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Cardigan Bay (horse)

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Title: Cardigan Bay (horse)  
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Subject: Horse racing, Harness racing in Australia, Harness racing in the United States, 1963 in New Zealand, 1962 in New Zealand
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Cardigan Bay (horse)

Cardigan Bay
Breed Standardbred
Sire Hal Tryax (USA)
Grandsire Tryax
Dam Colwyn Bay
Damsire Josedale Dictator (USA)
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1956
Country New Zealand
Colour Bay
Breeder Dave & Sandy Todd
Owner Merv and Audrey Dean
Trainer Dave Todd (New Zealand)
Peter Wolfenden (New Zealand)
Stanley Dancer (United states)
Record 154: 80-25-22
Earnings US$1,000,837
Major wins
1962 & 1963Auckland Trotting Cup
1963 New Zealand Trotting Cup
1963 Inter Dominion
1965 and 1968 US Pacer of the Year
New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame
First standardbred to win $1 million dollars
Last updated on 29 July 2011

Cardigan Bay was a New Zealand Harness racing horse foaled 1 September 1956. Affectionately known as "Cardy", he was the first Standardbred to win US$1 million in prize money in North America.[1] He was the ninth horse worldwide to win one million dollars, (the first eight were Thoroughbreds). Cardigan Bay won races in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Along with his arch-rival, American champion of the day, Bret Hanover, he has a legitimate claim of being one of the truly great Standardbred racehorses.[2] Cardigan Bay became an overnight sensation in the United States, and appeared with Dancer on The Ed Sullivan Show as the "million dollar horse".


Cardigan Bay was foaled at Mataura (near Gore) in the South Island of New Zealand. As you drive into Mataura from Gore, there is a sign on the road proclaiming Mataura as the birthplace of Cardigan Bay. He was a first crop foal by a leading sire, Hal Tryax (USA), his dam Colwyn Bay was by Josedale Dictator (USA). Cardigan Bay was a brother to Thule Bay and a half-brother to Brides Bay.

Racing career

He began racing in New Zealand and his first stake money was won in a saddle pace on a grass track. He won all the major open class races including the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Auckland Cup (from 78 yard handicap). His driver in New Zealand was the leading reinsman Peter Wolfenden, who was the country's number one driver during the 1970s.

Cardigan Bay even won a major event at Addington raceway in Christchurch while the grandstand was on fire. A photo of this race is considered one of the great iconic images in the history of horse racing. He also won the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship final in Adelaide, Australia.

In 1961, Cardigan Bay had taken his winning sequence to nine, having won the Final Handicap and New Zealand Free For All.[3]

Cardigan Bay was taken to the USA at the advanced age of eight, on a "racing lease" to New Jersey reinsman Stanley Dancer and his owners for a payment of $US125,000, even though he had only $US137,000 in earnings up to that point and was "down on the hip" from a severe injury suffered racing in New Zealand years earlier. He won many races in the US and Canada and defeated U.S. Champion Overtrick in one of three races. He was the only horse to defeat the three U.S. Hall of Fame horses of that era: Overtrick, Bret Hanover, and Meadow Skipper.

In 1964, Overtrick and Cardigan Bay engaged in two races: The Dan Patch Pace and the Dan Patch Encore. Cardigan Bay prevailed by the shortest of noses in the Dan Patch, and Overtrick won the Encore. Overtrick also defeated Cardigan Bay in an earlier race in 1964, prevailing by a neck in a mile and a half race.

Perhaps his most famous encounter was with the great Standardbred horse, Bret Hanover, in the Pace of the Century, in 1966. Cardigan Bay, with Stanley Dancer driving, won that race in front of 45,000 spectators at Yonkers Raceway, New York and became only one of two horses (the other being Adios Vic) up to that time to have beaten Bret Hanover. However, in their next encounter, the "Revenge Pace," Bret Hanover reversed that one-two finish. The latter race drew a record crowd for a race in Western New York.[4]

The million dollar pacer

By age 12, 1968, Cardigan Bay competed to reach $1 million in earnings. He needed about $85,000 at the start of the year. In September at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, he won his last race, surpassing one million dollars. He became a celebrity and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with Stanley Dancer and the Beach Boys.

A month after he reached the million dollar mark, it was, by formal proclamation, "Cardigan Bay Day" in Yonkers, New York. The next evening Cardigan Bay walked down a long red carpet, which led into the living rooms of 20 million viewers, on the Ed Sullivan television show. No immigrant had ever "made it any bigger any faster".[5][6] Dancer immediately retired him, and he was returned to New Zealand with great fanfare with thousands at harbour awaiting his arrival.

Major wins

Cardigan Bay is possibly the most well-known racehorse ever to come from New Zealand. He won 80 races in all. Much of his racing was done in the United States, where he teamed up with legendary reinsman Stanley Dancer in his many appearances at Yonkers Raceway near New York. He was the only horse to defeat the three U.S. Hall of Fame horses of that era: Overtrick, Bret Hanover, and Meadow Skipper. He was a Harness Champion in the United States, being Pacer of the Year in 1965 and 1968.[7]


Cardigan Bay was an inaugural inductee into the New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame with the immortals Caduceus, Harold Logan, Highland Fling, Johnny Globe and Ordeal.

Bruce Skeggs, race caller for many years, rated Cardigan Bay, harness racing's first million dollar earner and winner of the 1963 Adelaide Inter Dominion, as the best pacer he ever saw. Skeggs called a world-record 34,000 harness races through a network of radio stations. He broadcast races in ten different countries – Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Macau.[8]

On the horse's death in 1988, Cardigan Bay's driver Stanley Dancer, reflected on the gelding's last year of racing and said, "At the end he was going on heart alone.....what a mighty heart it must have been".[9]

The New Zealand Post Office issued a postage stamp in 1970 to recognise Cardigan Bay's achievements.[10]

See also

Reference list

  1. ^ Cardigan Bay - First harness horse to win one million dollars
  2. ^ Cardigan Bay short history
  3. ^ Peter Wolfenden and Cardigan Bay
  4. ^ Batavia Downs Match Race
  5. ^ Ed Sullivan Show Ed Sullivan Show Stanley Dancer and Cardy
  6. ^ Cardigan Bay the Million Dollar Pacer
  7. ^ Harness Champion - Cardigan Bay
  8. ^ Bruce Skeggs - Race Broadcaster, Journalist and Administrator
  9. ^ Obituary - Stanley Dancer
  10. ^ Postage stamp issued in 1970 for Cardigan Bay

External links

  • Obituary New York Times
  • Harness link: Part 138 of A Salute To Trotting
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