The backgrounder we ran in 2023 without quite the right result. Maybe this year

Self Assured’s Auckland Cup Challenge. 

Self Assured on Friday attempts to become the first horse of a dozen dual winners to win three Auckland Cups. How come, and can he do it ?

The Auckland Cup predates the New Zealand Cup by many years yet while three  horses have won three New Zealand Cups the treble has eluded some famous pacers at Alexandra Park over the years.

Not all the 12 dual winners  have tried to add a third but many have.  A peek back to past feats.


STEEL BELL  (1914 and 1917)

The first dual winner was also the most patient.The grey mare was  a special heroine to Auckland crowds but there were three years between her wins. She also went the closest to a treble,finishing fast for 2nd in the 1918 Cup off 60 yards and placed again at her 8th and last attempt in the 1920’s.

Steel Bell loved right handed racing and her record at Addington never matched her deeds in Auckland. Her sire,Gold Bell, was a sort of Vance Hanover for northern breeders of that era leaving several major Cup winners from often small books of mares in the Central North Island.Gold Bell’s owner, Tom Roe from Hawkes Bay  raced her and Auckland trainer James Lynch took her in hand in the days leading up to her early Cups and drove her. She was unplaced in 1915, had to start off 96 yards in 1916 and had the same handicap for her second win leading from the 600. Altogether this remarkable mare had 8 tries at the Cup and at 14 in her final attempt ran second!

Steel Bell died without leaving a foal.

MAN O WAR (1920-21)

One of the toughest of Cup winners. In Australia where he was raised,he won the Sydney One Thousand,then the biggest race in the country.He was sent over as a five year old by owner Jack Carter; trained by James Bryce and sold to Joe Corrigan  20 minutes before winning a race at Addington.

 He won his first Cup off 84 yds and  his 2nd cup off 96 a record never beaten. Andy Bryce drove. Comedy Chief eased his task in the latter year. Tossing his driver at the start and going to the front for most of the way he disorganised several  in the field when dropping out.

Man o War had a sense  the dramatic.When the British fleet were visiting Christchurch and a special race meeting was put on the weather was such that only because the ships were leaving next day was the meeting held. The feature race was won appropriately by Man O War virtually steering himself in the sleet and mud according to driver Jack Shaw.

Man O War raced until well into his teens,later for Tom McGirr at Methven, and won a Broodmare sire title against all odds a few years later. Man o War mares, durable,brilliant in the wet, were breeding gold.And the old bloke himself was a minor legend in his time. He is the only horse here to have sired a winner of the Cup, Navy Blue in 1938


GOLD JACKET (1928-29) 

He had a varied career.His first owner,George Paton, loved setting record times in training but the race record suffered until he was bought by Aucklander Ted Parkes and Landon McMahon took on the training. He was aided in both his wins by wet tracks which he loved. A bold black pacer he beat one former NZ Cup winner,Kohara in 1928 and another, Peter Bingen, the following year. It shows how things changed from that era that 1928 was the first year both gallop and trotting Auckland Cups had been won by Auckland horses !

Gold Jacket,also by Gold Bell and also not the same horse at Addington tended to cross fire and he did in the 1930 Auckland Cup attempting a third win,losing his chance. 


CAPTAIN SANDY (1948-49) 

Remarkable also for winning two Inter Dominion Championships the second after   being sold to Australia. His dam was so sour she was never trained and the Captain was duffer to all but owner-trainer Jock Bain of Oamaru until he suddenly went on a winning rampage as a five year old in 1948.Jimmy Bryce drove him to win that year.He led early and then trailed beating Local Gold (dam of Arania) narrowly. A brilliant beginner and a “bulldog” under siege he was handy again in 1949 winning by a neck again. The Captain never cared about big margins. 

He did not run in the Cup again. He was sold to Dinny Nolan who famously floated him over the Nullabor to win the Inter Dom. No challenge was  too great for the Captain.

SOANGETAHA (1951-52) 

The horse who “made” a youthful Derek Jones as a trainer  though oddly enough at that stage of his career his patient driving of the star was not universally popular with punters or media. Auckland car dealer Andy Ryland paid $800 for Soangetaha as a youngster and he swept through the classes running second  in the 1951 Inter Dominion Final before his first Auckland Cup. There were 20 starters in 1951 yet Soangetaha,always a touch better right-handed, won by 5 lengths.

 In 1952 from 36 yds he needed a desperate drive from Derek after getting trapped on the rails again and just beat Laureldale. He was timed from post to post in 4.10.

Soangetaha,raced for most of his career by Andy Ryland’s widow, Marcella, made a bid for a third Cup in 1953 and was a desperately unlucky third, again being late clear Derek certainly kept his followers in suspense.Thelma Globe only had to run 4.16 to win.

CARDIGAN BAY (1961-63)

Cardy’s first Cup was his 10th win in succession thus becoming the first horse since War Buoy in the 1930’s to achieve the feat. He paid a record short price of $1.60 against a moderate field. The champion was overseas and with problems in 1962 and was set to miss 1963 for a time after his huge New Zealand Cup carnival in favour of Australia.But  Audrey Dean had a very late change of heart. It was one of the most memorable of all Auckland Cups.Starting from 70m behind-an unprecedented modern day feat- Cardy was timed post to post in 4.09 and was in front of a good field with 800 to run. He received a huge reception during and after the race.After that America beckoned and there was no attempt at a treble.


A Cinderella story Delightful Lady became the second mare to post back to back Auckland Cups, winning easily in her first triumph from Lord Module,Sapling and Young Quinn,the first mare to win since Stella Frost in 1970. There was controversy involving Peter Wolfenden and Trevira attacking Lord Module in front for much of the way but none the following year when the great mare led and trailed (Lord Module parked) before a crowd of 18,000 the 2700 run in 3.22.9 against a record of 3.25.1.Idolmite chased her home. Dave Phillips attracted the ire of the stewards for his drive on Jawa Boy, deemed to have checked Bonnies Chance,Greg Robinson and Hands Down, the latter pulled up.That season Delightful Lady had 12 wins and 6 2nds and 3rds from 18 starts for Michael Stormont,whose family association with Auckland Cups went back to the 19th century.

Delightful Lady had several  attempts to win a third Cup but a third placing was the best she could manage.

LUXURY LINER (1987-88)

If not the best horse trained by Roy and Barry Purdon certainly the best stayer, Luxury Liner’s Cup wins had the drama removed by  his amazing reserves of stamina that just ground the opposition into submission. He won every major staying race in the country. In 1987 he led from the 2400m in 4.05.3 and shortened that to 4.03.5 the following year.He tried for the treble in 1989 finishing 6th.Few horses have matched Luxury Liner’s staying capabilities since his time. The harder the race the better he went. There were two Auckland Cups in 1987 but Luxury Liner had to be content with 6th in the first (January) the winner being Master Mood.

CHOKIN (1993-94) 

He probably WAS the best horse Roy and Barry trained, a freak pacer who had the edge of brilliance Luxury Liner lacked but still the stamina. His feats are still well known and one of them was becoming the first to break  four minutes for 3200m, running 3.59.5 off 10m beating Christopher Vance in the 1993 Cup. He worked hard off 15m to beat Victor Supreme and Master Musician the following year -his 15th Group 1 win in 17 G1 starts-and of course he also won  two  Miracle Miles,and the NZ Cup and Free for All double. 

Tragically Chokin never had the chance to win a third Auckland Cup.He suffered a stroke in May 1955 and his wonderful career was over. Nearly 30 years have passed yet Chokin must still rate in the top three of champions of the last 50 of them  with Christan Cullen  and Lazarus.

ELSU (2003-2004)

Elsu won his only two attempts at the Auckland Cup,running close to 4 minutes for 3200,a time he could easily have bettered,winning easily in 2003.He was snookered on the fence for much of the way but the furious pace freed up some gaps at a crucial time for David Butcher driving with great confidence. The pair were in a tight position for a time the following year too  with three widers threatening to block his progress until the straight in a race run at a slower rate.

Elsu was never the glamour horse to match some but he won a long list of major races especially in Australia where the Chariots of Fire, the Hunter Cup and an Inter Dominion Championship. He was twice NZ Horse of the Year and Australasian Grand Circuit champion.


The second Australian to win two Auckland Cups they were also his only attempts on the race. He also won an Interdominion Final at Alexandra Park after Smoken Up was disqualified. 

The Mightyquinn looked in for the run of the race in 2011,Auckland Reactor setting a true pace and the other Australian, Mr Feelgood, kept parked by Mark, the winner trailing on the outer.However Themightyquinn became crowded by improving horses at the 800 before working clear at the turn. He beat a game Mr Feelgood who had had to do it all  the hard way. 

Gary Hall drove the former Kiwi very coolly in his second Cup, going right back to the rear when it seemed he would be locked up in the field.He followed Fly Like An Eagle around with a lap to go responding best in the straight to beat Terror to Love and Better Cover Lover. Few Australians have made a bigger impact in a shorter time at Alexandra Park than the Princely Pacer from Perth


Also had his Cup wins separated. He was an up and comer when Mark too k him to the front in 2019 and unlike Auckland Reactor there was no Mr Feelgood type pressure and no forced retreat. In 2021 Natalie had him in the one-one,then in front and finally in the trail,too good a run for any of his rivals to beat and giving Jean Feiss three wins on the bounce with two horses. She actually had a fourth with Vincent in 2017 but only husband Bill’s name appeared in the record. Maybe she can make that four anyway this year. It would be a historic moment.


Pic: Self Assured after his 2019 Auckland Cup win. Natalie took over to win his second Cup no less than three years later!


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