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Ken Robertson, who won numerous standardbred races over 54 years training on the beach at Ocean View (near Dunedin), has died at the age of 83. Robertson achieved most of his success with unsound horses or those considered past their prime. He was an exponent of beach training before it was generally popular.

There was a private funeral for Robertson as he requested. It was attended by his wife of 54 years, Carole, and only child, Carla, who is married to Leithfield Beach trainer, Robbie Holmes. Roberson had a winning experience as an owner a month before his death when his black and cerise colours were carried by Double El at Cromwell. Carla arranged for him to lease a share in the promising Holmes-trained pacer a fortnight earlier in view of his failing health. Double El has since been sidelined with a foot problem.

Robertson was born in Cromwell in November, 1928. He lived in Dunedin as a youth close to the Forbury Park racecourse and gained experience with trainer Alec Crawford. He was at Ocean View when he bought his first horse, Red Glare, for "next to nothing". Robertson trained and drove Red Glare to win at Kurow in 1954 at odds of 25 to one. Nicknamed "Brickie" he was then involved in the building trade and trained as a hobby.

He turned professional in the 1960s after many requests to try horses whose owners felt needed a change of environment or were unsound. He won the main race at Forbury Park in October, 1965 with Lauder Scott, the outsider in a 10-hosre field. Lauder Scott was then a 9-year-old and had not won for 12 months.

Adioway and Master Alan were the same age when they won good races for Robertson. He considered the win of Adioway in the Mobil Oil Flying Mile at Addington in 1968 as his best. Adioway came from last at the top of the straight to beat some of the best horses in commission. Adioway had won 8 of 19 starts when trained at Yaldhurst by George Noble. The gelding was unsound and had not raced for two and a half years when he was leased by Robertson and Jim Crack, of Invercargill.

Robertson rejuvenated Master Alan to win the Southland Invitation Stakes at Gore in 1967 when the gelding had been off the winning list for two years. Master Alan had earlier won 16 races including the Easter Cup at Addington. The trotter Morven Lad ended a losing streak of 84 starts over four years when he won for Robertson at Roxburgh in 1970.

He won with the trotter Neutron Bomb at Invercargill in 1997 at odds of 35 to one. Neutron Bomb, co-owned by Kerry Dance, was then a 10-year-old and had his previous win as a pacer three years earlier. Robertson and Dance won five races with Doone's Chip in the early 1990s.

Robertson raced horses on all bar two of the South Island tracks and ventured to Hawera where he won with Johnny Shiloh in 1973. Robertson won six races as an owner with the trotter Perfect Trust in 1990s, training the gelding for his last three wins.

Robertson knew the distance his horses worked on the beach but he never timed them and rarely took a horse to a racetrack to trial. "I work them solidly, no jogging with two or three sharp sprints, I know by the feel if they are fit," he said in an interview three years ago. His skill had not dimmed in the twilight of his career with four of his last five winners having their first starts from his stable. The last was the trotter Harvey Krumpet at Forbury Park in June, 2008, the outsider in a 14-horse field, paying $73.30 to win.

Credit: HRWeekly 29Feb2012

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