1961 Yonkers International Series. (September 25, 2006)
Now it was False Step’s turn to be invited to America, and he along with compatriot Arania and tough Australian campaigner Apmat were among the field the following May for the second edition of the Yonkers International Series.
False Step’s New Zealand form read: 32 wins, 17 seconds, 9 thirds, 6 fourths, from 75 starts, for £35,575, while his one win and several minor placings from some 10 starts in Australia had garnered another £1000.
Disaster struck the False Step camp on the eve of what was indeed to be his
merican debut in the $50,000 International Pace. While being plated, False Step had a nail driven into the quick of his foot, and on veterinary advice had to be withdrawn.
In his absence, Apmat, in the hands of his New South Wales trainer Bert Alley, outstayed the grand American performer Bye Bye Byrd (the first harness horse to win more than $500,000) to beat him by a head in 3:07 for the mile and a half.
A week later, False Step, although lacking an earlier race to prepare him, took second, sandwiched between Apmat and Bye Bye Byrd, in the $65,000 Good Time Pace, won in 2:34 4/5 for the mile and a quarter on a dead track.
False Step came into his own in the last leg of the series, the $50,000 National Championship Pace. Devine urged him out to an early lead and then played with his opposition, winning easily in 3:07 4/5 for the mile and a half from Bye Bye Byrd, with Apmat fourth, Arania fifth and Caduceus sixth.
Apmat had won the series, and the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’. It had been a clean-sweep for the visitors.
A week later, False Step showed what might have been by beating top opposition on an ‘off track in a Yonkers feature in which Caduceus was third and the current American sensation Adios Butler had to be content with fifth. By this time, False Step had been sold to American businessman Jack Dreyfus for $115,000.
Later in the month, Arania gained her first American win, beating Champ Volo in 2:02 1/5 in junior free-for-all class at Rossevelt Raceway the night before Roy McKenzie and George and John Noble flew out on their return to New Zealand. She entered Bill Haughton’s barn, becoming a stablemate of Apmat and Caduceus, while Dreyfus placed False Step with Stanley Dancer.
Arania gained three more wins, twice in 2:00 2/5 at Yonkers, and the following October achieved fame by pacing a mile in 1:57 in a time trial on the Big Red Mile at Lexington, Kentucky.
At that time only three mares in the sport’s history had gone faster – pacers Ladyship in 1:56 ¾ at Lexington in 1938 and Dottie’s Pick in 1:56 4/5 against time at Hollywood Park in California in 1956; and trotter Rosalind in 1:56 ¾ against time at Lexington in 1938.
False Step, Apmat and Caduceus continued to race with credit in North America, and the harness racing world had now come to realise that the best Australasian standardbreds were indeed equal to the world’s best.
In 1962, when False Step died of a heart attack while still campaigning in the United States, his American earnings stood at $90,000 giving him lifetime earnings of $188,542. From a few matings before he left New Zealand, False Step sired Miss Step, a 1:59 3/5 winner in America, and two other pacing winners, Double Step and Stepson.
Apmat continued his useful toiling and together won $130,000. His was certainly a ‘rags-to-riches’ story.
Maurie Anderson, owner and trainer of many notable thoroughbreds in Australia, bought Apmat’s sire Wirrason for one shilling to save him from being slaughtered at a knackery after he had proved a very honest pacer with 19 wins. By Wirra Walla, son of Globe Derby’s great son Walla Walla, Wirrason, before he had to be destroyed owing to malnutritional blindness, sired a handful of foals, among them Apmat.
Peak Girl, the dam of Apmat, was of no account, and as she had insufficient milk for Apmat after foaling him in a yard at Homebush Abattoirs, Anderson and his wife worked overtime to nurse the youngster who surprised everyone by surviving.
Peak Girl way by Peak Hill, son of the great Globe Derby grandson Lawn Derby. And Peak Girl’s dam Rainbow Girl was by Rainbow King (by the Machine Brick horse Machine King, whose grand-dam was by Globe) from a mare by Lee Ribbon, a son of Ribbonwood and Huon Junior mare Gypsy Queen. Gypsy Queen was from Nancy Lee, a daughter of the Berlin Horse Victor III, who was bred in New Zealand in 1886. His dam was Nance, a daughter of American stallion Boccaccio.
Arania returned to New Zealand with life earnings of more than $70,000. She was served by the Billy Direct horse Direct Rhythm (p, 1:56 1/5), but foaled a week prematurely and a few days later the foal died. Arania left several winners, headed by Hurrania. This daughter of Roydon Lodge’s imported Tar Heal horse, Armbro Hurricane, won the 1974 New Zealand oaks and eight races and took a mark of 1:58 4/5.
Arania was put down at 19 in 1975.