P is for Peter Wolfenden
Peter Wolfenden won four New Zealand Cups, six Auckland Cups and five Rowe Cups and has reined home more than 1700 winners.
But it is his association with arguably New Zealand’s best known Standardbred Cardigan Bay that he will always be remembered.
Bred at Chimes Lodge in Mataura, Southland Cardigan Bay was foaled in 1956. Wolfie and Cardy, as they were known, paired up when the pacer was a late four-year-old. Wolfenden was clearly impressed, saying in comparison to other horses it was “like stepping from a Morris Minor to a Jaguar”.
According to some reports Cardy’s schedule included jogging around 27 kilometres at least four days a week plus a mile (1600 metres) of hard work every day.
In 1961 he even won the Show Day Free For All at Addington while the grandstand was on fire. The appropriately-named Smokeaway was third.
If there was a defining season it would have to be 1963. Wolfenden drove him to win the Interdominions in Adelaide in a new track record, and during NZ Cup week they had no fewer than four wins! In the New Zealand Cup Cardigan Bay beat Robin Dundee by two lengths.
Wolfenden's other Cup wins came with Garry Dillon (1965), James (1970) and Sole Command (11977).
In the 1963 Auckland Cup Cardy started off 78 yards (71 metres) and still won by half a length. It was his last New Zealand race after a season they had brought 10 wins from 14 starts.
He left New Zealand an absolute superstar with a record of 43 races from 67 starts.
Cardy was bought for big money in the USA and was trained and driven by Stanley Dancer in New Jersey.
In the next five years Cardy became the first ever Standardbred to crack the $US1m barrier. Among his famous victories was the so-called “Pace of the Century” in 1966 when he beat local hotshot Bret Hanover at Yonkers Raceway. He finished racing in the U.S. in 1969 and returned home to New Zealand to a hero’s reception. He died in Auckland in 1988, aged 31, with a career record of 154 starts : 80 wins, 25 seconds, and 22 thirds.
Wolfenden, who won the drivers’ premiership 14 times and was a member of the Order of the British Empire, was quoted in 2012 as saying "You never stop thinking about a good horse like ‘Cardy'. I often think about the great ride he took me on. He was the greatest horse I have had anything to do with and those memories of 50 years ago are as vivid now as what they were back then."
As for Cardy such was his celebrity he starred on a postage stamp in 1970 and once appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in the US, alongside the Beach Boys.