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A piece of racing history has come all the way from the United States to be closer to its wearer’s birthplace.
The rug worn by pacing great Cardigan Bay after he won the National Championship Pace at Yonkers Raceway in New York in has arrived at the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame chief executive Ron Palenski said the rug had turned up from Arizona out of the blue but the hall was pleased to receive it. It was still working through what to do with the rug.
Cardigan Bay was the first standardbred to earn $US1 million.
He was foaled in Mataura — although some say Edendale — in 1956.
His first win came at Forbury Park in 1961 and he went on to win everything you could as a pacer in New Zealand — the New Zealand Trotting Cup (from 54 yards behind), the Auckland Cup (from 78 yards) and the New Zealand Free-for-all, as well as the 1963 Interdominion final in Adelaide.
He was sold to interests in the United States in 1964 after compiling a record in New Zealand and Australia of 67 starts for 43 wins, nine seconds and three thirds.
In North America, he won numerous races and, in 1968, by then aged 12, he broke through the $US1 million mark.
He was retired shortly afterwards and returned to New Zealand where he lived on Puketutu Island in Manakau Harbour until 1988. He is seen as harness racing’s equivalent of Phar Lap.
The rug was donated by American woman Nina Scozzari, who was working at Yonkers when she was 18. She became friends with Cardigan Bay’s groomer and was given the rug, or cooler as she called it, when the champion gelding won the 1964 National Championship Pace.
She hung on to the rug all these years and, after finding it earlier this year when cleaning out her closet, decided to send it to the hall of fame.
She originally also had the shoes the pacer wore in the race but over the years they have disappeared.
Although no horses are in the hall of fame, Cardigan Bay’s trainer-driver Peter Wolfenden is a member.
Cardigan Bay was an inaugural member of the New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame.