Southern Bred Southern Reared Pacing Legends-Bonnie’s Chance

Southern Bred Southern Reared

Pacing Legends-Bonnie’s Chance

In this series sponsored by Southern Bred Southern Reared, Bruce Stewart looks back on some of the great racing stock that’s come out of the Southern region.

Whilst last year he profiled horses from the south that have become millionaires, this series is about other pacers and trotters that that were bred, reared and raced for part of career in Southland, and made an impact in the Harness Racing industry.

Bonnie’s Chance:

Age: 1975 Bay mare Majestic Chance – Bonnie Countess (Aksarken)

Breeder: Mrs. V B McGarry

Owners: Bonny McGarry and Karen Grice

Trainers: Alex Black, Trevor Thompson, Bill Kyle and Richard Brosnan.

The Bonnie’s Chance story began when sisters Bonnie McGarry, of Timaru, and Karen Grice, of Invercargill paid $1,000 for Bonnies Countess.

Her first foal Fashion Countess raced once and Bonnie’s Chance was her second foal.

Bonnie’s Chance was broken in and educated by Harry Swain and Gary McEwan.

Initially trained by Alex Black at Oreti Beach near Invercargill, Bonnie’s Chance won her first start by five lengths at Invercargill in December 1978 when driven by Curly Thomas.

Included in the beaten brigade that day were some handy horses that ended up going through the grades. They including Johnny Mac (7 career wins), Historic Moment (7 career wins), Lincmac (9 career wins) Mark Anthony (6) and Really Sly (5).

A month later, after her second win at Invercargill the mare’s form dropped away and although both Derek Dynes and Trevor Thompson tried to get her career back on track, they were without success.

Winton trainer Bill Kyle subsequently took her on, and he managed to turn her back in a winning direction. He won six races with Bonnie’s Chance before she won her way out the Southland classes and was transferred to Kerrytown trainer Richard Brosnan.

Their first win together came in the 1981 Canterbury Park New Year Free-for-all when she beat another Southerner Sapling, running the mile in 1-58.7.

That win became a sequence of four wins and a handful of records.

At the Wellington Cup meeting, Brosnan reined Bonnie’s Chance to a national mare’s record 2-33.6 for 2000 metres from a stand on the first night, and then to a six-length win over Trevira in the Wellington Cup – another record for a mare, 3-06.6 for 2400 metres from a stand.

Her next win was at Forbury Park in January when she easily beat Lord Module and Sapling in a 2700-metre mobile free-for-all. Following that it was onto the opening night of the Auckland Cup Carnival where she met Delightful Lady for the first time. Bonnie’s Chance won by three lengths in a national mare’s record of 2-48 for 2200 metres from a stand.

Sent out second favourite in the 1981 Auckland Cup, Bonnie’s Chance, after having the run of the race, dropped out to last and returned to the stables distressed. It transpired she’d picked up a virus and was spelled for the rest of her five year old season.

At six she was the nation’s top stake earner with $118,865 from eight wins and five placings from just 15 starts.

Her biggest win that season was the 1982 New Zealand Cup.

In that race Bonnie’s Chance began well with the lead which she handed up to Cyllarus before Hilarious Guest took over. That left Bonnie’s Chance three back on the fence. But Ben tangled and veered out and with that a gap appeared which allowed Bonnie’s Chance to get into the outside running line.                                                                                                                                                              As the race got down to the business end Armalight attacked Hilarious Guest from the 800 and with Hands Down knocked out of contention by Ben, few horses were going to get back round ground from the back.                                                                                                                                                       With 400 metres to run Armalight mastered Hilarious Guest but Bonnie’s Chance was making her run down the outside. She ran past Armalight and with driver Richard Brosnan hitting the dust sheet and yelling, the Majestic Chance mare went down to the finish line to win by seven lengths.

At seven she won ten races and won $154,272. Her race wins that season are listed below.

Career stats:

  • 1979 (3 year old) 8-2-1-0 ($4,940)
  • 1980 (4 year old) 15-5-0-2 ($10,915)
  • 1981 (5 year old) 15-6-4-1 ($42,030)
  • 1982 (6 year old) 15-8-5-0 ($118,865)
  • 1983 (7 year old) 17-10-1-1 $154,275)
  • 1984 (8 year old) 5-1-0-1 $23,975

Lifetime: 75-32-11-5 $355,000

Group wins and placings:

Group One wins:

  • 1983 Twelfth N Z Standardbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr1), $21,500, FILLIES & MARES MOBILE PACE, 1609m
  • 1983 Pan Am Mile (Gr1), $20,000, MOBILE PACE, 1609m
  • 1983 Eleventh N Z Standardbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr1), $21,000, FILLIES & MARES MOBILE PACE, 1609m
  • 1982 Benson & Hedges N Z Free-For-All (Gr1), $25,000, C9 MOBILE PACE, 2000m
  • 1982 New Zealand Cup (Gr1), $100,000, OC HANDICAP PACE, 3200m
  • 1982 Pan Am Mile (Gr1), $25,000, MOBILE PACE, 1609m
  • 1982 Tenth N Z Standardbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr1), $20,000, FILLIES & MARES MOBILE PACE, 1609m

Group One Placings:

  • 1983 New Zealand Cup (Gr1), $100,000, OC HANDICAP PACE, 3200m
  • 1981 Benson & Hedges N Z Free-For-All (Gr1), $25,000, C9 MOBILE PACE, 2000m
  • 1981 New Zealand Cup (Gr1), $100,000, OC HANDICAP PACE, 3200m
  • 1980 Pan Am Mile (Gr1), $20,000, MOBILE PACE, 1609m

Group Two wins:

  • 1983 Telerad VHS Eighth Qualifying Heat (Gr2), $12,500, MOBILE PACE, 2200m
  • 1983 N Z Racing Authority Fifth Qualifying Heat (Gr2), $12,500, PACE, 1609m
  • 1982 Auckland Trotting Cup (Gr1), $120,000, OC MOBILE PACE, 2700m
  • 1981 Wellington Cup (Gr2), $18,000, OC HANDICAP PACE, 2400m
  • 1981 New Year Free-For-All (Gr2), $8000, OC MOBILE PACE, 1609m

Group Two placings:

  • 1983 Telerad Television First Qualifying Heat (Gr2), $12,500, MOBILE PACE, 2700m
  • 1982 Lion Brown Easter Cup (Gr2), $22,000, OC HANDICAP PACE, 3200m
  • Group Three wins:
  • 1982 Hannon Memorial (Gr3), $7500, OC PACE, 2600m
  • 1981 New Brighton Cup (Gr3), $10,000, C8 PACE, 3200m

Group Three placings:

  • 1982 Ashburton Flying Stakes Handicap (Gr3), $7000, OC PACE, 2400m
  • 1982 8th North Island Standardbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr3), $20,265, FILLIES & MARES, C3 & FASTER HANDICAP PACE, 2700m


1982-1983 New Zealand Pacer and New Zealand Horse of the Year