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Willy Smith's Cup win recalls Wotan's 1936 triumph

In 1936 New Zealand stayer Wotan (Siegfried-Left by Martian), bred and owned by the Smith brothers from Wanganui, won the Melbourne Cup at 100/1. It's still one of the most famous episodes in the long and honourable tradition of Kiwis taking Australians by surprise at Flemington.
The Smiths returned to New Zealand and cherished both their Melbourne Cup and the female family that produced Wotan. Today, just over 70 years after that memorable victory, Willy Smith (Volksraad-Sound Lear by Sound Reason) bred by Peter Smith of Wanganui and descended from Left, won the $300,000 WRC Wellington Cup 3200m G1.

All the horses bred and raced by Peter, a member of the NZTBA, and his wife Barbara are descended from Left, herself a grand-daughter of the celebrated taproot mare Hebrew Maid (GB).

Wotan was only one of three major Cup winners from Left. The other two were Peter Jackson (by Nigger Minstrel), who won the NZ & Great Northern St Legers and the 1933 Moonee Valley Cup, and Gaine Carrington (by Hunting Song) winner of the 1933 Caulfield Cup and third-equal in Hall Mark's Melbourne Cup. Both horses registered their Australian wins in the ownership of Melbourne bookmaker Jack Phillips, who leased them after they'd finished midfield in the 1932 Melbourne Cup.

The Smiths also tried to lease Wotan (b. 1932) but when no-one showed interest in him they decided to race the colt themselves. He showed ordinary form at two and won only once at three. The Smith brothers then sent him to Melbourne in the spring of 1935 in the hope that his form would improve and he'd attract a buyer.

At his first start in Australia Wotan finished second last in the Cox Plate. At his second, he won the Cup in then record time of 3:21.25.

Willy Smith's time today was slightly slower, 3:22.11, but he came with the late, swooping run of a genuine stayer, and became the second two-mile winner for his champion sire Volksraad, after the 2003 New Zealand Cup winner Torlesse.

SIR SLICK (Volksraad-Miss Opera) winner of the 2007 WRC Thorndon Mile G1
PHOTO: Race Images/NZTM
Although he initially made his name as a source of juvenile speed, Volksraad has built a much more versatile record in recent years. That versatility was very evident at Trentham today as another member of his 2001 crop, Sir Slick (ex Miss Opera) won the WRC Thorndon Mile 1600m G1. Sir Slick was bred by Monovale Holdings Ltd, owned by NZTBA councillor Paul Smithies and his wife Cushla.

This notable double has boosted Volksraad's season earnings by around $300,000, making the race for the 2006-07 New Zealand general sire premiership very tight indeed. (He also had two winners at Riccarton Park, Sheera Chardonay and Tra Cee.) Current number one Pins was represented by Trentham winner Pinsoir and gallant Thorndon runner-up Pins 'N' Needles, which has helped him retain his lead – but the gap is now less than $40,000!

Willy Smith and Sir Slick have taken Volksraad's tally of individual Group One winners to eight, and his number of stakeswinners now stands at forty-two, 5.2% of his foals of racing age.

Both geldings are also great advertisements for the New Zealand Select Sale at which they were sold in 2003, Sir Slick for $48,000 and Willy Smith for $38,000.

Grateful thanks to The Melbourne Cup Club for information about Wotan's Cup victory in 1936.


- Susan Archer