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WESTPORT TROTTING CLUB HISTORY

















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HOTEL REEFTON
In the early 1950s W. (Bill) A. Craddock purchased two fillies out of a mare called Whispering Grass. He had little idea that some 60 years later their progeny would still have an influence on the New Zealand Racing scene. The horses were named St. Mary and Marie Scott.

The three time West Coast Horse of the Year Jason Rulz (owned by Richard Dellaca, Jason Yang and Greg & Nina Hope) is by Rule Zona, a daughter of May Rule, out of Ima Rule out of Golden Rule who was a daughter of Envy. Envy was Marie Scott's first foal. Golden Rule became the foundation mare for the Reedy family with her progeny winning races in New Zealand, Australia and America.

However it was Marie Scott's second foal that was to transform racing in the Buller and become the greatest born and bred horse to come out of the district. Marie St. John Craddock, Bill's wife was the registered breeder of a chestnut colt, with a distinctive white nose named Durban Chief, sired by a son of the Springfield Globe pacer Springbok. He spent his first couple of years on the Reedy farm up the Nine Mile before he was leased by Bert Woodcock and Eddie Walsh. Clem Woodcock, Bert's brother broke the horse in and Bert took over the training. He didn't show much to begin with when tried as a pacer but an astute horseman in Claude Walsh suggested that he be tried as a trotter. Keith Powell was in the cart when he ran third at the 1956 Nelson Meeting. Bill Walsh became his regular driver and he ran second in the 1956 NZ Trotting Stakes before winning his first race in the Otira Handicap at Greymouth.

He had two wins at three and four at four. After winning the Auckland Royal Oak Handicap as an early five-year-old he tackled the 1957 Dominion Handicap when Recruit, who finished first from 84 yards in 4:16, was relegated for breaking near the end, Durban Chief was awarded the race. Among his three other victories that term was the Steward's Handicap at Addington at Easter, in which he clocked a New Zealand winning record for a mile and a quarter of 2:38 3/5.

It was about this time that the right of purchase part of the lease was exercised and the official registered owners were now Moyna Collins, Eddie Walsh and Bert Woodcock.

The following season, Durban Chief won the Dominion Handicap in his own right, from a handicap of 36 yards, by nine lengths in 4:17 3/5, and also the New Zealand Free-for all and Greyhound Handicap. In his only defeat at the carnival, Serenelli, with 12 yards start, beat him into second in the Worthy Queen.

Leased by Noel Simpson and American owner Adolph Golden, Durban Chief, from Eddie Cobb's stable, won first up in the United States and had five consecutive firsts. He compiled a wonderful record, winning 14 races in New Zealand and another 32 in America.


The driver in most of his work and New Zealand races was Billy Walsh. In 2009 he was interviewed by Dave McCarthy from the "Press"

Durban Chief. He was a bit of a cult horse in his time. How did you become associated with him?
He was bred by Mrs Bill Craddock (wife of the West Coast cartage operator) and Bert Woodcock trained him. There were quite a few people with an interest in him. He was leased originally and then bought. I drove him in a lot of his work but it was dad who really set him on the road to fame.

How?
They were trying to get him to pace and he was proving a bit of a handful. Dad watched him one day and said he thought the horse was wanting to trot and they should try him at that.

He won two Dominion Handicaps. Did one stand out ahead of the other?
Well, he got the first one on a protest. Recruit was first past the post but he was in a gallop and was relegated to third. I think they put him up to second on appeal.

The second Dominion?
It sounds like a skite, but it was easy. He was off 36 yards and everything went to plan. I think he won by eight lengths. He should have gone through unbeaten on all four days. He won three and ran second in the Worthy Queen Handicap and he should have won that. It was my fault. He set some great records too. Dictation held all the records then but Durban Chief matched them.

What became of him?
Noel Simpson leased him and he went to America. Before that I took him to Auckland and he won a race there leading up to the Rowe Cup. He won 32 races in America. He was the first New Zealand trotter to run in an International Series up there and measured up to the good ones. When he retired he used to pull a gig for an old couple who looked after him. He deserved it. He was a lovely old horse.

Easy to drive?
The thing with Durban Chief was that he never wanted to do anything wrong on or off the track. He was great to do anything with around the stable and once he was trotting right he was super smooth, no putting in short or long ones or doing something funny. He just wanted to do it right. In a 2600m race at Addington he would take a while to get fluent. Maybe by the time he got to the showgrounds bend he was right and that would be that. He had a wonderful sprint at the end of his races. The day he won the Dominion he just ran away from them and they were pretty good trotters about then. You could only wish they were all like him.


Credit: David McCarthy writing in The Press 5 & 12Dec2009


Marie Scott also left Martial Marie and she made her mark in the matron's paddock leaving Life Member (Westport Cup), True Buller and Street Charmer and others. St. Mary left Our Mary and Wheels. Wheels in turn left Miss Honour, Sprightly Lass and His Honour. Sprightly Lass was raced by Anne and Bill Blythe and she left Crystal Lass, Crystal King, Crystal Knight and Crystal Prince. St Mary also left Honest Lil who left Miss Tobias and Adios Rose. Adios Rose had ten foals with the best performed being Uncle Alex (4 wins) and Honest Rose.


The breed continues to this day with a newly born colt, to be named Benhope Rulz, ready to extend the family record in a season or two. His breeding, Courage Under Fire by Victoria Rulz out of Rule Zona out of May Rule out of Ima Rule out of Golden Rule out of Envy out of Marie Scott. He is a three quarter brother to Jason Rulz. Watch this space!
W A Craddock