Day At The Track

Epilogue - 1980s obstacles for NZ trotting

09:29 PM 19 Jan 2009 NZDT
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The legendary Cardigan Bay
The legendary Cardigan Bay - and Stanley Dancer. New Zealand's top pacer of all-time?

As we closed off the coverage of this all-embracing treatise at the end of the 1981/82 season we noted harness racing in New Zealand to be - like many other facets of life in these times - facing some daunting obstacles.

Just the same, following its admirable progress from the days, only a century ago, when trotting was an odd novelty event involving utility horses on a galloping programme, more big things can be expected of this spectacular and worthy sport.

The export figures of New Zealand standardbred for 1981/82 showed that 557 sales brought in $5.4 million in revenue; 245 to North America for roughly $300,000, and three to other parts.

Further world-wide promotion of our pacers and trotters, further development of harness racing in new areas of the globe and the ever-improving expedience of transportation can be expected to make New Zealand even more of a ‘gold mine' in the production of good horse to help populate the raceways at home and abroad.

Albeit, there will not be no room for complacency. More recent developments within Australasian point to our cousins across the Tasman having improved their breed, and consequently their sport, to such an extent that they can no longer be considered the poor relation.

To hole its position as a leader in this field, the New Zealand standardbred breeding industry will now have to work hard and make the right moves.

To this writer there seems a definite need for the establishment of a national stud and a general brush-up at top administration level with a view to shedding over and all the unfortunate image both racing and trotting in New Zealand have brought on themselves of being professional sports run by amateurs.

If I had to single out one man amongst all other who brought credibility and respectability to trotting in the first place, I would unhesitatingly plump for Andrew Rattray, who tidied the game up in almost revolutionary style at the turn of the century.

Would that we had a few of his calibre today to capitalise on the grand progress New Zealand trotting (or would you rather harness racing?) has made to this point.

Asked to pin-point New Zealand's best harness horse, I would give that nod to Cardigan Bay.

And, after all my research for A Salute To Trotting, I also give very high marks to the great Australian trotter Fritz, personality horse Author Dillon, Harold Logan, Indianapolis, Highland Fling and Johnny Globe, and our brilliant pacer of the 1970s, Young Quinn.

I sign off with the fervent prayer that, as far as harness racing in New Zealand is concerned; the century ahead will be as fruitful as the one behind us.

To the Rattrays, the Cardigan Bays, the Holmeses, the Bryces, the Devines, the Wolfendens, the McKenzies and the galaxy of stat performers to be found within these pages, I can only add: ‘ Thanks for the memories.

Ron BISMAN

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