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.
Age: 1957 bay mare
Sire: Hal Tryax
Dam: Cherry Blossom (Dillion Hall)
Breeder: JW Hewitt
Owner: JW Hewitt
Trainer: Jack Walsh
At just 14.2 hands Robin Dundee was a diminutive bay filly and was Southland owner/breeder Jack Hewitt’s first venture into harness racing.
He borrowed Dillon Hall mare Cherry Blossom from his brother-in-law and mated her with the imported American sire Hal Tryax. Hal Tryax stood at stud in NZ for 8 seasons before becoming infertile in 1963 at the age of 16.
Robin Dundee’s early education and training was entrusted to Jack Walsh who’d also raced and won with Fashion Queen. She is the third dam of Robin Dundee.
Unraced at two, Robin Dundee began her racing career at Invercargill in October 1961, winning the Southern Stakes for non-win three year olds by sixteen lengths.
She was driven by Charlie Franks who also drove her to victory in the 1961 New Zealand Oaks at New Brighton. Later that season she won at Roxburgh in the hands of Robert Cameron.
Interestingly both Robin Dundee and Cardigan Bay won at that Roxburgh meeting in 1961. Cardigan Bay by four and a half lengths in the Roxburgh Handicap, and Robin Dundee in the Central Otago Stakes by a length and a half. The TAB double paid forty two pounds, eight shillings and six pence.
As a four-year-old Robin Dundee recorded two wins, five seconds, a third and fourth from twenty one starts.
She won two of her twenty four starts as a five year old, recording six seconds, a third and fourth.
At six she won two races and had her first start in the New Zealand Cup finishing second behind the great Cardigan Bay.
In her final New Zealand start at Addington, in the hands of Doody Townley she started off 12 yards to beat Tactile, Jay Ar and Cardigan Bay.
In the 1964 Interdominion Grand Final Robin Dundee finished a gallant fifth, breaking down during the race and subsequent x-rays revealed a fractured pedal bone and crack in the navicular bone of her near foreleg.
There were grave fears that Robin Dundee would never race again and she returned home to the Southland. However she made a spectacular recovery from the injury to race 12 times in New Zealand during the 1964/65 season recording five wins, four seconds and a third.
As a seven year old she was involved in the controversial dead heat with Jay Ar in the 1965 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Forbury Park where she stormed down the outside in the hands of Doody Townley.
The judge announced Jay Ar as the winner and called for a photo shortly after.
Club officials ignored Townley’s insistence that the presentation was premature. Jay Ar’s driver George Noble also thought he may have been pipped at the post.
However the presentation went ahead and Jay Ar was decorated while a dejected Walsh took Robin Dundee back to the stables.
Well into the presentation an announcement was made over the PA to the 15,000 crowd declaring a dead heat. Officials hastily recalled Robin Dundee to the presentation, transferred the sash to the mare and both horses did a victory lap together.
Jack Hewitt, Mrs Hewitt and Roy McKenzie with the Interdominion trophies they had to share.
As an eight year old, there was no stopping Robin Dundee. She raced 25 times in New Zealand during 1965-1966 season for eight wins, nine seconds, and one third for 14,855 pounds, making her New Zealand’s leading stakes earner for that season.
As a nine year old she started in New Zealand nine times for two wins, one second and one third.
She was then leased to an American syndicate which included famous New York trainer Eddie Cobb.
She arrived in America with a New Zealand career record of 25 wins, 32 seconds and 10 thirds and New Zealand stakes earnings of $79,248.
Her first American target was the 1967 International Series at Yonkers but she contracted a virus on the eve of the series, finished fifth and was then withdrawn.
In January 1968 Robin Dundee went under the knife again to remove bothersome splint bones. The operation was successful and she was put back into light work.
As an 11 year old she won her first race at Roosevelt Raceway, finishing the season with 5 wins, 8 seconds and 6 thirds for earnings $59,275 from 35 starts.
As a twelve year old she raced 5 times for only one third and was retired after finishing last in May 1969.
Her lifetime earnings were $292,272.
Robin Dundee will be remembered as the first pacer to beat the two-minute mark in a race when she won the Craven Filer Miracle Mile at Harold Park in 1967 in a time of 1-59.0.
“You can’t forget the Miracle Mile because she was the first mare in Australasia to break two minutes,” said driver Robert Cameron.
Cameron ended up winning eight races in New Zealand driving Robin Dundee, so he knew her pretty well.
“She got a bit crabby at times like a lot of those good fillies. But she was a terrific mare that would never stop trying. You had to be a bit careful from a stand because if you touched her mouth she was inclined to lose it. She got better as the years went on.”
Robin Dundee also carried a bridesmaids tag throughout her career. She ran second in the 1966 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Harold Park to Chamfer’s Star, was runner up three times to Cardigan Bay, Garry Dillon and Lordship in the New Zealand Cup, and in Freehold New Jersey in 1968 she chased Cardigan Bay home when he became the first pacer to win a million dollars.
Robin Dundee’s record:
At Three (1960-1961): 15-4-4-1
At Four (1961-1962): 21-2-5-3
At Five (1962-1963): 24-2-6-1
At Six (1963-1964): 13-2-3-2
At Seven (1964-1965): 12-5-4-1
At Eight (1965-1966): 25-8-8-1
At Nine (1966-1967): 9-2-1-1
New Zealand Total: 119-25-31-10
First New Zealand win: Southern Stakes at Ascot Park Invercargill Saturday 29th October 1960 Driven by Charlie Franks. Winning margin sixteen and a half lengths.
Last New Zealand win: Saturday 19th November 1966 – Olliver Handicap at Addington when she beat Lordship off 54 year handicap – Driven by Robert Cameron.
Notable New Zealand wins:
- Interdominion Final, dead heating with Jay Ar at Forbury Park.
- 1960 New Zealand Oaks
- Flying Mile at Addington running 1-59.
- Alan Matson Stakes
- 1965 Hannon Memorial
- 1965 New Zealand Free For All
- 1965 Auckland Cup
- Olliver Handicap
- GJ Barton Memorial at Forbury Park
Successful drivers of Robin Dundee in New Zealand:
Robert Cameron 8, Maurice Holmes 8, Doody Townley 5, Charlie Franks 2, Bob Young 1 and Kevin Murray 1
Other known facts:
- She won $229,270 in stakes by racing in New Zealand, Australia and America.
- Was the first horse to better two minutes in a race in Australia.
- Won 1967 Miracle Mile pacing the journey in 1-59. The winning stake was $12,500.
- Was runner up three times in the New Zealand Trotting Cup (Cardigan Bay 1963), (Garry Dillion 1965) and (Lordship 1966).
- Ran four times in the Interdominion Final.
- As a broodmare Robin Dundee had a lot of bad luck. Her best race horse was Genghis Khan which paced 1-51.8 in America. She also left Dundee Adios which stood at Roddy McFarlane’s stud near Winton.
Truly one of the great race mares to represent Southland across three countries.