The Dominion Trot - 50 years ago

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

Trotting's premier race dates back to 1911, and 50 years ago the great Jack Smolenski won his first and only Dominion Trot.

Driving the back marker and favourite Philemon Smolenski completed a notable Cup week double. One of all-time great drivers Smolenski had won the 1973 New Zealand Cup with Araphao on the Tuesday and then doubled up with Philemon in the Dominion three days later.

Starting off 15m, the combo went forward after just 600 metres before being taken on in the middle stages by Able Adios and Arnonmot.

Passing the 600 Philemon was travelling well and staved off the challenge from Bachelor Tom and defending champion Easton Light, winning by just over a length. The winning time was a moderate 4:20.5.

It was a triumph for a horse that had been sold cheap before he even raced because he bit his breeder's wife.

Bob Macaulay had bred the horse (Sun Chief - Judear), who was passed in at the 1965 National Sales for $600.

To make matters worse not long after he nipped Macaulay's wife as she fed him in the paddock.

The decision was then made that he was going to be moved on.

Two of Macauley's friends Bill Strachan and George Taverner bought him complete with a halter and 10 bags of chaff.

The Oamaru-based Taverner also trained the horse who initially qualified as a pacer before successfully switching gaits.

He went on to record 20 wins from 104 starts.

According to HRNZ records his last race was the 1975 Dominion Handicap when he was pulled up - there would be no repeat of his heroics two years before.

Smolenski had 1058 wins in a more than 50 year career in the sulky. But that win on November 9 1973 was the first and only time he would win trotting's biggest prize.

Today's Renwick Farms Dominion Trot is set to go at 4.23pm.

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