YEAR: 2020

Level 4 COVID 19 lockdown in place throughout NZ commencing 26 March 2020.Level 1 reached from 11.59pm Monday 8 June 2020.

All racing in NZ ceased indefinitely as at 24 March 2020 (last meeting held at Addington on 20 March. Racing recommenced at Addington on Thusday without crowd attedance. Spectators permitted from meeting of Friday 12 June 2020.

Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party elected for second term in government - mid October 2020

Credit: Peter Craig


YEAR: 2019

February/March – Wildfires in Nelson cause thousands to evacuate their homes

15 March - Fifty people are killed and 49 wounded when a far-right gunman attacks worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch

1 June – Harness Jewels held at Addington Raceway for first time

22 October – The Skycity Convention Centre catches fire while still under construction, causing significant disruption in the Auckland CBD.

9 December – eruption of the active volcano White Island (Whakaari), killing 21 persons at the scene or subsequently of burns of internal injuries

Credit: Peter Craig


YEAR: 2018

The 2018 New Zealand census is held

Credit: Peter Craig


YEAR: 2018


Longtime Ashburton horseman Alex Hastie died in his hometown on Monday, aged 71.

Hastie was perhaps best known for naming his horses with the surnames of famous New Zealand sports people.

The supremely-talented Loader was one of the best of them, winning four of his seven career starts in 1999 before going amiss after injuring himself at Forbury Park in 2000.

He reared up at the start and injured an ankle, never to race again.

Timu (6 wins), Moller (4) and Anton Oliver (4) were all good winners while Davu, McCaw, Devoy, Amon, Van Dyk, Chisnall, Tuuta, Mains and Corlett were other examples of his penchant for Kiwi sporting surnames.

Loader’s older half-brother, Anton Oliver, was a horse Hastie regarded as the best he trained, but a number of leg injuries saw him only race for two seasons here – as a six-year-old and eight-year-old.

He won four races from 20 starts before Hastie, wife Pam and longtime friend and client Bill Eade sent the horse to Perth to race in 2015.

Eade was one a number of close associations Hastie forged with breeders, owners and fellow horsemen in a training career that started in 1980.

One of those was with Waikouaiti trainer Denis O’Connell, with whom he exchanged many horses over a long period.

“Alex was a very good man,” noted O’Connell.

“He passed me on some nice horses, including Terranium and Francis Dalrae.

“He had got Francis Dalrae from Don Cuttance as a pacer (in 1985) and then sent him to me, recommending I race him as a trotter.”

Hastie then drove horse to four of his nine career wins from O’Connell’s stable, offering advice along the way.

“Francis Dalrae’s win with Alex driving on Cup Day in 1988 was magnificent.

“Alex was a wonderful blacksmith and had a terrific knowledge about balancing up a horse.

“He used various weights to get them balanced.

“There’s a real art to it – it’s too technical for me – but he mastered it and was able to get the best possible results out of horses because of it.”

After initially spending six years as a jockey in the mid-1960s (five winners in the 1963/64 season his best), Hastie entered the harness game as a trainer in mid-1980.

His first was Taieri Lord at Ascot Park in December of that year and 57 more were to follow, the last of them being Tuuta at Oamaru in March 2015.

Alexander David Hastie was married to Pam for 51 years and together they had two sons, Rikke and Kelven, as well as eight grandchildren.

He was farewelled at the Ashburton Racecourse on Friday, May 4.

Credit: NZ Harness News, 4 May 2018


YEAR: 2018


Former trainer Tom Harrison, father of prolific American-based horseman Kelvin, died in Ashburton on Monday, April 30, aged 96.

Harrison retired from training in 1998 after approximately 30 years with a license.

His first winner, Local View, came at Westport on Boxing Day 1972 and the last of his 48 career successes came with Faye’s Image on June 1, 1996.

Before taking out a trainer’s license, Harrison met with some success as an owner in the stables of Derek Jones MNZM, Jack Grant and Pat O’Reilly Snr.

As a trainer, his best horse was the Out To Win gelding In To View, who won eight races in 10 months in 1978 and 1979.

Thomas Drayton Harrison was married for 66 years to his late wife Kath and together they had four children; Graeme, Kelvin, Katrina and Lorayne as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren throughout New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

His funeral was held on Friday, May 4, in Methven.

Credit: NZ Harness News, 4 May 2018


YEAR: 2018


The harness racing breeding industry has lost one of its giants with the shock passing of Bob McArdle.

The 76-year-old who imported so many top stallions to New Zealand through his days at Nevele R Stud died in his sleep on Wednesday night.

He is survived by his wife Denise and children Lisa and Baeden.

Few people have every contributed as much to, or for that matter accrued as much information about the Australasian breeding industry, as McArdle.

Not only was he a breeder, owner and agent but with the late Wayne Francis set up Nevele R, the stud whose footprint on the industry worldwide is enormous.

Not only did they breed hundreds of winners of thousands of races but Francis and McArdle brought the likes of Falcon Seelster, Holmes Hanover and earlier Timely Knight and El Patron to New Zealand to mention just a few. Later, through his breeding and selling business Bromac Lodge, McArdle had a huge presence at the yearling sales, with 12 from that property to be sold at the Christchurch sales in a few week and three at Karaka.

“Bob’s impact on the industry here is impossible to overstate,” says PGG Wrightson’s Peter Lagan. “What he and Wayne did at Nevele R will be felt across the industry for decades to come.

“And his knowledge of breeding in this part of the world might be the most detailed of anybody I have ever met.

“When you think of all the horses he bred, sold and was agent for he has put a lot of money in a lot of people’s hands over a very long period of time.

“He was a very smart businessman and knew what he wanted but no matter how frank a discussion or even disagreement you had with Bob, he would get over it and get down to business

“The New Zealand industry owes him a lot.”

Bob’s best horse he actually owned was probably Howard Bromac, who won an Auckland Cup and was placed in a New Zealand and Hunter Cup when trained by Kirk Larsen.

“He was maybe the best we had but Bob owned a hell of a lot of good horses,” says Larsen. “We probably trained for him for over 30 years. He would breed horses and then we would train them, sell plenty but keep some.

“Bob had great knowledge and was a businessman first when it came to the horses but he loved the good families and was very loyal to them.”

Credit: Michael Guerin writing on NZ Harness News/Harnesslink Media - January 2018


YEAR: 2018


Colin Steele sadly passed away on Saturday 19 May.

Steele was a dedicated member of the Addington Racing Department team for 23 years.

His work family, who affectionately referred to him as “Colli”, said “He was such a caring person who gave so much of his time to support others.”

“Over the 23 years he worked with us, he found a place in all of our hearts. Colli's smile, facial expressions and sense of humour were infectious. We are going to miss you Colli (and your chocolate fish bucket). You were such a dear treasured friend who will live on in our memories forever.”

Steele’s funeral will be held at the Christian Cullen Lounge, Addington Raceway on Tuesday 22 May at 2pm.

The Harness Racing New Zealand team that worked with Steele during his time in the industry would also like to pass on our sincere condolences.

Credit: NZ Harness News, 19 May 2018


YEAR: 2018


The harness racing industry was saddened to hear about the passing of the likeable and well respected Dennis Smolenski this week.

The 63-year-old died on Sunday night and knowing what was coming, as a tribute, his brother Bob raced Rosinupthebow at Methven earlier that day in Dennis’ training colours with his good friend Tony Herlihy driving.

“Dennis was diagnosed with a tumour last year and had an operation, but the cancer returned and claimed him rather quickly in the end,” said Bob.

“He was at his happiest doing gardening work and in recent years he’d really been enjoying life as the caretaker at the West Melton Domain while fixing up his own place at Weedons.”

Dennis was a son of Brian Smolenski, a cousin of Jack, and together the family had great success from the late 70s with the top filly Gina Marie.

She won 10 races under trainer-driver Jack, including the 1978 Great Northern Oaks.

Gina Marie’s first two foals were the top colt and Great Northern Derby winner Nardinski and the brilliant filly Gina Rosa, who won 17 races and $415,000, although she was sold as an older mare to Wellington’s Garth Williams.

Dennis started out as a stock agent for PGG and had stints in the stables of Sam Ballantyne and Jack Smolenski along with the Andertons in Mosgiel.

He made his own way in life doing a wide variety of jobs, but he was best known for his stud work and preparing yearlings with his wife and partner in life, Jill.

Dennis was 43 when he married Jill (nee Fraser) and after a period where the latter worked at Wai Eyre and Studholme Park and Dennis did a bit of training and driving and breaking in, they moved to Auckland to become the studmasters at Woodlands.

During this time they bred and raced the outstanding Dream Away filly One Dream, who won 18 of 23 races and $900,000 under trainers Dave and Clare McGowan.

In 2005, Dennis and Jill took on the job of building up the Stonewall Stud farm and operation and they prepared those yearlings before returning to Canterbury in 2009, when Jill began working at Nevele R Stud before taking over as studmaster in 2013.

“Dennis was helping out Jim Dalgety in the mornings while doing a few of his own horses in the afternoon after they returned home to Weedons,” said Bob.

“He also had jobs delivering sawdust and chickens, but he really enjoyed tidying up and maintaining gardens and he did a lot of that sort of work for various people.

“Jill finished up at Nevele R a year ago and has been running her own dog grooming business since.”

Credit: NZ Harness News, 18 October 2018, Frank Marrion, the Informant


YEAR: 2017

22 February 2017 : official opening of Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

May 2017 : Rocket lab launches first test rocket into space

23 September 2017 : general election is held. The Labour Party, NZ First and Greens form a coalition government (52nd Parliament)

Credit: Peter Craig


YEAR: 2016

14 November 2016: At 12.02 a.m. a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck New Zealand, causing significant damage to buildings and infrastructure in northern Canterbury as well as neighbouring Marlborough. Landslides cut off road and rail links to Kaikôura – stranding large numbers of visitors in the popular tourist town. Two people lost their lives: one at a property in Mt Lyford as a result of a heart attack and another when a homestead collapsed in Kaikôura.

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