Day At The Track


03:03 AM 01 Dec 2006 NZDT
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A Salute To Trotting - Ron Bisman

Cardigan Bay. (December 1, 2006)

It was at this carnival that the Addington fans got their first glimpse of a solidly built but plain-looking gelding named Cardigan Bay.

In winning the Final Handicap on Cup day he was notching his eighth straight victory. Then, after a clear-cut New Zealand Free-for-all win over Scottish Command and company, he returned north to Peter Wolfenden’s Auckland stable with the 1961 Auckland Cup now right in his sights.

Cardigan Bay was bred in Southland by Dave Todd, of Chimes Lodge, Mataura, who to begin with trained the horse for his brother Sandy.

It was the policy of the Todd brothers to breed, educate, race and sell. In Southland there was scope to graduate only through two or three of the lowest grades, and, normally, with material as good as Cardigan Bay, Dave Todd would display his wares as far away as Addington before selling.

Dave Todd would later lament that he did not hang on to Cardigan Bay long enough to show him off at ‘headquarters’ (Addington) and thereby obtain a better price for him than the Todd brother accepted from Aucklander Merv Dean.

Cardigan Bay was from the first crop of Hal Tryax, who was imported from America by George Youngson in 1955.

Hal Tryax’s sire Tryax was by Truax, by Axworthy’s most famous son, Guy Axworthy. Hal Tryax’s dam Effie Axworthy was by Lew Axworthy, by Lee Axworthy, by Guy Axworthy. A fine performer for outstanding Alabama horseman Sanders Russell, Hay Tryax took a 2:00 ¾ mark time-trialling on the Big Red Mile in Kentucky in 1950.

Youngson had come to New Zealand from Aberdeen in Scotland in his twenties in 1910 and started out as a ploughman in the Riversdale district of Southland.

In early days he handled and bred Clydesdales, and, on becoming a neighbour of famous Willowbank Stud proprietors Stevenson and McMath at Wendon, he caught the ‘trotting bug.’

From the Cody brothers, of Riversdale, Youngson bought his first trotting stallion, Harold Direct, a son of the Willowbank homebred Harold Rothschild and a mare by King Harold. Before he had much time to prove his worth for Youngson, Harold Direct had to be put down after another horse kicked him and fractured a leg.

In 1928 Youngson bought Happy Voyage following that Australian-bred pacer’s great racing exploits on both sides of the Tasman. Setting Happy Voyage up at Wendon, Youngson had no trouble getting full books with this handsome and top-credentialed individual whom he stood at eight guineas.

Aware that Southland was in dire need of American blood, Youngson contacted American Bob Plaxico (working briefly as private trainer for John McKenzie in Canterbury), who arranged to secure for him Adioo Guy, a though pacer by Guy Dillon, supposedly 15 years old. Adioo Guy arrived in 1929, and it transpired that he was 19.

Because of his age, and possibly also as he was very much inbred (particularly to Guy Wilkes), breeders stayed away from him at 12 guineas. He died after four years in New Zealand.

A chance mating with Sigrid Volo at Plaxico’s stables on the eve of Adioo Guy’s departure from America for New Zealand resulted in the filly who became Adioo Volo, dam of the immortal Adios.

Despite being relatively neglected in Southland, Adioo Guy sired 74 individual winners, establishing what must have been a record percentage of winners to foals. They included an Interdominion Grand Final winner, Grand Mogul.

In 1927, when the aging Stevenson and McMath disposed of Willowbank, Youngson and William Jones, a friend and neighbour, bought four mares: Pleasant Drive and her daughters Logan’s Drive and Dark Drive (all descendants of Harold’s Rest and significant contributors to this great family founder’s distinctions), and Play Soon, daughter of another great Willowbank foundation mare Topsy.

Later, Youngson established a stud at Gore and bought for 300 guineas the great broodmare Rustic Maid along with her New Zealand Derby-winner daughter Scottish Lady.

Among the long line of winners Youngson bred from Rustic Maid was the 1950 New Zealand Cup victor Chamfer. Scottish Lady’s progeny bred by Youngson included Scottish Brigade and Gentry, who like Chamfer were top-class pacers and excelled as sires.

On a visit to England in 1930 to buy a Clydesdale stallion, Youngson attended several trotting meetings and was impressed by several progeny of an American sire standing there, the roan horse Wellington Direct.

Youngson eventually bought him and also another American-bred stallion, the just-retired United Kingdom champion pacer Frank Dewey.

These two did not produce as well as expected in New Zealand, though Wellington Direct’s 24 winners included several mares who founded good families – Lauder Girl, Night Nurse and Sylvia Direct among them.

One of Wellington Direct’s English foals, the roan Dan Direct was imported to New Zealand in 1930 by F. J. Smith, winning races here and siring 19 winners as well as False Step’s dam Dainty Direct.

Youngson’s next import was the well-bred and excellently performed American stallion Sandydale, whom he stood first and then passed on to John Johnston in the Oamaru district. Sandydale did great work, siring 185 winners headed by dual Interdominion winner Captain Sandy.

Youngson next selected Dillon Hall from an agent’s list and agreed on a price. A rate-of-exchange alteration which raised the price resulted in Youngson trying to call the deal off. Fortunately for New Zealand, the lower price was agreed to. Starting off at 15 guineas a service in 1939, Dillon Hall rose to become the first Southland-based stallion to head the New Zealand sires’ list.

Toward the end of Dillon Hall’s career, Youngson, intending to retire, passed the horse on to a friend Stuart Guthrie. Unable to resist dabbling, however, Youngson succumbed again when an agent tempted him with Hal Tryax.

Able to secure Hal Tryax for £3500, Youngson stood him for two seasons (starting him at the highest fee of any of his stallions, 60 guineas) and, before his stock raced, passed him on to Hugh Gamble, of Edendale.

Before finally retiring, Youngson had one last fling as a studmaster, standing Little Brown Jug winner Newport Chief on the Riversdale property of his friend and co-owner of the horse, C. E. (Charles) Dillon. Neglected by breeders, Newport Chief nevertheless sired 75 winners, headed by the good pacer Tobias.

Central Otago farmer A. A. (Alex) Jopp, deciding in the late 1920s to become a standardbred breeder, paid £20 for a veteran mare named Gold Patch. Bred in 1909, Gold Patch was a chestnut daughter of a Rothschild horse George M. Patchen, whose dam Linton was by the thoroughbred Bundoora.

Gold Patch’s dam Trilby was by King Quail, a thoroughbred born in New South Wales and imported as a yearling to New Zealand where in 1881 he won the Auckland Cup and Auckland Easter Handicap.

Speedy but headstrong, Gold Patch was not persevered with for racing. She was bred from several years, apparently with little success, before being tossed into the auction ring, where Jopp picked her up.

Jopp first mated Gold Patch with Nelson Bingen, but the colt foal, after showing promise when put into work, was injured and did not race. Then, to the Guy Axworthy horse Guy Parrish (who sired 84 winners as well as the dam of Captain Sandy), Gold Patch produced Helen’s Bay, a fine trotter who despite limited opportunities won seven races.

Put to stud, Helen’s Bay, to Julia Cuff’s imported Peter Volo horse Quite Sure, produced Pleasure Bay, who on breeding at least should have become a champion trotter. She, however, injured a stifle so badly that thoughts of racing her had to be abandoned.

And she went to the cover of F. J. Smith’s American importation Josedale Dictator. By the Peter the Great horse Peter Lincoln, Josedale Dictator sired the brilliant New Zealand trotter Dictation.

So the Josedale Dictator – Pleasure Bay filly that was Colwyn Bay could have been expected to trot. Under Davey and Sandy Todd, however, Colwyn Bay proved very talented but an arthritic type, difficult to train and much more at ease as a pacer than a trotter. She had only six starts; four as a four-year-old, of which she won three, and two at five years, finishing second each time.

She broke down after conceding Kissing Cup (later to beat Johnny Globe and become a good winner in Australia) 60 yards and running her to a head in the Hunter Handicap at Wyndham in 1952, clocking 4:25 for the two miles on the rough turf track.

Because of his advancing years and failing health, Jopp gave Colwyn Bay to the Todds. They sent her, along with a couple of other mares, in 1954 to the then 24-year-old Logan Derby, now based at Youngson’s. All three mares failed to conceive, and the Todd brothers availed themselves of the return privileges to go to Hal Tryax when he arrived the following year.

The Hal Tryax – Colwyn Bay foal was Cardigan Bay.

This was no fluke on the part of Hal Tryax. For when he became infertile after eight productive seasons in New Zealand he was on the way to writing what may well have been the most notable chapter in New Zealand standardbred breeding history.

With the oldest of his stock six-year-olds in 1963/64, he had already become the nation’s leading sire; an accomplishment he was to repeat in 1965/66. From mares of all descriptions, Hal Tryax turned out a host of top-flight performers who were to win in all age groups and prove very hard-wearing.

Hal Tryax’s second crop included Robin Dundee, while later came Tactile; and the eight live foals he got in 1963, his last crop, included Holy Hal.

Aged 16 when he became sterile, Hal Tryax was pensioned off by Hugh Gamble to live out his days in lush South Otago in the constant care of Bob Buchanan of Chaslands. In all Hall Tryax sired 140 winners.

Many of his sons became successful sires and his producing daughters included Loyal Trick, dam of another champion, Young Quinn.

A colty type, Cardigan Bay was gelded when five months old, broken in at seven months and, on refusing to trot, educated as a pacer. From the start he showed a will of his own, but when at 16 months he sped a furlong in 15 seconds (two-minute speed) Davey Todd knew he was something above the ordinary.

Another Hal Tryax colt being educated by Todd was Blue Prince, a grey tracing to an unnamed daughter of Fleetwood Abdallah, a grey son of the Wilkin importation Blackwood Abdallah. Blue Prince being by far the more tractable, it was decided to race him at two and give Cardigan Bay more time to come to his senses.

Blue Prince did not win from his five outings at two, but he showed excellent promise for owners Jack and Bill Kennedy by running Sun Chief to a half-neck in the 1959 Timaru Nursery and gaining thirds to Sun Chief and Sally Boy in the New Zealand Welcome Stakes at Addington and to Sun Chief and Arania in the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes.

Davey Todd and his first driver Ken Balloch worked on Cardigan Bay with a view to starting him out at three; but it was not easy. Cardigan Bay would go kindly in front but become too fiery when headed by another horse. Todd, not one to be dictated to in this way, put a shadow-roll on him and in a terse session on his training track finally got the message across that racing in behind was a necessary part of the game.

Cardigan Bay still had tricks of his own, and in his race debut, in the Seaward Classic Stakes for three-year-olds at Wyndham on 28 November 1959 he let the side down by racing erratically and winding up a distant fourth.

After even worse displays in his next two outings, Cardigan Bay was tried in a saddle event at the Vincent galloping meeting, with Todd’s nephew Alex Mitchell his pilot. In a field of 19 on the rough grass track, Cardigan Bay failed by only a nose to break through for his first win. His victor was seasoned and hardy seven-year-old gelding Flag Four.

Three months later, Cardigan Bay, with some more of the rough edges rubbed off him by Todd, reappeared and gained his first win. Davey drove him home by a half a head over another son of Hal Tryax, Bazax, in the first division of the Winton Three-year-old Stakes on 2 April 1960.

The combination scored again just over a fortnight later at Roxburgh. Taken to Oamaru in May and Ashburton in June to be shown off, Cardigan Bay failed to shine, and hopes of getting a big price for him sank.

Todd knew Cardigan Bay had the makings of a good pace, however, and worked hard to bring it out in him for his early four-year-old campaigning.

First up, at Invercargill in late October 1960, Cardigan Bay went under by a neck to good mare Va Vite on a wet track on a day when a three-year-old Hal Tryax filly named Robin Dundee could not have been more impressive in her race debut, romping away to a 16-length win in the Southern Stakes.

Cardigan Bay now, thanks to Davey Todd, a complete racehorse, then won at two miles at Wyndham, at two miles at Roxburgh and at 13 furlongs at Forbury Park.

By now the Todds had set a price on him - £2500.

On hand at Roxburgh when Cardigan Bay scored the fourth win of his career, prominent administrator Arthur Nicoll, on his way to becoming Conference president in 1965, learned that this Todd representative that had impressed him so much could be bought.

Not the bold opportunist that his father H. F. Nicoll had been, Arthur nevertheless was at this time sufficiently wealthy to think about having a flutter, having just sold some of his Ashburton holdings. Stock shares in a newly established Australian company had been offered to Nicoll and his accountant’s advice was to put his money that way and forget about buying a horse. Arthur lost the money with which he could have bought Cardigan Bay when the Australian company collapsed.

Successful and wealthy Auckland owner H. S. (Bob) Barry was also showing interest in Cardigan Bay. He bought Blue Prince from the Kennedys after the colt’s excellent three-year-old form in which he won the Metropolitan Challenge Stakes, Forbury Challenge Stakes, New Zealand Pacing Stakes, Roxburgh Handicap and Timaru Farewell Handicap.

Wellington stock agent and trotting official Vic McPhail informed Barry in mid-April 1961 that Cardigan Bay could be bought for £2500 prior to racing in the Renown Handicap at Forbury Park on the 19th of the month. Barry, noting that Cardigan Bay had been scratched several times and interpreting this to mean that the gelding was not entirely fit, told McPhail: ‘Let him run in that (the Forbury race). He’ll get beaten and I’ll buy him cheaper.’

But Cardigan Bay won, and won well, and it was left to Auckland snooker-hall proprietor Merv Dean to finally make the successful approach for the gelding.

Impressed with the stock of Hal Tryax, Dean had earlier bought from the Todds the Hal Tryax gelding Motif, from their good Dillon Hall mare Esto Fidelis. He had not been disappointed with this deal, Motif winning for him from H. L. Natske’s Hamilton stable at 40 to 1 at Claudelands in March 1961.

Impressed also by young Auckland reinsman Peter Wolfenden, Dean then moved Motif into his stable, and the gelding obliged again by winning at Stratford on 15 April.

Flush with success, Dean, who had previously been deterred by the £2500 price tag on Cardigan Bay, phoned through after Cardigan Bay’s Forbury Park win. Sandy Todd finally agreed to let him have the gelding for £2000 and two £250 contingencies.

The deal went through. Dean signed up Cardigan Bay in the name of his wife Audrey and arrangements were made for the four-year-old to be railed and shipped from the Todds’ stable at Mataura to Auckland in good time for Wolfenden to get him ready for his five-year-old campaign.

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