Tea Trader (NZ) – 1929 ch. c. by Tea Tray (GB) – Epitaph (NZ) by Absurd (GB)
Owner: “Reid” (in NZ) / David J. (D. J.) Davis (in North America)
Trainer: E. Pope (in NZ) / Captain Cuthbert Morse (in North America)
In NZ (potentially incomplete): (9) 2-4-3 / Earnings: nearly £2,000
1931: 2nd Great Northern Foal S. (Auckland,6fT); 3rd: Wellesley S. (Wellington,~6fT)
1932: 1st Royal S. (Auckland,6fT); 2nd Wellington S. (Wellington,5fT), Sires’ Produce S. (Wellington,7fT), Railway H. (Auckland,~6fT); 3rd Great Northern Guineas (Auckland,T), King’s Plate (Auckland,T)
1933: 1st Newmarket H. (Auckland,6fT)
In North America: (14) 4-4-0 / Earnings: $3,050
1933: 1st Spring Time H (AQ,6f), Baja California S. (AQ,6f), Australian H. (TAN,170ft less than 6f), Pleasanton H. (TAN,170ft less than 6f); 2nd United Air Line H. (TAN, 170ft less than 6f), Community Chest H. (TAN,170ft less than 6f)
While he raced on turf in New Zealand, Tea Trader raced on dirt in North America and was noted to have a liking for the mud.
NEW ZEALAND: 1931
Tea Trader’s first race came at Wellington on October 24 in the Wellesley Stakes (6fT), where he finished third behind Lack and La Moderne in a field of twenty-two. He did not race again until December 26, where he would finish second by 3/4 of a length to Inflation in the Great Northern Foal Stakes (6fT) at Auckland.
NEW ZEALAND: 1932
To begin 1932, Tea Trader would win the Royal Stakes (6f) at Auckland on January 2, and finish second to Head Lady in the Wellington Stakes (5fT) at Wellington on January 20.
Following a three month break, Tea Trader would next compete in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (7fT) at Wellington on April 20, finishing second by a neck to Midinette. After the race, Tea Trader took another extended break, with his next start coming in the Great Northern Guineas (1 miT) at Auckland on November 5, where after leading for the first five furlongs, he would finish third behind Gold Trail and Pillow Fight.
He made two starts in quick succession at Auckland to end 1932 – the Railway Handicap (~6fT) on December 26 and the King’s Plate (~1 miT) on December 28. In the Railway, he would finish second to Quorn by “3/4 of a length plus a head.” Quorn’s final time of 1:12 2/5 was a new race record. In the King’s Plate, Tea Trader would finish third behind La Moderne and Pillow Fight.
NEW ZEALAND: JANUARY 1933
Tea Trader made his final start in New Zealand in the Newmarket Handicap (6fT) at Auckland on January 2, winning the race in 1:12 3/5.
In early January, Phar Lap’s American owner David J. (D. J.) Davis purchased Tea Trader and stakes winner Pillow Fight from owner “Reid.” Tea Trader’s purchase price was said to be “a sum approaching four figures,” while Pillow Fight’s purchase price was £5,000. Hopes were extremely high for the success of the horses in North America, especially in the case of Pillow Fight, as he shared the same sire (Night Raid (GB)) as Phar Lap.
Following the sale, trainer E. Pope declared of Tea Trader, “He is the most brilliant colt I have ever had the pleasure of preparing, and naturally, I am sorry to lose him,” says Pope, who concluded that American sprinters would need to be very high class to defeat him, particularly on left-handed courses.” – Western Mail (Perth, WA) 01/26/1933
Tea Trader would conclude his career in New Zealand with a known record of two wins, four seconds, and three thirds in nine starts, all coming in stakes company.
DEPARTURE FOR NORTH AMERICA: JANUARY 1933
Tea Trader, Pillow Fight, Davis, and Davis’ trainer Captain Cuthbert Morse departed New Zealand on January 17 aboard the Matson luxury liner S. S. Mariposa.
“Mr. D. J. Davis, who accompanies the horses, has received hundreds of telegrams wishing him luck… All home comforts will be provided for Pillow Fight and Tea Trader when on board the Mariposa, en route for California. Elaborate stalls, 12ft by 12ft have been constructed, and also a large sand roll, New Zealand fodder is being carried, and another consignment will be sent on board the Monterey. The horses will rest for a few days after arrival, before proceeding to Agua Caliente.” – The Brisbane Courier, 01/18/1933
The S. S. Mariposa arrived in Los Angeles on January 31. “Between New Zealand and Hawaii,” he [Mr. Davis] said, “We encountered heavy storms, and both horses were so seasick that they went temporarily off their feed, but they picked up well from Honolulu to Los Angeles.” – The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.) 02/02/1933
AGUA CALIENTE: FEBRUARY-APRIL 1933
Less than a month after his arrival in Los Angeles, Tea Trader made his first start at Agua Caliente in the $1,300 Agua Caliente Invitational (6f) on February 19. He finished fourth and last behind Quickaway, Sundot, and Lemon Hills. Quickaway would set a new track record in the race, sprinting the six furlong distance in 1:10 2/5.
Tea Trader then made a quick turnaround in the Arden Farms Handicap (6f) on February 25, where he finished fifth. It would take him until his third start to obtain his first win in North America, in the $600 Spring Time Handicap (6f) on March 19, where he beat Joe Flores by a nose in 1:11. Quickaway, who had entered the race on a six race win streak, finished third.
Tea Trader then finished second to Sundot in the Meteor Handicap (6f) on March 26. In his fifth and final start at Agua Caliente, Tea Trader would turn the tables on Sundot, winning the April 2 Baja California Handicap (6f) by a nose in a final time of 1:10 3/5.
TANFORAN: APRIL-MAY 1933
The Davis horses moved to Tanforan Racetrack near San Francisco in mid-April. In less than a month, Tea Trader accrued a record of two wins and one second in three starts, quickly becoming a fan favorite.
“To say that the colt is a “pet” at Tanforan is to put it extremely mild. He is accorded an ovation on his every appearance under colors.” – Daily Racing Form, 05/10/1933
Tea Trader’s first start at Tanforan came on April 18 in the $1,000 United Air Line Handicap over the A. B. Spreckels course (170 feet less than 6 furlongs), where he finished second to Up. Up, Tea Trader, and third place horse Sarazen II were “slightly more than a nose apart” at the wire. The final time was 1:10 2/5.
His next start came in the Australian Handicap (Spreckels course) on April 22, where he defeated Polydorus by five lengths in a final time of 1:09. Up would finish third.
Tea Trader then won the $1,000 Pleasanton Handicap (Spreckels course) on May 6. Once again, Polydorus claimed the place with Up the show. The final time of this race was printed as 1:03 3/5; however, considering the distance (170 ft. less than 6f), this is extremely unlikely. It was noted at the time that Tea Trader’s winning time was four-fifths of a second off of the track record, which at the time was 1:07 4/5 (set by Lamp Black on 12/8/1930). Therefore, it can be assumed that his final time was somewhere around 1:08 3/5.
MATCH RACE: MAY 1933
A match race between Tea Trader and Sundot at Tanforan over the Spreckels course was scheduled for May 20. The horses were to carry equal weights of 117 lbs., with the winner receiving an $800 purse and a trophy “emblematic of the Pacific coast sprinting championship.” However, this race was called off after Tea Trader pulled up “slightly lame” with an unspecified injury following a work at Tanforan on May 17.
SUMMER OF 1933
Initial reports were for Tea Trader and Pillow Fight to travel to Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago in July for an eastern campaign; however, Davis ultimately decided to keep the horses on the West Coast. Recovering from the unspecified injury suffered in mid-May, Tea Trader was said to be back in good health by August.
LONGACRES: SEPTEMBER 1933
Tea Trader’s first start since May came on September 10 in the Speed Test Handicap (5f) at Longacres, where he finished fourth to the filly Bonny Grafton. His old nemesis from Agua Caliente, Quickaway, finished second.
In the Speed Test H., Bonny Grafton stopped the timer in :58 1/5, not only a new track record, but a time one second off Pan Zareta’s world record time of :57 1/5. This was Bonny Grafton’s second track record in three days, as on the previous Friday she had won a six furlong race in the track record time of 1:10 4/5.
BACK TO TANFORAN: NOVEMBER 1933
Following the Speed Test H., initial reports were for Tea Trader was to be shipped to Pimlico Race Course in Maryland. However, this never materialized; his next start would come in the $1,500 Inaugural Handicap (5.5f) at Tanforan on November 1, where he would finish last in a field of seven. This day was of particular historic note, as it marked the first day of legalized pari-mutuel wagering in California.
On November 5, Tea Trader finished second to Bonny Grafton in the $2,000 added Community Chest Handicap over the Spreckels course. Quickaway would finish third, with Sundot fifth. Again proving to be a thorn in Tea Trader’s side, Bonny Grafton equaled Lamp Black’s track record for 170 ft. less than 6f, completing the distance in 1:07 4/5.
Tea Trader then finished sixth of eight starters in the $1,500 added Berkeley Handicap (Spreckels course) on November 18 and second in a $500 handicap (5.5f) on November 23. Desert Call would win both races.
BAY MEADOWS: NOVEMBER 1934
Following an almost year long absence, Tea Trader made his return on opening day of the newly constructed Bay Meadows, finishing seventh of ten starters in the $1,500 added Stockton Handicap (6f) on November 3. Bonny Grafton would win.
Tea Trader’s comeback proved to be short lived, as the Stockton H. would be his final race. He would suffer an unspecified leg ailment at Bay Meadows, and fail to recover properly, necessitating his retirement. He would end his career in North America with a record of four wins and four seconds in fourteen starts.
RETIREMENT: MARCH 1935
Tea Trader was retired to stud at Marion Hollis’ Stock Farm in Santa Cruz, CA in March 1935 and sired nine registered foals between 1936 and 1945. Five foals would race, with four winners.
In addition to stallion duties, it appears Tea Trader may have won first place in the Thoroughbred stallion class at the Menlo (CA) Horse Show in 1936.
Through his sire Tea Tray (GB), Tea Trader traced tail-male to the Byerley Turk.
At stud, Tea Trader would sire:
Tonopah Queen (1936 ch. f. o/o Nevada Queen by Trouble)
Race record: (37) 4-7-4 / $4,600
1938: 2nd California Breeders’ Handicap ($1,500), 3rd California Bred Juvenile Championship ($2,500)
Tea Merchant (1936 ch. c. o/o Phaola (NZ) by Catmint (GB))
Race record: (37) 5-2-4 / $1,875
Tea Fight (1937 b. f. o/o Betty O’Neal by Honeywood)
Race record: (63) 4-10-7 / $2,386
Tea Planter (1938 ch. c. o/o Phaola (NZ) by Catmint (GB))
Race record: Unraced
Tea Lass (1942 br. f. o/o Irish Lass by Vesington King (GB))
Race record: Unraced
Tea Lass would foal at least one Quarter Horse filly.
Lass-Su (1943 ch. f. o/o Irish Lass by Vesington King (GB))
Race record: Unraced
Baby Tea (1945 ch. f. o/o Electress Wells by Elector)
Race record: (24) 1-0-0 / $720
Tea Bells (1945 br. f. o/o Doris Mildred by Easter Bells)
Race record: Unraced
Vista Lass (1945 br. f. o/o Irish Lass by Vesington King (GB))
Race record: (24) 0-2-4 / $755