Stake money totalling $2,500.00 was on offer when the eighth running of Banks Peninsula’s Trotting Cup lined up for decision in 1972. Norm Fisher, mine host at nearby Tai Tapu Hotel provided a $100 trophy to accompany the donated stallion service by Lordship courtesy of Globe Derby Lodge. Past President and Patron Mr Cyril Gray offered an additional trophy valued at $50.00 if today’s victor bettered When’s winning mile rate of 2 minutes and 10 seconds, established in 1965.
Scrutiny of previous Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup fixtures indicates that this achievement would not be easily attained. Four events commencing at the twelve furlongs, or mile and a half start preceded the transferred meeting in 1969, where Rangiora’s track hosted an event over thirteen furlongs. Returning to Motukarara in 1970, the Cup underwent an extension to fourteen furlongs, or a mile and three quarters. No subsequent victor had threatened the rate recorded by Bill Doyle’s great mare on that historic occasion.
Prominent amongst shared opinions and predictions were the two most recent Banks Peninsula Cup winners Merrin along with Going. To date Merrin boasted arguably the best record of any candidate, in terms of previous performances. He finished second to Light View at Rangiora, claimed the 1970 contest twelve months later and then beat all but Going in 1971. Leo May retained the drive when Merrin opened his season’s campaign in New Brighton’s Ordeal Cup, midway through September. Being rearward at the half mile after starting from 18 yards, the Court Martial gelding finished strongly when completing a noteworthy sixth behind Al Mundy. Going’s performance at Ashburton was not nearly as impressive when in Jack Carmichael’s hands she resumed against the 2.15 class pacers. After an early gallop in the two mile race she improved her position late, but still finished well back beyond midfield. Both had proven histories of being well suited to the rigours of a staying contest on Motukarara’s grass.
Al Mundy an 8yo Flying Song gelding and arguably our most improved trotter, was now a member of Jack Smolenski’s highly successful team. His Templeton stable also paid up with Johnny Fling, who had drawn inside Merrin on the 18 yard mark. Al Mundy had been untested winning the Ordeal Trotting Cup, following an equally impressive success at New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club’s National Meeting in August. Probable favourite, Al Mundy would share the back mark of 24 yards alongside Going, together with veteran Mighty Chief who was to be handled by N.S. (Neville) Benny.
Maurice Holmes would continue his association with an out of form Western Valley for West Melton legend Jack Litten. An entire by Fallacy and maternally related to Precocious, he had performed poorly in all four starts at Addington this season, but the majority of his wins were recorded on grass. It was worth noting that Holmes had been in the cart at Ashburton last Boxing Day, when Western Valley caught punters napping, by scoring over Good Admiral, Iceberg and Frontier returning $67.25 for a win. Others worthy of mention were Mighty Dollar, who would be bracketed with Mighty Chief and the aptly named but unreliable Tunza Time. A 5yo from Light Brigade mare Why Hurry, Tunza Time raced in the interests of his trainer Colin Berkett alongside veteran Waterloo. Berkett returned to partner Waterloo after Felix Newfield had driven the gelding in his four starts at Addington since resuming. Derek Jones continued his association with Tunza Time; the pair represented a combination twice successful from three attempts at Hutt Park, albeit in intermediate company.
Trained at Methven by C.V. (Clarrie) and T.M. (Terry) May Good Admiral was a mid week media headline, following his eye catching Ashburton trial on Tuesday preceding this engagement. Finishing eighth although only two lengths from the winner, he appeared to be travelling comfortably with plenty in reserve. After opening his season on a winning note at the National Meeting, he then failed to flatter in three subsequent Addington outings. A 5yo gelding by Goodland, Good Admiral was raced by well known Peninsula identity Mr J.X. (Jack) Ferguson in partnership with prominent Auckland owner Mr A.H. (Andy) Carmichael.
R. (Wally) Carston penned an observation in Friday mornings daily newspaper “if there is a surprise forthcoming the most likely to cause it, is Marius.” Adding the proviso that Marius was very good, provided he could be persuaded to trot. Owner J.C. (Jim) Nordqvist was most unfortunate when losing the services of consistent Thurber Frost gelding Black Frost following a paddock accident, leaving only Marius to represent his Methven stable. Marius had appeared uncomfortable on Addington’s recently relayed surface, having broken in all four starts prior to today’s grass track return. He had of course opened his account at the Club’s 1969 transferred Meeting on Rangiora’s turf.
Aronmot who would be handled by Jack Carmichael for Rolleston trainer Owen Quinlan and Bambi with Dick Caskey on board, both appealed as place prospects from 12 yards where they were drawn outside Good Admiral.
A field of thirteen took their place at the start, after Going was scratched and therefore unable to repeat last year’s victory. It transpired that last week’s Ashburton effort would be her final track appearance; thus concluding a stellar race career with ten wins. Jack Smolenski also withdrew Johnny Fling, confirming he would to stick with the well performed Al Mundy.
Methven owner, trainer G.F. (Gordon) Middleton had Laplander in front early, with Fri trailing and Ebby Globe driven by Barry Nyhan parked out. After stepping well from 12 yards Bambi gained cover behind Ebby Globe, the three quarter brother to Noble Lord. Logan Park broke hopelessly upon barrier release, whilst Western Valley initially trotted, then went into a bad break and settled at the rear. Marius progressed up outside Laplander with seven furlongs to run and after sharing the lead for a furlong, subsequently worked clear in between turns. Mighty Dollar, his bracketed mate Mighty Chief together with Merrin and favourite Al Mundy all became prominent as they approached the home straight. Tunza Time and second favourite Good Admiral both made mistakes after straightening up, however Marius was still trotting flawlessly with Jim Nordqvist sitting quietly and appearing to have something in hand. He comfortably maintained his winning margin of one and a quarter lengths over Mighty Dollar who just lasted for second. Only a nose back third, Western Valley rattled home brilliantly down the outside from near last for “The Maestro” Maurice Holmes. Inside the flying Western Valley and only half a head away from third money was veteran Mighty Chief, with Merrin almost in line. Al Mundy who started the firm favourite, was next in front of Fri and Bambi. After settling well back for Jack Smolenski, Al Mundy appeared to have every chance when handy at the half mile, but his run ended a furlong out. Marius won much too easily to allow any excuses from the beaten brigade, although Western Valley would have undoubtedly pushed him a lot closer, but for his customary early mistake.
Out of an unraced Meadow Chief mare, Marius was bred by Dr H.G. (Harry) Crofts, who would achieve a notable milestone as winning owner of Camelot in the 1984 New Zealand Cup. Dr Crofts was acknowledged as a long standing supporter and Honorary Surgeon of the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club. Marius, who qualified in 1967 when prepared by Peter Yeatman, commenced his racing career at Hororata as a pacer. That exercise was relatively short lived however and all his victories were achieved as a trotter from Nordqvist’s Methven barn. The Morano gelding did however retain an inclination to pace, ruefully this tendency almost certainly costing him even further success.
The winner and runner up were sixth and fourth favourites respectively, with Western Valley 9/9 in the betting. Punters were not yet able to access what may have been lucrative quinella and trifecta dividends having basic win, place or each way betting available. Today’s only “exotic” pools were two exchange concession doubles.
Intrigue surrounded today’s totalisator bracket combining Mighty Dollar with veteran Mighty Chief, who raced in the interests of his Springston trainer T.F. (Trevor) Mounce. This was a consequence of lease arrangements between Mounce and Mighty Chief’s owner, his former trainer Leicester Clark. Retaining part owner status of Mighty Dollar, Prebbleton trainer Clark ensured that a tote bracket was required under the prevailing industry rules. Tunza Time and Waterloo provided a more straight forward situation, with both horses trained by owner Colin Berkett.