YEAR: 2004

The 'Blue Magic' inquiry took another sad and sickening twist on Monday morning when John Seaton was found dead at his country home. Aged 55, in recent years, Seaton had grown in stature as an owner and a buyer.

After kindling his interest with modest success on the provincial tracks of Canterbury, Seaton stepped up a cog with the purchase of Il Vicolo for $23,000 as a yearling at Karaka in 1992, and he had been buying in the top bracket ever since. His name was synonymous with big spending at the yearling sales, major wins at major meetings, and forging a formidable partnership with his No.1 trainer and driver, Mark Purdon. Together, they took sure aim at the classics and the cups with colts from the most distinguished pedigress.

A dealer in every sense, Seaton revelled in the cagey science of auction bidding. He was a hard man to head when he set his sights on a prospect in the ring. Purdon was his faithful ally and confidante, and he valued their relationship both as a friend and professionally. "He was one in a million," he said. "It was a partnership that was probably meant to be. He had a big impact on my career. And it probably developed more as it went on."

Purdon said Seaton loved his 2-year-olds, and he would organise their yearling sale tour before the sales to inspect up to 75% of the offering. He said this one would be "a tough trying week. But I have got other clients and other horses, and it will have to go on," he said.

Mike De Filippi was a trainer for Seaton in an era before the scale grew with Purdon, and he raced the good horse Delegation with Seaton's wife Ann. "He came here with a horse when my brother Colin went north. He was very supportive and loved his horses. We never had any trouble, and he liked to celebrate a win with a jug of beer afterwards."

Roy Purdon, who watched Seaton nurture the careers od Mark and his son-in-law Tony Herlihy, was devastated when told by his son of Seaton's death. "I was shocked. I spoke to John on Sunday. It is just so hard to believe. He was so much fun to be with. I know he was devastated when he learnt of the charges Harness Racing New Zealand were bringing against him and when they came. It took the glamour off Addington's big day, and it is very sad for trotting." Purdon said he definitely thought it would have some sort of affect on harness racing. "I think Mark has been very strong through this. I wish I could see a better outlook for it all, but it is just too gut-wretching," he said.

Il Vicolo was Seaton's ticket to fame and fortune. But there were plenty of others, and his tally of wins has passed 250. Il Vicolo won two NZ Cups, in 1995 and 1996. He won the Sires' Stakes Final at two and three, the Great Northern and NZ Derbies, the Rising Stars Championship, the NZ FFA, and he sired Jack Cade, who for Seaton also won the NZ Derby, a Sires'Stakes Final, and the NZ FFA.

Seaton enjoyed racing his horses with friends, notably Tim Vince, and they shared notable victories with Cool Hand Like (Noel Taylor Mile), a Sires' Stakes Final (Light And Sound), and the Cardigan Bay Stakes (Jack Cade and Lennon). He decided to race Advance Attack, the brother to Courage Under Fire, himself, and his wins included the Cardigan Bay Stakes, Sapling Stakes and Welcome Stakes

His other big winners included Beatem, Bella's Boy, Born Again Christian, Flashing Sword, Hindover, Horizon, Kotare Testament, Ohara, Perfect Seelster, Raptorial, So Cool, Tricky Vic, Ulrich and Willow Chip. His ownership included 41 horse aged 4 or younger, including 2-year-olds by In The Pocket, Soky's Atom, Il Vicolo, Presidential Ball, Rustler Hanover, Badlands Hanover and Artiscape.

The cause of Seaton's death will now rest with the coroner. He leaves his wife Ann, and daughter Ann-Marie. He also leaves a stable of horses - young ones with great potential he couldn't live to see - a state of the art training establishment, boots that are really beyond the size of anyone in harness racing to fill, an engaging smile that made you smile back, and a dreaded horror of being called to the microphone.

John Seaton will be sorely missed in harness racing. But sadly, John will miss it so much more.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17Nov04

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