Inter Dominion Hall of Fame
Sundons Gift

Sundons Gift
Neven Botica

Sundons Gift
Chris Lang

Sundons Gift
Sundon USA

Sundons Gift
Landoras Gift NZ

Sundons Gift
Winning the 2008 Australian Trotting Grand Prix, Moonee Valley 13/12/2008
Photo courtesy Harness Racing Victoria

Sundons Gift
Racing in Sweden
Photo courtesy Chris & Sharon Lang

Sundons Gift
Sundons Gift NZ finishes ahead of
One Over Kenny NZ to win the
2009 Trotting Championship
Moonee Valley 7/02/2009
Photo copyright G Wild

Sundons Gift
Working out at Alexandra Park,
Auckland, NZ
Photo courtesy Harness Racing
New Zealand

Sundons Gift
2010 Rowe Cup victory
Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ
photo courtesy Harness Racing New Zealand

Sundons Gift
Sundons Gift NZ finishes just
ahead of Will Trapper to win his
third Australian Trotting Grand
Prix, Moonee Valley 4/12/2009
photo courtesy Harness Racing Victoria

Sundons Gift
Two successive Inter Dominion
Wins – Chris Lang salutes after
winning the 2010 Trotting
Championship at the last Moonee
Valley meeting 6/02/2009
photo copyright Stuart McCormick

Sundons Gift
Celebrations after the win
Photo courtesy Sharon and Chris Lang

Sundons Gift

Sundons Gift NZ


The fourth trotter to enter the Inter Dominion Hall of Fame, Sundons Gift NZ is the second New Zealand bred trotter to attain the honour; the others being Pride of Petite (USA), Scotch Notch (Aust) and Take A Moment (NZ).

For most of his career, the gelding has been trained and driven by Chris (CW) Lang, whose father, Graeme Lang, similarly partnered Scotch Notch in the 1980’s to top level performances including two Inter Dominion championships.

Owner Neven Botica, of Croation background, is based in Perth, WA, where he operated a successful business involved in mining and mobile lighting solutions. Strong family ties with the racing industry come from previous generations, including bookmakers and trotting activities, and his early involvement in harness racing in the southern hemisphere came through racing a standardbred with his mother in the late 1990s. This was followed by membership in the syndicate ownership of Mister DG (2004 Hunter Cup winner) and Take A Moment NZ, a top performer trained in New Zealand and winner of all three trotting races at the NZ Cup carnival in November 2000. This was the start of the rise of Take A Moment NZ – another Hall of Fame star.

Neven Botica had also acquired some pacers for racing in Perth, WA. including an interest in 2006 WA Oaks winner Dilingers Reign; he has tasted success in thoroughbred racing with smart galloper Moatize and proven performer Leading Bid among other purchases in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Top trainer Bart Cummings and his foreman Reg Fleming who have charge of Moatize are big fans of Sundons Gift.

Botica’s interest in standardbreds took him to the Elitlopp in Sweden when Lyell Creek ran and that sparked a dream to also have a competitor in the prestigious race. He purchased Sundons Gift on impulse at the 2004 Auckland Yearling Sales after the horse caught his eye at the pre–parade, although at the time he did not know it was a trotter. However, this coincidence did not bring immediate results – the gelding’s career started slowly in New Zealand with six unplaced starts, largely due to bad manners. In 2006, Botica bought the horse outright from his partners as part of a move to Australia, and subsequently transferred him to Chris Lang’s stable.

He had made contact with Lang after seeing a documentary in which Lang talked about a serious illness that had threatened to end his racing career, and the use of natural therapies in his recovery. Botica had also experienced some health issues, and could easily relate to Lang’s story; a mention of Sundons Gift NZ in a conversation between the two led Lang to remark “we’ll try and win a race with him”.

Lang at that time was having great success with trotters. He saw some potential in the horse, and his experience with champion trotters Kyvalley Road, Skyvalley, National Interest and Jauriol suggested that Sundons Gift NZ, with some work on his manners, had speed to be tapped.

There was also the matter of his pedigree which Lang perceived would eventually come to the fore. Lang knew the gelding’s immediate pedigree was full of Inter Dominion Trotting Championship performers with his sire Sundon USA at the top of the trotting Sires Lists in NZ and Australia after a great race career as a young trotter in New Zealand.

Sundon USA had come to NZ as a yearling colt in the ownership of RA McKenzie together with his dam Sungait Song USA, who became the dam of eight trotting winners including Sungait Reb Tr. 1.57.2. His sire was Arndon USA Tr 3, 1.54 a direct descendant through eight generations of the Peter the Great sire line.

Trained and driven by WF Fletcher, Sundon USA won his first eleven races as a two year old, with his first four wins recorded before he attained two years of age (foaled on 7/3/86 in USA). His best time as a two year old was 2.06.2 over 2200 metres.

Another three wins as a three year old came before suffering his first defeat; three more first places brought his juvenile seasons’ total to seventeen lifetime wins from eighteen race starts. His fastest three year old success was in 2.03.3 over a mile at Ashburton.

Sundon USA found racing in open company much harder, but by the time the 1990 Inter Dominion Trotting Championship came to Christchurch he was eligible to compete. His second placing and a heat win made him eligible for the Grand Final, but the stallion ran last in a field of fourteen. Strangely, he was subsequently disqualified from his heat performances after the series had concluded, and his best time of 2.00.7 was deleted from the records.

In the lead up to the 1991 Inter Dominion Trotting Championship, this time in Auckland, Sundon USA with a new driver – PN Jones – won four races including a $120,000 contest at the NZ Cup carnival in Christchurch.

With success in two heats of the Championship Sundon USA was favoured to win the final but finished nearly last for no accountable reason. Over another two seasons he won four more races for a lifetime total of twenty seven wins and eight placings from sixty starts for $NZ264,085 in prizemoney.

His disqualified time of 2.00.7 was his lifetime best but his best otherwise and the official record is 2.01.7 over 2200 metres in the 1990 Championship series in Auckland.

By early 2011, Sundon USA had sired some 641 individual winners including 97 in two minutes and ten in better than1.55. His fastest performer in Australia was Sundons Gift NZ Tr.1.54.3 whilst in North America his fastest was Mighty Dragon NZ Tr.1.52. His richest progeny at that time were Sundons Gift NZ $AUD1,198,968, and One Over Kenny NZ $NZ$1,098,007. (For latest statistics click here to go to HRA On–Line Sire Reports)

Sundons Gift NZ is a breeding cross representing Peter The Great X Axworthy sire lines being by Sundon USA from Landora’s Gift NZ Tr. 2.05.6 by Chiola Hanover USA Tr.1.57.8. The next dam is Landora’s Pride NZ Tr.2.04.3 by Game Pride USA Tr.2.06 – she recorded thirty four wins and forty placings for $NZ472,842.

Among her wins was the 1986 VL Dullard Cup at Moonee Valley for John Langdon and two heats of the 1988 Inter Dominion Trotters Championship also at Moonee Valley when driven by the late Vin (VJ) Knight. Earlier, and between her two trips to Australia, Landora’s Pride NZ had won a heat of the 1987 Inter Dominion Trotters Championship at Christchurch.

Further back in the maternal family there is a preponderance of pacing blood through the pacing sires Goodland USA, Meadow Chief USA, and Ringtrue NZ before tailing off to old time NZ trotting bloodlines.

CT and VM Allingham were the breeders of Landora’s Pride as they are also of Sundons Gift NZ.

Chris Lang would have been well aware of the impressive record of the grand dam of Sundon’s Gift NZ and to a lesser extent of his dam when he recommended the purchase of the gelding.

In August 2006, after a six month break, Sundons Gift NZ resumed racing (in Australia) under new ownership, with a new trainer and driver. Success at several tracks across Victoria gave him a total of 13 wins and 2 placings from 19 starts for the season of 2006/07. The best win was the Damian Booth FFA at Moonee Valley in May 2007 whilst his fastest was at the same track on 24/8/2007 over 2575 metres in 2.02.2.

Favourable results continued in his second season in Australian racing as a six year old. In a 50% win rate from ten starts, Sundons Gift NZ (stable name “Bernie”) clocked a 2.00.3 mile rate in a FFA win at Bendigo, and captured his first Group 1 – the $100,000 Trotting Grand Prix at Moonee Valley (when owner Neven Botica saw him race for the first time). The gelding had missed the Inter Dominion series through injury but won awards at state and national level as Trotter of the Year (2008).

On–going success in the 2008/09 season led trainer/driver Chris Lang to look further afield and consider the possibility that the gelding might be up to the high European international standard. The race he had in mind was the Elitlopp at the Solvalla Raceway at Stockholm, Sweden – the top trotting race in the European Grand Circuit and the prestigious race in which only 20 horses from around the world are invited to take part.

Wins in the Freestone Cup (Gr 3) and then a second Grand Prix (Gr 1) were followed by an outstanding first in the 2009 Grand Final of the $250,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Championship at Moonee Valley rating 1.59.7 over 2575 metres, which bettered his own track record for the distance. Sundons Gift NZ swept to the lead after one lap, but his six metres lead at the home turn was considerably reduced in a pressure finish with the well performed favourite One Over Kenny NZ.

These results confirmed Chris Lang’s view that the gelding would have some chance against the French, Italian and Swedish trotters in Stockholm, and an invitation to race at Solvalla came quickly after the impressive ID win. This also fulfilled the dream that owner Neven Botica had pursued since his visit to Sweden in 2000.

With “Bernie’s” Australian racing career now 25 wins and 8 placings from 41 starts, Chris Lang left Australia following in the footsteps of Kerryn Manning and Knight Pistol who made the same journey several years before with success. Other “downunder” trotters Lyell Creek (NZ) and Touch of Flair (Aust) had also made the trip from North America without success.

Arriving in Stockholm in April 2009, Sundons Gift NZ had his first start at Solvalla on13th May in a FFA when sixth to the North American Global Glide who won over 1640 metres in 1.56.7. Sundons Gift NZ improved at his next start on 23rd May but from an inside back row start could do no better than an improving 6th to Standpoint USA who ran a 1.54.6 mile.

In his heat of the Elitlopp on 31st May another unfavourable barrier draw contributed to a sixth placing, this time to Jaded, a European horse who trotted the mile in 1.52.2. Not qualifying for the Final, Sundons Gift NZ was taken north to Boden where he ran fifth to Global Glide USA and was then brought home to Australia.

Sundons Gift NZ had personally rated 1.57.9; 1.55.4; 1.53.8 and 1.57.4 in his four races in Sweden but bad barrier draws had been the biggest factors where no advantages could be given to the other high calibre trotters. However, “Bernie” did record a personal best time of 1:53.8, and acquired new headgear that dealt with sand kicking up in his face, whilst trainer/driver Lang brought home new training skills that paid dividends quite quickly.

Back in Australia for the 2009/2010 season, Sundons Gift NZ was under close scrutiny, with some concern that the form of the now eight year old might plateau. However, it turned out to be probably his best year of racing and it may be that the short stint of racing overseas against extremely experienced competitors gave the gelding an extra degree of toughness plus speed.

From 13 starts for the season he had 9 wins and 2 placings. He became the first Australian trotter to capture his third $100,000 Grand Prix (Gr 1) – this time at Melton, then the Trotters Mile of $50,000 at Menangle (Gr 1) in 1.56.3, and the $30,000 EB Cochran Cup (Gr 2). Most important of all was his second Inter Dominion Trotting Championship of $250,000 rating 2.01 for 2575 metres (February 6, 2010), after an emphatic win in a semi–final.

This was the last harness meeting hosted at Moonee Valley, and “Bernie” outclassed his rivals to score his second final and qualify for the Hall of Fame. Stablemate Skyvalley ran third after unexpected second placegetter Kasyanov NZ. Sensational speed from barrier one gave Sundons Gift NZ the lead, and he was never headed in his 29th victory from 57 career starts. He also joined 1996/97 Pride of Petite (USA) as a back–to–back winner of the trotting championship.

Shortly after he travelled back to New Zealand to win the $NZD250,000 Rowe Cup (Gr 1) (7/5/2010), and had just one defeat (to I Didnt Do It) in 13 races during the 2010 calendar year. He was crowned Victorian Horse of the Year, plus Victorian and the Vancleve Australian Trotter of the Year, both for the third consecutive time.

The successful trotter/trainer/driver partnership continued into 2010/11, with home base at the Lang’s first–class establishment at Nagambie, Victoria, where four different purpose tracks offer great training facilities. More top level achievements were quickly recorded, particularly in Grand Circuit events. In a first Bill Collins Trotters Mile victory over new rival Down Under Muscles, Sundons Gift NZ again showed great gate speed, and in the Trotters Mile at Menangle (November 2010) he became the first trotter to better 1:55 in Australia when he reset both the Australasian and the Australian mile records to 1:54.3, lowering those held by Lyell Creek (2000 – 1:55.6) and Earl Of Mot (2008 – 1:56.2) respectively. The following month he prevailed by a head after several challenges to win a fourth consecutive Australian Grand Prix (2240m), as done previously only by Pure Steel and Gammalite, which Lang said “is just unbelievable”.

With five straight wins to end 2010, nine year old “Bernie” was living up to the title of “superstar square–gaiter” and results were tempting both Lang and Botica to consider another visit to Sweden. However, the Inter Dominion challenge in Auckland (March /April 2011) was first priority, where they would vie for an unprecedented third successive trotting championship win, and lead–up preparations began. Progress was hampered by missing the Australasian Trotters Championship due to handicapping concerns, while two defeats by stable–mate Let Me Thru (V L Dullard Cup and City of Sails Trot) suggested further workouts were needed.

ID 2011 was transferred from Christchurch to Auckland following earthquake damage, and Sundons Gift NZ faced a tough draw in his first heat (inside second line). A disappointing finish (11th) led to tests for infection and injury, but nothing was detected, and a prized inside gate barrier draw for the next heat kept Lang optimistic. However, fate intervened, with the gelding being withdrawn after pulling up lame from his warm–up, and his campaign ended with a return home for a spell.

Despite this outcome, good news came with the award of a second successive title of Grand Circuit Trotting Champion, ahead of I Can Doosit, Let Me Thru and Stylish Monarch. This equaled similar achievements by Lyell Creek and Take A Moment, and trainer/driver Lang considered it to be “a pretty fitting accolade”. “Bernie” was also named the Vancleeve Aged Trotting Horse/Gelding for 2011.

He eased into the 2011/12 season with a four month’s break, and resumed with a second straight win in the Chris Howe Trotters Cup (G3) in November 2011, scoring by a head after a gritty run. Subsequent minor placings in top races, including the Trotters Mile and the Grand Prix, suggested he would find it challenging to feature in the Inter Dominion in early 2012. Lang was optimistic, but acknowledged the champion was “towards the end of his career”.

ID12 was the last running of the Trotting Championship since the series began in 1948, and heats were held in Shepparton and Ballarat prior to the final at Melton (Victoria). Initial rankings saw Sundons Gift NZ at No.1, but he was displaced by reigning champion I Can Doosit before the heats, where limited results (a second and a third) dropped him to seventh going into the final. Unfortunately, racing three wide and working overtime from the start took its toll, and “Bernie” was no match for the fast sprinting winner, I Can Doosit, finishing at the tail of the field.

That signaled what everyone thought was the end of his racing career, with owner Nevin Botica making the decision to retire the gelding, and after a sentimental stable send–off, Sundons Gift moved to nearby Aldebaran Park, a property at Nagambie owned by Chris Lang and Duncan McPherson. However, there was a postscript added, when “Bernie” returned briefly to racing in early 2013, after some good trials suggested he had recovered from the illness that had plagued him during 2011/12. A strong second to Mister Zion in the Australasian Trotting Championship was promising, but subsequent results were disappointing and his fledging comeback was discontinued in favour of retirement for good. Nevertheless, his achievements will stand, and the naming of a new spectator viewing facility at the Shepparton Racing complex gives further recognition to “a local legend”.

Owner Neven Botica believes “Chris (Lang) has done an amazing job with the horse”, whose brilliance and stamina contributed to his being the first Australian trained trotter to win more than $1m in Australian races, and he is part of the over $1m Australasian trotter club, along with other stars such as Take A Moment, Lyell Creek and One Over Kenny NZ. His career record at retirement showed 41 wins from 86 starts, with $1.275m prizemoney and 10 wins at Group 1 level. He was the richest Australian–trained trotter, who built a strong reputation in both Australia and New Zealand, and his invitational trip overseas in 2009 brought positive profile internationally for the Australian standardbred industry.

Australian Trotting Grand Prix, Moonee Valley, Vic (G1)
Cranbourne Trotters Cup, Cranbourne, Vic (G3)
Freestone Trotters Cup, Moonee Valley, Vic (G3)
The George Gath, Moonee Valley, Vic (G3)
Inter Dominion Trotters Championship Final, Moonee Valley, Vic (G1)
Inter Dominion Trotters Championship Semi–Final, Ballarat, Vic (G2
Australian Trotting Grand Prix, Moonee Valley, Vic (G1)
Freestone Trotters Cup, Moonee Valley, Vic (G3)
Maori’s Idol Memorial, Moonee Valley, Vic (G3)
Inter Dominion Trotters Championship Final, Tabcorp Park, Melton (G1)
Inter Dominion Trotters Championship Semi–Final, Ballarat, Vic (G2)
Rowe Cup, Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ (G1)
Australian Trotting Grand Prix, Tabcorp Park, Melton (G1)
Trotters Mile, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G1)
Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters FFA, Tabcorp Park, Melton (G2)
E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup, Shepparton, Vic (G2)
Maori’s Idol Memorial, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)
Uncle Petrika Trotters FFA, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)
Australian Trotting Grand Prix, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G1)
Bill Collins Trotters Mile, Cranbourne, Vic (G1)
NSW Trotters Mile, Tabcorp Park, Menangle, NSW (G1)
Chris Howe Trotters Cup, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)
Freestone Trotters Cup, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)
Chris How Trotters Cup, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)
Sundons Gift Trotters FFA, Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic (G3)

3YO* 1 0 0 $0 --
4YO* 6 1 0 $3,663 2:09.5SS
5YO 19 13 2 $88,150 2:02.2MS
6YO 10 5 2 $132,650 2:00.3MS
7YO** 15 6 4 $300,460 1:59.7MS
8YO* 13 9 2 $494,670 1:56.3MS
9YO 10 6 2 $206,421 1:54.3MS
10YO 8 1 4 $46,250 2:02.4MS
11YO 4 0 1 $3,000 --
Total 86 41 17 $1,275,264 1:54.3MS
* includes performances in New Zealand. Prizemoney for NZ starts converted $NZ1 = $AUS1, as per Aust Stud Book Regularions.
** includes performances in Sweden. Prizemoney for Swedish starts – Swedish kroner converted to Aust dollars per exchange rate as at date horse cleared back to Aust.

race footage
2010 Trotting Final
Race Footage courtesy Harness Racing Victoria
2009 Trotting Final
Race Footage courtesy Harness Racing Victoria

Blacks A Fake Pedigree Sundons Gift NZ

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