Descendents of racing royalty have had their wish realised with the 1917 New Zealand Cup now back in its place at the Bendigo Harness Racing Club.

By Geoff Hocking – Photography by David Field

Bendigo has been punching above its weight in the international sporting hero-stakes for, as it appears, well over a century.
Both our human, and equine, competitors have been sent abroad to achieve international success, whereas others have excelled in competition on our own home-grown playing fields, tracks and chlorinated swimming pools.
From Olympic gold achieved by Bendigo’s own Faith Leech, ‘the Flying Fish’, who at 15 years of age swum to glory in the 4x100m freestyle event at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics; to our singing pugilist 1960s Rome Olympian Des Duguid, who may never have won a medal in the ring but certainly deserved gold when he took to the stage, usually up at the YM dance on a Saturday Night; and Australian cycling champion Jack Trickey, also a Bendigonian, who took a tumble after the feed bag he was handed fell into his front wheel at the 105km mark of the individual road cycling race at the Melbourne Olympics.  I remember that after the Olympics both Faith Leech and Jack Trickey came to Golden Square State School to show us their medals, Faith displayed her gold and I guess Jack showed us his bruises, but whatever, we were pretty impressed by this visit from our own Olympic royalty.
So much for our two-legged heroes. I guess there is also a long list of Bendigo-born and/or district-raised proponents of the Sherrin-booting game who should be added to this list, among them are Nathan Brown who played for The Square and the Pioneers before he went to play for the Doggies and the Tigers; Nick Dal Santo (St Kilda & North Melbourne) and the famous Selwood brothers — Joel who captains Geelong, Adam (West Coast), Scott (Geelong) and Troy (Brisbane Lions). All Bendigo boys.
Bendigo has also had quite a few four-legged legends of the track.
Local pacer, Adelaide Direct, bred by Sam Lewis of Parker’s Plains at Baringhup near Maldon, had sailed across the Tasman in 1914 where she was raced for three seasons. She returned home victorious, the 1917 New Zealand Trotting Cup in her luggage. The New Zealand Cup is the Kiwi equivalent of the Melbourne Cup; held by the Metropolitan Trotting Club in November, Cup Day is the biggest day on Canterbury’s social calendar. At the time the prize was worth 2200 sovereigns.
In the 1920s a trotter named Grand Voyage, out of the Belmont Stud at nearby Huntly, earned legendary status and a place in the Trotting Hall of Fame.
Also in the 20s, Glideaway, a pacer owned by Kangaroo Flat butcher Alf Petherick earned in total just shy of £3000 from her first win in Ballarat in 1923 to the 1927 season when this local champion also set sail for competition in New Zealand.  In 1929 Glideaway won the Otahuhu Cup in Alexandra Park, Auckland and the Dunedin Cup at Forbury Park. In all, Glideaway’s earnings here and abroad would have returned to her owner almost $168,000 in today’s currency. It is said that her earnings built the property at 181 High Street, Kangaroo Flat for her owner. It is also said that she had no choice but be a champion pacer as her owner was the local butcher, and dog food was always an alternative future.
Recently, the long-lost trophy from Adelaide Direct’s win at Addington Raceway in Christchurch — well it wasn’t really lost at all it was just not in Bendigo — has been donated to the Bendigo Harness Racing Club’s collection of historic memorabilia.
Known then as the Sandhurst Trotting Club, the club had its beginnings in the late nineteenth century when, in 1876, more than 3000 patrons flocked to the Epsom track to watch three trotting events run over, consecutively: 3 miles, 4 miles and five miles.
Its next iteration as the Bendigo Trotting Club, with George Lansell as president, was formed in 1923 and ran at the Epsom track until it went into recess in 1932. A new body was formed in 1951, named the Bendigo and District Trotting Club, but were hampered by the lack of a track. While they inspected the proposed showgrounds in Holmes Road and the old Marong track, where races had been held at what was once known as St Patricks Trotting Club, now the Marong Golf Course. It was not until 1954 that races could be run on a purpose-built track. 14,000 turned out at the opening night at Lord’s Raceway, Junorton, on November 17, 1954.
The Bendigo Harness Racing Club memorabilia and history sub-committee has been developing its own historical collection to which the 1917 New Zealand Cup will now assume its rightful place.
The cup has been kept for the past 100 years by the descendents of Sam Lewis, and has for several years languished in a cupboard at Mr Lewis’ granddaughter, Sue Mayne’s home in Hobart.  On delivering the cup to the BHRC Sue said that “It (the cup) was my grandfather’s and my mum was the last of five girls in the family, so that is how it came to be with me. Mum’s wish was that it would be delivered back to the racing track. It’s where it belongs.”
BHRC Committee member Noel Ridge agreed ‘Adelaide Direct was the first significant horse from the Bendigo district. (The Cup) is local history and a significant part of Bendigo’s history, it’s an honour to have it as part of our memorabilia collection’.
The sterling silver cup was made in 1916 by London silversmiths Charles Boynton and Sons. Engraved into the bowl are the words: New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club – Presented by Mr Chas. Louisson – President to M. Edwards – Owner of ‘Adelaide Direct’ – Time 4min 27 4/5 sec. – Winner of NZ Cup Race November 1917.
To give some idea of the monetary value of this cup to BHRC, a similar cup, the Invercargill Perpetual Trophy, has recently been valued at NZ$100,000.


Adelaide Direct (Manny Edwards) after the 1917 Cup.