Day At The Track

The iron horse Gammalite who won 52 races

09:06 PM 01 Dec 2008 NZDT
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Gammalite
Gammalite - The mighty Australian pacer of the 1980s.

Gammalite showed up in New Zealand in November 1981 with the New Zealand Cup his main mission. Flying in to Christchurch from Melbourne while the pre-Cup trials were in progress on the night of Thursday, 5 November, he boasted excellent credentials.

Bred, raced and trained by Victorian Leo O Connor, Gammalite was by the greatly successful Adios horse Thor Hanover from High Valley, by Intangible from High Pilade, by Pilade from Hightalk, by the Wrack horse Peerless Peter from Tattle (bred at Dalton, New South Wales, by L. S. Martin), by Walla Walla from Pottapiana (bred in Kaiapoi by T.C .Butcher), by Jack Potts from Wharepiana (bred in Clive by B. Shadbolt) by Hal Zolock from Muriel Derby (bred in Melbourne by J.B Zander), by Mauritius from Lottie Derby, an American-bred Daughter of Charles Derby.

Thor Hanover, Intangible and Pilade were all Noel Simpson importations and Thor Hanover topped the Australian sires list on the basis of race won uninterrupted from 1972/73 to the time of writing.

High Valley left several good performers including The Rogue (22 wins) and Amative (13 wins). O' Connor's Borhter Kevin Bought her as a brood mare at a dispersal and sold her to Leo for $450. Put first by Leo to Meadow Vance (adios - Subway, Billy Direct), the top sire in Austaila until deposed by Thor Hanover, High valley left Alphalite won the 1974 Victorian and Kilmore Derbies, was Australia's Top three-year=old stake-earner of 1973/74, was later voted Victoria's Horse of the Year', and earned $81, 621 in a career restricted by a leg injury.

To Thor Hanover, High Valley left a colt that was sold and as Betalite won 15 races. Returned to Thor Hanover, the mare then left Gammalite. Training this colt himself and using his neighbouring farmer Bruce Clarke as regular race driver, O' Connor was on his way to harness racing fame.

At age two Gammalite won 11 of 18 starts and $41,003 to be top Victorian earner of the age. At three he won the South Australian Derby, beat all but San Simeon in the West Australian Derby and Quamby's Pride in the Queensland Derby and placed third in the Australian and Victorian Derbies. He won 12 races from 20 starts that term for $49,240, and to that stage had been out of the money only twice in 38 starts.

At age four, from 28 starts Gammalite had 15 wins including the $60,000 Craven Filter Championship in Brisbane, the $40,000 New South Wales Spring Cup and seconds and four thirds earned #215, 465. At age five, before flying to Christchurch, Gammalite won twice at Moonee Valley in October.

Although showing no ill-effects from his flight, Gammalite ruined his New Zealand Cup chance by breaking early after starting from 10 metres. He was then forced over a good deal of extra ground on the way to finishing fifth. Drawing badly in the New Zealand Free-for-all he was four wide over that last 1000 metres and did well to finish fourth as Armalight stormed to her record-shattering win.

Then came a time-trial at Addington on 17 November. Into a stiff south-west wind over a rain-soaked track, accompanied by the galloping Sepoti (John Noble), Gammalite went scratchily early, hit the half 58.6 seconds and stormed home with a 57.5 second held to clock an amazing 1:56.1. it was the third-fastest mile by an Australian-bred pacer after Child-wood Hanover's 1:55 3/5 and Popular Alm's 1:55.9.

Four days aftrer this, Gammalite lined up for the 2600-metre Marson stakes, and from 6 hehind the gate moved up from the back to wage war with Armalight from 1800 metres out. In one of the most Exciting raced witnessed at Addington, Grammalite fairly wore Armalight down, only to succumb to the brilliant final burst of Lord Module. For second Gammalite clocked 3:15.7, well inside the previous national mark.

Returning to Melbourne, Gammalite won three races at Moonee Valley then came off the ‘death seat' for a spectacular victory in the $40,000 Winfield Cup at Globe Derby Park, Adelaide, in a track-record 2:03.3 mile rate for 2650 metres. He next won the lady Brooks Cup at Moonee Valley, Rating 1:59.4 for 1900 metres after an overland trip.

Ambitiously, Gammalite flew back to New Zealand on the eve of the $120,000 Auckland Cup on 12 February 1982. He reached his stable quarters in South Auckland at 2am. on the day of the race.

Clarke settled him back on the outer in the Cup race, moved him up three wide with cover behind Hands Down starting the last lap and the tough five-year-old fought on courageously to hold out Bonnie's Chance by a head in 3:24.6, a national record for a stallion for 2700 metres mobile, but not up to Delightful Lady's 3:22.9 of the previous year.

Six days later Gammalite flew back to Melbourne with less then 48 hours to spare before the coveted $100,000 2870-metres A.G. Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley, which he won comfortably. The following month he won the 3300-metres Marathon stakes at Moonee Valley and a month later he scored again there. In June 1982 Gammalite attempted to repeat his Craven Championship win of the previous season in Brisbane. He won his heat, but after racing three wide in the #60,000 final Agent (out To win - Angelo). Despite that defeat Gammalite won the 1982 Australian Grand Circuit Champion title, and he ended the 1981/82 season with his career record at 93 starts, 52 wins, 21 seconds, 11 thirds and $562,608.

O' Connor made it clear to Auckland officials that, all going well Gammalite would be back at Alexandra Park for a crack at the 1983 Interdominions.

Ron BISMAN

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