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Special significance surrounded the debut win of Arden Rooney at Addington last week. He raced in the ownership of the estate of the late Noreen Stiven, who sadly passed earlier in the month, aged 70.
About 40 years ago Noreen and her late husband Doug established the Arden brand and through the deeds of Kindergarten Stakes winner Arden Bay, West Australian Derby winner Arden Meadow, Great Northern Derby winner All Hart, Sales Series Final winner Arden's Darlin, Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship winner Arden Banner, Victoria Cup winner Bettor's Strike and many others, Arden has seldom been far from the headlines.
A West Otago resident practically all her life, Noreen was born in Gore in July 1942, went to Kelso Primary School and Gore High School. A keen sportswoman, she partook in rifle shooting, athletics and tennis and got down to a 22 handicap in golf. She married Doug in December, 1961 and had son John, and daughters, Leanne and Nadine.
John, who continued to work alongside his mother after the death of Doug in 2001, said neither of his parents came from a harness background but Noreen's father Henry Kirk had trained thoroughbreds. He said joining up with friend Blake Eskdale, who had standardbreds in the district, had helped his parents into the game. At the time they operated a milk run and the section across the road from their house in Tapanui had been their horse base. Treesnable was the first horse trained there.
Commentator Dave McDonald first met Noreen at the 1976 Tapanui races. It was his first day calling gallops and Noreen "mothered me the entire day and told me how well I was doing". They were good friends from then on and before her death, Noreen requested Dave be asked to speak at her service. Dave was able to shed light on Noreen and Doug's entry into harness racing courtesy of her brother Bill who recalls taking them to the races one day. Doug, who had never had a bet, apparently put £2 on a horse he liked the look of, even though it had no form. Experts tried to dissuade him but he invested regardless. The horse won, the collect was £42 and the pair's equine-interest was up and running. When their horse operation eventually moved from the section in Tapanui, their new establishment was named Arden Lodge, but conjecture as to how and why remains. Light Pointer was a foundation mare, followed by Bayswater, dam of Arden Bay.
Noreen was diagnosed with cancer more than 16 years ago and not everyone knew. Dave did, but it didn't surprise him many didn't because that was how Noreen was. Every time you met her you felt better, she put a smile on your face and lifted your day, he said. In 2008, during a period she was quite sick, Noreen was able to make a hectic trip to Auckland and experienced one of her proudest moments in harness racing. Arden Banner won the Sires' Stakes Fillies Final from Arden's Darlin, and she had bred them both. Arden Banner was out of Arden's Dream, named Southland Broodmare of the Year in 2008. Five years earlier Arden Regal took out the same title while just over a month before Noreen's death, Winter Rose made it three for her.
Known also for her ability as a musician, her baking, her rose growing and her hospitality, Noreen Stiven will be sadly missed. As Dave put it, a most remarkable and beautiful lady, a legend.
Credit: Mac Henry writing in HRWeekly 19 Sep 2012