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Cardigan Bay (horse)

Cardigan Bay
Breed Standardbred
Sire Hal Tryax (USA)
Grandsire Tryax
Dam Colwyn Bay
Damsire Josedale Dictator (USA)
Gender Gelding
Foaled 1956
Country New Zealand
Color 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, Awards and Honors
Major Wins
1962 Auckland Trotting Cup
1963 Auckland Trotting Cup
1963 New Zealand Trotting Cup
1963 Inter Dominion
US Pacer of the Year 1965 and 1968
New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame
Infobox last updated on: 2009-04-17.

Cardigan Bay was a New Zealand Harness racing horse foaled September 1, 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).

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 streak to nine, having won the Final Handicap and New Zealand Free For All.[3]

"Cardy" 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 $125,000 US...even though he had only $137,000 US in earnings up to that point and was "down on the hip" ( from a severe injury suffered racing in New Zealand years earlier ). In the US and Canada he won many races and was able to dominate US racing for three years with the only exceptions being the very few, very best US horses, and there he gave as good as he got. He beat the famous US Champion Overtrick in one of three races. He was the singular horse to have defeated the three Hall of Fame USA horses of that era : Overtrick, Bret Hanover, and Meadow Skipper..... as well as defeating every other great horse of his time at least once.

In 1964, Overtrick and Cardigan Bay engaged in two great races: The Dan Patch Pace and the Dan Patch Encore. Cardigan Bay prevailed by the shortest of noses in the Dan Patch, and Overtrick got his revenge in the Encore. Overtrick also defeated Cardigan Bay in an earlier race in 1964, prevailing by a neck at 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 forty five thousand at Yonkers Raceway, New York and became only one of two horses, (the other being Adios Vic) up to that time, to have beaten the mighty Bret Hanover. However Cardigan Bay met his match in their next encounter, the "Revenge Pace" with Bret Hanover exactly reversing that one-two finish. This latter race drew a record crowd ever for a race in Western New York. [4]

The million dollar pacer

By age 12, 1968 he was nearly through but continued on in quest of the symbolic one million dollar mark. He needed about $85,000 at the start of the year. Finally, in September at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, he won his very last race, surpassing one million dollars. He became a celebrity and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show with his pal Stanley Dancer and the Beach Boys.

A month after he had 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.

Cardigan Bay is possibly the most well known racehorse ever to come from New Zealand. Cardy 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 have defeated the three Hall of Fame USA 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]

Retired to New Zealand he lived in luxury for nearly 20 years on Puketutu Island off Auckland, until his death at age 32. He remains to this day the measure by which all New Zealand Standardbreds are compared.


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, Cardy's driver Stanley Dancer, a man whose accomplishments transcended his sport, and was compared with like Cassius Clay and Babe Ruth, reflected back on the gelding's last year of racing and made an eloquent remark. "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]

Major wins

  • 1963 Auckland Trotting Cup (handicap of 78 yards)

See also

Reference list

External links


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