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BLAST FROM THE PAST


PETER MACKENZIE - Former Chief Stipendiary Steward

PETER MACKENZIE

Peter Mackenzie, a former Chief Stipendiary Steward for Harness Racing New Zealand, died on Friday after falling into the Lindis River in Central Otago. He was swept down-stream after police said he appeared to lose his balance and tumble five metres into the swollen river. Aged 66, Mackenzie was on his way from Clyde to Christchurch with a friend when he requested a comfort stop. His body was found three hours later, snagged on a submerged tree. A coroner's inquest will be held into his death.

Mackenzie joined Harness Racing New Zealand as a trainee stipendiary steward and handicapper in 1962. He moved from Gore when he became Chief Stipendiary in 1985, on the retirement of Len Butterfield, and retired in 1995. His position was taken by Michael Carrig, who died suddenly four years ago.

Mackenzie was a champion squash player, winning the national junior title three times. The squash courts in Gore are named the Mackenzie Courts in his honour. He was Chairman of the Mataura Licensing Trust for four years, from 1980, having been elected to the Board in 1977.

Neil Escott, the present Chief Stipendary Steward, said he was "forthright and competitive" whether it was to do with sport or racing. "He never liked to finish second," he said.

Escott said Mackenzie was held in high regard by the majority of licenceholders. "Some on the fringe may have had cause to feel his never-back-down attitude, but he never held a grudge. I remember one case he dealt with up north, and he told this person to change some gear because the horse would not be allowed on the track if he did not. 'Who the hell are you?' was the response. 'Everyone knows me,' said Mackenzie,'I am the Chief Stipe.''I don't' said the trainer. Well he got a penalty for misconduct, but later that night they had a cup of tea together, and did so whenever they met after that," Escott said.

In recent years, Mackenzie did not keep good health, but he was a keen member of the local bowling club and was treasurer for a syndicate racing a galloper out of Kerry Verner's stable. One of those in the syndicate is former galloping trainer, Ray Pankhurst, a part-owner of Cup Class pacer, Panky's Pacer. "I saw him just before he left," said Pankhurst, "and the last thing he said to me was Panky's Pacer would win the Hannon Memorial." (Which it did!)

Mackenzie was a stickler for correctness and protocol. Anyone using a capital K in Mackenzie soon learnt the error of their ways, and never made the mistake again.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 25Sep02

 
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