Tony Lye will be the first to admit he was the last of the rubber, pen and pencil men at Addington Raceway. After putting up stout resistance, he eventually made friends with the computer – well, sort of. But when the time came a fortnight back to give it one last click, there wasn’t much sorrow either way.
There are some old habits and patterns that come after doing much the same job for 36 years, and Lye knew he had them. For more than 20 years he was the efficient and super steady Racing Manager for the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, but tough times for the club has caused work casualties and Lye is one of them.
He is sad to leave a responsible job that he’s been very good at and widely respected in. “It’s fair to say that I think I’m going before my time” – he’s 60 – “but that’s the card I’ve been dealt,” he said.
Lye had the manual aspect of taking nominations and drawing up the fields down to a fine art, “but the computer changed it all. I was slow to react – I was a pencil, pen and rubber man. Why should I change? This is the way I’ve always done it. So it’s true to say I did resist it.”
This area is just one of many that Lye has seen change dramatically. What else?
“The development of Raceway land around the track, the building of the Westpac Centre, the new stabling complex, and the loss of the huge carparks which we needed for most of the meetings when we had fewer of them years ago. When you think of it, Addington Raceway was once the closest farm to the centre of the city”
Lye said when he started there were about 20 meetings a year between the three clubs – the Met, Canterbury Park and New Brighton – and a staff of eight.
“We had a card for every horse, about two hundred and fifty of them. All the details were typed in – owner, breeder, trainer, age, colours, and when a colt became a gelding we would pick the card out and turn the ‘c’ into a ‘g’. There was also a card with the last starts of each horse, and we would choose the fields from the form on the cards. Back then a raceday was a big day”
Cup Day was always the biggest day of the year, and Lye said it was never a difficult one if the preparations were properly made. “You’d hold your breath that everything went well, but it did because everyone stepped up.”
Lye has difficulty accepting the situation where some of the country clubs can pay higher stakes than a similar class at Addington. “That’s completely wrong. It should be an incentive for any owner or trainer to race at a metropolitan meeting and race for more money. I know quite a few like to take their picnics to other tracks, but it’s not as hard to win at Addington as it used to be. It’s an anomaly that is not right.”
Lye has seen handicapping systems come and go. This current one seems to be the flavour they want, and the concessions are a big part of it.”
Redundancy means something new ahead of him. I won’t miss the repetition, but I’ll miss going to the races, the day-to-day activity of the office, and the good staff they have there.”
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 7Apr2010
David McCarthy writing in ChCh Press 20 Oct 2008
After 19 years as Chief Executive at Addington Raceway, Mike Godber is leaving next month to take the helm at Queensland Harness. What does he expect, and what does he believe his Addington leagacy to be? He talks to Dave McCarthy.
Your move is something of a surprise. Maybe it had something to do with an upcoming 20th anniversary in the job?
Well, we have often talked about doing something different, and with our youngest child in the last year of school there was a feeling if we did not do it now we might just drift on. Then the Queensland people contacted me in August. We had had a week and a half of rain and it was 5deg. Maybe they got me at a weak moment.
How is the set-up there going to differ from here?
They have combined the state and club administration over there. My job is the equivalent of chief executive of Harness Racing New Zealand, and also the club racing side. There are about 30 staff doing club and executive work. Th board has only four members and they are all appointed by the minister. The seem to me to be ideal people to work with.
How does it compere in size with New Zealand?
Surprisingly close. There are about the same number of permits, but the stakes are lower - maybe $12 million to $13 million total. There are only three tracks. Albion Park races Tuesday afternoon and Saturday night, Redcliffe on Wednesday night and Parklands on Thursday afternoon and Friday night. So five meetings every week. While the stakes are lower, the horses race more often and stay competitive in their grade.
The Albion Park grandstand has been condemned. What sort of challenge will that represent?
The Inter-Dominions have been shifted to Parklands. I am not worried about that. Parklands(on the Gold Coast) has really good facilities in terms of space. They have a big boy's toys-type day and handle 60,000 people. But clearly there will be rebuilding of some sort at Albion Park.
What are some of the major differences you expect to deal with?
In Canterbury, harness racing is a significant activity employing a lot of people, but the economics of the area limit growth. In Queensland, harness is not so popular, but even in slower times the economy is much stronger there.
What major changes would you point to at Addington in your time?
There are only three buildings which were there when I arrived still standing(office block, public stand, Twiggers Stand), and there have been big innovations such as the Westpac stadium, the office building complex across the back and now the new stable area. The stewards stand was being built as I arrived.
There have been some rumours the new stables are behind schedule and over budget. Comment?
Neither is true. Some people have been confused maybe that we borrowed $5.7m from the Racing Board and the actual cost is $6.2m. But that was the financial plan from the start. We managed to advance purchase a lot of the steel involved, which has turned out a wise move with the way the price has gone recently. It is on track time-wise. Our biggest worry has been getting compliance to allow public use of stage one, which means using the roof on Cup week. We have signed off on that.
Some people always claim Addington would be better sold up for the big money and a track built further out, as has happened in Sydney and Melbourne. Can you see that day ever coming?
Frankly, no. Everything we have done in my time in developing the property for secondary income has been from the approach that it will not compromise the racing. I think some of the values placed on the land are more notional than real. Besides, it would only probably become residential with a park. The importance of being in a central place and part of the city is crucial for days like the New Zealand Cup. You are never going to get that sort of atmosphere going to West Melton and the night meetings would have a similar loss. We got the Wespac staduim because of the opportunities in terms of access and parking at Addington had over other proposed venues such as near what is now the AMI Stadium.
There must have been some things which have happened which have affected your enthusiasm for the job.
Yes, I would say there is less involvement at club level now, and you do not control your own destiny to the same extent. We cannot even decide what times the races will run, we have more trouble keeping track of what is going on and generally have less and less say.
Galloping has introduced a guaranteed payments system for smaller clubs. Harness does not have that. Which would you prefer?
I am not a fan of guaranteed payment days. I see galloping clubs running races at a loss they would not have run a few years ago when they had to balance their own books, and I cannot see that being good in the long term. Ours is a turnover-based payment system and I think it is better.
Some critics say Addington has put money into business developments better put into stakes. Any comment on that?
Yes, but it won't be popular. I think clubs are putting too much money in stakes. We are paying between 93% and 106% of racing income on stakes, depending on the measure. When we developed the business park at the back of the track in partnership, we had to borrow money to come up with our share for something which will give back income over a long term. If we were able to fund that out of our income, it would have put us in a much stronger position. In racing we tend not to look at the long-term economics, and I think each code is the same. But people are passionate about the game, and that is the way we do it.
Any thoughts on how you would like your era to be remembered?
I recall years ago Robert Muldoon being asked what he would like his legacy to be, and he said, "To leave the country in no worse state than I found it". I thought that was a bit lame. I would like to think we have the place in better shape than when I came, but I hasten to add that there were several chief executives before me who did great things for the development of Addington.
Are club administrators harder to attract now?
Yes, and it is the same everywhere. Even when board members are paid for their efforts it is a big task for someone with their own business interests. Retired professionals, like (the late) John Penney was, for example, provide most of the leadership.
What will you miss most?
Cup week and the build up to it. It is huge for a place the size of Christchurch getting over 20,000 people on the day. There is nothing else like it in Australasia for harness racing.
Will the economic situation affect this year's event?
Not significantly. We could be a little down on corporate numbers and some of them might like to keep a lower profile if they are in financial structures, but the signs are all good so far. Our betting is now tracking up to last year's levels.
Katie McKone writing in The Star 22 Oct 2008
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Hastings and grew up there until I was 18 when I went to Massey University in Palmerston North. Hawkes Bay was a great place to grow up, with a climate very similar to Canterbury.
Can you give a rundown on your career to date? Have you always been involved in Harness Racing?
Racing has always been a passion and I have always worked in the industry, but to start with, my interest was thoroughbreds rather than harness. This was because in Hawkes Bay there was no harness racing when I grew up. I worked for the New Zealand Racing Authority through to 1989 when I came to Addington, apart from a short secondment to the TAB when they were introducing the Jetbet on-course computer betting system in the early 1980's.
The much-anticipated Cup Week is looming - this must be a stressful, albeit exciting, time for you. Are you expecting a big turn-out this year?
I find Cup Week more exciting than stressful. That comes from the fact that I have great staff who I have complete confidence in and who know what they are doing. We are expecting another big turn-out this year - Lindauer Lawn has already sold out and corporate sales are also going well.
What can punters and race-goers expect in 2008? Any new additions to the events calendar or the facilities?
A number of changes have been made for Cup 2008, including a significant increase in the number of totes(from 193 to 215). There will be more entertainment in the fashion marquee, and of course the Lindauer Lawn now has an upstairs and downstairs, and better access to the Twigger's Stand with the new stable block roof area being used for the first time.
This will be your last Cup Week while at the helm of Addington Raceway before taking up your new role in Queensland. Are you sad to leave and what memories will you be taking with you?
I will miss the hype of Cup Week but it is time to move on. The main memories are the people you meet and friends you make, not only during Cup Week, but inside and outside the industry. A memory will always be the buzz of excitment in the air throughout the whole day.
How did the job come about in Queensland and what does it involve?
It entails being CEO for all Harness Racing in Queensland - that covers the regulatory functions as well as the commercial and betting side of the operations. I received a phone call in August to see if I would be interested in applying for the position. It was five degrees at the time and had been raining for a week, so Queensland did have some appeal.
What is your favourite part of Cup Week?
Arriving on the course at 6am on Cup Day and seeing everything perfectly set out and knowing that all the planning and effort was worth it. Then 7.20pm on Show Day when we run our last race for the week and we can all relax.
What has been the most memorable New Zealand Cup win and performance from a horse over the Cup meeting?
Luxury Liner's win over Our Maestro, the Australian visitor, in 1988. Our Maestro burst past Luxury Liner at the top of the straight, but Luxury Liner drew him back in with a wonderful stayer's run, not unlike Flashing Red catching Monkey King last year. The performance over the Cup meeting would be Blossom Lady winning the Cup and Free-For-All in 1992 and Flashing Red's two Cups in 2006 and 2007.
What has been your favourite horse to have raced at Addington and why?
Blossom Lady. She always did her best and was an Addington crowd favourite.
If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
All Black coach - we all think we can do a better job, don't we?
Shane Cloury has been appointed to the position of Chief Executive of Addington Raceway Ltd (including the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club Inc).
Gloury is a qualified chartered accountant and is presently the General Manager - Strategic Planning and Development, for Harness Racing Victoria. He has previously held the positions of General Manager Business, Assistant Manager Finance and Financial/Management Accountant over a period of 10 years.
"We are delighted to appoint someone of such high calibre with not only the experience in the racing industry, but also in finance and business development," said David Rankin, Chairman of Addington Raceway Ltd and NZMTC.
"We believe his skills in strategic planning, marketing and development of the business case for the new Melton racing and entertainment facility, which will become the home of harness racing in Victoria next year, will all be of great benefit as we seek to further enhance and develop Addington Raceway.
Credit: HRWeekly 3Dec08
After initially being employed at the then NZ Trotting Conference as the Accountant, Rowley was appointed Secretary in 1960 and later the Chief Executive Officer before retiring in 1985. During his tenure he was instrumental in bringing many changes to the NZ racing industry. In the early 60s he was part of a group that formed the TAB as we know it today, while identification of horses by way of freeze branding, artificial insemination, judicial procedures, public relations and computerisation were other innovations he oversaw.
Rowley represented NZ at World Trotting Conference and is the only person to have held the office of Secretary General twice, continuing in this role after his retirement. During his 32 years, Rowley made many great friends, including Gordon Blaxall who was the Conference Treasurer. Many a problem was solved by the two of them over a gin or two in the boardroom at the end of the day.
He commenced his career as an office boy with the Christchurch importing and wholesale firm of Fairbairn Wright during WWII. After the war he joined the Registrar's Office of the Canterbury University, from where he went to a small firm making ties and later managed the factory. He then joined the Canterbury Manufacturers Association where he managed an 'Industries Fair' and from where he learned of a vacancy in 'trotting'. After seven years of club administration, Rowley was offered the job of the Trotting Conference Accountant.
In honour of his retirement, a testimonial dinner was held and attended by racing dignitaries from all three racing codes and members of parliament. Retirement wasn't to last long however. A new organisation was set up in the early 1980s to administer age group racing, and Rowley had been instrumental in the approval of Sires' Stakes racing. In August 1988, he was asked to join the NZ Sires' Stakes Board and in 1993 he was elected Chairman, a position he held till he resigned in 1997.
NZ Trotting Calendar 13Aug85
Thirty-two years of harness racing administration came to an end when John Rowley retired as Chief Executive Officer of the NZ Trotting Conference on July 31.
Fittingly, leading racing administrators - harness, thoroughbred and greyhound - joined with distinguished guests in farewelling John at a Testimonial Dinner in Christchurch on the very evening of his retirement. It was during that "Farewell Speech" at that dinner, and at a later interview, that John Rowley revealed some of his thoughts on the Industry - "I must call it that now" - which he has served so diligently.
John Rowley did not come into harness racing administration dedicated to the cause at an early age - it was a circuitous route which saw him occupy the most powerful chair in professional administration in NZ trotting. He commenced his career as an office boy with the Christchurch importing and wholesale firm of Fairbairn Wright during the Second World War, leaving briefly to complete three months basic army training. Though he returned to Fairbairn Wright after basic training, he did not last long there, volunteering for the Royal NZ Navy and going off to fight the war as an Ordinary Seaman. John did most of his sea training aboard the British cruiser HMS Dauntless, which was based in Scotland, but he was not to remain an Ordinary Seaman for long. He ended his 18 months' service as a Sub-Lieutenant aboard the minesweeper, or Bird class Corvette as they were known, HMNZS Tui, based in Auckland.
Returning to Fairbairn Wrights after the war, John filled the post of costing clerk. But greener pastures beckoned and he joined the Registrars Office of the Canterbury University. A "change of hierarchy" saw John leaving the University and going to work for a young firm called Corinthian Ties "Where I learned to make ties and manage a factory". Unfortunately, the factory fell on hard times - "There was a depression at the time" - and John joined the Canterbury Manufacturers' Association, where he managed an Industries Fair.
It was through meeting some members of the Manufacturers' Association who were involved in trotting - "In particular Ces Peate" - that he heard of the vacancy which became available in trotting administration with the death of Harold Goggin - who was then secretary of the three Christchurch trotting clubs. "I applied for the job and got it, and I've been in trotting ever since," John said.
John was understudy to Des Parker, who was promoted to take the late Harold Goggin's job, and stayed for seven years. The break with club administration came after seven years when he was seconded to run a three night meeting at Hutt Park when the Wellington Trortting Club was suddenly left without a secretary. "I went in there cold, right from scratch and had to run a three night meeting. At the end of that meeting, I was offered the job as secretary of the Wellington Trotting Club. At the same time, the job of Conference accountant became vacant and as my wife Shirley had no desire to go to Wellington, I applied for the job with the Conference and got it. "So I moved upstairs," John said, referring to the fact that in those days, the Conference and the three Christchurch trotting clubs shared the same office building in Oxford Terrace.
Rather unusually, John was born, raised, educated (Christchurch West High School and Christ's College) and completed his entire working life in Christchurch. He married soon after the war and fathered three children, two girls, Belinda and Melanie who both followed nursing careers, and a son, Simon, who now manages Dalgety Crown in Rakaia.
John was with the Conference just over twelve months before the then secretary, W H (Bill) Larcombe, retired, and John was appointed to his position in 1961. Encumbent president then was Charles Thomas, a leading Christchurch criminal lawyer, a former prsident of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and a prominent figure in the Scottish Society. Stories of Charlie Thomas abound in trotting - "Many of them true" - according to John. "He was a man dedicated to the job. There wasn't a day when he didn't come into the office." Charles Thomas was the first of seven presidents John was to serve under, Bill Roche succeeded him, then being followed by Dick Rolfe, Arthur Nicoll, George Cruickshank, Sir James Barnes and the present encumbent, Dewar Robertshaw.
Twenty four years as the top professional administrator in the country sees a lot of change, and John Rowley has played a major part in that change. "I would have to say the major changes have been in the area of horse identification - freeze branding - the creation of the International Trotting Association, artificial insemination, the changes in judicial procedures, and the vital area of public relations," John said. "You know, people seem loath to give gredit where it is due, but we actually led the world in the introduction of freeze branding and only now are the Racing Conference looking at doing it."
"The International Conferences are considered in some quarters to be just jaunts, but people don't realise that is was because of the creation of the International Trotting Association, and the contacts and personal trust built up by these meetings, that we got the NZ standardbred accepted overseas. You know, we had a terrific battle with the Americans to get our mares accepted into their Stud Book as standardbreds. What that would have meant, of course, if we had not been successful, is that the progeny of mares like Robin Dundee would not have been recognised as standardbred by the Americans, and she of course left world record holder Genghis Khan. I also like to think NZ can contribute to these International Conferences. It has been said we get very little out of them, but I prefer to think that we are not only looking to get something out - which we do - but we can put something back as well," he said.
John may have finished as CEO of the NZ Trotting Conference, but he is still busy as Secretary General of the International Trotting Association which holds it's next biennial conference in Brisbane in October, which will coincide with the World Driver's Championship. NZ Trotting Conference president Dewar Robertshaw will succeed USTA president Joe McLoone as chairman of the ITA in Brisbane. John admits the current system of having a floating secretariat for the ITA is not the ideal one, and feels a permanent secretariat based in one country would achieve a great deal more. "Let's face it, everone at the Conference is busy when they return home, and there is the danger that the follow up, which is so important, gets put to one side. With a permanent secretary that would not happen, and the International Trotting Association could be of so much more value to everyone."
Concern for human rights and natural justice have led to changes in the judicial system in recent years, particularly in cases involving investigations by the racecourse inspectors. "One of the biggest changes relates to the work done by the racecourse inspectors, which used to be, in the old days, referred to the full executive with recommendations. In due course, the executive would adjudicate on the case. Today, the only person to see the reports is the CEO of the Conderence, and it is he, normally after taking legal advice, who decides whether or not charges will be preferred. All the executive now know about the situation is that they have to set up a panel to hear the charges, and they don't know anything about the matter until they sit down to hear the case. That is natural justice, and, in my view, is the correct procedure," John said.
Hand in hand with judicial control, in John's view, goes the integrity of harness racing. "Over the past three decades, we have become a force to be reckoned with, and during that time what we have tried to show is the integrity of harness racing. "I'm a firm believer that you can spend all the money in the world in advertising and promotion, and provide the best facilities in the world, but if your patrons, particularly the new ones, have any suspicion of dishonesty, then you have lost them for ever."
Closer co-operation between the Racing and Trotting Conferences and Greyhound administrators is a pleasing development, but John reports it was not always the case. "In the good old days, a small sub-committee of the Trotting Conference would appear before the Racing Conference executive in what used to be called a Combined Committee Meeting, where the odds were about 14 to 4. We would be summoned into the room like small boys going before the headmaster and we would be asked what our problems were. These would be discussed, we would be given a drink, then sent on our way after about an hour. Today of course we have got equal representation at Combined Conference level, where we discuss all matters pertaining to racing, and together make representations to the Racing Authority, the Minister and I think the system works very well. I think it is indicative of the progress we have made and the mark we have made in the industry. There is no doubt we have all had our problems, many of the inter-code, and will continue to do so. However, I believe we should all genuinely acknowledge that we are all members one of another, and whoever deliberately attempts, for whatever reason, to sabotage the efforts or reputation of it's co-partners in reality damages his own code, and weakens, if you like, the strength of the whole chain of racing's continued progress. I would also add that the same applies within harness racing. Destructive criticism of sabotage within the industry only harms us all."
Credit: HRWeekly 19Sep07
The death occurred last Wednesday of Trevor Davis, a highly-respected and long serving harness racing administrator.
Aged 71, Mr Davis enjoyed attending most Canterbury meetings since retiring as secretary-manager from Addington Raceway in 1989, and was at the Timaru meeting just four days earlier. He was a keen supporter of the useful pacer Luchador, which was raced by his brother-in-law, John Atkinson.
Mr Davis joined Addington Raceway in 1960 as assistant to the secretary Mr Des Parker, and took over on Mr Parker's retirement in 1979. Among the changes that occurred during the control of Mr Davis were the introduction of the Jetbet system, the construction of the new members' stand, the conversion of Raceway heating fron gas to electricity, and the computerisation of the accounts and membership lists.
He is survived by his wife Betty, daughter Sandra and son Robert, a former Keeper of the Stud Book for Harness Racing New Zealand.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 24Jan96
Mr Mike Godber has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Addington Raceway. He replaces Mr Trevor Davis, who retires from the position of Secretary-Manager in November.
Since 1983, Mr Godber has been Secretary and Chief Executive Officer for the NZ Racing Authority. Aged 36 Mr Godber is an honours graduate from Massey College - where his thesis was on the classification of racecourses. He then joined the Authority as Research Officer, became acting Secretary in 1982 and Secretary a year later.
Mr Godber will have the responsibility of maximising the economic position of Addington Raceway on ac national and regional basis. This policy started started in 1983 when the Raceway was restructured on a more commercial basis. "I know the main theme at Addington is racing, but there are other areas supplementary to it, such as a conference centre," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17May89
Mr Trevor Davis, secretary-manager of the three Addington Raceway trotting clubs, is already planning for retirement. He has sold his Sumner home and bought a two-storeyed house on 5ha at West Melton. Here, next door to prominent trainer-driver Malcolm Gillum and over the road from Selwyn MP Ruth Richardson, Mr Davis will eventually pursue a style of life he's always wanted. "I've never raced or bred a horse. I'm saving that for my retirement. And I've always wanted some land. So these will be my interests when I retire in four years," he said.
Now 61, Mr Davis has been one of the senior administrators at Addington Raceway for 25 years. During this time, sharing the helm with Mr Des Parker and more recently with Mr Tony Lye, Mr Davis has been involved in many changes to the Addington Raceway complex and its organisation, and seen vast improvements in the trotting industry. "In 1960 our work was mainly tied to the actual race meeting, but it is more diverse now. We now have P Burke and Co (caterers) resident on course...the control of money is now of much greater importance...trials play a large part in our week, and as a consequence there is consistent work on the repair and maintenance of the track...and sponsorship and promotion is basically the name of the game," he said.
On the race track, he says, the changes have been just as significant. "Probably the major change has been the simplification of the handicapping system. For example, if a 4.44 horse won a two mile race, he came back 4sec to 4.40. But a horse was always in a handicapping situation, because placings brought you back to 4.43 or 4.42. This has led to the acceptance of mobile starting and the handicapping system has been tailored to that end," he said. "Another major step was the acquistion of Addington Raceway land in 1981 from the North Canterbury Hospital Board. It was held on lease till then and now we are looking at a final payment in March, 1987," he said.
Mr Davis heads a staff of 14; eight in the office and six caring for the track and grounds. One of them, newly appointed Metropolitan Trotting Club promotions officer Mr Barry Johnson, is engaged entirely on planning work for the 1987 Inter-Dominion Trotting Championships in February. With that in mind, Mr Davis will be part of the Met deputation to the 1986 Inter-Dominions, working hard to sell the carnival to all in sight. Mr Davis knows the ropes - he has been on hand at every Inter-Dominion since 1966 - six years after he left United Dairies Ltd and joined Mr Parker in the harness sport.
The youngest of four brothers and the son of a Riccarton poulterer, Mr Davis was educated at Fendalton Primary School and Christchurch Boy's High School. His academic studies between 1938 and 1941 ran a poor second to sport; playing cricket for the school second 11, and leading Bob Duff and other members from half-back in the second 15. He had a year at the freezing works before turning to the milk industry, and stayed with United Dairies for 18 years, in the end as chief clerk.
In 1967, he became racing secretary at Addington Raceway, then, on Mr Parker's retirement, was appointed secretary-manager in 1979. This involves the three trotting clubs - Metropolitan, New Brighton and Canterbury Park - and the Addington Raceway Company Ltd. Each of the clubs has three active committees, as well as a general committee, and this, he says makes it impossible to attend the lot. Mr Davis is also secretary of a new regional committee that controls the complete rostering of Jetbet staff in the area.
Thoughts of further extensions to Addington Raceway have been on a roller-coaster ride over the past five years or so. "The directors have various plans shelved some years ago because of the purchase of the property. Now we are presently having an investigation of internal finances to see just what amount the three clubs could service," he said.
Mr Davis married Betty Atkinson, whose father Tom raced Acropolis to win the Sapling Stakes and Great Northern Derby. Tom's father was a trainer and prepared his horses at Addington from a property in Durham Street. They have two children, Sandra and Bob, who is employed by the New Zealand Trotting Conference as keeper of the Stud Book, and five grandchildren.
Mr Davis used to be club captain of the High School Old Boys Football Club, and enjoys a bet as much as anyone...not that he's ever managed a coup, or even got close to one. The biggest win he recalls followed a conversation with Methven trainer Jim Nordqvist, who had been telling him how good his filly Bedlum was. He collected nearly $400 when he coupled her in a quinella with Lyndon Robert in the Timaru Nursery Stakes in 1982. Bedlum was the 10th favourite, and ran Lyndon Robert to a neck.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in Ch-Ch Star 10 Dec 1985
Des Parker was born in Christchurch in 1913. September is as close as he'll define it to stop the inevitable "rush of presents if I tell you the day". He went to Christ's College, leaving at 16½ in the early days of the Depression. His step-father was his first boss. He was a company secretary, as well as being secretary of the Canterbury Society of Arts and the Nurse Maude District Nursing Association. "That was all pretty interesting because I met a lot of the artists around the time; and I met Nurse Maude herself. A tremendous person," Des said.
He eventually left his father and worked at two other jobs before taking one in an accountant's office. There he stayed for two or three years when he got the opportunity to move to join the Addington clubs as a clerk late in 1938. It wasn't an avid interest in horses or racing that made him take the job; rather it was the four guineas a week, almost twice his wage before. And the actual job itself had better prospects and held more interest.
At the time Des went to Addington the assistant secretary Harold Goggin was to become the tote manager on the course. A I Rattray was the secretary and had been since the Metropolitan club was founded in the middle 1880s. When Mr Rattray died in 1941, trotting lost one of it's real characters, in Des' eyes anyway. "The average person just can't comprehend the debt trotting in general, and especially Addington, owes to him. He even put his own money into the public stand. And he set standards for people like Goggin and myself to follow. "He was a stickler for the rules; no one got away with a late nomination or acceptance, and he was fiercely loyal to his staff. He even got to the point where he was going to throw in his job if the committee sacked a particular gateman they thought had been wrong. I can see him now...bun hat, immaculately trimmed beard, huge cigar, diamond tie pin, all those things current secretaries can't afford..."
Having worked under Rattray, he was next understudy to Mr Goggin when that gentleman became secretary in 1941. Des Parker became secretary himself in 1953 and he has seen a lot of changes in trotting since then. He finds it difficult to pinpoint any change, which, in his eyes, has been detrimental to trotting. Changes for the good have been the introduction of night trotting, more racing, new forms of betting and the TAB. And in spite of earlier reservations he had, Des Parker now sees the Racing Authority as well worthwhile. I wasn't very enthusiastic for a start for I saw the Authority taking more control away from the clubs and conference. But it has done a lot of good in ironing out problems between the two codes and it has been able to provide a better communication with the Government on racing matters. Night trotting over the years has been a boon to major clubs anyway, doing a tremendous amount to help improve stakes, for instance. Anything which hasn't worked or has had an adverse effect has usually been dropped reasonably quickly."
It is because he sees the importance for clubs to retain a certain amount of independence he sees problems at this stage in the centralisation of field selection, an idea that has been proposed from time to time. "I can see there would be certain advantages in centralisation but taking away individual rights of clubs might be a disadvantage to the industry. I mean there, that those committees that currently draw up programmes and select fields would then become merely 'social' committees and as such, could rapidly lose interest in the sport."
Falling attendances have been worrying both the trotting and racing codes and Des Parker can't see any immediate solution. The closure of petrol stations at weekends and the spiralling cost of fuel must have an adverse effect on racing, he says. "People will think twice before making a long day trip to a race meeting. Sure, the dyed-in-the-wool supporter will still go, but it's those people on the fringe, those that make the difference between six or eight thousand at an ordinary meeting and 20,000 at a Cup meeting that provide the icing for the cake. The cost of transport is going to be a very, very serious problem for the industry. It'll affect trainers, owners, drivers, patrons, headaches for everyone. Administrators are going to have to do all they can to use public transport to get to the races."
However, there could be a brighter side to this gloomy situation, for Auckland and especially Christchurch tracks at least. Getting to Addington, for instance, doesn't take too much effort or fuel, and a fair proportion of those horses which race there come from training establishments within easy reach of the city. "Clubs like Greymouth, Forbury and Wellington, where in comparison there are relatively few horses trained locally, could be hardest hit.
Figures released last week show that the clubs racing at Addington struggled a bit over the last season. Des Parker says that overall, attendances have been maintained, but with more dates, there have been fewer patrons on-course, meeting by meeting. People are becoming more selective and the weather doesn't have to be very bad for them to stay at home. They know that within a fortnight, or less, there'll be another meeting on the track anyway. (The three clubs at Addington have a total of 29 permits for the year, which is a little better than one meeting a fortnight). "Those fewer people are spending more...but that's an effect of inflation. There're are not too many permits here; rather it is a case of too many permits on unfavourable dates. The Christchurch climate is never the best for any form of outdoor entertainment at night in anything other than the summer months. And the success of outdoor entertainment is dependent on the weather every time."
In his time at Addington, Des Parker has had an active part in the organisation of four Inter-Dominion carnivals taking on the major role in 1961, 1971 and the latest series here in Christchurch. Although public interest was not reflected in attendance and the club a hefty $35,000 loss on the carnival, Des Parker reckons the organisation was as good as for any of those previously. "In spite of the financial aspects, all the committees involved were happy with the Inter-Dominion. We knew we had done a good job."
Could the disappointing attendances be blamed on the good live television coverage over the earlier three nights of the meeting? "As I told Jon Neilson when interviewed by TV on the final day, television is a wonderful medium for people who want to stay at home. But the amount we received in no way compensated for the lower gates. "But it is an imponderable. Who's to say whether or not those who stayed home with their tv, bet more on the TAB?"
Over the years at Addington Des Parker has worked with many presidents of the three clubs and many committees. "Most of them I came to regard as friends, rather than employers," Des said. "Of course we have had our occasional differences, but with most, they never lasted." He has nothing but praise for the casual staff at the Raceway who had helped make Addington tick. Of the characters among them, Des probably remembers best a vet for the club for many years, Colonal Stafford. "An army man, he was. Stafford did everything by the book."
If your in a job for more than forty years, it's inevitable you have good times and bad times. Des Parker has had two bad moments and both involved fires at the course. The first was on Show Day of 1954 soon after the last race had been run. Fanned by the usual Show Day nor'wester the outside public stand containing the best public seating and bar facilities was razed. Strangely enough, the second fire took place on Show Day again, this time in 1961 in almost identical conditions. However, the last race was still to be run when fire broke out in the main public stand. Race-goers were moved out quickly and many moved to the inside of the track to watch the last event and get a close view of the most spectacular blaze in the city for years. Des remembers he got some pretty good shots of the fire himself from various points around the steward's stand. "And that was the only time I ever took my camera to the races. With the odd exception, the public responded well and it was a tribute to the police, staff and firemen that no-one was injured in the blaze." (The last race, incidentally, was won by hot favourite Cardigan Bay and Smokeaway, well-backed on-course, finshed third.) Des's heart went into his mouth too, every time there was a smash or accident on the track. "Not that you can do much about it, but you don't like anything to go wrong at all."
Of course, measured against those bad times, there have been a lot of particularly amusing moments. Unfortunately, most of those can't be published without causing "some people a lot of embarrassment..." However, Des will always remember the trouble the Navy flag party had at the closing ceremony at the last Inter-Dominion. "That was a highlight of the carnival," he says chuckling at the thought. A similar happening took place at Melbourne last year. "They had trouble getting the flag down then and people were scurrying about looking for a pocket knife or something to cut the rope with." But Des wasn't so amused when he got a phone call from an owner a few minutes before midnight one New Years Eve. "He was after some tickets for the next day's meeting...what he thought I could do about it at that time I'll never know but that would be one of the rare occasions I consider I was plain rude to anyone." Fair enough, but that was perhaps an extreme example of how club secretaries are expected to be on deck at all hours. "You make a lot of sacrifices in the job, put in long hours sometimes, have to take calls at any time. But in spite of that, you get a really good feeling, when after months of planning, a Royal meeting or an Inter-Dominion championship goes without a hitch."
Des Parker leaves Addington in the care of his successor, former racing secretary Trevor Davis, with no regrets at all about having taken the job in the first place. "Look, it's been an interesting career all through, rewarding too, giving me all kinds of opportunities...unforgettable moments like meeting Royalty several times, attending Inter-Dominions on both sides of the Tasman." And now, only recently finished all the tidying up work on the Inter-Dominion, he has spent the last few weeks "settling into retirement".
He is playing golf regularly, spending more time in the garden. "Yes, I'll be going to the races from time to time. And I'm becoming fitter than I was, too, with a lot of walking about the city," he says pointing to a belt pulled in another notch to prove his point. "It's certain, I won't vegetate. There'll always be something for me to do." His wife Dorothy is seeing a lot more of him around their Riccarton home these days. "I don't know how she'll feel about it in two or three month's time, but at the moment, I think she enjoys having me around the place..."
David McCarthy writing in the Press 2004
The death of Des Parker in Christchurch last week, aged 91, removed from the racing scene a man regarded as one of the most able club secretaries in the history of the sport in NZ. He was the secretary of the Addington clubs for 26 years and associated with the administration of the NZ Metropolitan club for more than 40 years.
Born in Christchurch in 1913, Des Parker commenced his career at Addington in December 1938 as a clerk under the legendary A I Rattray, who had been the driving force behind the founding of Addington Raceway in 1899 and its subsequent development into one of the finest trotting tracks in the world.
Parker worked in the totalisator payout division during the 1938 Inter-Dominion Championships at Addington - the first held in NZ - and retired after organising the 1979 Inter-Dominion Championships on the course. It was the fifth Inter-Dominion carnival at Addington he had been involved with.
Parker was appointed assistant secretary on Rattray's death in 1941. He entered the Army in March 1942, serving with the Home Forces, during which time his salary was paid by the Addington clubs. Parker assisted Harold Goggin before succeeding him in 1953. His era coincided with the salad days of racing, but they also provided many administrative challenges.
Fire destroyed the outside public stand after the last race on Show Day 1954, a nor'westerly gale carrying the fire to the nearby Showgrounds where many horse stalls were lost. Seven years later the secretary watched in stunned disbelief as another gusty nor'wester destroyed the public grandstand during the running of the NZ Free-For-All. Parker organised the details on the momentous Royal visit to Addington in 1954, and helped host subsequent visits by the Queen Mother in 1966, and the second visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1977, their first visit to a night race meeting.
Other innovations during his term of office included the inaugural night trotting meeting in November 1963 just a few weeks after the opening of the new public stand; modern infield indicators and closed-curcuit televising of dividends; converting the original incandescent track lighting to multi-vapour; the abandonment of the traditional wooden running rail which caused much controversy; the building of the present office block; and negotiations with the Ministry of Works over major alterations to the grounds to cater for the motorway. He also began the process for the buying of the lease of Addington Raceway for $1 million, one of the most astute deals the club has ever done.
When Des Parker retired in 1979 and was succeeded by his assistant of 19 years, Trevor Davies, he was made a life member of the NZ Metropolitan club as well as the Canterbury Park and New Brighton clubs - both of them racing at Addington.
Parker was an authoritarian figure and even the strongest club leaders paused before questioning his decisions. "Des was dedicated and highly efficient himself and expected others in the office to be the same. He was more interested in the administration than the racing, although he liked to have the occasional bet," recalls Tony Lye, the present racing manager at Addington who began his career there under Parker.
"We used to do huge on-course turnovers almost automatically in those pre-Trackside days without serious competition. If it dropped below $350,000, Des was quickly wanting to know why."
John Rowley, who worked under Parker for six years at Addington and later alongside him as chief executive of the NZ Trotting Conference, also remembers a blunt character who always looked after his staff. Several, such as Hazel Crosbie, were with him for many years. "I have to say that Des's blunt way of dealing with people on raceday was not what most of us believed was ideal at times," says Crosbie. "But there was no question of his loyalty to his staff."
Underneath what could be a gruff exterior, Parker had a deep affection for Addington and attended annual meetings and other functions long after his retirement. He was also a keen golfer and bridge player, taking up bowls in latter years. He was a regular at the Fendalton Probus Club meetings, but his work dominated his life.
When his last Metropolitan president, Eugene McDermott, died in 1998, Parker told the Press, "Mac was a straight shooter and you always knew where you were with him. He spoke his mind, but never held a grudge and was an outstanding administrator."
Those words rest just as easily alongside the memory of Desmond Charles Parker.
Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Jul79
Mr Harold Edward Goggin, who died suddenly in Christchurch last week, was secretary for the three Christchurch Trotting Clubs - NZ Metropolitan, Canterbury Park and New Brighton. Mr Goggin was 62.
A long association with trotting for Mr Goggin began when, as a lad of 14, he joined the staff of the Canterbury, Lancaster Park and Heathcote Trotting Clubs. That was in 1904. Apart from three years overseas service in World War I, Mr Goggin has always been on the staff of the Christchurch trotting clubs. He was appointed secretary on the death of Mr A I Rattray in 1941. Just prior to that he had been totalisator manager for about two years.
The smooth running of Christchurch trotting meetings was no accident - Mr Goggin was recognised throughout the Dominion as a most able secretary and a master of detail. A few years ago he inaugurated a conference of trotting club secretaries and these conferences achieved their best results when held in Christchurch.
In his younger days Mr Goggin was a top-ranking player for the Linwood Tennis Club. In later years he played bowls and for a term was president of the Fendalton Bowling Club, of which he was a foundation member. He had previously served for a short time as secretary of the Christchurch Bowling Club. Mr Goggin was a keen supporter and good friend of the Metropolitan Light Harness Sports Club and took an active part in many of its activities.
Mr Goggin contributed a number of articles on trotting to different papers and publications, including the NZ Trotting Calendar, 'The NZ Turf,' an historical review on racing, trotting and breeding as an industry, compiled by E G Sutherland, of Auckland, and 'Pillars of Harness Horsedom,' for which he wrote an appreciation of his late chief, Mr A I Rattray. He was a Past Master of the St Augustine Masonic Lodge.
The funeral was a very large one and floral tributes, numbering more than 100, came from all parts of the Dominion. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev L A Barnes, and the Christchurch RSA paid tribute to "a good soldier and citizen and a fine sportsman." The pall-bearers were Messrs C E Hoy (NZ Metropolitan TC), C S Peate (Canterbury Park TC), A G Jamieson (New Brighton TC), and D C Parker (assistant-secretary to Mr Goggin), and Mr H Rennie and W Buckeridge (members of the Fendalton Bowling Club). Mr Goggin is survived by his widow and their daughter, Mrs G Devore, of Wellington.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 17Dec52