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PRESIDENTS: NZMTC

 

YEAR: 2014

BARRY DENT

When Barry Dent almost had youth on his side, he could well have been taken for a jockey. It may be a challenge to think of the prospect now, 50 years on, but not at the time.His father was a rider in the Hawkes Bay area and Barry has a photo of himself as a lad leading a horse around as a lad leading a horse around at a Southland Race Meeting. The horse was trained by Rex Cochrane who was the first to win 1000 races as a galloping trainer in New Zealand. "A journeyman jockey," says Barry. "Won nothing of note, as far as I call recall.

But neither the picture nor the profession did enough to push young Dent into the world of thoroughbreds. In fact, it had the opposite effect because he's lock, stock and barrel involved in harness racing and he's due next month to mark his first year at the helm of the Met and much the same time as being a Board Member of HRNZ.

It's all quite a step from Riverton, Charlie's home town, and Gore where his mother Pearl(Youngman), living a few doors from the Cochranes, and from a family that includes Ross and Robyn Jones from Kina Craig. By the time Barry was born, in the early 50s, Charlie and Pearl were back from the Bay and Charlie was into grocery shops and supermarkets. Barry's brother Graeme went into the navy, specialising in weapons, and Barry makes frequent trips to Adelaide to see him.

Barry decided on going to university, with the idea of being a teacher, but to get through he needed a job. Being a volunteer fire fighter, it seemed logical to do the work for pay. "So I started uni and stopped, and stayed in the Fire Service for 33 years, until I retired in 2004."

But the service did more than provide a career; it placed him in the company of Dunedin fire fighters Ray Hansen and Ken Campbell, both keen racing men who were soon to start a partnership with Dent, that has continued for more than thirty years. "Our best horse and one of the first, was Liberty Vogue, who won seven or eight. We bought him off Bruce Stirling as a three-year-old, but we tried a few and there were plenty of poor ones."

He recalls some huge fires, notably the Arthur Ellis mattress fire and the Edmunds Hardware Store. "It was a job where you'd go to work and never know what's going to happen next."

In 1982, Barry took promotion and moved to Christchurch where his role as a Fire Officer put him in charge of an engine and a four-man team. Later, and before he retired, he was senior station officer with responsibility of five engines and crew. "I think the grass fire at Bower Ave was one of my biggest. There were more than twenty engines, and the north westerly made it so hard to head off. But later it was mainly computer work and I hardly got on an engine, and this affected my decision to retire when I did at 50. One of the saddest events was being sent to a plane crash at Harewood knowing a small plane had disappeared in thick fog. You had a good idea what happened before you got there."

He also transferred his Forbury Park membership to the three Addington clubs and with encouragement from Bill Andrews joined the Met committee in 2004. From there he became a director in 2007, deputy chairman from 2010 to 2013, and chairman a year ago. "But the funny thing is that I never had any aspirations to be involved in administration at any level. Over time, it changed and I thought that if I can put something back into racing I will."

Being an owner is another avenue. He has an interest in Poppy Melba, Dolly McD and her progeny by American Ideal and Bettor's Delight. He has raced and sold with David Emerson, Bruce Almighty and Master Pip and has been involved with Pearl in every Met syndicate. She is also in Tas Man Bromac - there is a family connection there, with Nathan Williamson - and since she moved to Christchurch 15 years ago she has never missed a Cup.

Ten years ago, when Barry left the Fire Service, he stayed to run the superannuation side of the service, which suits him because it gives him a day a week to deal with his racing activities. And these also include his roles as President of both the Canterbury Trotting Owners Association and the Christchurch Trotting Club.

He says his Met position is a continuation of what has gone before. "Not a lot has changed. Our strategic plan and our business plans are in still in place. There are no surprises. We must drive costs down so there is a better return for owners." Barry is pleased with the income from events and buildings because the racing side of it "is just holding its own."

"How do we grow betting? Static turnover means it limits a club's ability to grow stakes. The Met has increased stakes by over $1 million in the last two years but it has been generated from other parts of our operation."
The only frustration he has is the time it is taking to amend the constitution which will allow more sophistication in a variety of ways.

Where Barry takes extra pleasure from his position is through the ability to meet with all the players - owners, sponsors, trainers and members. "it is a co-ordination role of all our functions but at another level." And while the big challenge is to increase the size of fields - "Because no-one wants to bet on small fields." He knows it is a steep challenge. "We have to concentrate on our big days, getting those fields out early to attract betting, and continue with our race series. And we would like clear skies and a good fine day for the Cup. It is our turn for it, and an easterly is not the answer."

Credit: Mike Grainger - Harnessed Oct 2014

 

YEAR: 2013


DAVID RANKIN

David Rankin had never been on a racecourse until he was 45. Yet he recently stepped down after five years as chairman of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club having directed a transformation which makes Addington the number one racing complex in New Zealand by asset strength.

Typically he gives the credit to his Board and executives. "It's not about me," he says. "It's about the processes we put in place and the people who carried these out. It was giving the Club a full business philosophy which turned things around."

Rankin remains on the Addington Raceway Board but retired from the chairman position for health reasons. "Last April out of the blue I suddenly developed problems with an eye closing of its own volition. Then with both eyes open I had trouble focussing. While the cause of that was being established I had to undergo an operation to relieve excessive levels of calcium caused by a thyroid problem. I was found to have myasthenia, a neuro muscular weakness. I could do nothing physical at all. It could be a real effort for my neck to hold my head upright. Treatment has stabilised the problem and it can go into remission for long periods so here's hoping."

He has a strong accountancy and business (managing-director Livingstone Real Estate) background, and is a son of notable Canterbury rugby coach of a former era, Jack Rankin. But his entry into both racing and administration was almost by chance. "Mike Grainger was a school friend of mine and he got some of us in to a syndicate. There were 10 originally but the first horse didn't make it so it was down to five by the time we tried our second horse. That was Straven which won five and had eight placings from 13 starts before we sold him to America. It was a great start for me. I was at a (Boys High School) reunion when Jim McGee sitting next to me suggested I should join up at Addington. After a year on the committee I stood for the Board and three years later became chairman (2008) on the death of John Penney. So it was fast tracking all round."

Rankin had looked at the philosophy behind the Addington business and didn't like what he saw. "We had historically spent nearly everything we earned. We were often posting profits before depreciation which are not real profits at all because it is not money in the hand to re-invest. When we lost the industry facilities funding through the Racing Board we were in trouble. We were not reinvesting enough in our core business. It got to the stage that when we went into a joint venture with the industrial complex we got $2m and had to use it all to pay off debt. We had major cash difficulties in 2008 and when the tax cuts came into force ours went largely into stakes. It was not sustainable."

"We had some tough years. I refused to present a report which posted profits before depreciation. In 2012 we wrote off $840,000 in depreciation to get everything back on track and still had a positive cash flow of $1.8m - enough profit to build the new bar complex out of income."

The club targeted the right people to bring about major change. "Shane Gloury did an outstanding job as a change manager. He came from Melbourne and took on the challenge to alter the culture of the place. It was a tough assignment especially given the challenge of the horse barn situation which wasn't good and greeted him on arrival. Our Events (catering) operation, for example, was to some extent stifled by tradition. There was a resistance to change. Now we have enthusiastic Events leaders coming up with their own innovations to improve the product. That was a huge change for us and a credit to Shane."

"You must remember that racing is only 47 per cent of ourincome now. We have people wanting to come to Addington because of the catering and it has boosted our income. To survive from a racing aspect we must grow in other areas. It is a true success story. This was all done without significant staff changes and when Shane had to leave us Dean McKenzie came and has been a stunning CEO. Dean is an experienced delegator, prepares in great detail and empowers the staff to come up with their own thoughts and feelings. He utilises their skills. That gives them enthusiasm and pride in achievement. Money can't buy that."

"Brian Rabbitt has played his part on the racing side too. Our average field size at this year's Cup week meetings lifted on last year while the national average went down. It is essential we have more horses racing here and the programming of events and innovations like rewarding owners of horses who support our meetings (Met Multiplier) which has made that difference. The success also reflects the value in having an expert accounting and administrative figure at the top - one who keeps the focus where it should be.

"I don't know a lot about racing. I have never pretended that I did. But that wasn't really what we needed at the time. I have great faith in our succession plan. Barry Dent (new chairman) has my full confidence. Behind him is Brent Smith who was not really into racing either and was a bit reluctant to come on board because of time constraints. I told him not to worry about coming to the races every week, it was his financial skills we needed. Now Brent is as keen on the racing as anyone. Recruiting these sort of people has been satisfying."

Rankin makes the point that Addington is now the most valuable racing centre in New Zealand. "We have $87m in assets. Ellerslie by comparison has $61m and Alexandra Park about $47m. It is pleasing to see that Alexandra Park is now following our move to use assets for greater income because I know they will make a lot of progress from it. The old idea when you got into trouble was to sell something. We are currently getting around $1.5m profit from our business centre enterprise and that will only grow. We have two blocks yet to develop one of 4000 sq m and one of 2000 sq m and that is the future. And of course we have income from the Twigger Stand leases as well."

While Rankin acknowledges the earthquakes have been a blessing for Addington Raceway in a number of respects, he resists the idea they are the reason for the Club's success. "We were paid $11m for the public stand. The Racing Board took $6.1 of that for the barn and we have the other $5m still invested. We haven't used it. Our gain is that there are more people in the area now."

Rankin's real estate expertise enables him to predict the future of Addington's non racing situation. "If you drew a line around a 3km radius from Riccarton Mall, for example, spending there is estimated at around $1.2b a year, the largest amongst suburban malls. So increases in people in a 3km radius around Addington now plus our ace in the hole, parking, means initiatives like our new bar complex are virtually guaranteed to succeed. The bar is already running ahead of budget."

As a result Rankin dismisses any possibility of racing moving from Addington in the forseeable future. "It would cost us $60m to build a new complex from scratch and the figures from racing income just don't add up. The Sydney and Melbourne Clubs who moved out of the city got a lot of money but are struggling to get a business income over 7 days off the ground. You can build a hotel but will people want to stay in it out there? And that land would have been even more valuable in a few years. Our great advantage is our position. Why would you consider giving that up?" The latest boost is the decision of the Canterbury Rugby Union to lease the old administration office at Addington for its offices meaning the admintistrative staff will all move into the present racenight administration area.

Considering David Rankin came to power on the edge of a severe economic downturn his time in charge can only be described as a huge success. He is confident that will continue because of the processes put in place by he and his team. He gives a lot of credit to his wife, Kath. "She is brilliant with people and I am not. She committed to the challenge and has been a great asset to me in that respect. She remembers names and takes a real interest in the people she meets. I am more reserved and organisation is more my thing. We make a great team."

May we see the Rankin name in national administration over time? "I have not thought about seeking that but I would not count it out all going well on the health front. I love a challenge. At the moment I am just looking for a bit more luck with my horses. The public makes them favourite a lot but they always seem to run second." That changed at Timaru on Saturday when Nigel McGrath produced another winner for his patron. It may have been appropriate that its name was All Cash and Burning followed the next day at Motukarara.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 27Nov13

 

YEAR: 2006

Harness racing lost a true friend last Wednesday when Peter Andrews passed away after a brave fight that outlined the courage he had shown throughout his life. He was 66.

When Peter Andrews became a member of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club in 1966, he had been on the waiting list for six years. And when he agreed to serve as a club steward, he had a four-year wait before getting the call-up.

After 30 years of high-duty as a club administrator, Andrews retired with his last official act being attendance at the club's AGM in September 2004. During that time, Andrews has been the loyal racing servant, not only for the club but in many other capacities. His list of various positions is verification of this:

1974 - Elected a steward of the Met.
1979 - Elected to the committee of the Met.
1984-89 - Vice President of the Met.
1989-94 - Chairman of the Met.
1989-93 - Council member of the Inter-Dominion Council.
1993-94 - Vice-Chairman of the Inter-Dominion Council.
1995-2001 - Harness Racing nominee on the NZ Racing Industry Board.
1998-2000 - Chairman of the NZRIB Dates Committee.
2002 - President of the NZ Standardbred Breeders National Council.

At the time Peter retired from the Met committee, Mike Grainger, writing in the Harness Racing Weekly commented as follows.

Andrews applied for membership of the Met as soon as he left school, in 1958. His father Stan was a member of the Canterbury Park Club, and later would become President and a director of Addington Raceway.

Andrews recalls the late Eugene McDermott approaching him at the Methven races, where he was representing race sponsor Caltex, to see if he would stand as a club steward. "I was waiting in the wings for a while. When I got on, I was the youngest by far. I know I didn't call any of them by their christian names. Everyone was 'Mister'. And after my first committee meeting - and I had done my homework - I was taken aside and told I had had too much to say."

Andrews said he received a thorough education in the club's activities from such leaders as Murray Taylor and Dan McCormick, who he said were "great presidents." The end-of-the-meeting tote and attendance report by the President was always an important address. "He would announce the figures and the crowd numbers. You were expected to be there...you were conspicuous by your absence," he said.

At the time of his appointment as a steward, the club raced just eight times a year. "When the Easter Meeting was over, you then had to wait until the National Meeting in August. It disappoints me now to see that it is so hard to get people to serve the club, but I know that is because of the commitment it requires. The number of meetings restricts those available, and I am a great believer that people must participate fully for the industry to progress," he said.

Andrews reflects on his role on the sponsorship committee, which he enjoyed so much. "Working with DB, Firestone, Air New Zealand and Toyota were wonderful days. "I had a great team around me when I was President, and everybody did their bit."

He enjoyed his six years on the Racing Industry Board, where his major challenge was dealing with the sensitive issues chairing the Dates Sub-Committee. "I was told by John Falloon, the Racing Minister, that I had to make decisions for the betterment of the Industry. Some people had the impression that I had to be working for harness racing."

A keen breeder and owner, Peter's best on-track performer was Lady El, winner of eight races, and his last success came as a syndicate member of the Dean Taylor-trained Dreamy Chick.

A successful businessman, Peter sponsored numerous races throughout the South Island, further endorsing his true commitment to the Industry. He was also a keen sportsman and loved his cricket and rugby, and enjoyed a game of golf in the latter part of his life.

In harness racing it would be difficult to find a more committed and passionate person, one whose wisdom has taken the sport into the 21st century.

Peter is survived by his wife Ruth and three sons Mark, Nigel and Simon, and two grandchildren.

Credit: Harness Racing NZ

 

YEAR: 2004

Barry Cotton is stepping down from his position as Chairman of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, and will address club members for the last time at their AGM.

"I have always had a philosophy that when a job is done, don't recycle," Cotton said. "I had my time, and now it's someone else's turn to step into the role. The Club is in good hands, because there is a good core there, and we have got new blood coming onto the committee and there are some astute businessmen amongst them."

Cotton has been a member of the Met for nearly 40 years, and has been involved in the administration of harness racing for the last two decades. He was Co-Chairman of the club for two years following the merger of the New Brighton, Canterbury Park and NZ Metropolitan clubs into one body, and he spent the last four years as Chairman. "It has been a great Journey," he says. "The committee has been very supportive, as has my wife Julie who hasn't missed a beat."

Cotton said he was honoured to be part of the team that handled the merger of the clubs, adding that it was done very efficiently and at no cost to the industry, and one of the most rewarding things for him during his time in office was the club's success with sponsorship. I think it is second to none. We started from scratch in the old days, and the amount of sponsorship we have attracted to the club and maintained since, is a tribute to all concerned. And of course you can't replace things like Cup Days and the Inter-Dominions, and last year's Cup was especially significant because of it being the club's centenary year. It was a great reunion and a tremendous occasion for all."

Cotton turns 65 at the end of this month, and although leaving his last remaining administration role in harness racing he has no intention of retiring business-wise. No yet anyway. "I have got some lovely little grandchildren that I want to spend time with, and we have got a few young horses with Maurice O'Leary that maybe I will finally get the chance to go and see how they are coming along."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 22Sep04

 

YEAR: 1988

C S THOMAS

E C Powell writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 29May57

What manner of man is the president-elect of the NZ Trotting Conference, Mr Charles Stewart Thomas, retired barrister and solicitor of the headquarters of trotting, Christchurch? Is he sagacious? Is he juridical? Is he energetic? Does he know trotting? Has he contributed more than most men to the sport of trotting? Is he a hail-fellow-well-met? Has he the manner to foregather with the high and the lowly? Has he courage to face and deal with any issue? Has he ideas for the future conduct of trotting? Has he business capacity? Has he earned respect among his fellows?

To each and every question relating to C S Thomas, the answer can be faithfully and sincerely given in the affirmative.

The sport may consider itself fortunate that now that he has retired after 41 years of tremendous pressure in his legal capacity and on the rewards he fully earned, Charles Thomas has, after 18 months of retirement, accepted nomination for the presidency of the Conference. That he has not been opposed by a nomination from any club in the country is a ready-made and unsolicited testimonial to him.

If any person should know Mr Thomas, I should. It was a small boy, 9in shorter than I am now, and in short pants, that I became his message boy well nigh 40 years ago. What manner of man is he? After one week in his office, he called me in and said: "Powell, you appear to be an honest boy. Here are the keys. Open up the office, the strongroom and all the boxes in the morning." And when I went to a newspaper office, of which he was a director, to make a hestitating step into journalism, he gave me a recommendation when E C Huie, managing-editor of 'The Sun' telephoned him. We have been friends ever since.

"Now I'll be able to give my time to my outside interests, which I have wanted to do for so many years," he told me when he walked out of the office of one of the most prosperous legal businesses in NZ at Chrismas 1955. He had built up the business by sheer grinding work, plus uncommon ability. He was not only a great advocate - perhaps in his early days, second only to Alfred Charles Hanlon, KC of Dunedin - but a highly skilled practitioner in ever branch of law. As his practice grew, so did he grow. In both criminal and civil law cases, he was notably successful. Always a fighter, he advised his clients on many occasions to go to appeal. And he lost only two cases he took to the Court of Appeal - an institution where judges themselves argue with the brothers as well as with counsel to get views and law to solve the knottiest of legal problems. But before to much - and it be well said critically too little, because of space - is said about the career of Mr Thomas at the bar and in his office in Hereford Street - let us examine his record as a man, a sportsman.

What has he done for trotting?

Without doubt, the greatest thing he has done for trotting, also racing, and the general sporting public of NZ was to devise the TAB scheme now operating so successfully. When the Royal Commission on Gaming and Racing toured the country, he accompanied it as counsel for the Trotting Conference. The bookmakers - pardon, the Sportsmen's Association - made a strong case foe their licensing. He had the answer. He had prepared the off-course betting system now known as the TAB, and which has greatly benefitted the clubs and the sports of trotting and racing and has given considerable satisfaction to the public.

The Commission accepted the scheme. It operates today almost in the form in which it was planned by Mr Thomas. It is not a perfect scheme yet. The time lags between investments and races is far too long. 'This and the next' has not been introduced. Doubles on races on different days, such as the NZ Cup and the Trotting Cup, are not provided. The punter with funds from a winning bet cannot operate on those funds on a Saturday.

If one immediate good result will arise from his election to the presidency of the Trotting Conference, it is that he will be chairman of the Board of the TAB every alternate year by virtue of his office. And being a sporting man, I will now lay anybody the price of one flagon of beer that Mr Thomas, as a member of the TAB Board and every second year as chairman, will work with a will to expand the scheme, to the satisfaction of both clubs and sportsmen. His ideas did not run out when he propounded a workable off-course betting scheme.

And as its president for seven years the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club made notable advances when he was in office. Everything he did aimed to popularise trotting. Addington had its hey-days when he was president. Although a Scot, he has none of the nationalistic cautiousness. He believes that a day at the trots should be a gala event, with flags flying everywhere, bands playing, pipers blowing hard, the crowd having enjoyment and the best-class of horses racing.

He has raced two pacers, Scholarship and Oxford Scholar. His partner was Mr Allan Matson, a former president of the Conference, and they were a happy pair, whether Scholarship won or petered out after clearing to the front with a round to go. But it was not as an owner but as an administrator that Mr Thomas contributed so much to trotting. As in his profession of law, he had boundless energy. He also had the natural gift to grasp facts, to weigh them as a judge would, to give wise judgement, fair and honest. Although his bag was loaded with briefs for the defence of accused men or for claims amonting to thousands, he would be at Addington during the week any time he was called on to give his opinion or decision. He was a distinguished president of the Metropolitan club.

As a lawyer, he has appeared in many cases as counsel for the Trotting Conference (and the former Association) and his judicial capacity has been recognised by the Racing Conference appointing him as an appeal judge. Learned in the law, he is also learned in the ways of men. A case which created Dominion-wide interest in which he appeared was that in the Supreme Court at Dunedin to determine the ownership of that good galloper, Queen of Song, who won the Wellington Cup, and the Riverton Cup and the Great Autumn Handicap within four days, and races in Australia.

So when the Conference faces the revision of the rules it will be fortunate in having him as its president. And when it comes to the carrying out of those rules, or interpretation of the existing rules, he will doubtless bring to bear his profound knowledge, his anxiety for the protection of the accused and for the complete presentation of the case for and against, and, last and above all, that justice be done to all. To his high office, he will also bring his business acumen. He has also the distinction of being the only lawyer in NZ to be retained as sole counsel for insurance companies in any one centre to handle all cases for the 'insurance pool' which grew into a business of magnitude. Many compliments were paid by counsel for claimants on his conduct when cases reached the courts or were settled by negotiation. He was a director of several companies and when he was in law, running his own office was itself no small undertaking.

His sporting activities have not been confined to trotting. He was a notable athlete in his younger days. He was for two years senior athletic champion of Christ's College, was in the college first fifteen in rugby and in the eights for shooting and gymnastics. He was a Canterbury champion for all distances from 100 yards to one mile and just before the outbreak of World War I he represented NZ at the British and Scottish athletic championships. For years he was a boxing judge and also a member of the Canterbury Swimming Centre. He was official starter at athletic meetings for many years.

Probably without comparison in NZ for the holding of an office is his presidency of the Canterbury Caledonian Society. He has been president for 42 years and his driving force was responsible for the building many years ago now, of the Caledonian Hall in Kilmore Street. He founded, and is still patron of, the NZ Pipe Bands' and Pipers' and Dancers' Associations. He introduced the pipes to Addington, and a meeting without the skirling would sound strangely quiet and commercial.

Already established as a pleader, Mr Thomas was counsel for Whitta, a Christchurch tobacconist, who about 1919 or 1920, was charged with carrying on the business of a bookmaker. The case had national interest, because a number of men who had wagered with Whitta, and they included a bank clerk and others in all walks of life, were also placed on trial. The senior counsel was the late Mr Saul Soloman, KC of Dunedin. Whitta was found guilty and imprisoned and spent his last days in Sydney. The Whitta case appears for all time in the law journalsas the law on bookmaking.

The Whitta case went to trial some years after Mr Thomas had taken his first case in the Supreme Court. His client was an Australian pickpocket, named Walker - pickpockets and confidence men were frequently before the Courts in those days - who arrived in NZ with a few shillings in his pocket and had £4000 in the bank on the day at the Riccarton races, when a punter, feeling a hand in his hip pocket, seized the intruding wrist. The wrist was Walker's. The fee for the defence was agreed on and Walker sportingly offered to double it if Mr Thomas secured his acquittal. The jury had no hesitation in finding Walker guilty, but the pickpocket was so happy with the case put up for him - "You are better than I thought you would be," he told his counsel - that he paid the double fee before he went to Lyttelton gaol.

Of the numerous persons on murder charges for whom Mr Thomas appeared, only one was convicted on the major charge. And then Mr Thomas, by assiduous work, saved him from the gallows. He was Matthews, who shot a constable at Timaru. Because of Matthews's well-known connections in Invercargill, Matthews's total disregard for human life and the insanity plea advanced by Mr Thomas, the trial created tremendous interest throughout NZ. It goes down in crime annals, Mr Thomas was convinced that Matthews was insane. When Matthews was found guilty, his counsel immediately appealed to the Executive Council, which decides whether the death penalty shall be carried out, a commission was set up and the finding was that Matthews was insane. Matthews was mad. He twice escaped from Seacliffe Mental Hospital and even 35 years ago his mental condition had deteriorated gravely. I believe he is still in the hospital, guarded 24 hours of the day.

Then there was the famous case of a murder charge against a man named Boakes, a taxi-driver of Christchurch, the alleged victim being a girl. She was found dead at Burwood. Mr Thomas secured his acquittal. He was also successful some years later in his defence of a man named Mayo, charged with murdering a man with poisoned chocolates. Perhaps the greatest criminal case in which he appeared was that of a charge of murder against a man named Mouatt. The allegation was that Mouatt had dismembered his wife at their St Martins home and destroyed the bones in the grate. Mouatt was found guilty of manslaughter and sentanced to a long term of imprisonment. On his release, he called at Mr Thomas's office to collect several wooden statues which he had left with his lawyer but did not call on his counsel. Mr Thomas has not seen Mr Mouatt or heard of him to this day. Mr Thomas maintains that the bones produced at the trial were not those of Mrs Mouatt and that Mouatt could not have destroyed the bones in a grate.

All these cases entailed laborious research and days of study. Mr Thomas has given to all his other activities the same diligence and thoroughness. After nearly 60 days of evidence, he worked day and night preparing his case for the insurance companies in the celebrated Ballantyne fire inquiry - 41 perished - of nine years ago. It took him three days to present his submissions. His work was a feature of the inquiry. He worried about the fee he should charge. He had no need to. He had earned every penny.

This is the man, who in August, will become the head of the trotting sport in NZ. To clubs, officials, trainers, drivers, owners and the public, I must say, in the words of Tommy Trinder, "You lucky people."

-o0o-

Harness Racing lost a figurehead with the death in Christchurch last week of Mr Charles Stewart Thomas. One of the great administrators of his time, Mr Thomas was 99. He was a notable criminal lawyer, an excellent athlete who represented NZ, and a devoted supporter of harness racing.

He was elected to the committee of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Cup in 1938, and became vice-president from 1940 to 1945. He was president of the club from 1945 to 1952. From 1952 to 1970, Mr Thomas served as treasurer of the club. In 1957, as president of the NZ Trotting Conference, he proposed a plan for off-course betting before the Royal Commission on Gambling and Racing. This was later adopted by the Commission as the concept for today's Totalisator Agency Board.

One of those who knew Mr Thomas well was Mr Des Parker, Secretary of the Metropolitan club from 1951 to 1979. "He contributed a lot to trotting; he was deeply involved," said Mr Parker. "He was a fine man. You just couldn't fault him. He was a very strong member of the team for a long time," he said. Mr Thomas was elected a life member of the Metropolitan club in 1952 on his retirement from presidency. He was the 32nd life member of the club; the first being Mr H Mace in 1901.

As an owner, Mr Thomas raced the good pacer Scholarship in partnership with Mr Allan Matson. A son of Grattan Loyal and Oxford Queen, Scholarship won seven races in the late 1940's, firstly from Dick Humphrey's stables, then while trained by E Rinaldi and W J Coates and driven by Wes Butt. His last win was in the Hornby Handicap on Show Day at Addington in 1948 when he defeated Lady Averil and Commander Scott. Highland Fling, Chamfer, Captain Sandy and Gay Piper were other winners that day.

-o0o-

Under the heading of “Athletics” in the NZ REFEREE of 19th August 1914 it was reported that

“C S Thomas, the Dominion half-mile champion, ran third in his heat in the A A A Championships at Stamford Bridge when, by breaking the standard time, he won a bronze medal.”

NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker

Credit: HRWeekly 13Apr88

 

YEAR: 1983

GORDON BLAXALL

Gordon Blaxall, a former president of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and a former treasurer of the NZ Trotting Conference, died in Christchurch on January 1.

Mr Blaxall was a long serving member of the NZMTC and took his first administration role with the club when he was appointed publicity officer for the 1951 Inter-Dominion Championships at Addington. The following year he became a steward of the club, joined the club's committee in 1953, and was vice-president from 1965 to 1968. He took over the presidency in 1968 and held the post until 1974 when he was elected a life member of the club.

Elected to the NZ Trotting Conference executive in 1971, he was treasurer until he retired in 1982. During his time on the Conference executive, he attended two World Trotting Conferences at his own expense and was a delegate on the Inter-Dominion Trotting Council.

During his long association with harness racing, he only missed one NZ Cup at Addington through illness and only two Inter-Dominion Championships during that time. He was a member of the Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association for more than 30 years. He raced both standardbreds and thoroughbreds during his lifetime, but admitted to having "little success" as an owner.



Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 11Jan83

 

YEAR: 1978

C E HOY

Well known trotting administrator Mr C E (Jack) Hoy died in Christchurch last week.

Mr Hoy was a real estate agent for nearly 50 years and spent almost 40 years as a trotting administrator. He became a principal of the Ford and Hadfield company in 1928 and continued to take a close interest in that company until shortly before his death.

Mr Hoy became a steward of the NZ Metropolitan TC in 1939 and was elected president in 1952, an office he held until 1956. This term as president included the first Royal visit to Addington, the Queen being present in 1954. He was elected a life member of the Club on his retirement as president. Mr Hoy also had a ten year term of office on the executive of the NZ Trotting Conference and served as treasurer from 1966 to 1971.

Mr Hoy raced many horses, the best of these being Intrepid, whom he raced in partnership with Murray Edwards. Intrepid won 16 races in NZ for $37,695 and later took a 1:57 mark in America. In more recent years, Mr Hoy raced Intrepid's half-sister, the smart mare Bronze Queen.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 28Nov78

 

YEAR: 1968

R W SAUNDERS

Mr R W Saunders, who died suddenly last week, was president of the NZMTC from 1965 to the time of his death.

Mr Saunders became a member of the club in 1940, was a steward from 1953 to 1960, a committeeman from 1958 to 1960, and vice-president from 1960 to 1965. He was also a director of Addington Raceway Ltd.

The Royal Easter meeting in 1966, held on the occasion of the Queen Mother's visit to Christchurch, was a highlight during Mr Saunder's term as president. Mr Saunders raced several horses, both gallopers and trotters. Dianus won a Methven Cup for him, and Sunset Chief, whom he bred, was a good winner in Australia. He also bred the thoroughbred mare, Centime, whose progeny included Moidore.

Mr Saunders, who was 59, is survived by his wife, one son and three daughters.

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 19Jan68

 

YEAR: 1960

J K DAVIDSON

President of NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club 1960-65

Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 30Jun65

 

YEAR: 1940

ALLAN MATSON - NZMTC President

The colourful stock dealer/auctioneer was a "bridge" administrator, more of an entrepreneur and marketing man of the modern world than that of the era of more serious administrators who preceded him.

Matson was one of the most successful presidents of the Metropolitan Trotting Club in its long history. Though aided by the rush of money to racing at the end of the Second World War when turnovers boomed he was an outstanding all round administrator.

As an energetic president he raised stakes to record levels attracting huge attendances in the 1940's and when his term ended and another fine leader, Charlie Thomas, succeeded him Matson became the Treasurer for 13 years, a classic mixture of good management and forward thinking.

A rotund rollicking figure, Matson had friends, customers and contacts from his stock agency everywhere and his dynamic leadership was the key factor in Addington emerging very much the leader of the pack in the post-war years.

The Trotting Cup in the Matson years became the richest race of any code run in New Zealand. It was two thirds the stake of the richest in Australasia, the Melbourne Cup, a fraction we can only dream about today. The supporting races were similarly rich. You could buy a nice house if you won a nice race on Cup Day. If you won the Cup you could buy a nice farm or two. Think about that and weep.

Matson was always advancing new ideas. He tried hard to get a photo finish system from the United States during the war(importing it was not allowed) and helped drive its establishment immediately afterward. Unhappily the man nearly everyone in Canterbury knew and liked died at only 58 but having already achieved more than most administrators who survived much longer.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Aug 2016

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Phone (03) 338 9094