Addington Welcome to The Addington Harness Hall of Fame.

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For many years now racegoers at Addington Raceway have been fortunate to be blessed with superb callers, two of whom were long term servants and a current incumbent who could easily remain in the job for as long as he likes. The names of Clarkson and Murtha are synonymous with Addington while McNamara has made giant strides in people’s estimation.

Before we review the careers of those behind the microphone at Addington, let’s have a look at the background to race calling in New Zealand. The first reported race broadcast from Addington Raceway was the 3 June 1926 meeting of the Canterbury Park Trotting Club (King’s Birthday meeting). The first caller was Alan Allardyce on private radio 3AC and later 3YA - local national programme station in Christchurch.

After the Addington broadcast, the Canterbury Jockey Club refused to allow broadcasting of the Grand National meeting of August 1926. Allardyce however called races from a haystack which was situated outside the racecourse, using an extension cable from the microphone to the telephone of owner/trainer Jack McComb whose home backed onto the course. Although positioned 3½ furlongs from the finish, it was reported that all calls were accurate!! Following this first ever race call, the CJC banned Allardyce from calling thereafter. However sometime later Allardyce was provided with a seat in the stand from which to broadcast although the crowd in front of him proved problematic interrupting his view.

In August 1927, the Forbury Park Trotting Club (FPTC) club considered a suggestion that race results be included in radio broadcasts. In September 1927, an application was received from Mr JW Webb, station director of the Radio Broadcasting Company of NZ in Dunedin requesting permission to broadcast races from Forbury Park (FP). This was readily agreed to and arrangements were made for suitable accommodation to facilitate this. From the spring meetings of 1927 (25/26 November), FP races were broadcast live to an ever expanding radio audience (extract from an unpublished history of trotting in Dunedin, courtesy of FPTC).

Debate continued concerning race broadcasts for a number of years until the NZ Racing Conference agreed broadcasting was a good thing in 1932, broadcasters agreed to pay £1000 for the privilege of doing so. Early race callers included “Wang” McKenzie, Frank Jarrett Timaru 1936 at local meetings, while David Clarkson took over Timaru in 1940 and Riccarton meetings just prior to WWII. Frank Jarrett preceded Clarkson as race caller at both Addington and Riccarton (1935). He later went onto become judge at both courses, including being judge at Addington when the photo finish was introduced in 1946, the year Integrity won the NZ Trotting Cup. Another caller in the Mid - South Canterbury area in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s was Alec Stanley. Reon Murtha advises that Stanley had told him of calling Johnny Globe winning a non tote event against current champions of the era. Stanley was also judge at Forbury Park for the 1965 Interdominions when Jay Ar and Robin Dundee dead heated in a dramatic Pacers Grand Final. He was also thoroughbred handicapper for the South Island for many years through to the 1970’s.

Fans throughout New Zealand have been ably served by their race callers, who have provided great entertainment with their vivid race descriptions, especially thrilling for radio listeners in the days before recorded or live pictures were available courtesy of TV. No less today where pictorial coverage has reached saturation point, callers need to ensure they maintain high standards. Among many important attributes is an ability to read a race, recognition of horses and breathing, timing, rhythmical voice with tone important and correct pronunciation. A good vocabulary to enable each call to have its point of difference is required and the right tempo and delivery so that the voice stays even especially in close finishes is essential. Not much to ask of a caller !! It is obvious that the better callers have all or many of these attributes (and often more).

The majority of the earlier race callers were part timers with a passion for their “calling” but it is interesting to note the longevity of many of our best callers - at Addington : David Clarkson 33yrs (1938-1971), Reon Murtha 35 yrs (1971 - 2006) plus in the North Island Syd Tonks (northern gallops close to 40 yrs; Auckland Racing Club 1947 - retired 1983; racing journalist for Best Bets, racing reporter for NZ Herald, handicapper 1961); Peter Kelly (Central Districts gallops/occasional Manawatu trots, auctioneer 30+ yrs) and Reg Clapp (northern trots 47 yrs). Later in this article a brief review of a number of other New Zealand race callers appears.

Since the late 1930’s, the state owned NZ Broadcasting Corporation/Radio New Zealand (RNZ) had a monopoly on race broadcasts. RNZ maintained its high profile in racing by providing excellent coverage until 1990, catering for all sporting and cultural tastes and overwhelmingly favouring the racing audience. All meetings were broadcast by provincial radio stations with major events networked by over 30 stations, all at no cost to the Racing industry. RNZ decided to withdraw its race coverage due to a combination of low poll ratings for racing, high costs and no financial input by the racing authorities despite being offered a multi station exclusive radio network (ala current Radio Trackside service).

In the early 1980’s private station Radio Pacific showed considerable interest in providing race broadcasts. In the 1981/82 season Pacific’s racing director Jim Smith gained support from the Racing Conference to provide broadcasts. Pacific provided full meeting coverage, introduced opening betting markets and impacted on increased TAB turnovers. RNZ and Radio Pacific provided a healthy competitive service over the next decade. Television coverage was quite good through the 1970’s and 1980’s, although only major races were covered live. Major provincial events were regularly shown on locally produced sporting TV programmes. Mainstream TV coverage faded away entirely in later years to the extent that only TV3 provides any mainstream channel live coverage each year, that being the NZ Trotting and Galloping Cups.

In 1991, RNZ ended its 53 year association with providing race commentaries to New Zealanders. This left Radio Pacific to provide a nationwide service with a $2 million injection of funding from the TAB. Eventually total coverage was provided of all three codes by Radio Pacific (now Radio Trackside) and Trackside Television was established in 1992, celebrating its twenty year anniversary in November 2012 (now two channels - Trackside free to air and TAB Sky Channel). Currently the New Zealand Racing Board has control over the Trackside channels and Radio Trackside and the appointment/employment of all race commentators.

David (DB) Clarkson -

Considered the doyen of NZ race callers and essentially the original pioneer of radio race broadcasts, David Bruce Clarkson (known as Dave) was named Commentator of the Century in 1974 and was a life member of the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame. Christchurch born and bred, Clarkson was an old boy of Christs College.

He made his first race call for the Banks Peninsula Racing Club at Motukarara on 20 October 1937. David Clarkson was the voice of Addington Raceway and Riccarton in the early days of radio. He commenced calling at these two courses just before the commencement of WWII (1937 - Riccarton, 1938 - Addington) and was to remain in this position for over 30 years before retiring in 1971. He became commentator throughout the Canterbury area for both codes e.g. at Ashburton, he was race caller between 1945 and 1970 before Freeman Holmes filled in briefly prior to Reon Murtha’s appointment in 1971. David Clarkson also called race meetings at Trentham from at least June 1944 until he was succeeded by Peter Kelly in 1956. He was also the first commentator to be acknowledged in the race book. The ace Christchurch caller’s commentating spanned 34 years from 1937 - 1971. Like his first call, he made his final call from the Banks Peninsula Racing Club’s course at Motukarara in 1971.

David Clarkson was recognised as a world class commentator, he made race calling an art, his commentaries always gave the appearance of and generated excitement. This included his famous starting phrase “This time…. “, together with classic phrases in tight finishes like “flying down the outer”, “neck and neck”, “stride for stride” to enhance and enliven his calls made before the days of television monitors. This may also explain some comments indicating that some of his calls were not always as accurate as is required from commentators with TV scrutiny today.

David Clarkson was involved in many aspects of the racing industry - professionally as a well known auctioneer. Initially working for H Matson & Co - auctioneers, grain and seed merchants from February 1940 or earlier. In 1947, he was appointed bloodstock manager and auctioneer for PGG, remaining with them until his retirement in 1978. Clarkson was an auctioneer at the National Yearling Sales (thoroughbreds) at Trentham for 25 years, commencing in 1949 with Charlie Robertson and Bill Paterson (Wright Stephenson bloodstock manager). Robertson retired after the 1954 “Royal“ sales. Clarkson and Paterson were joined by Peter Kelly in 1961. Clarkson/Paterson retired from the Trentham sales in 1973 after sharing the rostrum for 25 years. David Clarkson was instrumental in establishing the South Island Thoroughbred Bloodstock sale (now held during August Grand National carnival week in Christchurch), which is approaching its 50th anniversary.

The annual New Zealand national sale of standardbred yearlings was originally handled by H. Matson & Co. in conjunction with Wrightson, Stephenson & Co. Ltd - their first sale at Addington Raceway was held on 3 November 1944. David Clarkson was an auctioneer at these annual sales together with special annual sales of pacing and trotting stock in 1957, 1963 and 1972, spending considerable time travelling throughout NZ inspecting yearlings.

Privately David Clarkson was on the Committee for his local Ellesmere Agricultural and Pastoral Society (A&P Show)in the early 1940‘s; an owner (see Just A Rebel below); served as judge at Riccarton for the Canterbury Jockey Club for about five years after which he became a steward of the club and was later elected an honorary steward. Three weeks before his death he was elected President of the Banks Peninsula Racing Club.

A few years after retiring from race calling, David Clarkson raced the good galloper Just A Rebel with Riccarton trainer Dave Kerr. This 1977 gelding (Weyand USA/ Fully Tested NZ) was bred by JA Herkess and AV Webster. He had a career record of 23 starts : 7 - 5 - 2 - 1- 2, $46,330. Just A Rebel won his first three starts as a 2yo including the 1980 CJC Champion Stakes at Riccarton. His biggest win came in the 1982 CJC Easter Classic, a C1 event over 2000m for $40,000. In this race he defeated good gallopers Noble Boa and The Dimple in recording his fifth victory at Riccarton (two were at Rangiora). Just A Rebel followed this up with a sixth in the 1982 Winter Cup before being off the scene for 15 months between November 1982 and February 1984. He had his last start at Wingatui in the 1984 James Hazlet Cup over 1600m.
David Clarkson died in Christchurch on 8 August 1983, aged 70 after a long illness. He was survived by his sons David (past CJC Board member) and Duncan (Dannevirke, North Island), both keen racing men (both deceased).

Reon Murtha -

The dulcet tones of Reon Murtha filled the on course speakers at Addington Raceway for 35 years (1971 - 2006), together with the local Christchurch and frequently national radio airwaves and in latter years the Trackside TV channel. These thirty five years at Addington, were not the sum total of his race calling experiences which in fact spanned at period of 47 years from his first call on the West Coast at the 8 October 1960 Reefton meeting through until his final race calling day on 10 January 2007 also at Reefton. This is reminiscent of Dave Clarkson who’s first and last calls were also at the same track, in his case Motukarara. Known as a thorough professional and a gentleman, Reon was a legendary race caller and a popular trackside commentator who ranked with the very best in the industry in NZ and overseas.

From a family of enthusiastic amateurs steeped in West Coast racing history, Reon’s father was on the committee of the Reefton Jockey and Trotting Clubs, whilst his grand father served as a clerk of the course. Of Irish descent and a devout Catholic, Murtha attended a Catholic seminary in Christchurch during his third form year before returning back to his hometown of Reefton. His childhood ambition had been to be a race caller and his radio announcer training in Greymouth provided him with experience in using his voice and language in the correct manner to facilitate this. He commenced his broadcasting career as a technician, then began his part time race calling career while becoming a radio announcer. The ten years of race calling on the West Coast had to be undertaken during his days off. These early calls were made in open grandstands situated among the crowd with a microphone strapped to his chest and at Reefton it entailed standing on a beer crate!! Murtha had to submit to a tape recording of those first calls before being allowed to call the next Labour Weekend meeting (late October 1960) at Greymouth

Reon made his first race call at Riccarton Park in 1969 when commuting from Greymouth to make such calls. Following his appointment as the Racing/Trotting commentator for Canterbury in 1971, he became the only contracted caller in the area. His first call at Addington was a Canterbury Park Trotting Club meeting in March 1971 following that years Christchurch Interdominions. In the years that followed, Murtha became the race caller of choice at most race courses in the greater Canterbury district (North, Mid and South Canterbury plus of course Reefton) e.g. Timaru he took over from Lochie Marshall in 1993 and retained that particular calling spot until 2006. In 1984 awarded the Pater Award as Australasia’s best race commentator, one of a number of thoroughbred and harness racing awards received by him. In the 1990’s he became a fulltime racing commentator when race broadcasts moved from RNZ to Radio Pacific. Reon Murtha went onto become the voice of NZ Racing.

Reon saw his first Interdominion (ID) Championship as a spectator in 1961 at Addington when Massacre upset False Step in a closely contested finish. The 1960/61 season featured as his rookie year as a small time commentator on the West Coast. The first ID called for NZ audiences was from Globe Derby Park, Adelaide in 1976 when Chris Lewis as a 20yo drove Carclew to victory. The following year in Brisbane, Reon called home for the first time a NZ owned/trained/driven horse in Stanley Rio (although trainer George Noble was Australian by birth). Stanley Rio was born in Tasmania and sold to his owners Wayne Francis (joint Nevele R proprietor), George and son John Noble, Stanley Rio’s driver by the other Nevele R joint proprietor in Tasmanian born Bob McArdle. You would have to say this win was one for good Trans Tasman relations. For these first two years, Reon led tours on behalf of Air New Zealand. He continued to call Interdominions for NZ radio listeners for many years (1976 - 1992 excluding when they were raced at Alexandra Park, Auckland).

Reon Murtha took over from David Clarkson at Addington after the 1971 ID’s (Clarkson’s final Addington race calling assignment) so his first NZ ID championship call came in March 1979 at the Christchurch ID‘s. This was when Rondel in the hands of master NZ reinsman Peter Wolfenden managed to squeeze through a small gap along the rails left by Sapling to win by a length. Reon’s involvement with the in Interdominions in later years, was in leading NZ tour parties to the Interdominions. Accompanied by his wife Pam, he did this initially for House of Travel franchise, Young & Lee Travel (1978 - 2006); McCrory Thomas Travel (2007) and Warwick Beatson Travel in 2008 and 2009, the last of these tours was to the Gold Coast ID’s.

Reon Murtha’s career was far more rounded than just being that of a race caller, his career included being local Christchurch radio station Radio 3ZB’s Sports Editor and also presenting a community religious programme (Plains FM). He was experienced at calling rugby and rugby league fixtures, produced and/or fronted numerous radio and TV sports programmes, broadcasting events from the 1974 and 1982 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch and Brisbane respectively. Reon was invited by the BBC to be one of two Commonwealth broadcasters for the 23 July 1986 Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey. This was followed immediately by his attendance at the 1986 Commonwealth Games (24 July - 2 August 1986) in Edinburgh, Scotland (previously hosted 1970 edition) which obviously led to his being chosen as NZ’s Track and Field commentator at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Other work included leading numerous tours as an escort on behalf of Young and Lee Travel - these included visits to 1979 Little Brown Jug series in Delaware; 1981 Meadowlands Pace; 1983 Kentucky Derby; 1984 English Derby and Royal Ascot in June; 1991 Rothmans July in Durban, South Africa. On the racing front, during some of these tours he was invited to call at meetings all over the world - in Ireland at a light harness meeting at Portmarnock in Dublin; the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky; Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa together with a number of Australian harness racing tracks for RNZ.

Reon Murtha was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for his services to broadcasting in the 2004 New Years Honours. Shortly after receiving this honour, he had a cataract operation but was determined to continue calling for the foreseeable future. He retired following the November 2006 Canterbury NZ Cup’s carnival (his 36th year of calling NZ Trotting/Galloping Cups), although his last call was made at Reefton JC’s 10 January 2007 meeting where it had all begun 47 years earlier. On his retirement, he was made a life member of the Canterbury Jockey Club and has life memberships at Addington Raceway and both Reefton clubs (Jockey and Trotting). Continuing to work for the Racing Industry Board using his lifetime experience, he contributed to the future of race broadcasting by mentoring a new generation of caller’s (e.g. one year plus follow ups with Tom Wood). Keeping busy
he still attends local meetings (both harness and thoroughbred), especially premier races and country meetings, watching avidly the remainder on television. He spends time working on maintaining or reducing his golfing handicap. Called on as a guest speaker on many occasions, a more recent invitation was at Forbury Park’s hundred years Centennial Dinner in 2009.

Looking back, Reon can recall numerous fond memories of his race calling days. Events such as : Hands Down and Delightful Lady engaging in a length of the straight tussle in 1980 NZ Cup; Stanley Rio 1977 ID’s win at Albion Park; Show Gate’s wins on all three days of the 1974 NZ Cup Carnival at distances of 1200m, 2000m (with slipped saddle) on middle day and back to 1600m on final day; Empire Rose’s 1987 NZ Cup victory just 11 days after her half length second to Kensei in the Melbourne Cup (she subsequently won the 1988 Melbourne Cup). His most emotional moment came following Lord Module’s win in the 1981 Alan Matson FFA on the final night of the NZ Cup Carnival (21 November 1981). After champion like performances earlier in his career, Lord Module had become a rogue - banned from the 1981 NZ Cup, he’d broken, sat down on the track and generally taken a dislike to racing. In this race he beat great horses (Armalight, Hands Down, Bonnies Chance, Gammalite) in the then electric time of 3:15.5 (2600m) for trainer Cecil Devine and driver Jack Smolenski. Reon’s race call is remembered word for word by many harness fans such was the emotion generated by the performance. Straight after the race the crowd stormed out of the stands towards the birdcage and the great horse as if the stands were on fire. Reon recalls choking back the tears when describing it on radio.

Reon’s worst moment/lowlight came in the 1983 One Thousand Guineas (3yo Fillies) at Riccarton, when he called winner Burletta as another, possibly Quite Regal. Among the funniest moments - several including seeing ducks crossing the track at Addington; a hare leading the field for a lap at Addington and Robert Cameron disappearing through the outer iron corrugated fence when unable to control trotter Mighty Lee from crashing through the fence that opened and shut like a saloon bar door.
The best of series : Horses - Lordship who raced against Cardigan Bay on five occasions and beat him home in three of them. A great free-for-aller, he raced off difficult handicaps, won the 1966 NZ Cup off 42 yards, may have further enhanced his reputation if he had raced overseas and was of course a great sire. Murtha has time for Christian Cullen while nominating Show Gate and Sunline, both mares as brilliant thoroughbred racehorses. Drivers - Maurice Holmes, Tony Herlihy and now Dexter Dunn who impressed Murtha from the very beginning of his driving career as a superb talent showing great skill, excellent judgement and patience. As a young driver he’s already proved himself to be one of the country’s outstanding drivers comparing favourably with past legends and all of the top rated present day drivers. Jockeys - fan of Grenville Hughes (northern jockey - 1,270 winners over 35 seasons from 1942 - 1976 in NZ and Australia; two premierships; rider with outstanding technique and associated with Mainbrace) and Lance O’Sullivan (champion and most successful NZ jockey over 23 seasons 1980 - 2003; 2,357 NZ winners ands 2,479 worldwide riding in 6 countries overseas including 1989 Japan Cup with Horlicks; 11 premierships equalled Bill Broughton‘s NZ record). Naturally there was always a close West Coast bond with the famous Skelton family.

Mention must be made of Reon Murtha’s proudest horse ownership moments. These came with the particular success had with one galloper he raced together with his son Sheldon (he gifted Reon a share) and Michelle House. Bred by Michael House (Roydon Lodge) and Top of the Trots Ltd (Sheldon Murtha, company formed for the purpose of breeding and selling horses), Ombre Rose was a 2002 O’Reilly filly out of Lady Chanele. Her overall record read : 34 : 7 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 5, $227,613 and she was the 2006 NZ Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year and 2005/2006 South Island 3yo of the Year. She was trained by Shane Marr at Riccarton Park.

Ombre Rose as a 3yo won 6 races including her first maiden start over 1200m at Ashburton in October 2005. She followed up this with a series of victories all at Riccarton - Christchurch Casino 3yo 1400m on the opening day of 2005 NZ Cup carnival; CMP Canterbury 3yo 1400m in March 2006; SI Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (F & M) Listed race over 1600m in April 2006; NZ Bloodstock Air Freight Stakes (Listed) 1600m in April 2006; NZ Bloodstock Warstep Stakes (Listed) 2000m May 2006 capping a stellar season.

At four Ombre Roses only and final win came in the Ilam Real Estate (Open Hcp) 1400m in September 2006 at Riccarton. All of her victories were called by Reon in his normal professional manner. The majority of her racing from this point on was at top group level. Notable placings included a fifth in the 2007 Stoney Bridge Stakes (WFA), Hastings; second in the 2007 Cuddle Stakes Gp3 at Trentham; third in the 2007 Counties Cup Gp2 at Pukekohe; fifth in the 2008 Thorndon Mile Gp1 at Trentham; third in the 2008 Whakanui Stud International Gp1 at Te Rapa; second in the 2008 First Sovereign Trust Stakes Gp1 at Ellerslie; fifth in the 2008 Mudgway Partsworld Stakes Gp1 at Hastings; fourth in the 2008 Stoney Bridge Stakes Gp1 at Hastings. All the while threatening to pull off the “big’ one, Ombre Rose had her final start in the 2009 Manawatu Breeders Stakes at Awapuni.

Since her retirement, she has produced two unnamed/unraced bay foals owned by Michelle House, Reon and Sheldon Murtha - 2010 No Excuses Needed colt; 2011 Pins colt; 2012 served by Savabeel. A 2yo full brother to Ombre Rose sold for $145,000 at the 2012 NZ Bloodstock South Island Sale in August 2012 (O’Reilly/Lady Chanele) to NC Chan, Hong Kong. The vendor was Roydon Lodge Stud (Michael and Michelle House).

Reon’s son Sheldon has to a degree followed in his fathers footsteps. He was employed as a Trackside TV presenter/producer in the 1990’s after which he established Global Horse Racing Television Ltd, a media company making TV/Video and Internet programmes. One of the earlier shows was Global Harness Racing which aired on Sky Sport 2, Southland TV, Sky Channel Australia and Trackside TV networks. Other horse racing shows produced include 'Top of the Trots' and '123 Racing.TV' while they’ve broadcast live events such as the NZ Standardbred Yearling Sales, North American Harness Racing and a few race meetings. Sheldon is currently contracted through Global Horse Racing Television Ltd to manage/produce/edit etc content for the HRTV component on Harness Racing New Zealand’s website.

Sheldon has raced several horses, being a part owner of Kamwood Cully and current Grand Circuit performer Franco Jamar his best so far. Sheldon has numerous breeding interests and he is an enthusiastic and successful amateur driver who has had 28 drives for 3 wins and 6 placings over the past three seasons (mid October 2013).

During Reon Mutha’s reign at Addington Raceway, the NZMTC conducted two race commentators’ nights in the mid 1980’s where each race was named in honour of the caller. Those who called on each night (Mike O’Sullivan, Dave McDonald and, until recently, Tony Lee are still calling races) are shown in the table below with brief bio’s of their careers to follow :
18 January 1984 22 January 1985
Dan Myers Dan Myers
Lochie Marshall Lochie Marshall
Mike O’Sullivan Mike O’Sullivan
Reg Clapp Reg Clapp
Tony Lee Tony Lee
Keith Haub Keith Haub
Alan Bright Alan Bright
Dave McDonald Dave McDonald
Reon Murtha Rob Fielder
Junior Drivers ht Reon Murtha

Dan Myers - Central Districts gallops caller; at various times was member of NZ Racing Conference executive and Taranaki District Committee, President Egmont Racing Club, Chairman Hawera Race Course Partnership, Treasurer Egmont/Wanganui Hunt Club. Doug Ahern was another race caller who covered the Taranaki area in the 1960’s - 1970’s
Lochie Marshall - from Geraldine, first called in 1964 at the tender age of 19; generally called races in the central to southern South Island area between Orari and Roxburgh. His first call at Timaru (Phar Lap Raceway) was in 1967 before he took over permanently from Gordon Matheson in 1977. He called at Timaru from 1977 - 1993 when his contract was cancelled, with the advent of Radio Pacific broadcasts squeezing him out of a job (lost Waikouaiti, Forbury and Oamaru 2 years before finishing up at Timaru). He also did stand in’s at Hutt Park, Riccarton and Ashburton A successful owner and trainer - Anna Castleton (4 wins, T2:08.4, $19,489)/Tinka Castleton (6 wins - 4 trained by Terry May and 2 by Marshall), T2:04.6, $27,270)

Mike O’Sullivan - dual coded Central Districts race caller still operating today, calling at Manawatu R/W for various periods since early 1980’s and now closed Hutt Park

(late) Reg Clapp - worked for Tingeys and then ran his own menswear store in Mt Roskill (Auckland). His 47 years of calling commenced with the Stratford RC in 1945. In 1952 he was broadcasting trotting and later gallops on station 1YA, national programme in Auckland. Auckland Trotting Club race caller at Alexandra Park plus other northern meetings from 1954 - 1992 when he retired

Tony Lee - hotelier, prominent Central Districts race caller, mainly gallops but also Manawatu/Hutt Park harness in late 1980’s/early 1990‘s. Commentator for inaugural Harness Jewels meeting at Ashburton in 2007. Hung up his glasses in October 2012

Keith Haub - barber, hotelier (Waiheke Island), owner, breeder, after dinner speaker, auctioneer (including first two northern s/bred sales at Alex Park conducted by Keith Haub & Co, Wrightsons took over after made success); conducted sale for Welshman Albert Gubay and private trainer Trevor Payne; then chief auctioneer for Dalgetys, (Wrightsons main rival), northern race caller for over 30 yrs NZ (including Auckland Racing Club at Ellerslie; 1970 first call at Kensington Park, Whangarei; retired 2004); overseas including Hastings Park, Vancouver 1996. Hauby called major races such as Auckland Cups, Melbourne Cups, Cox Plates, Japan Cups being the first English caller of a Japan Cup in 1983 that featured McGinty. He called a harness race at Hollywood Park in 1975 and his first NZ harness call was at Manawatu Raceway on Wednesday 9 February 1983 (same night callers included Murtha, Clapp, Kelly, Bright and O‘Sullivan). Part owner of : The Gentry (1985 gelding McGinty/Rainfall), 1988 GN Foal Stakes Gp3, 1988 NZ Derby Gp1, 1989 Air NZ Stks WFA Gp1 - as a 3yo; 21 : 6-1-1 $486,825; McGinty (1979 colt One Pound Sterling/Ernader), raced in Australia as Mr McGinty; 2yo GN Foal Stks, Dalgety Stks, Todman Slipper Trial (beat champion Marscay with cracked canon bone/broken leg - Marscay’s only 2yo defeat); 3yo George Adams Hcp (Trentham), Air NZ Stks, Canterbury Guineas; 4yo Caulfield Stks, 3rd Cox Plate, 5th Japan Cup, Air NZ Stks, Rawson Stks : 26 : 14-4-3, $578,636; sired 670 winners of $9m in stakes before his death in 2001

(late) Alan Bright - commenced calling at Poverty Bay (Gisborne) where he did the odd race call when the commentator had to leave early to catch the railcar. Moved to Palmerston North in 1954, first meeting was Ashurst-Pohangina meeting at Awapuni in 1955/56. Worked as journalist/Racing Editor for Manawatu Evening Standard. Central Districts race caller for 35 years plus another 4 years in the Waikato. Manawatu Raceway harness caller for 20 years until replaced by Mike O’Sullivan early 1980’s (did a further few years late 1980’s/early 1990’s). His son, Johnny Bright, is a Trackside TV presenter who made his first calls at the Manawatu HRC meetings on 25/28 October 2012

Dave McDonald - long time tri code race caller for all Southland clubs (including Invercargill greyhounds) plus galloping and trotting trials. Made first call at Forbury Park trials as a 15 year old in 1970, then understudy to George Hayward before commencing full time calling in 1977/78 season. Other Southland caller was Bill Cherry (1945 - 1975), who like Reon Murtha was employed by the NZ Broadcasting Service as a Programme Organiser and likely made his race calls in his own time away from radio commitments. Dave McDonald continues commentating in 2013

Rob Fielder - first called races at Beaumont in 1977; auctioneer with PGG (worked with Dave Clarkson); Wrightson Bloodstock SI Manager; currently judge at Riccarton

Reon also recalls Alby Gain (northern dual code commentator including Alexandra Park post Reg Clapp era), George Simon (northern dual code caller and current Alexandra Park commentator) and Kevin Payne (previous Otago tri code caller before Tom Wood) also calling at an Addington commentators night - this appears to have been in 1989 although races were not named after the race callers.

Darren Tyquin -

Reon Murtha’s replacement following the 2006 NZ Cup’s carnival was Australian Darren Tyquin, originally from Melbourne. Tyquin had when arriving in NZ a twenty plus year race calling career of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. As well as race calling, Darren Tyquin was a presenter on Trackside Radio, a Voice Over Announcer for Radio and TV recording advertisements for New Zealand Racing, Family TV Network, Classic Hits and Sunbeam.

His career began in 1982 when he commenced reading dividends and opening markets for greyhound races with leading race broadcaster Victorian radio station 3UZ. This led to a similar role with midweek harness racing and Saturday thoroughbred racing assisting chief race caller John Russell. He began calling provincial greyhound and harness meetings under the direction of Racing Manager Nancy Helmore and announcer Ron Papps who played key roles in his early career. Darren Tyquin progressed to number 3 caller at the station behind veteran announcer John Russell and TV personality Peter Donegan. This enabled him to begin calling midweek and weekend provincial thoroughbred racing and assist Russell and Donegan at all major race meetings. Within the first 12 months or so on the job, he had been awarded the 1983 Pater Award for best new talent on Australian radio.

When 3UZ abandoned its racing coverage, Darren Tyquin moved to Hobart, Tasmania taking the role as chief race caller for TVT6. For the next two years (1985-1987), he did the local TV commentaries for thoroughbred, harness and greyhound meetings plus interviews, hosted a Sunday Racing review show and covered local sports for the 6pm news. He moved back to Victoria in 1987 continuing to call greyhound meetings until 1995 and remained in broadcasting until moving to NZ in 1999.

In NZ, Darren Tyquin was race caller for all TRAC (consortium of five clubs in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty area) race meetings at Tauranga, Rotorua, Matamata, Te Aroha and Taupo, starting in this role in September 1999, also on Trackside TV and on air host for Radio Trackside. Noted as a colourful caller, Darren Tyquin quickly established his own fan base among the NZ racing public. He became the commentator at Addington and Riccarton plus provincial Canterbury tracks, taking over from Reon Murtha after NZ Cup week November 2006. Darren Tyquin’s reign at Addington lasted a little over 2¼ years when he was killed in a road crash on State Highway 1 just north of Belfast in the early hours of Thursday 19 March 2009. Travelling with him had been jockey Patrick Holmes who was taken to Christchurch Hospital and treated for moderate injuries. Darren Tyquin was aged 41 at the time of his death.

Following Darren Tyquin’s death and until such time as a replacement could be appointed, resident Addington greyhound caller Trevor Wilkes took over harness commentary duties at Addington. Trevor Wilkes is a regular caller at harness trials. George Simon (northern gallops caller and now Alexandra Park caller; winner of a commentators pace at Addington in 1989; current President Cambridge Jockey Club etc) also filled in on at least one occasion in the five months before the new appointee Mark McNamara took up the position of commentator at Addington Raceway.

Mark McNamara -

Addington’s current incumbent race caller has been in residence since August 2009.
An Australian, Sydney born, it seems likely Mark McNamara’s voice will be gracing the Addington and local airwaves for as long as he sees fit to stay in NZ.

Vivid memories remain of the first call Mark McNamara made in Christchurch on opening day (1 August) of the 2009 Grand National jumping carnival at Riccarton Park. The race was the Sydenham Hurdles over 3,200 metres, Mark’s first experience of calling a jumping race (he had another to come, the 4,150m Koral Steeplechase later the same day) when Mr Charlton led home the nine horse field. My wife and I were on course for the day and once the race had been run, we turned to each other and said words to the effect of “he’ll do us”. Certainly, if you were sight impaired, had your eyes closed or were listening on the radio, you would have been able to place exactly where your horse was positioned throughout the race. Every horse was clearly accounted for and the delivery was as if McNamara had been calling at Riccarton for a lifetime. Even better when he made his way to Addington and began his harness commentaries for patrons, he clearly established himself as New Zealand’s current leading harness racing caller and a world class one at that.

Still only 34, Mark has been commentating for over 15 years starting out with the 2KY/Sky Channel racing team after leaving school were he was understudy to his mentor Kevin Thompson. In the seven years before moving to Christchurch, he was race caller at Newcastle, Bathurst, Canberra (still showing as the race caller on their website in 2013!!), Goulburn & other NSW tracks and a familiar figure as a race day and race night studio presenter. For three years (2007 - 2009), McNamara and Greg Hayes were ambassadors for the NSW Carnival of Cups series. As the inaugural commentator for this series, it resulted in 3 years of travelling around NSW to feature meetings in most corners of the state, having a great time and meeting great people. Phantom race calling is another area Mark McNamara has been involved with, especially for the Black and White Ball in Sydney which he did for a number of years.

Since moving to Christchurch in 2009 and being employed by the New Zealand Racing Board, Mark has taken over race calling at all Canterbury, North, Mid and South Canterbury (essentially Kaikoura - Timaru) harness racing and thoroughbred meetings. In addition, since the resignation of Central Districts race caller Tony Lee in October 2012, he has been calling the Central Districts galloping races (Trentham/Awapuni) in partnership with George Simon. This arrangement is temporary at present but for how long Mark is not aware. He comments that ‘it was strange’ watching Addington after calling an Awapuni meeting earlier that afternoon.

Mark McNamara has had an eventful time in Canterbury since his arrival; he has married his long time partner Katie who works for the Harness Racing Weekly at HRNZ; co hosted the Harness Racing Awards with Greg O’Connor in both 2010 and 2011, something new to him which he enjoyed doing; raced horses from Mark Jones’s stable; was calling proceedings at both Riccarton (Labour Weekend Sunday 23 October 2010) and Addington (23 December 2011) when significant after shocks from the swarm of earthquakes Christchurch experienced from September 2010 occurred; putting together a racing syndicate and to cap everything off the McNamara’s celebrated the arrival of their first child, son William Chase (5lbs 11 oz) in mid February 2013

Mark has still found time to return “home” to Australia, in particular the 2012 Eugowra Carnival of Cups on 1 October 2012 where he called Beetson (2007g Art Major/Erin Jean) home first in the Lexus of Parramatta 2012 Canola Cup. Whilst the Bathurst Gold Crown meeting holds fond memories, as far as special atmosphere goes Eugowra has what no other track in Australia has according to McNamara. It is comparable to the special one off nature of the annual Kaikoura Cup meeting at South Bay racecourse in NZ. Katie McNamara also attended, assisting with judging the fashions on the field competition at Eugowra.

Horse ownership is one “disease” that has afflicted Mark McNamara. He raced a number of horses in Australia, with no stars but the better ones included :

Kate Shannon - 2002 Artiscape/Olgas Niece filly bred by late Bryce Buchanan, PF and M Neil in NZ, exported to Australia in November 2003. Her impressive record reveals 15 wins and 18 placings from 69 starts, $52,575, 1:54.7TT, best race mile rate of 2:00.6 at Bathurst, her favourite track where multiple wins were recorded.. She was an early winner, recording victories as a two and three year old. Bernie Hewitt trained her and drove her in to win on fourteen occasions.. His son Jason (JT Hewitt) was successful on the other occasion.

Promise You - 1996 Chandon/Its Klondyke Kate filly who won 10 of her 70 starts, being placed on 14 occasions, $32,495, 2:00.1MR. Included were successes at two and three plus wins at Harold Park and TABCorp Park Menangle.

One of Mark’s favourites however was a horse purchased from Victoria that he had a share in called Shutthe Fridgedoor - only a two win horse for McNamara (Newcastle in consecutive weeks in August 2001) but with the “coolest” of names (1995 Golden Greek/Finalize gelding, overall record 4 wins, $13,800, 2:02.8)..

Since arriving in Christchurch, Mark has taken a direct personal interest and involvement with a number of horses, some more successful than others. A passionate harness racing owner, he has utilised the services of Mark Jones in this regard and a brief rundown of his NZ winners reveals :

Champagne Franco - part owned by the McNamara’s, this 2008 Falcon Seelster/Crusader Franco filly has recorded the one 3yo win from only two starts to date. The win came at her first start at Rangiora on 18 December 2011 when trained and driven by Mark Jones recording a 2:04.2MR over 2000m stand. She is Mark McNamara‘s pride and joy, having been his most expensive ever purchase. All he ever wanted to do was win a race with her which she achieved first up but it has all been downhill since. Spelled after her second start, she curbed a hock 2 weeks before the workouts at her next preparation. Worked up again, two weeks before the workouts again she was discovered to have a hairline fracture in a knee. After a further six months on the sidelines, x rays showed a bone chip in a knee that was operated on in early 2013. As she was working the best she ever had in this latest aborted preparation, one can only hope this is the last of her injuries and the McNamara’s can get back to enjoying having his pride and joy at the racetrack sometime soon.

Union Buster - part owner of this 2005 Union Guy/Emcil gelding who won at Rangiora on 17 July 2010 for tr Mark Jones/dr Ricky May. Together with 5 placings, his best mile rate was 2:05.3, $7,910. Since his export to Australia in September 2010, he has had a further nine wins, a best time of 1:58.4 and total combined NZ/Aus stakes of $24,759.

Anita Patron - “maybe the one that got away“, this 2006 Badlands Hanover/Anna Patron (1:55.0US) filly was purchased from Burbeck Harness Bloodstock Ltd (Ron Burrell and Don Raisbeck) after her first two placed starts. Mark organised the purchase and remained in the ownership through the next few starts. Anita Patron won first up for her new owners at Addington repeating the dose five starts later also at Addington for Mark Jones. McNamara shortly after this relinquished his part ownership. By her fifteenth start Anita Patron had changed stables to those of Cran Dalgety, with consecutive victories coming at Invercargill (dr Jack Trainor) and Addington (dr Mike O’Brien, Amateur Drivers race). After posting her best ever mile rate, albeit placed of 1:54.7 at Nelson, beaten a nose by Miss Moonlite her form tailed right off. A change of stables to the beach training of Greg and Nina Hope brought immediate results with yet another win at Addington. Overall her 5 wins have returned $17,909 (7 Jan 2013) in stakes and a best mile rate of 2:00.5. Brooke Henderson, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at HRNZ was an original part owner and she remains in the current ownership. Anita Patron is successfully in foal to Rock N Roll Heaven.

In the breeding stakes, Mark McNamara together with Cavalla Bloodstock is breeding from Miss Moonlite Shadow an unraced Christian Cullen mare from Sirius Flight 1:54.2US (out of top race mare Pacific Flight, 9 NZ wins, 38 US wins, 1:51.2US, $562,345 ), winner of 5 in USA, dam of 2 2:00 winners in Timeless Perfection (7 wins) and Malak Uswaad (9 wins) in NZ.

As already mentioned, Mark McNamara has recently been putting together public harness racing syndicates. YOR! racing - short for Your Own Racehorse. First they leased a well bred 2yo Bettors Delight/Pacing Grace filly from Woodlands Stud to be trained by Mark Jones called Pacing Delight. The syndication package involved an all inclusive cost of $299 for a two year period for those who purchased shares. Unfortunately, she got a kick on the leg and was returned to her breeders. In her place, the syndicate leased unraced 4yo Real Desire/Rangatira mare Hikoi, half sister to Ataahua Tiki (see later), who did not make the grade. They have now leased Kate Stephanie, a 3yo filly (Badlands Hanover/Deadly Medley) from Southland trainer Tony Barron. Her record is 16 : 1 - 2 - 4, $9,792, 2:00.1 (three starts for best placing of fifth to date at Forbury Park for syndicate in early May 2013). Her dam won four, $20,364, 2:00.8; has left two winners to date (Deadly Tana 1:58.0AUS, Kate Stephanie) and is from family CF N103 Mine Yet (Young Charles; Bold Cruiser, $574,801, Tasmania Cup; Smooth George; Lively Medley 1:54.6AUS; Jester Boy). In addition, they have leased a share in 4yo mare Curve (Courage Under Fire/Sly and Stylish, from the family of Sly Flyin, 1:53.6AUS, $903,705), the syndicates first winner at Forbury Park on 6 June 2013 (22 : 1 - 3 -2, $7,809; 6 starts for syndicate to date for a first and a third). A second syndicate (100 shares) called YOR! Racing with Boes McNally syndicate for $199 and a one year period, are leasing Ataahua Tiki (2006F), CF N35 - Georgina. Her dam Rangatira was a 6 win mare from 29 starts as a 5, 6 and 7 year old, $30,892. Her best winning MR was 1:58.5 over 2000m at Timaru while she was placed in 1:57.6 over 1950m at Addington in 2003. Her first two foals have been winners (Hone Heke 1:57.6, Ataahua Tiki 2:03.3). Close up are 3RD dam NZ Oaks winner Swift Princess (dam of Talk About Swift NZSS - 3), Empire Fella, Prince Rapide etc. It is the family of standouts Buster Hanover (ID Trot Final, NZ Trot FFA, Aust Trot C/S), Gundary Flyer (Miracle Mile, Aust/Vic Derby, NSW Sires Produce) and Loyal Friend (1943 AK Cup). To mid October 2013, she has had 37 starts for 3 wins (two at Addington) and 8 minor placings (a win at Motukarara, a second and two third from fourteen starts since syndicated) - 2:03.3 MR (2600m), $23,472 and 1:55.3pl behind Miss Moonlite and Anita Patron at Nelson in June 2012. This mare has been leased from Mrs Christine (CM) Watson.

Mark has done a fair bit of driving over the years, this commenced at Bathurst where he was resident commentator and often stayed with one of his best mates Jason Turnbull. Stable rules applied if you were staying, you had to help out, this naturally led him into driving, something he enjoys and has continued to drive track work since his arrival in Christchurch.

Personal highlights : for Mark, feature meetings are always highlights whether they be New Zealand Cup Week, Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival or his absolute favourite meeting, the annual Kaikoura Trotting Club race day. Of all the races he has seen, Smooth Satin winning his fourth Bathurst Cup in 2005 (also 2001, 2002 and 2003) after having been retired two years prior made for a night of high emotion.

Personal lowlights as a commentator come when calling a horse the wrong name. Like all commentators it has happened before and will happen again, as Mark says hopefully not for a long time. The mixing up of Arctic Fox and Soldier of Love at a recent Riccarton meeting is still fresh in the mind. As regards the sport itself, race falls resulting in injuries to horses/riders/drivers are a lowlight. One recent lowlight which McNamara trusts remains in Australia, is drivers wearing greyhound colours. It is his pet hate, he won’t watch it and if he wanted to see that he would watch the dogs.

The best of series : Horses - Christian Cullen, Smooth Satin, Beau Zam (one of his favourites, winner of four group one’s at three including AJC Derby, another Gp1 at four, Aust Horse of Year 1987/88) and more recently Black Caviar. Jockeys - Malcolm Johnston has been his favourite jockey and is entertaining on Off The Rails as well. Drivers - Mark considers Ricky May to be is definitely one of the best reinsman to grace a sulky.

Fill Ins and part time callers -

Like us all, commentators need some rest and relaxation or they may be required to perform other duties including race calls from overseas locations. Whilst not a complete record of race callers who have filled in over the years at Addington, here are a few of those who have done so during the reigns of the major callers -

Clarkson era : Freeman Holmes, a popular and competent trotting racecourse and radio announcer filled in for David Clarkson at Addington

Murtha era : Jack O’Donnell (rugby commentator, local politician, 27 years calling on West Coast, Nelson, Blenheim; did a stint occasionally at Hutt Park; retired October 1982); Ian Chambers took over Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast from Jack O‘Donnell); Trevor Wilkes; Rob Fielder

Tyquin era : Aaron White (NI based caller, Cambridge harness etc); Trevor Wilkes

McNamara era : Trevor Wilkes; Tom Wood (Otago area dual code caller who started his career at the Westport Xmas meetings - mentored by Reon Murtha)

And just to finish with a totally international flavour to calling at Addington Raceway, even Dan Melieki (Victorian Harness Racing’s principal caller) commentated a race during a NZ Cup carnival at Addington. Reon Murtha recalls Max Brewer (now deceased), an American bloodstock agent and Monticello commentator also calling a couple of races. He was a very big man and his typical start to every one of his race calls was..… “Here they come” (long pause) ..... “There they Go.”

During Christchurch ID carnivals, it was customary to invite a guest caller to do at least one race during the series - these included prominent callers such as John Tapp, Bruce Skeggs, Ian Craig, Brian Martin, John Russell and Hilton Donaldson among Australian contingents.

So there you have it. The four major players, those who have had minor parts and the “invitees” - the voices of Addington Raceway over the past 75+ years.

The author would like to thank the Murtha’s, Reon and Sheldon, and Mark McNamara for their contributions to this article.

Credit: Peter Craig

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