The 1973 Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup stake was consolidated at $2,500.00, in addition to a donated stallion service courtesy of Nevele Romeo, flagship entire for the recently established Nevele R Stud Ltd. There were also other trophies on offer, including the usual mile rate incentive for winning connections. Today’s race distance, expressed in metric terms for the first time was 2,800 metres.
In his preview of this contest Christchurch Star reporter D.A. (Dave) Cannan pondered “Would it be Bachelor Tom or Edis Nova?” After consideration, he selected the 1967 son of Bachelor Hanover, primarily due to his proven barrier manners. Bachelor Tom was from Whirlwind, a handy mare with sought after Southland origins and successful in both gaits for owner J.L. (Jim) Ferguson.
Bred by Ferguson, Bachelor Tom was proving one of the most consistent trotters in commission, securing four victories from his last six starts. His Tinwald trainer recalled just one occasion when he had galloped at the start “and that was after being knocked over.” He received no luck at Addington in his first outing since resuming, when checked with 800 metres remaining before recovering to finish sixth. The slight injury sustained on that occasion kept Bachelor Tom at home until a winning resumption in September’s Ordeal Trotting Cup, where he proved too good for Fri, Honest John and Bambi.
There was no doubting the ability or courage of former star juvenile Edis Nova, an Ellesmere trained mare by Tuft. Trainer F.L. (Freeman) Holmes selected the Banks Peninsula Cup to be her season’s first South Island start, after she delivered three strong performances at Cambridge and Auckland. Those September outings included close up second placings behind Easton Light and Butch Cassidy respectively. Even though her fitness will have profited from those races, she still faced a daunting prospect when confronting this field of experienced grass track stayers. Winner of nine races, including last season’s New Zealand Trotting Stakes for 3yo’s, following a two mile victory at Alexandra Park; Edis Nova was the first 4yo to make an appearance in Banks Peninsula’s feature contest.
Marius, an enigmatic 10yo gelding by Morano, had the benefit of race starts at Addington and Ashburton to fit him for this encounter. Last season’s comfortable winner from the front line would have a 25 metre handicap to overcome this year. First up at Addington he may well have been headed towards victory in the Ordeal Trotting Cup, before switching into a pace when leading turning for home. Preparation of his title defence continued last week on the Ashburton grass, where although unplaced in a capacity field, he trotted home very strongly from 60 metres behind.
Mighty Dollar and Bambi were both boasting consistent form lines, featuring several placed runs throughout the spring. Last year’s runner up Mighty Dollar appeared unlucky not to have won at least once this season, and would enjoy a return to the grass after his four Addington engagements. Bambi, whose first race experience in 1967 was Waimate’s 2yo pacing feature, the New Zealand Golden Slipper Stakes, would again be driven by Timaru reinsman Geordie Shand. Backmarker Philemon was considered a solid chance from 30 metres after his resuming run at Addington from the same mark. After being slow away on that occasion, he was forced over much extra ground turning for home, but still ran right to the line when finishing sixth. Trained by Oamaru butcher G.R. (George) Taverner, Philemon was another who had commenced his career as a pacer.
Two Mid Canterbury geldings by Light Brigade also warranted punter scrutiny. Consistent 9yo Fri, trained at Hinds by W.E. (Ted) Lowe, was drawn alone on 15 metres. A splendid second placing behind Bachelor Tom in the Ordeal Trotting Cup endorsed Fri’s earlier performances at Addington’s National Meeting. Scoring first up in August, he accounted for Tunza Time, Mighty Dollar and Bambi before finishing fourth behind those same horses a week later.
12yo Great Applause, appropriately driven by veteran Maurice Holmes, had been lightly raced by Tinwald trainer H.S. (Hector) Donaldson after a delayed onset to his career. Great Applause had demonstrated he was most comfortable on grass when securing a treble of wins, following his debut third at the two day Westport Meeting in 1968. Initially prepared by Harewood trainer A.R. (Alan) McKenzie, Great Applause’s performance by recording those three wins following a third from four starts in just over forty eight hours, is unheralded by today’s standards.
Ironically, half hoppled Bachelor Tom gave ground after stumbling when Ron Carter dispatched the field, while Mighty Forbes and Mighty Chief both extinguished their prospects by breaking badly. Marius was another to make an early mistake before consequently settling at the rear. Mighty Dollar was first into stride, with Scottish Cavallier in the trail and Great Applause outside him. Edis Nova settled prominently on the rails, inside Able Adios who was driven by his Ashburton trainer D.G. (Doug) McCormick. Great Applause then took over before Philemon improved and applied sustained pressure, assuming control for J. G. (Gavin) Hampton with a round to go. Marius followed Aronmot driven by Jack Carmichael, as both improved three wide with 1,000 metres to run. Bachelor Tom followed suit to issue a claim further out turning for home. Edis Nova was pushed right back, becoming awkwardly placed as others improved around her.
Shortly after straightening up, Freeman Holmes worked his mare into the clear where she displayed sustained speed to win narrowly from a gallant Marius. Mighty Dollar benefited from an economical run throughout to finish half a head behind Marius in third place. Bachelor Tom kept coming further out after his early mistake finishing fourth outside of Edis Nova, only a nose away from third money. Philemon was next home, directly in front of a slightly unlucky Fri, who failed to secure an opening after improving along the rail for stable reinsman G.A. (George) Adamson. Almost all runners featured in the finishing photo, with exceptions being Mighty Chief and Mighty Forbes who both tailed off after their initial indiscretions.
Edis Nova was bred by Mr. L.O. (Les) Wheeler who raced the mare in partnership with Freeman Holmes. Out of Wavering Downs, Edis Nova was the most prolific winner from her extended family. Dreaming a half sister to Wavering Downs by Vagus, also attained an open class assessment, with her most notable victory being achieved in the J. Rowe Memorial Cup of 1964. Wordsmiths will note that Edis Nova is the reverse spelling of Avonside.
It is appropriate to make mention of the grand campaigner Mighty Chief, known by connections as “Tiny”. A son of imported stallion My Chief, Mighty Chief was the first foal from race winning mare Gala Girl; bred by North Otago horseman F.P. (Frank) Oliver. The bay colt was later purchased at auction and conditioned by Greenpark trainer Leicester Clark. Gala Girl proved a matron of exceptional quality and was deservedly named New Zealand Broodmare of the Year 1969/1970. Mighty Chief displayed plenty of ability after being gelded, progressing rapidly through the intermediate grades during his 3yo season. After concluding his 4yo season and undergoing an eight month break, 5yo Mighty Chief was produced fresh in October 1965 to complete the first of three consecutive Banks Peninsula Cup starts. He tangled badly after about a furlong, prior to circling the field wide out and then going clear. After that massive effort he finally succumbed to wonderful mare When, being beaten by a head.
Tronso had the same winning margin twelve months later when Mighty Chief again produced a run of the race performance, after being hampered early. In 1967 he started second favourite from 42 yards behind and again displayed real character when making up a lot of ground after another early mistake. Following these efforts he was not sighted in the race until 1972, and then again this year. He endured injury, form issues, and in 1971 a family wedding kept him at home when trained by Trevor Mounce. It epitomises Mighty Chief’s tenacity that he was still competing aged 13, in the Cup’s ninth running, after being narrowly beaten by When almost a decade earlier. Once again he returned a place dividend in 1973, this time courtesy of his totalisator bracket with Mighty Dollar.
Of some note is that the first two home, Edis Nova and Marius together with Mighty Forbes were all products of Meadow Chief mares. An imported chestnut, Meadow Chief was predominantly acknowledged as being the sire of some very capable pacers; incidentally, his dual gaited son Field Chief was another trotter who lined up in the inaugural Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup.