Day At The Track

Hilarious Guest - potent filly, special pacer

04:15 AM 08 Dec 2008 NZDT
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The brilliant Hilarious Guest . . .
The brilliant Hilarious Guest . . . - winning again.

When Hilarious Guest had completed her two-and three-year-old campaigns at the end of the 1981-82 season, there was no need to look past her to find the best filly produced in New Zealand. On the score of juvenile form, Olga Korbut previously held the honours with her 15-5-6-1-1-$15,020 read-out for 1974-75. Hilarious Guest topped this with 13-7-1-0-1- $32,880. Both won the Sapling Stakes and Juvenile Championship; Olga Korbut in 3:15.5 and 2:53.1 and Hilarious Guest in 3:12.5 and 2:15.6.

Olga Korbut won only twice at three, and, on paper at least, the best filly of that age before Hilarious Guest was Armalight, with 15 starts for 12 wins and three seconds for $73,365 in 1979/70. Hilarious Guest in 1981/82 had 18 starts for 10 wins, two thirds and a fourth worth $86,285.

Armalight and Hilarious Guest both won the Oaks double, while Armalight finished second in the Great Northern Derby and took national marks for a filly at a mile (1:59.1) and 2600 metres from a stand (3:23.1). Big and powerful, Hilarious Guest won the New Zealand Derby (the first of her sex in 18 years) and became New Zealand's fastest three-year-old at 3200 metres (4:14.5) and three-years-old filly at 2600 metres from a stand (3:20.9), 2600 metres mobile (3:20.1) and 2700 metres mobile (3:28.2). She had a mile winning time of 2:00.2.

Like Armalight, Hilarious Guest reached open class at three, and at the end of her three-year-old campaign Hilarious Guest's Rangiora breeder-owner-trainer Maurice Vermeulen revealed that he planned to race her in the 1982 New Zealand Cup.

Vermeulen came to New Zealand from Holland aged 18 in 1952, working for a good many years as an engineer and eventually establishing his own business at South brook, North Canterbury.

Becoming interested in trotting, Vermeulen tasted his first success when in the late 1960s his wife Margaret with Jack Smolenski's Wife Marie began racing that Marris Eden - Stowaway filly Margaret Marie on lease from the Brosnan family of Rangiora. She won four races from Smolenski's stable before returning to the Brosnans and later left the good winners Crossfire, Passable and Treasurer.

In partnership with Metropolitan Trotting Club committeeman John Osborne, Vermeulen in 1969 bought Royal Belmer as a yearling for $2700 at the National Sales. Trained by Smolenski, the daughter of Thurber frost and lady Belfield (Purple Patch family) finished fourth in the 1972 New Zealand Cup and became New Zealand's fastest mare with a 1:58 3/5 second placing to Command Performer in the 1973 Cambridge Flying Mile.

Vermeulen began training in that season and won four races each with Royal Cheval and Robin's Sister, half-sisters to Margaret Marie.

Osborne at this time purchased for $5000 from Alister Kerslake (son-in-law of successful breeder-owner Frank Woolley) a Garrison Hanover filly New Guest, tracing to Woolley's great foundation mare Tondeleyo (sister to Indianapolis). New Guest had two starts from Smolenski's stable as a three-year-old, one of which she won at Addington; a non-tote maiden in the hands of Maurice Holmes on 13 April 1974. She then broke down.

New Guest's dam True Guest was by Light Brigade from Loyal Guest, by Grattan Loyal from Tondeleyo, Daughter of the imported Wrack and Estella Amos. Besides New Guest, True Guest left 1973 Guest Northern Derby dinner Speedy Guest (16 New Zealand and two Australian wins and $100,000), Golden Guest (nine wins) and True Forbes (five wins).

Besides True Guest (who won five races), Loyal Guest left several winners including Adio Star (three wins), dam of Bachelor Star (nine wins including the 1971 New Zealand Derby), Main Adios (nine wins including the 1975 New Zealand Derby), Main star (eight Wins and 1978 Great Northern Derby), Game Adios (eight wins including the 1979 New Zealand Derby), Bionic Star and Bionic Adios.

Beside Loyal Guest, Tondeleyo left five other winners including Margaret Hall, the dam of Orbiter ($344, 159) and grand-dam of top-flight Australian pacer and sire Gary Rowan. The family also produced 1975 New Zealand Oaks winner In Or Out and Gentle George, who won eight races and in 2978 became the fifth horse to win four races at a New Zealand Cup carnival (after cello Sydney Wilkes, Red Shadow, Cardigan Bay and Tutira.

Indianapolis won the 1932 Great Northern Derby and his sister Imperial Jade the 1939 New Zealand Derby; Hilarious Guest became Estella Amos's eighth Derby-winning descendant.

Vermeulen and Osborne decided in 1974 to send New Guest to Australia to breed to Victorian stud master Bernie Ahern's well-credentialed and costly American stallions Kentucky and Hilarious Way. To Kentucky, New Guest left a colt that as Ricky Business was sold and eventually won in America in 1:58 4/5. To Hilarious Way, New Guest left colt that, named Oshawa, was sold thought the 1978 National yearling Sales in Christchurch for $16,000 to Jack Honan and subsequently won in Australia and America.

New Guest returned to New Zealand with a yearling filly by Kentucky and a filly at foot by Hilarious. Way. One the toss of a coin with Osborne, Vermeulen became the owner of the Hilarious Way filly, and this was Hilarious Guest. The Kentucky filly, named Dixie Royal, had done little of any account to time of writing.

Hilarious Way, by Adios's champion son Bret Hanover, Won $273,509, the result of 16 wins, nine seconds and seven thirds from 49 starts, and paced in 1:55 2/5 as a three-years-old to become the fourth-fastest of that age to his time after Bret Hanover, Albatross and Meadow Skipper; all Hal Dale-line pacers.

The highlight of Hilarious way's career was winning four straight races inside 1:58 - 1:55 2/5, 1:57 2/5, 1:57 3/5 and 1:56 4/5. His dam Fullsway, by the Volomite - Margaret Spangler horse King's Counsel, left six other winners including Newport Admiral (p, 1:57 4/5). Fullsway's dam Dell Frisco (p, 3, 1:59) was a champion race mare and left nine winners including way wave (p, 3, 1:58) and Stormyway, a successful sire in Australasia.

Massive for a two-year-old when stepped out for her debut on her home track at Rangiora in December 1980, Hilarious Guest was slow to find her feet and finished well back. She performed similarly the following month at Addington. But at Hutt Park in January 1981 she justified solid support by easily beating well-regarded northern two-year-old Smooth Dave.

Completing a double for the Wellington meeting four nights later, Hilarious Guest then overcome a slow start to win the Cathedral Stakes at Addington. She next gave a courageous performance to recover from another slow start and win the Timaru Nursery by a head from Mister Wood Chips in a swift 2:38.3 fir 2000 metre from a stand.

Second to Timely Joy in the Leonard Memorial at Rangiora in March, then twice unplaced at Addington, Hilarious Guest was freshened then easily won a heat of the Roydon Lodge Fillies' Stakes series at Washdyke in May.

Next came another game effort to win the Sapling Stakes by a head from Boulder Creek in a national record for a filly of 3:12.5 for 2400 metres from a stand.

To prepare Hilarious Guest for the Mobile start of the New Zealand Juvenile Championship in Auckland in June, Vermeulen started her in a C4 2600-metre mobile event at Addington early that month. In placing fourth against older rivals, she was timed in a remarkable clocking for a two-year-old, 3:20.6.

Favourite for the big Auckland classic, Hilarious Guest tangled at the start and then was checked after 300 metres. She came from the rear around the field early in the run home and then fought back gallantly to hold out another northern star Disco Dance by a length. Her 2:51.6 over a track far from its best following rain through the week was a national record for a filly, and regular driver Peter Jones could not speak more highly of her class.

The win capped a memorable season for Peter Jones, whose 54 wins (beating all but Peter Wolfenden and Robert Cameron in the reinsmen's premiership) also included the New Zealand Cup, Easter Cup, New Zealand Free-for-all and Allan Matson Stakes with Hands Down.

Fourth at 2600 metres first-up at Ashburton in October 1981, Hilarious Guest then won comfortably at 3200 metre on the testing grass track at Methven. She finished well back with Derek Jones driving in the Empire Handicap on New Zealand Cup day, but on Show Day with Peter back in the seat won handsomely at 3200 metres from a stand in a national record 4:14.5, well inside Koarakau's previous best of 4:16 in 1973.

Mistakes in running proved costly at Hilarious Guest's next two outings, but in January she came from 20 metres to win the Garden City Stakes at Addington, prompting Vermeulen to pay a $500 late fee to get into the DB Flying Fillies' series.

Third to Enterprise and Mel's Boy in the New Zealand Metropolitan Three-year-old Championship at Addington, she easily won her opening heat of the DB Fillies' series on 5 February at Addington in 2:00.2, a track record for a filly. Peter Jones said that she could have gone 1:58 had she been asked to.

Next came the $50,000 New Zealand Derby, run for the first time in February. Taken straight to the front she set a hot pace and held out by a head the good Noodlum colt Portfolio (trained and driven by Peter Jones's father Derek). Her 3:20.9 just beat Noodlum's previous national record of 3:21 set eight years earlier.

Taken next to Invercargill, Hilarious Guest won another DB Fillies' heat, in 2:02.5, and then she was flown to Auckland for the Great Northern Derby. Having bad racing luck, she pulled herself out and was unplaced, but back to Addington in bad racing luck, she pulled herself out and was unplaced, but back at Addington in April she won the Fillies' Triple Crown Classic. An unlucky third in the Firestone Flying stakes won by Mai Mai on Easter Cup day, she then bolted away with the New Zealand Oaks in a record 3:20.1 for the mobile 2600 metres.

Northern filly Rain Girl (Adover Rainbow - Heidi Hanover, Toreador Hanover), runner-up to Hilarious Guest in the New Zealand Oaks, gained revenge winning the $35, 500 DB Flying Fillies' Stakes final at Addington in May, when Hilarious Guest weakened to sixth after racing wide throughout.

But Hilarious Guest was not down with yet. Taken to Auckland again, and with Peter Wolfenden her driver, she had four lengths to spare from Rain Girl winning the C.F. McCarthy Ladyship Stakes on 19 May.

Again with Wolfenden driving, Hilarious Guest wrapped up her three-year-old campaign on a high note, prevailing with four lengths to spare in the $15,000 North Island Oaks in national record 3:28.2 for the mobile 2700 metres.

Vermeulen's other good-winners in his brief but spectacular career as a breeder-owner-trainer have included Timely Robin, Royal Cheval, Sir Robin, Sir Ron, Regal Cheval and Royal Decision.

Ron BISMAN

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