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If it were you and I as finish judges on a race day our biggest fear would surely be making some terrible error, especially in a major race. One reason Mark Gallagher, now the judge at both Addington and Riccarton, is good at his job is because he has a more pressing concern. That is being the only one in the room.
When he started back in the 1980s there were three officials in the judges box. You started at number three and worked upward. These days it is a solo job and Mark admits he sometimes wonders what would happen if the unexpected occurred. "Especially if you were at a distant track like, say, Waimate, and you suddenly became sick or were injured. I suppose a stipe could do it but it is not the sort of job anyone can just pick up in a day."
Mark was an assistant judge at Riccarton from 1985 with
Geoff Bruhns and Rob Fielder after Johnny Adams, who held the No.3 spot, left to referee top rugby matches. Mark also did some shifts at Addington and become No.2 under Ernie Fuchs when Bruhns retired in the mid 1990s having become No.2 to Fielder at Riccarton for the same reason. He has been the judge at Addington for many years now and succeeded Fielder at Riccarton this season.
While his path to the judging caper was a gradual one he has a strong racing background. Fate added to the recipe. "My grandmother was a cousin to Sir Henry Kelliher and managed hotels for him in Auckland. I can remember her getting me to put bets on with the illegal bookies at whippet meetings way back when. The bookie would say, 'What does Nan like in this one Snowy?' so I was in it from an early age. She really loved her racing. Dad was a keen punter too. It was in the blood."
Mark moved to Kawerau to work for Tasman Pulp and Paper where, earlier than most, he got the opportunity to work with computers back in the 1970s. "I was a budget clerk. But the government would only decide on the geothermal price in February so you would have to redo the budget with that price in mind. A computer was introduced to do that job and I got interested in programming. When PGG in Christchurch advertised for a programmer in 1979 we decided to move south for a change of scenery."
Pyne Gould Guinness (PGG) was where Fielder and Bruhns worked and the Gallagher racing interest soon formed an association. "The third judge then was really the runner, you helped judge the race but the main job was to take the result to the office and the Press room and post the photo finishes. It was quite full on."
The advance of technology in terms of more sophisticated photo finish and video operations managed in the area by Nigel Marks has reduced the need for a 'second opinion.' "Robbie and I always did our own independent commentary at Riccarton. That wasn't so necessary at Addington but Ernie and I would talk during the race about what was going on. I take particular notice of the horses two, three and four back on the rail. They are the ones likely to make a late run and if they are a little obscured you can be in trouble."
At Riccarton Mark uses only colours in his call but at Addington it is a combination because the colours are more distant from where the action is and numbers can be obscured in the photo. "I still do a visual call just in case anything goes amiss. It's important to stay vigilant and taking short cuts is going to catch up with you one day. You are naturally a bit more keyed up for the big days and probably do a little more homework. But with 30-minute intervals you usually have time to brush up on things between races."
He doesn't try too hard to prejudge the finish. "At Addington it is not until about 100 metres out that you know for sure you are in for a tight finish and even then sometimes it doesn't work out the way it looks then."
Judges are paid by clubs without including the travelling expenses RIB and RIU employees enjoy and is restricted in its appeal because it is still a part-time job. "One concern I have is training successors now. How far are you going to get offering to train someone with little or no payment on the promise they will get a part-time job at the end of it?"
Mark himself has had various part-time work from landscaping jobs for the well-to-do with a friend Rob Murphy, to traffic planning at road works. Flexibility around race days dictates that role. "At one stage there was talk of a full-time position with roles in other areas of racing between meetings but it doesn't appear to have come to anything.
Like many things in racing the secret to judging success is temperament. "You have to stay calm. All race results are important to the punter not just the big ones. Fortunately I haven't been 'on the mat' yet over any decisions."
Rangiora is the track Mark fears most. "You are not that far off the ground and the harness track is a long way away. Horses often slide up the inside and make things really tough. Height is everything."
He is open minded about any move to replace the long-winded announcements of placings and times in New Zealand with numbers on the screen for people watching in places where they can't the calls but can watch instant replays. Oddly, the tradition in this country once was the judges numbers being hoisted leaving the decision to murmurs from the crowds just as in Australia now. Back to the future it seems. "I am quite happy to push the buttons for the screen as they do in Australia. My mother in Auckland likes to hear my voice to check on my health but apart from that it doesn't really matter either way to me."
Credit: David McCarthy writing in Harnessed Oct 2015
The death occurred last Saturday of Ernie Fuchs, one day before his 58th birthday.
Fuchs had been the judge at Addington Raceway for many years, officiating at trial meetings, harness meetings and greyhound fixtures.
He started at the Raceway in 1987, as an assistant to Geoff Bruhns, the took over the reins after Bruhns retired in 1992. Fuchs also handled the judging duties at other tracks like Rangiora and Motukarara.
Never married, Fuchs is survived by his sister Anna, whom he lived with in Papanui, Christchurch.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 2Jul03
YEAR: 1988GEOFF BRUHNS
Don't think Judge Geoff Bruhns gets it easy on racenights at Addington. He will say that his time in the judge's box can be most demanding.
Arriving on-course at least an hour before the first race, the former Prne Gould Guiness deer representative begins his routine by marking the scratchings in his racebook. Geoff then goes up to the judge's box situated at the southern end of the steward's stand and runs through the names of the night's 10 races, in case of any tricky pronunciations. Geoff also checks his Tridex intercom system - which he uses for contacting Totalisator Control and the semaphore board - and his video equipment. After a meal in "Twiggers" with either his assistant Ernie Fuchs or commentator Reon Murtha, Geoff's time for quick but deadly accurate decision-making begins.
Geoff, Ernie and the other assistant, Brent Tweedie, watch each race intently, during which Ernie activates the lap bell from a small switch underneath their wooden bench. As the horses cross the finishing line, Geoff notes down the numbers of the first five home. If it's close for any placing, he replays the last 10 metres on the television between his feet, as a check for his visual call only. If a horse's number is obscured, Geoff will use the trainer's colours to determine what horses are in the call. "While Reon is still talking I call for a photo for first, and any other placing that warrants it," Geoff says. By "call" he means he speaks through a hole in the metal pipe that connects the judge's box with the photographer's room. The photographer acknowledges, and within seconds the required prints are sent down through that pipe.
Just before Geoff announces his initial call to the public, he radios that call through to both the semaphore board and tote control - hence the preliminary dividends that appear on the televisions moments after the race. Confirming his judgement by use of the photos, Geoff relays them, as well as the margins he quickly works out, live on-course.
"I always ask for a photo for first because off that I can work out the time using a lined grid," he said. "When the first horse hits the finishing line it breaks a laser beam which stops the timing of the race. The photos of the first four placings have a decreasing scale of time running across the top of them, and from the photos we can determine each individual time by lining them up with the scale," he said.
During this time, Brent has determined the finishing order of the whole field, not an easy task by any means. Geoff can check this if need be from a 25cm-long strip which most of the time contains the whole field. The strip is in minute form, but he has a lighted madnifying glass at his disposal as well.
After every detail is decided, Geoff goes to the office in the drivers' room and writes the first five placings in the club's official book. "I always place one more horse than a stake is paid to, just in case of a disqualification. If everything goes smoothly, I can have up to 20 minutes to fill in between races, but that doesn't happen often," he said.
Geoff, who will be starting his fifth year as judge at Addington next month, has also been the Riccarton judge for over 10 years. "I judge on colours at Riccarton because I know them better there, I work by numbers at Addington. And the only other difference is that I have to placethe first six home at Riccarton," he said.
Geoff used to be part of a 10-strong syndicate that raced the pacer Money Order. Because it is illegal to have ownership in a horse in such a position, Geoff pulled out of the syndicate a month before he took over at Addington. Money Order won it's one and only race just two months later.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 20Jul88
R F McCOUBREY
|R F McCoubrey (left) & R P Dalzeil|
Mr R F McCoubrey has been appointed judge to the three Christchurch trotting clubs. He will start his new duties at the Canterbury Park TC's autumn meeting at Addington Raceway on Saturday.
Mr McCoubrey will take over from Mr H V Spicer, who has acted as judge since Mr M Mace resigned just before the NZ Cup meeting. Mr McCoubrey has been an assistant judge at both galloping and trotting meetings in Canterbury for some years.
Mr R P Dalzeil will be Mr McCoubrey's assistant at Addington.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 8Feb67
F A JARRETT
Mr F A Jarrett, who died in Christchurch recently, was a well known racing and trotting official. Before World War II he was a radio commentator for racing and trotting, and one of his earliest broadcasts was Harold Logan's first NZ Cup in 1931. He later took up judging.
On his return from the war, in which he rose to the rank of Major and was awarded the MBE, Mr Jarrett resumed as a judge to a number of racing and trotting clubs, and later became a racing handicapper.
Mr Jarrett played senior cricket for West Christchurch. Until a short time ago he was a keen golfer and a member of the Christchurch Golf Club.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 13Oct65
Mr A O WELLWOOD
One of NZ's best-known racing writers, Mr Arthur Otway Wellwood, died at his home in Riccarton last week. He was 73.
Born in Hastings, Mr Wellwood was for many years a farmer and fat stock dealer. As a young man he was a prominent sportsman and a Hawkes Bay tennis champion. During World War I he served in the NZ Army as a sergent-major instructor at Trentham military camp.
In 1926, after working as a reporter for the 'Hawkes Bay Herald' and on 'The Referee', he joined the staff of 'The Press' as racing editor.
In the 1930s he served as a racing judge for several racing clubs in the South Island. He retired from all judging in 1949.
After his retirement from 'The Press' in 1946, Mr Wellwood continued to work as a free-lance racing writer for many of NZ's newspapers, including 'Truth,' the 'Dominion' and the Dunedin 'Evening Star." He was the first paid contributor to the 'Turf Digest.'
A keen bowler in his retirement, he was a popular member of the United and Riccarton Bowling Clubs. He was a foundation member of the Russley Golf Club and in 1938 was runner-up in the club's senior championship.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 13July60
R O DUNCAN
Mr R O Duncan, a prominent sportsman and racehorse owner, formerly of Christchurch, has died at Caulfield, Victoria, aged 76.
Mr Duncan had a long association with trotting in NZ, being a steward of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club in its early years. He was an honorary judge from 1903 to 1912, and he was auditor for the New Brighton Trotting Club. He was also a stipendary steward and a member of the board of the NZ Trotting Association.
Mr Duncan raced several horses, the best of these being King Cole, who covered a mile in 2.08 3/5 against time to break Ribbonwood's long-standing record of 2.09.
Mr Duncan practised as an accountant in Christchurch. For some years he owned the homestead block of the Glenmark estate. He was a managing-director of A J White Ltd. He later went to England, and after a period of business there settled in Melbourne. He was agent for the Bell Punch Totalisator Company of England.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 23Jan51
YEAR: 1950J A DICKSON
The death had occurred of Mr J Alfred Dickson, for half a century in Canterbury a racing journalist and for many years a judge at both racing and trotting meetings and a bowling administrator. Mr Dickson's final illness was brief.
Born in Milton, Mr Dickson was educated in Dunedin and began his newspaper career in the reading room of the 'Evening Star.' He later worked on the 'Bruce Herald' at Milton and the 'Taieri Advocate' at Mosgiel, the paper then being conducted by Mr W C F Carncross, who became speaker of the Legislative Council and was knighted. When reporting at Mosgiel Mr Dickson also acted as town clerk. When he was on holiday in Christchurch in 1900 he was offered a position on the staff of the 'Canterbury Times,' a weekly publication, as assistant to Mr T H Davey. In 1902 Mr Davey became a Member of Parliament and Mr Dickson succeeded him. He was later racing editor of the 'Lyttleton Times' and the 'Star,' and of the 'Star-Sun' from 1935 until his retirement from daily newspaper work in 1939.
After his retirement Mr Dickson regularly attended every racing and trotting meeting in North Canterbury until he had a serious illness about two years ago. He was racing correspondent for several newspapers, including the 'Otago Daily Times,' and he regularly contributed special articles on famous racing stables and personalities to the 'Star-Sun' until his death. He was also often a contributor to the racing columns of 'The Press.'
For 19 years - from 1924 to 1943 - Mr Dickson was judge for the Canterbury Jockey Club, and he was also judge for every other racing and trotting club in Canterbury. He was judge from 1919 for the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club. He saw 50 NZ Cups run at Riccarton, where he declared two successive dead-heats and also the famous triple dead-heat in the Islington Handicap on August 10, 1939, the horses being Lowenberg, Tidewaiter and Settlement. Mr Dickson retired from judging with full honours by the clubs, and with a high reputation among race-goers. He acted later as a timekeeper for clubs.
Apart from racing, Mr Dickson's main sporting interest was bowls, and in 1945-6 he was president of the NZ Bowling Association, the Dominion tournament being held in Christchurch that year.
Mr Dickson is survived by his widow (a daughter of Mr Edward Cutts), one daughter, Jessie, and a son, Hamilton, a leading Wellington musician.
Credit: NZ Trotting Calendar 13Dec50
Mr L Wilson who had been Judge at the Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club’s meetings was the first Judge appointed by the NZMTC acting in an Honorary capacity from the Club’s inaugural Meeting in 1899 until his retirement in 1903.
Mr R O Duncan succeeded Mr Wilson and held the position a a paid official until 1906 whem his appointment became an Honorary one and he continued to so act until 1909.
Mr W H Hartgill officiated for one Meeting only in 1909 and Mr Duncan then resumed as Honorary Judge to the Club. It was reported in the NZ REFEREE of 26th July 1912 that Mr R O Duncan had resigned his position as Honorary Judge with the NZMTC as some of the progeny of his stallion “King Cole” were ready to race. Mr Duncan’s decision was also influenced by his appointment as a Committeeman of the Club.
Following Mr Duncan’s resignation in 1912 Mr W H Hartgill was again appointed Judge holding the position until 1919.
The next Judge to be appointed was Mr A Dickson, a racing Journalist to the Lyttelton Times, The Star and other papers. Mr Dickson was appointed prior to the 1919 Easter Meeting and continued to officiate until 1941. Following the 1919 Cup Meeting it was reported that Mr Dickson had given entire satisfaction with his decisions and the prompt posting of the numbers of the placed horses.
Following Mr Dickson’s resignation three applications were received for the position, those applying being Messrs A R Allardyce, D B Clarkson and A O Wellwood. The Committee decided to appoint Mr Wellwood for the August Meeting and then adopted the policy of appointing him Meeting by Meeting until 1942 when he was appointed until further notice.
In June 1945 Mr F A Jarrett was appointed Judge with Mr Wellwood as his assistant. Mr Jarrett tendered his resignation in March 1945 to be effective from the end of the 1953/54 season.
In June 1954 Mr H V Spicer who had been assistant to Mr Jarrett was appointed Judge and Mr M Mace his assistant. Mr Spicer officiated in this capacity until Easter 1966 when Mr M Mace was appointed Judge with Mr R F McCoubrey his assistant. Mr Mace only officiated for the August andOctober Meetings of that year as he was of the opinion that the Judges Box was not high enough and as this matter could not be rectified he tendered his resignation to be effective forthwith. Mr H V Spicer officiated at the Club’s Cup Meeting.
Mr R F McCoubrey, who had been Mr Mace’s assistant, was appointed in 1967 with Mr R P Dalziel as his assistant. Mr Dalziel resigned in 1970 and Mr McCoubrey’s assistant from the National Meeting 1971 until the Cup Meeting 1972 was M A G Duffield whose position was taken in Easter 1973 by Mr D E Streeter. Mr McCoubrey and Mr Streeter resigned from their respective positions at the end of the 1982/83 season.
From the National Meeting 1983 Mr G A Bruhns acted in the capacity of Judge, his assistant being Mr I L Chambers.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker
Appendix No. Seven: JUDGES
1899-1903 L Wilson (Honorary)
1903-06 R O Duncan
1906-09 R O Duncan (Honorary)
1909 W H Hartgill (One Meeting)
1909-12 R O Duncan (Honorary)
1912-19 W H Hartgill
1919-41 A Dickson
1941-45 A O Wellwood
1945-54 F A Jarrett
1954-66 H V Spicer
1966 M Mace (August & October Meetings only)
1966 H V Spicer (Cup Meeting only)
1967-83 R F McCoubrey
1983-92 G A Bruhns
1992-2003 W J E Fuchs
2003- S M Gallagher