Cathedral Chimes

Southern Bred Southern Reared

Pacing Legends

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.

Cathedral Chimes

Age: 1911 Bay horse

Sire: Four Chimes

Dam: Jean Armour (Lauderdale)

Owner: JB Thomson

Trainers: Scotty Bryce

Cathedral Chimes may not be remembered by many, but he was one of the earliest Southern owned horses to win a New Zealand Cup.

Unfortunately the 1916 New Zealand Cup won by Cathedral Chimes was somewhat overshadowed by a spectacular fire which destroyed the 18-month-old stewards and members stand overlooking the birdcage at Addington, during the race meeting that day. An interesting story in itself, worthy of recalling.

So vital was the Cup to the 20,000 plus fans at Addington that day there was no thought of abandoning the race. However there was a delay of an hour and a half whilst the crowd were evacuated from the stand to watch the fire burn from ground level.

While the public had extra time to place bets on the Cup one report stated that this was not much use as there was so much smoke around, that no one could see the tote indicators.

As the field for the Cup (the third race on the programme) paraded in the birdcage it became obvious that the fire was serious, and the horses were sent straight out on to the track.

With a capacity field of 17 runners the race was run through a thick pall of smoke which engulfed part of the track and led to a three-horse spill with a lap to run.

Eccentric made the pace, but with a lap to run in thick smoke he skipped and brought down Succeed, Brown Bell and Erin’s King.

The eventual winner off a 36 yard handicap was Cathedral Chimes which won by six lengths in a time of 4-31 1/5 for the two miles. It was the first time the race was run from a standing start.

Cathedral Chimes had been bought for just a few pounds by Southland owner, John (J.B.) Thomson.

In his career not only did Cathedral Chimes win the 1916 New Zealand Cup, he ran second in the Cup in 1917, and took out a number of other significant races. After being retired to stud he sired the winners of three NZ Cups, Ahuriri (twice) and Kohara.

Cathedral Chimes owner J.B.Thomson was an Invercargill businessman and was widely known throughout Southland and the South Island for his associations with racing and trotting.

He had a lifelong association with both the Southland Racing Club and the Invercargill Trotting Club, and was president of the NZ Trotting Association when it was absorbed into the NZ Trotting Conference in 1950. He was also Managing Director of Thomson’s Limited, cordial manufacturers and wine and spirit merchants in the province.

Before World War I, Thomson had his own stud farm and a private training track at Charlton near Gore, where his horses were trained by A J Scott.  It was there that Cathedral Chimes and other good winners in Louvain Chimes, Dora Derby and Raeburn did their early training.

Thomson raced horses on an extensive scale, and in Canterbury he had Cathedral Chimes, Muricata (the best free-gaited trotter of her time), Antonio, Zara, and the great pony pacer Soda, as members of Scotty Bryce’s team at Sockburn.

Before leaving for service overseas in World War I, Mr Thomson sold his stud, with the exception of Cathedral Chimes whom he leased to Bryce.

A bachelor, Mr Thomson was for over 40 years a full-time boarder at Invercargill’s Grand Hotel. He was also a foundation member of the Invercargill Rotary Club.

These days the cup won by Cathedral Chimes in 1916 is presented to the winners of the Invercargill Cup. So the memory of this great southern horse lives on.