Another history sporting gem

Sports correspondent & historian
with Sideline Sid

Regular delving into local sporting history has produced another true gem that ranks up with Rotorua’s J Hinton’s five successive wickets and Trent Boult’s two hat-tricks in an innings.

This time, we go to the Gate Pa racecourse where an extremely rare feat took place in 1936.

While the world was in the middle of a long depression, a day at the races during the 30s provided a break from the realities of life and a chance to win a few pounds.

Centre stage in the record feat was long serving Bay of Plenty Racing Club committee man, Jim Evans, his son Jock, and a horse trained by Evans senior named Little Ruse.

We pick up the tale from the GK Prebble book, ‘Horses Courses and Men’ published to celebrate the Bay of Plenty Racing Club Centennial in 1972.

“Little Ruse was entered in the first race at Gate Pa in 1936 as a maiden to carry 9 stone 10lb. He was to be ridden by Jim's son, Jock, but as Jock rode at a mere just 4 stone 10lb the disparity was too much and another jockey was engaged.

“Little Ruse came up the straight with ears pricked to win in style.

“Although Little Ruse was accepted for the first two races it was not his (Jim’s) intention to start him in both. But when Jim saw the horse looking none the worse for his winning effort, he decided to send him to the barrier again.

“Out of maidens now, Little Ruse was given the advantage of a reduced weight of 8 stone 10lb. In spite of the encumbrance of 56lbs of lead son, Jock was to have the ride.

“Ominous rumblings came from the jockeys’ room where whispers suggested the next race was fixed and Little Ruse after his performance in the first race could cause an upset of plans.

“Jim Evans warned Jock as he legged him into the saddle that he might be blocked. If he failed to get the jump out, he was to move to the rails where there was always the chance the leaders would open up and give him a run through.

“Riding to instructions Jock was behind the thundering melee. In the excitement of jockeying for positions Jock was forgotten about. Hemmed in he looked out of the race then in a flash he saw his chance.

“The leaders swung out, Jock heeled his mount through on the rails, he hit the front and with little in reserve and with the short home straight he couldn't be headed.”

Little Ruse had won two races in a row within the hour, with such a feat never before or after, ever achieved at a totalisator meeting in our country.

Jim Evans came to Tauranga on his return from WW2 to develop his property at Kairua (Welcome Bay).

He was a horseman first and a racing administrator second fulfilling the role of Clerk of the Course for many years.

Jim was mostly interested in jumping horses and later in life owned champion jumper, Dusky Prince, who won two Grand National Steeplechases.

It is the rich history of the past, such as set by Jim Evans, which has taken local thoroughbred racing to where it is today.

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