WWI war horse inducted into NZ Racing Hall of Fame

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New Zealand war horse Bess.
New Zealand war horse Bess.

World War I war horse Bess has been honoured among several leading thoroughbred industry figures from past and present who have been inducted into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.

Bess, whose official name was Zelma, was one of more than 10,000 New Zealand horses sent overseas during the First World War and was one of just four, and the sole thoroughbred, to return home after the conflict.

Bess was active in Egypt with Colonel Charles Guy Powles in 1915, in Sinai in 1916, Palestine in 1917-18, France in 1918, Germany in 1919 and England in 1920 with the Wellington Mounted Rifles. There is a memorial to her, and other war horses, on land owned by AgResearch near Bulls.

Bess on the banks of the Jordan River in 1918. She was the only horse to leave New Zealand in 1914 and return at war's end.
Bess on the banks of the Jordan River in 1918.

All of the inductees were honoured at a gala dinner at Skycity Hamilton on Friday night.

Pencarrow Stud’s supreme staying mare Ethereal (Rhythm), raced by Sir Peter and the late Philip Vela and trained by Sheila Laxon, champion broodmare Eight Carat (Pieces of Eight) and the Cambridge-born and bred international superstar So You Think (NZ) (High Chaparral) were among them.

Ethereal won four Group One events and her win in the Melbourne Cup created history for Laxon, who became the first female trainer to officially win the great race.

Eight Carat is the latest addition from Cambridge Stud to the Hall of Fame, joining owner Sir Patrick Hogan and the stud’s champion sires Sir Tristram and Zabeel. She is the dam of five Group One winners.

So You Think, a dual hemisphere champion, won ten Group One races, including two Cox Plates, and beat the best gallopers in Europe while the other horse inducted was the Cox Plate and VRC Derby winner Daryl’s Joy (Stunning).

Seton Otway was honoured for his contribution to the breeding industry as the founder of Trelawney Stud, home to the champion sire Foxbridge (Foxlaw), who won 11 consecutive stallion premierships.

Laurie Laxon
Laurie Laxon

Ngaruawahia-born Laurie Laxon was also inducted for his training achievements. After winning the Melbourne Cup with Empire Rose (Sir Tristram) and the Hong Kong International Cup with Romanee Conti (Sir Tristram), he moved to Singapore and in 2013 became the first trainer to prepare 1000 winners there, a feat to rival his record of nine Singapore champion trainer titles.

Shane Dye, formerly of Matamata, became a dual Hall of Famer, having been inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame two years ago. After being champion New Zealand apprentice twice, Dye moved to Australia and won two Sydney premierships and rode ninety Group One winners.

Racing writer John Costello began his career as a journalist in Matamata and was inducted for a legacy which covers the full spectrum of reporting, including eleven editions of the New Zealand Racing Annual, two editions of Galloping Greats, The Linda Jones Story and, with the late Pat Finnegan, Tapestry Of Turf.

Completing the line-up of inductees was Garry Chittick, a former Wairarapa sheep farmer who moved north in 1994 when he purchased Waikato Stud. He is a five-time Breeder of the Year winner and recipient of the Outstanding Contribution To Racing Award.

NZ Thoroughbred Marketing

Ethereal completes the 2001 Caulfield/ Melbourne Cups double with success at Flemington.
Ethereal completes the 2001 Caulfield/Melbourne Cups double with success at Flemington.

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