, and it boosted her earnings to $315,000; a record for any horse raced solely in New Zealand, standardbred or thoroughbred. She was only the second mare (after Steel Bell in 1914 and 1917) to win two Auckland Cups. Mike Stormont's great-grandfather Stephen Heaney Had owned Commodore, winner of the first Auckland Cup in 1890, ridden by Dinny Hartford.

Taken back to New Plymouth on 28 February, Delightful Lady from 40 Metres clocked 2:39.1 for 2150 metres (1:59.1 mile rate) in winning the Taranaki Breeders' Stakes. She next won a mobile mile in 1:59 at Alexandra Park in March and then had no trouble taking the North Island Standardbred Breeders; Stakes from 30 Metres at the Park in April.

A Week later, in the Easter Cup at Addington (her final race of the season and for the Grants), Delightful Lady met up again with Hands Down, who had lost all chance when Knocked out of the Auckland Cup in a skirmish 1000 metres from home. This time Hands Down from 10 Metres beat Delightful Lady (40 metres) by four lengths in a moderate 4:11.2.

At age nine in 1981/82 Delightful Lady with typical consistency recorded four wins and eight placings from 13 starts. Her earnings for the term of $39,350 brought her lifetime total to $383,145. She had 111 starts for 39 wins and 38 minor placings, while on Alexandra Park her record was 78 starts, 31 wins, 13 seconds, six thirds and three fourths.

Now raced outright by breeder Dave Anderson, Delightful Lady First-up Failed by a nose to give Remarkable 25 metres start at 2200 metres at Auckland on 12 September. Four nights later she easily won the South Waikato Cup at Cambridge, covering 2200 metres in 2:45.4 to shatter Roydon Scott's 1978 track record of 2:47.4.

Fourth from 25 metres in Auckland on 30 October, Delightful Lady let her fans down when well beaten into fifth in the Max Harvey Stakes four nights later. No thought was given to trying to beat the handicapper with her in the New Zealand Cup. When finishing only seventh in the Rondel Handicap at Alexandra Park on 20 November she was having her final start with Stormont as her trainer-driver.

Stormont considered Delightful Lady had earned her retirement. Anderson, feeling she should race the season out and perhaps try an unprecedented hat-trick in the Auckland Cup, transferred her to the Kumeu stable of Gary Hillier.

Delightful Lady made her Debut for Hillier Finishing fourth in the Benson and Hedges Mile at Alexandra Park on 28 December. Then, on 2 January she regained winning form in the Cambridge Flying Mile, her 1:57.7 being a fifth of second from Captain Harcourt's track and race record.

Disappointing at the Wellington Cup Meeting, Delightful Lady was treated by an Auckland chiropractor, and it was claimed he snapped three displaced vertebrae back into place. Fifth from 20 metres on opening night of the Auckland February meeting, she suffered a chequered run in the Auckland Cup and looked unlucky to be only third, a head and a length from Gammalite and Bonnie's Chance.

At the Auckland March meeting Delightful Lady repeated her Down Under Mobile Mile win of the previous season, scoring comfortably in 2:00. Anderson had by this time announced that Delightful Lady's final race would be the North Island Standardbred Breeders' Stakes at the Franklin meeting on 16 April 1982, an event she had won in 1979, 1980 and 1981. From the 30-metre back mark, which she shared with Bonnie's chance, she beat that grand mare decisively in 3:28.2, her last 800 metres in 57.2. Her loyal Auckland Fans gave her a standing ovation reminiscent of that accorded Cardigan Bay in his Second Auckland Cup win.

During a public farewell appearance at Cambridge Raceway on 8 May 1982, Dave Anderson's Wife Zoe was presented with a bouquet of ‘Delightful Lady" roses by Joan Attfield, of Cambridge, who with her husband Brian Attfield were registered breeders of the flower.

While he forsook the training of Delightful Lady when he felt she had done enough on the tracks, Mike Stormont was able to campaign from the start of the 1981/82 season the mare's six-year-old brother Jacron. Bought as weanling for $1500 by Auckland Trotting Club president Ron Robertson and Committeeman Jack Maich, Jacron was originally raced by them and then with Auckland Trotting Club steward Wayne Fleet, who joined the partnership after the gelding had three wins at four from Ken Sefonte's Kumeu stable.

Under Stormont in 1981/82 Jacron won a further five races, Along with Delightful Lady's 36 wins and the 10 victories scored by her trotting sister Davey's Jill, this gave the trainer a tally of 51 wins with the progeny of Desilu - New Zealand' Broodmare of the Year' for 1979/80 and 1980/81.

Delightful Lady's first consort in 1982 was the tough Canterbury stayer Wee Win (Out To Win - Foaming Lass). Tragically, it was found Delightful Lady was unable to have foals due to defective reproductive organs. She was subsequently put back into work in December 1982.

Ron BISMAN

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