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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.



On a Sunday morning in August, 1878, a race was held, for a bet of £20, Gladstone Road between R. Thelwall on a stock horse and C. E. Major (later M.H.R. for Hawera) on foot over 100 yards. Major, who received 20 yards start, won by 10 yards. It required all Therwall's strength to prevent the horse from carrying him on into the Turanganui River. “There were many beer-thirsty mortals to witness the contest, even although the hour was early,” Mr. Major said in a letter to W. L. Rutledge (14/1/1943), “and all adjourned to the Masonic Hotel bar to drink my health.”

Shopkeepers did a roaring trade in gauze for men, as well as for women and children, on dusty race days in Early Gisborne. Describing conditions on the occasion of the Turf Club's meeting in January, 1884, the Telephone remarked: “Even for those who veiled themselves heavily, the ride out to the course was most unpleasant. Heads were enveloped in networks of various colours, and it was scarcely possible to distinguish one's dearest friends.”

A “tote,” borrowed from an Auckland resident named Adams, was used at one of the early Turf Club meetings. It was 5 feet long an1 3 feet high, and was manipulated by a handle. The club was prepared to buy it, but a letter to the owner was returned marked “Addressee Unknown.” Eventually the machine was sold, and the proceeds handed to the Hospital Fund. W. Stock, of Napier, operated a portable “tote” at the meeting in February, 1882, and the investments totalled £349. In the 1890's a small machine went the rounds of the country meetings. The natives at Anaura were content to use a blackboard.

An exciting finish occurred at the Gisborne Racing Club's meeting on 10 July, 1903. page 435 Five horses finished practically in a line. The judge (Captain Tucker) ruled that Ia had been the first to get its nose over the line, but he confessed that he could not sort out the others in their proper order. The stewards decided that Hiki and Mongonui had tied for second place.

Dividends on four horses had to be paid out on the Maiden Scurry at the Gisborne Racing Club's February meeting in 1991. Thel judge (W. G. Sherratt) was unable to separate three horses which finished next after the winner.

A very profitable meeting for Poverty Bay Turf followers was the Grand National fixture at Riccarton in August, 1910. The “double” was won by two district-bred and owned horses. C. Morse's Te Arai (Monaca-Frolic) bred by John Clark, and sold by him for £26, won the Steeples (3½ miles) with 11 st. 9 1b. up in 7 min. 15 1–5 sees., and G. B. Oman's Paisano (Strowan-Booby), bred by J. Robson and part-owned by D. J. Barry, won the Hurdles (about 2 miles) with 12 st. 1 1b. up in 3 min. 46 3–5 secs. Faugh a Ballagh, which won the Steeples in 1887, had, earlier, been a station hack in Poverty Bay. Donald McKinnon, “a bag of bones,” which H. Glover, of Tolaga Bay, bought for £30, was the winner in 1895. G. B. Oman was successful in the Hurdles with Medallius in 1904. In 1911 J. A. Lucas's Continuance was the victor. The winner in 1915 was F. J. Lysnar's Hurakia. In 1945 H. H. Dod's Master Meruit, with 10 st. up, won the Steeples by 10 lengths in 7 min. 10 secs.

The horse that has brought most fame to Poverty Bay is E. Fitzgerald's Kindergarten, the bay son of Kincardine and Valadore. In his 34 races he had 25 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds and earned £16,000. As a three-year-old he won the Wellington Cup (1½ miles) effortlessly, carrying 6 1b. above w.f.a., against a field which included Royal Chief, Old Bill, Catalogue, The Buzzer, Gladynev, Belle Cane, Serenata and Orelio—horses among which were ultimate winners of three Winter Cups, a Melbourne Cup and the Auckland, Wellington and New Zealand Cups. He was a dual winner of the Easter Handicap (1941–42), on the second occasion with the record steadier of 10 st. 3 lb. As a five-year-old he won the Auckland Cup in the greatest race in its history. With the highest weight ever imposed (10 st. 2 1bs.), he romped home with five lengths to spare—the largest stretch of daylight that has ever separated the winner of the race from the second horse—in the record time of 3 min. 22 secs. Upon retiring in 1947 (after holding, for 30 years, the position of handicapper to the Auckland Racing Club) F. J. McManemin averred that, if Carbine, Phar Lap and Kindergarten could have met, “they would have had to be sent off at level weights, and no one would have been able to foretell the result.”

As a four-year-old Golden Souvenir (Lang Bian-Valadore), also bred and owned by E. Fitzgerald, had a phenomenal season in 1945–46. At Riccarton he scored a brilliant victory in the New Zealand Cup, won the Churchill Cup on the second day, and, on the third day, was beaten in the Canterbury Cup by only half a head. Over the season he won the then record total of £10,545.