1967 Stylish Major

Those with greatest recall will remember a long held belief, that to be most effective at New Zealand Cup time, pacing stars needed race encounters in early spring.  A requirement to have built that strong foundation base appeared beneficial for Banks Peninsula Trotting Club, as trotters also progressed toward Canterbury’s biggest annual week.

Accordingly 1967 provided another strong near capacity cup field to face starter Mr R.F. (Ron) Carter, at the mile and a half dispatch point. Mighty Chief was back, although this time facing a prohibitive handicap of 42 yards. Owner, trainer L.R. (Leicester) Clark embarked upon a familiar path of preparation, after again selecting this race as his season opener. It had served Mighty Chief well previously, as he boosted fitness levels by completing several trial runs from mid August. Sibling rivalry between Clark and his brother, fellow Greenpark horseman E.A. (Tom) Clark, would be exhibited when the latter produced progressive 6yo gelding Logan Count on 12 yards. By Court Martial, Logan Count was a mistake maker at the recent Methven trial meeting, following his splendid last start Addington third in late August.

Queen’s Cord unplaced in three starts this season, was handicapped on the 24 yard mark along with Leeston owned and trained gelding Break Trough.  Six yards closer to the limit was last start Forbury Park winner Doctor Kyle, who had proven an unreliable commodity for form analysts. By the Light Brigade cup class entire Attack, Doctor Kyle completed his first season pacing for Ashburton trainer J.L. (Jack) Behrns, before progressing through to open class trotting ranks, but remained a risky proposition.   He was handicapped to start from 18 yards, between capable Light Brigade mares Harbour Light and Tronso. Last season’s victor Tronso formed a tote bracket with stablemate and close relative Mighty Hanover. The Lucky Hanover gelding was a veteran son of former top race mare and broodmare gem Betty Maxegin. Another of that mare’s offspring was unraced Desmond’s Pride mare Bettagain, the dam of Tronso and Cee Ar. Later in proceedings Betty Maxegin was represented in the 2.19 class trot by backmarker Rapparee. The 7yo son of Super Note was unable to repeat his last start third placing at Ashburton, finding a 48 yard handicap too taxing.

Cup favouritism was the domain of C.C. (Clem) Scott trained brother and sister bracket, Stylish Major and Le Chant. The Makikihi trained pair by Flying Song hailed from wonderful producer Moccasin; a mare by triple New Zealand Cup winner Indianapolis. Le Chant was making her first appearance this season after accounting for a strong field at Canterbury Park in May. That wasn’t considered likely to be unduly problematical, as she had raced well previously when on the fresh side. A more significant concern for driver R.M. (Bob) Cameron was her 30 yard handicap.

C.S. (Charlie) Hunter ventured south from his Upper Hutt stables with French Pass; becoming the first North Island trained trotter to encounter southern stars in a Banks Peninsula Cup. Owned by Mr R.A. (Roy) McKenzie, French Pass had been successful when presented at the Metropolitan Club’s National Meeting in August for stable reinsman E.F.D. (Earl) Harding. Aptly named by Stormyway, French Pass is a narrow and treacherous stretch of water located in the Marlborough Sounds. Purchased out of F.F. (Frank) Scott’s Blenheim stable after just his second start the previous season, French Pass had compiled a strong winning record on grass. Today’s racing publication incorrectly described French Pass as an entire, whereas his career record confirms that all the 6yo’s race starts were completed after being gelded.

Fourth Brigade gelding Russell was best to begin from Direct Globe who stepped away safely as Break Through and French Pass both made serious mistakes. Russell maintained a solid tempo for S.D. (Steve) Edge ensuring he received few challenges, as Direct Globe and B.G. (Barry) Nyhan trailed beautifully behind the Blenheim trotter. Acquit was parked for trainer P.C. (Peter) Yeatman providing cover to Stylish Major, with Mighty Hanover and Dispense nearest the fence. There was no real change as they passed the three furlong peg, before Stylish Major, Gala Song and Dispense improved toward Russell who maintained his position in front of Direct Globe.

Shortly after rounding the home turn Acquit galloped after sitting parked, leaving firstly Stylish Major to claim Russell, with Derek Jones working Dispense clear closer in. Stylish Major and Dispense then appeared most likely to dominate the finish, with “Mr Consistent” Stylish Major gaining a well deserved winning turn, after consecutive seconds in September. He was also an acceptor at Forbury Park, but that assignment bypassed in favour of a front line draw on the Peninsula grass. Stylish Major capitalised on his magnificent trip, courtesy of K.M. (Ken) Balloch, a very capable and experienced Southland horseman. Balloch enjoyed a great day, having scored in division two of the previous event with consistent Wyndham trained pacer Valley Girl.

A degree of good fortune may have assisted Stylish Major in the concluding stages however. With just under a furlong remaining, the talented but equally fallible Logan Count galloped out wide when appearing destined for victory.  Driver Felix Newfield returned Logan Count to his correct gait where he closed again very quickly, getting within half a length of victory.

Eventually Stylish Major became the greatest stake’s winning trotter to race in this country. He was later reunited with Le Chant, who had been subsequently leased out by owner Mr Norman Campbell, to continue her career in the United States.

Derek Jones made his first appearance in a Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup finish, when U Scott mare Dispense ran right up to her best form claiming third place.  An unflappable reinsman, Jones gave Dispense a lovely run handy to the pace and she fought determinedly when produced into clear air by her part owner. Tronso who was back in about tenth place starting the last half mile, came home very strongly for fourth just a neck in arrears of Dispense, once again pleasing Jack Carmichael. Gala Song appeared a winning possibility half way down the straight but could not quite see it through for Noel Berkett, finishing fifth two lengths further afield. Russell, who made a game attempt to lead throughout weakened slightly close to home finishing in behind the major place getters.

After starting from 42 yards Mighty Chief’s performance contained a good deal of merit. He galloped with just over a round to travel and was still last with three furlongs left, before improving his position considerably in the run home. Established second favourite as a result of strong punter support, Mighty Chief was observed to trot roughly in tight quarters, over the concluding stages.

Race six for 2.19 class pacers was the Waihora Handicap which attracted a field of 34 starters. Run in two divisions; more than half of the runners were bracketed in order that totalisator numbers were restricted to twenty four. Little River trainer E.M. (Eric) Ryan produced 6yo Smokey Hanover mare Limbala in the first division. Disregarded by punters and starting 24/24 in the betting, Limbala finished second returning a sensational place dividend of $55.60. Larger than life, Ryan would go on to create a distinct legacy throughout the catchment and greatly enhance an associated fabric of trotting folklore.

Other trotting events saw victory secured by 4yo mares Anabelle Lee and Bertha Jo for respective trainers J.D. (Jack) Litten) and L.D. (Lloyd) Ashton.

Earlier on Saturday 6th May 1967, Banks Peninsula Gymkhana Club hosted its Inaugural Meeting. A number of Banks Peninsula Trotting officials were involved in the proceedings, with an Equalisator in operation for investors. The eight race programme catered for moderately assessed horses, together with 2yo, 3yo, and 4yo races. In addition there were the usual novelty events, pony races, egg and spoon races, chocolate wheels, even a sheep guessing contest.