The death in Gore last week of Jack Walsh, aged 77, had me digging into the archives for a few words I penned on this gentleman in 1967. I hope you enjoy the reminiscience.
Walsh, who trained the champion mare, Robin Dundee, in the twilight of his career, was the leading Southland driver and trainer on numerous occasions. He rode or drove close on 400 winners and as a trainer, won more than 300 races.
Walsh was born in Nightcaps and his first job was in a grocer's shop there. He was quite content with the job, but, he recalled, "the owner asked me to manage the place, so I left." It was also at Nightcaps in 1917 that Walsh had his first introduction to trotting. A Nightcaps butcher, Mr J H Reed, asked Walsh to ride a pacer called Gladiola, whom he owned and trained. Although he had ridden in gentlemen riders' at galloping meetings, Walsh told him that he had no idea how to sit on a pacing horse in harness and he thought he would be certain to come down.
Mr Reed had greater faith in Walsh, and asked him to ride Gladiola in saddle events at the 1917 Forbury Park winter meeting. Walsh applied to Christchurch for his horseman's licence, but this had not arrived on the morning of the meeting. A hurried phone call to Christchurch confirmed that the licence had been granted and Walsh took the mount on Gladiola. Gladiola was beaten a head by Nihilist, but came out to on the second day to win the two-mile Dunedin Handicap. A 3-year-old filly, she gave away starts of 60 yards and won by two lengths.
From then on Walsh never looked back. He returned to Gore in 1926 and worked with trotting trainer J R McMurray for 12 months. Then as private trainer to Mr F Wallis, he prepared such good winners as Sea Hawk, Ding Dong Bell, Nelson Elwyn and Red Anthony. Later as a public trainer Walsh trained such winners as Kissing Cup, Heather Dillon, Pacemaker, Gildirect, Meg Mundy, Aspasia, Lauder Lady, Dame Sybil, Mooloo, Navigate, Cabra who won the Dominion Handicap, and Ley's Pride.
Walsh's best training tally was 18 wins in the 1956-7 season when he also drove 16 winners. Walsh's services as a horseman, were in keen demand and between 1930 and 1940 he rode or drove 121 winners. Walsh maintained the best horse he rode in saddle was Rocks Ahead, who holds the track record of 2:09 2-5 set at Forbury Park in 1936. Walsh developed Robin Dundee into the best pacing mare in Australia and NZ in the 1960s when she took a record of 1:59 at Harold Park and won more than $100,000.
Credit: Taylor Strong writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 4Aug71