Day At The Track

Petite Evander stars in America and Europe

06:16 PM 07 Sep 2008 NZST
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While Nigel Craig was reigning as 'King' at Addington, Petite Evander occupied the Throne as 'Queen' at Alexandra Park. Like Nigel Craig, Petite Evander hit the peak of her form in 1976/77. In this term her 21 starts yielded 10 wins and seven minor placings, and with $1000 from the match race with Nigel Craig she earned a total of $35,500.

Her complete New Zealand record when Auckland trainer Frank Weaver Jun., who raced her with his father Frank Weaver sen., flew her to America in March 1977 was 72 starts, 21 minor placings and $53,770.

Even better was to come in Petite Evander's overseas racing, and within four further years she had pushed her life earnings to $800,000 and improverd her mile mark to 1:58, Making her the fastest and richest straight-out trotter produced in Australasia and the second- highest stake - earner produced in this part of the world behind millionaire pacer Cardigan Bay.

Frank Weaver Jun., in His early twenties in 1961, bought for £90 a diminutive 16 year old Light Brigade mare named Thearle. She had qualified but not been persevered with as a racing preposition, and her earliest foals had amounted to little. Thearle was from Cinchona, by Grattan Loyal from Realeen, by the importanted Guy Axworthy horse Real Guy from Eileen Dillon, by Harold Dillon from Brighton Girl, By the Wildwood Horse Young wildwood from an unnamed daughter of the American Stallion Ha HA, the national mile record- holder before Fritz deposed him. It is the family of Poranui ( Nine New Zealand wins) and top- class Austalian pacer Jackie Scott.

Putting Thearle to Great Evander, Weaver first bred Light Evander, a good dual-gaited performer who won him and his father nine races. Eight years and four foals later, to the same sire, Thearle Produced Petite Evander.

After a couple of starts at three Petite Evander won six times from 24 starts at the four, while at five she won five times from 25 outings. Weaver drove her sometimes, but in most of her early wins Peter Wolfenden was at the helm. John Langdon teamed successfully with her in her final win at five, and then guided her to eight of her nine wins in 1976/77, her best New Zealand Campaign.

In taking the 1976 $10,000 Invitation Challenge Stakes in Auckland, Petite Evander's 3:29.4 for 2700 metres mobile slashed three seconds from Edis Nova's national mark. After a slow start she ran on for fourth in the Dominion Handicap, and then in the New Zealand Trotting Free-for-all she best Nigel Craig comfortably in a season's record 3:22.5 for 2600 metres mobile.

At New Year, 1977, Petite Evander was third behind Nigel Craig, locked in by runner-up Waipounamu, when ‘Nigel' established his 2:00.3 New Zealand race record. On the second night she comfortably best Nigel Craig at level marks in near-record time for 2600 metres in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. Setting an Alexandra Park track record winning a mobile mile in 2:02.2 in February, she came from 40 metres to beat pacing rivals in the Nandina Handicap for fillies and mares at Claudelands early in March, establishing a national record for 2500 metres of 3:20.

On 12 March 1977, in a special attempt against time at Alexandre Park, Langdon guided her over the mile in 1:59.8, making her Australasia's fastest trotting mare. A week later Weaver drove Petite Evander in her last race starts in New Zealand. On Langdon's instructions he led with her, and she romped in from Framalda in 2:50.2, carving 2.5 seconds from Best Bet's national mark for 2200 metres mobile.

With Petite Evander booked to fly to America a match race with Nigel Craig was arranged for the Thames club's 26 March meeting at Alexandra Park. Anticlimactic, it developed into a sprint home. Nigel Craig dawdled in front over the first three-quarters in 1:40.9, and then sprinted home in 29.9 to hold Petite Evander out by a half-head.

Place with American horseman Eddy Dunnigan, Petite Evander was quickly into stride in the United States. Good placed form in top class at the Meadowlands earned her invitation to race in Denmark and Sweden in Mid-1977. She was placed in a rich feature there and was fifth in the $200,000 Roosevelt International Trot back in New York. Winning at Hollywood Park in California, she took her best Mark of 1:58.

Continuing to race well in top class, Petite Evander earned another trip to Europe in 1978. Knocked out of her heat of the rich Elitlopp at Solvalla, Stockholm, Sweden, by interference, she comfortably beat the Italian trotter Delfo (tabbed before this series ‘world champion) in the consolation in 1:59, which equalled French trotter Hadol Du Vivier's winning time for the final. Petite Evander was then third to American-bred Swedish trotter Pershing (by Nevele Pride) and Duke Iran in the $50,000 Copenhagen Cup. Pershing rated 1:59.4 for the mile and a quarter and Petite Evander's 1:59.6 rate bettered the world's best for a mare and earned the Wavers a gold Medal specially presented to them by the Danish Trotting authorities.

In June 1978, she finishing third to 1:56.4 winner Green Speed (bill Haughton) at The Meadowlands, Petite Evander was timed in 1:57.2. she next place second, beaten three lengths by Cold Comfort (peter Haughton), in the $200,000 Roosevelt International, the winning time of 2:31 3/5 being a fifth of a second outside the world record for trotters on the half-mile, held by Speedy Scot (1964) and Noble Victory (1996). Behind Petite Evander in sixth place was Nigel Craig.

Winning in 1:59 2/5 on the half-mile at Yonkers in August 1978, Petite Evander was taken baqck to Europe the following month. Because of a misunderstanding over eligibility she was able to have only one race on this trip, and she finished third. Back in America she notched further wins at Yonkers and Roosevelt.

Nine by American time in 1979, Petite Evander continued in fine form, although

Fourth was her lot in the Roosevelt International, this time at a muddling pace which did not suit her. Her eight wins this season, added to 10 the year before and five in 1977, plus 18 seconds and 18 thirds, all on American soil, brought her life earnings to $585,400.

At age 10 Petite Evander had three more wins, her final victory coming at Yonkers on 11 July 1980. Three seconds and three thirds help push her earnings to $756,300, just below Young Quinn's lifetime bankroll of $759,227.

Then, with two seconds and two thirds from five starts for $11,108 in her final season as an 11-year-old in 1981, she was retired with a combined Australasian and North American record of 184 starts, 47 wins, 60 placing and $767,408, plus her win and several placing in Europe which put her career earnings at just over $800,000.

Petite Evander was sent to Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsyvania to be mated with world champion trotter Super Bowl (1:56.4). The colt foal died when a month old in May 1982.

A Salute To Trotting with Ron Bisman

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