Sports correspondent & historian
While the Gate Pa Racecourse in Tauranga has produced some very good racehorses over the years - some six decades ago - a bay coloured thoroughbred with four white feet made an indelible impression on the racing public in the country.
Final Command was amongst the early offspring of Final Court from a mare called Expansion.
Raced by Waikato farmer Mr. WB Mellow, Final Command was trained in Tauranga by veteran horseman Paddy Abbott.
The outstanding thoroughbred racing chronicle Tapestry of the Turf tells us, that Abbott was a man who never had a big team but had shown previously that he knew how to handle a good horse when he had one.
A reasonably inauspicious two-year old season, saw Final Command finish his initial preparation with victory at the racing backwater of Gisborne and three further placing’s from four starts.
The then three-year old gelding re-commenced his career, with unplaced start and win at six furlongs at Rotorua, followed by another miss.
From there on he made punters sit up and take notice, stringing together six wins on the trot.
Legendary Kiwi jockey Grenville Hughes was on Final Command in his first win as a three-year old and in hack sprint victories at Pukekohe, Ellerslie and Avondale in January 1963.
Cambridge hoop Gary Edge was aboard Final Command when he went from promising type to a genuine star of the turf, resuming from a break at the Bay of Plenty Racing Club autumn meeting at Gate Pa.
On the first day, he won the open sprint defeating a more than useful horse called Khadija by four lengths, before stepping up the seven furlong Easter Trial, which was the main race of the second day.
The three-year-old home town galloper burst into Easter Handicap calculations when he decimated a smart field of weight for age gallopers by five lengths.
In spite of questions of whether Final Command could run out the mile of the Auckland Racing Club feature, he was sent out one of the shortest priced favorites in the history of the Group One Easter Handicap.
The Tauranga trained galloper defeated an extremely strong Easter lineup, by a length and a half, from Poets Pride with Gauntlet the same distance away in third place.
Testament to the quality of Final Command as a racehorse can be provided in the fact that few three-year olds have won the time-honoured Easter Handicap, let alone powering past the post by a solid margin of a length and a half.
Final Command resumed as a four-year old, winning the Cheltenham Handicap six furlong sprint, under the massive burden of 9st 5lb.
However, his days in the (New Zealand Racing) sun, ended after a further start, when he was sold to race in California in the United States, for around a small fortune of fifteen thousand guineas.