Legendary Sires Join Hall Of Fame
Tuesday, 04 March 2008
Seven legendary horses were tonight inducted into the NZ Bloodstock NZ Racing Hall Of Fame. Sir Tristram (pictured) and Foxbridge, two sires who are influential breeding greats, were recognised at the second Hall Of Fame dinner at Ellerslie. The globetrotting Balmerino was also added to the list along with Mainbrace, Rising Fast, Desert Gold and Tulloch, a Kiwi whose racing was confined to Australian racetracks.

There's a premiership-winning sire every year, but breed-shaping stallions come along only a handful of times in a century. After Foxbridge in the 1940s, Pakistan II looked like being the next and might have been, had he lived longer. It wasn't until 1976 that the next great breed-shaper did arrive. Sir Tristram -- a stallion who broke all important records bar one as a sire, including Northern Dancer's world record for Group One winners; whose daughters proved highly successful broodmares and whose sons carried on the dynasty with emphatic success at stud. Sir Tristram's initial reception in New Zealand was unenthusiastic and would have been less so had it not been for the credibility rating of the man who imported him -- Patrick (later Sir Patrick) Hogan. Hogan certainly backed his own faith in the big, plain, bad-tempered bay stallion, putting his best mares to him. Once Sir Tristram's first progeny turned three they were away and so was their sire. Soon the stallion who initially stood at less than $2000 had the book full sign up and shares, if you could get them, were changing hands at six figures. The Australasian breeding scene had changed since Foxbridge's day, when New Zealand horses didn't often cross the Tasman and Australian buyers were not a great force at the New Zealand sales. That changed from the 1950s on, with Tommy Smith spearheading the Australian presence at ringside. By the time Sir Tristram came along, commercial breeders were targeting the Australian market, with Hogan at the forefront. Foxbridge's record of 11 successive New Zealand titles was the one record Sir Tristram did not beat, or even approach. Remarkably, Sir Tristram won only one New Zealand sires' premiership, in 1986-87. But what he did accomplish in Australia was even more remarkable. From Sir Tristram's first crop came Sovereign Red, winner of the Victoria and Australian Derbys, and from the next crop, his full-brother Gurner's Lane, who won the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double. By the time a wide cross-section of the racing fraternity celebrated Sir Tristram's 25th birthday at a Cambridge Stud gathering in 1996, Sir Tristram had won six Australian sires' championships - extraordinary for a New Zealand-based stallion  - and had been champion on the combined Australian-New Zealand progeny earnings list (the Dewar Award) nine times. His 41 Group One winners had edged him past Northern Dancer's world record and his tally of stakeswinners moved from 114 to 116 the day after his birthday party. And his greatest sire son, Zabeel, was established at Cambridge Stud as his father's successor. Grosvenor, Kaapstad, Marauding, Military Plume and Sovereign Red have been other successful sire sons of the great Sir Ivor stallion. Sir Tristram survived his 25th birthday by less than a year, having to be euthanised after a paddock accident in May 1997. He is buried, with an appropriate memorial, at Cambridge Stud, his home for 21 years. 

By All Black from Aurarius, Desert Gold was trained by Fred Davis for Mr T.H. (Tom) Lowry, the first of three Tom Lowrys to be the squire of Okawa Stud in the Hawke's Bay. Just as Gloaming's sequence of 19 would have been much longer but for an unexpected defeat, Desert Gold's streak would have been 22 but for a close second at weight-for-age against the older horses at her second-last start as a two-year-old. She won her final start that season then proceeded through her three-year-old season unbeaten in 14 starts. As a four-year-old Desert Gold took her sequence through to 19 with weight-for-age wins at Trentham, Ellerslie and Riccarton. At five she was still the weight-for-age queen - she won the Awapuni Gold Cup at three, four and five years - and she made several trips to Australia where, during those First World War years, she was tremendously popular through her owner donating her winnings to the War Relief Fund. At six years of age, coming to the end of her wonderful career, Desert Gold had three virtual match races on the then-strong Taranaki circuit with the rising young star Gloaming. She beat him in the first, but Gloaming had got tangled in the tapes at the start. Gloaming won the next "match" but this time Desert Gold lost lengths when her half-brother Croesus fell in front of her. Finally the decider, the Hawera Stakes and with no excuses either way this time, the three-year-old Gloaming was too good for the mare. Desert Gold was retired after a few more starts (which included an easy win in the Manawatu Stakes). She was highly popular with the public to the end.

Balmerino is remembered for a pioneering odyssey which brought the New Zealand thoroughbred to the world stage. Less remembered is what a good galloper he proved in New Zealand and Australia before setting out on his world travels. Bred and raced by Waikato dairy farmer Ralph Stuart, who had bred very successfully from the family previously, Balmerino was by Trictrac from the grand broodmare Dulcie. Stuart usually sold his colts; the elderly farmer was persuaded by brash young trainer Brian Smith to keep Balmerino after Smith won five races with older half-sister Mia Bella to keep the ledger in the black. Balmerino was the outstanding three-year-old of 1975-76, proving not only his class but his strength through a campaign that began in the spring and ended in the Queensland winter. That campaign embraced 18 starts and netted 14 wins and three seconds. That resilience stood to Balmerino when, after a four-year-old season which nevertheless provided wins in the Air New Zealand Stakes, Awapuni Gold Cup, Sydney Autumn Stakes and Hastings Ormond Memorial, he headed for Europe. Stopping off on the way in California, where he notched a win despite missing his main target, he won the Valdoe Stakes at Goodwood first-up in England and on that light preparation he ran a rather unlucky second in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe to the very good three-year-old Alleged (who won the Arc again the following year). Balmerino then went to Italy, where he finished first in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club but was relegated to second. Allowing that as at least a moral victory, Balmerino had now won in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, England, Italy and finished a luckless second in France's most prestigious race.As a six-year-old stallion Balmerino had one more campaign and, though he'd lost some of his zest for racing, he still managed a win in the Clive Graham Stakes at Goodwood and seconds in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. He returned home to stand at Middlepark Stud, Cambridge, and sired some quality gallopers despite suffering the quick abandonment by breeders that was the lot of  "colonial-bred" stallions at that time. 

 Waikato was something of a breeding backwater back in the 1930s when Seton Otway decided to broaden his breeding interests by standing a stallion or two. His former dairy farm became Trelawney Stud and in 1935 he imported a stallion named Foxbridge who not only set Trelawney Stud on the path to fame but almost single-handedly turned the Waikato region's previously modest status around. Foxmond, a two-year-old filly, became Foxbridge's first winner when scoring at Te Rapa in November 1938. The following season Foxbridge was sixth on the NZ Sires' Premiership and with his third crop, in 1940-41, he was clearly on top. It was a position he was to hold for the entire decade -- for 11 consecutive seasons in fact - and that's a degree of dominance no other stallion in New Zealand's history has been able to match. Because of World War II, very few of Foxbridge's progeny raced in Australia, but their earnings at the time of his death was a British Empire record. The progeny of Foxbridge were incredibly versatile. He had two-year-old winners, two-mile stayers and everything in between. He had firm-trackers, wet-trackers and everything in between. His daughters were greatly prized and most successful as broodmares while several sons, with limited opportunities, made a worthwhile contribution as sires. Cup Day at Ellerslie on Boxing Day of 1944 illustrated Foxbridge's dominance of the era and the great range of his stock's talent. On an eight-race card, his progeny won the two two-year-old races , two one-mile (1600m) races, the Queen's Plate (Hormuz) and Christmas Handicap (Exeter); the six-furlong Railway Handicap (Neenah) and the two-mile Auckland Cup (Foxwyn). 

The New Zealand record-winning sequence of 19, shared jointly by Desert Gold and Gloaming, has survived from the 1920s through into the 21st Century. It came under its greatest threat from a chestnut colt named Mainbrace at the end of the 1940s. By Admiral's Luck, who sadly died after only four seasons at stud, from Maneroo, Mainbrace was raced in partnership by his dam's owner, Dr Thomas Fraser, and Bob Nolan, who handled her matings. Beaten in his debut, Mainbrace won his next six starts as a two-year-old. Not fully wound up for his three-year-old debut, Mainbrace was beaten by The Unicorn in a sprint at Avondale before turning the tables in the Avondale Guineas. And that sprint defeat proved significant. Mainbrace won his next 15 starts as a three-year-old, all the classics included (except the New Zealand Derby at Riccarton which, in his absence, The Unicorn won), and his first two starts as a four-year-old. Then, with a winning sequence of 17 and the Desert Gold-Gloaming record at his mercy, he became so cramped and awkward in his action he had to be retired. Only after his death, following a pretty neglected stud career, did an autopsy reveal the all but blocked hind-leg artery which had restricted the flow of blood. Had Mainbrace not run second in that first three-year-old outing, he would have won 24 on end. He won from six furlongs (1200m) to the St Leger mile and three-quarters (2800m). The remarkable thing was that he was seldom even given a contest. If a three-year-old is markedly superior to his age group one might suspect it was a moderate crop (though Mainbrace's early adversary The Unicorn was no moderate). But Mainbrace was just as superior to the older horses he regularly beat at weight-for-age. His winning margins in his last five starts as a three-year-old totalled 23 ¾ lengths. On consecutive days, he won the Great Northern St Leger, at a mile and three-quarters, then the seven-furlong wfa Great Northern Challenge Stakes - by six lengths! Mainbrace and his young rider Grenville Hughes were pop stars to a generation of racegoers.

In the inaugural series of Hall of Fame inductees, two thoroughbreds who raced almost entirely outside their country of birth made the list. Carbine, who raced in New Zealand only as an unbeaten two-year-old and achieved fame across the Tasman, and Phar Lap, who was sold at Trentham as a yearling and never raced in his homeland, were champions of such quality that it was felt they deserved to be honoured by the country where they were bred, born and raised. One other New Zealand-bred horse, in the opinion of the HOF Historical Committee, also merits that special recognition. Tulloch, the swampy-backed little colt who attracted the attention of top Sydney trainer Tommy Smith - and not many others - at the 1956 Trentham yearling sale, had that extra dimension, that near-freakish ability, which stamps the handful of greats. He won 36 of his 53 starts, was only once out of the money and set a then Australasian stake-earning record of 108,293 pounds, a record for 11 years. Yet he lost nearly two years of his career - his four- and five-year-old seasons when he should have been at his prime - through a debilitating and recurrent stomach illness which nearly killed him. He was a star at two years, his defeat of the Victorian champion Todman in what was virtually a match race, the AJC Sires' Produce Stakes, a sensation. Todman, winner of the inaugural Golden Slipper, turned the tables at a shorter distance a week later but they never met again, Todman breaking down as a three-year-old. Meanwhile Tulloch made non-stop headlines through the first half of his three-year-old season, not only for the quality of his form (his wins in the AJC Derby, Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Cup were all stunning performances) but for his highly controversial scratching from the Melbourne Cup. Tommy Smith rated the colt a Melbourne Cup certainty but was unable to persuade his sick and elderly owner, Evelyn Haley, to start him after a media campaign, spearheaded by the Ezra Norton-owned newspapers, against the "cruelty" of running a three-year-old in the two-mile Cup. In Tulloch's absence, Straight Draw won the 1957 Melbourne Cup. Who owned him? Newspaper tycoon Ezra Norton. Who ran second to Straight Draw, beaten only a neck? The three-year-old Prince Darius, whom Tulloch beat by eight lengths in the VRC Derby and, in the autumn, by 20 lengths in the AJC St Leger. Robbed of his four-year-old season by the recurring gastroenteritis, Tulloch resumed in the autumn as a five-year-old and won each of his five comeback starts. The first of these involved a hard-slugging stretch-long duel with Victorian weight-for-age star Lord which Tulloch won by a short head. Not bad for a horse considered by most to never quite regain, after that long illness, the height of his three-year-old powers. Tulloch wound up his career in Queensland, where he won the O'Shea Stakes and Brisbane Cup and was given an emotional farewell by a 33,000-strong Brisbane crowd.

Controversy was to haunt Rising Fast for much of his career yet this son of Alonzo and Faster was undoubtedly one of the best stayers and middle-distance gallopers that ever graced the Australasian turf. Bought at a Trentham sale by a Whakatane accountant, Leicester Spring, Rising Fast was put with Cambridge trainer Jack Winder. After a quiet three-year-old season which yielded four wins and a couple of placings from eight starts, he was set as a four-year-old for the Royal Auckland Cup of 1953. Then trainer, jockey and indeed the horse were put out after he was allegedly not ridden on his merits in the Te Awamutu Cup. Though the horse was reinstated on appeal, he never raced in New Zealand again. Trained now by Ivan Tucker, Rising Fast was set for the 1954 Melbourne Cup. He won three of five lead-up races in Melbourne, then successively won the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, MacKinnon Stakes and, under 9st 5lb (59.5kg), the Melbourne Cup. For good measure, on the final day at Flemington, he added the C.B.Fisher Plate to his tally. The hoodoo struck again when Rising Fast returned home and Ivan Tucker was suspended after one of his team returned a positive test. Rising Fast was sent to Melbourne trainer Fred Hoysted. His lead-up form in the spring of 1955 wasn't as good as the previous year until he charged to victory under 9st 10lb (61.5kg) in the Caulfield Cup. Rising Fast was an odds-on favourite to complete the never-achieved "double-double" - two Caulfield Cups and two Melbourne Cups. He struck all the interference going in a rough-house Melbourne Cup and still went under by only three-quarters of a length to Toporoa, carrying 34lb less. Toporoa's rider, Neville Sellwood, was afterwards suspended for two months for failing to prevent Toporoa boring out on the champion. Rising Fast tried the Melbourne Cup one more time, the following year, and ran a valiant fifth under 10st 2lb (64.5kg).