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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)

The Racehorse As A Sound Investment. — New Zealand as a World Leader in the Blood Stock Industry

page 32

The Racehorse As A Sound Investment.
New Zealand as a World Leader in the Blood Stock Industry.

New zealand is better furnished with luxurious racecourses than any part of the world. We have more race meetings than any other million and a-half people on earth. In our good times, there was a year in which we gave as much in racing stakes as the whole of the British Isles. New Zealanders “talk horse” with more persistence, and with more knowledge than the ancient Arabs. Nearly every town, down to hamlets of under a thousand folk, has a racecourse, of whose ornamental gardens, running track, and splendid appointments everyone is proud. A map of New Zealand could be annotated by Bruce Lowe, the statistical genius of equine genealogy, and it would be a well filled, closely-dotted chart of nearly all the winning families of the world. One saintly cleric once sadly remarked that the New Zealand boy “hard put to it to remember six of the apostles, could enumerate glibly, the last twelve winners of the New Zealand Cup.”

It is possible that we are overdoing this branch of sport and that we are taxing our strength with too rich a mixture of the Sport of Kings. There is a section of the community who would like to confine gambling to holding sections for a rise, the buying forward of potatoes or barley, or the trafficking in sheep, gold shares, bank stock or corners in raisins and carbon paper. Some of these folks look askance on the man who risks his pound on a race-day, and some of them feel that this sort of holiday-making is wicked economic waste. Of course, there is no optimist so ludicrous as the student of form who works out on paper the profit he expects to make from following a horse he has never seen in the Waikikamukau All-aged Stakes.

As usual, neither case contains the whole story. There is one sound and inescapable conclusion. There is an iron-clad case for the encouragement of horse racing in New Zealand, for it is the foundation of horse breeding. The thoroughbred horse can be made into a very important export article, capable of materially adding to our primary production figures.

It is a fact, that, next to England, New Zealand has proved to be the best country in the world for the growing and furnishing of equine blood-stock. This is what that remarkable genius and enthusiast, Mr. C. Elliott (who produced the first New Zealand Stud Book) said away back in 1862:—

“The climate of these islands is unquestionably more favourable to the rearing of horses than that of Great Britain.”

That was good prophecy, for a few
Picturesque Lake lanthe, South Island, New Zealand.(Rly. Publicity photo.)

Picturesque Lake lanthe, South Island, New Zealand.(Rly. Publicity photo.)

years later New Zealand was to make history in this regard.

With the exception of a case or two from France, all the countries of the world have to go back to England at regular intervals to replenish their leading strains. It remained for New Zealand to turn the traffic the other way, and to send back to the Mother Country a horse to re-vitalise and supply a virile ingredient in its winning families. Carbine, born in Auckland, founded in England, an outstanding branch whose influence is still one of the dominating features of British thoroughbred tables. Musket, the sire of Carbine, had no less than forty-two recorded foals, practically all of whom were to leave their mark on racing history in Australia and New Zealand. Sir Modred, by our famous Traducer, from a wonderful mare, Idalia, headed page 33the winning sires’ list in the United States.

Phar Lap was possibly the best horse on the earth's surface in the last part of his career.

We have established a definite ascendancy in the big Australian classics over the locally bred horses, and in spite of distance and a relatively small numerical representation, New Zealand-bred contestants take an inordinate share of the rich prizes given across the Tasman. At our yearling sales, Australian buyers vie with each other with apparently bottomless purses to buy our best. Yet always there remain behind redoubtable youngsters who eventually go across and beat their expensive brethren.

Now one may say quickly that this is all due to the fact that the land of New Zealand is simply England, with the advantages of less weather extremes, and a generally milder climate. That is part of the truth, but it does not explain all the phenomena.

The real foundation of our leadership is the foresight and horse wisdom of many of our first settlers. Being what they were, a picked cross-section of Britishers, they naturally contained their proper quota of horse lovers. They imported on wise lines. They mated with skill and wisdom. They followed the old maxim:—

“Let your mares come of running blood, and take care to cross them correctly.”

(From the first N.Z. Stud Book).

They kept in touch with all developments in the land they had loved and left regarding the improvement of the thoroughbred horse. They carefull watched the Australian importations. They followed each Derby and each St. Leger. They had a partiality for staying blood while the tendency in Australia's fast-growing cities was to like early speed.

Strangely enough, it was Nelson that seemed to be the beginning of things. Everyone has heard of Henry Redwood and of Flora Mclvor, but few people know that importations were continuously being made by stud enthusiasts in Wellington and Nelson from the ‘fifties onwards.

Then at Christchurch and Auckland, there lived men who believed with fervour in the possibilities of our country as a home for the thoroughbred horse.

I shall have to expand this story in a later article, but it is amazing to watch, in the records, the rapid growth of the aristocratic army of equines in North and South. The Clifford family were to the fore in the misty dawn of the great racing game. Sir George Clifford did not only conceive and carry to full fruition our unique institution, our “Racing Parliament,” and the “Racing Conference.” (This stands alone in the world's annals as a democratic assembly in which every club has a voice). He was also almost omniscient about breeding, and to his immense detailed knowledge, the superlative correctness of our records is mainly due. Later came G. G. Stead whose Martagon horse, Martian, has left us with one of the greatest maternal lines in history.

In Auckland, the late Mr. Morrin and others were responsible for the importation of a row of impressive sires, headed by the mighty Musket.

Since then, our decentralisation has got in its good work. All the provinces of the Dominion have contributed to this achievement, from Sir George
(Courtesy, Great Western Railway). Interesting methods of overcoming the “cold feet” difficulty before the introduction of foot warmers.

(Courtesy, Great Western Railway).
Interesting methods of overcoming the “cold feet” difficulty before the introduction of foot warmers.

McLean's Mistral, in 1899, to Mr. G. P. Donnelly's Gold Reef, whose stoutlegged mares were to contribute to the success of Demosthenes when he arrived later.

Briefly we have in New Zealand now, through the foresight and long vision of our forbears, a collection of maternal sire lines, a vast reservoir of aristocratic matrons, which is beyond rivalry.

They are the product of time, tireless industry in selection, priceless skill in their care, endless expert knowledge in their mating, and they live under conditions which have no equal in the world for the production of peerless progeny.

We have a future here and it should be cherished and cultivated.

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