Day At The Track

94-years-old and still winning!

12:28 PM 11 Oct 2013 NZDT
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Longtime - owner, Gladys Bassett

If Mrs Gladys Bassett’s horses are as half as spritely as what she is - then they are destined to have long, healthy careers.

The 94-year-old Auckland resident had no trouble making her own way to the Alexandra Park winner’s enclosure just moments after the 5-year-old pacer she co-owns - Classy Ambition won the Bluegrass Trust Maiden at Alexandra Park last Friday (October 4).

Mrs Bassett is no stranger to the winner’s circle having raced horses since 1978. In fact that’s when she and her first Syndicate paid $1,500 for Yaquis.

He was trained by Kevin Holmes before being sold to the United States for $3,500.

Over the years Mrs Bassett has also owned Fiddlers Three, Mr Mintie, Omnipotence, Zenthura, and Eye Bolt, and her best pacer, Purr Along, who won 10 races in New Zealand.

She also bred Glittering Glory which was later sold to Pukekohe horseman, Alan Fausett.

But last Friday’s victory with Classy Ambition was special. It was Mrs Bassett’s first win since losing her husband Fred seven years ago.

“I took a break from racing after Fred died. That is why I was so excited last Friday. I couldn’t get down to the winner’s circle quick enough.

“It was a great drive by Todd (Mitchell) and an even better training performance by Paulette (Screen). I haven’t been this excited in a long time,” Mrs Bassett said.

It was also her first winner since Purr Along won at Alexandra Park in July 2005.

Mrs Bassett also had Eyeronic starting in the same race as Classy Ambition. That was her first race for six months and he finished 11th.

She did however win at the Pukekohe trials the week prior. Mrs Bassett was there to cheer him on.

She said that when the fields came out she liked to check out all the breeding, race performances, and times on her computer.

She also follows her favourites Zenthura and Eye Bolt in Australia and Purr Along in the United States.

“I love researching horse families. I have for many years and that’s why I got into breeding,” Mrs Bassett said.

Born in Onehunga in 1919, Mrs Bassett’s father bred and showed pedigree chickens. She then went on to breed Siamese cats, where for 25 years she was an international judge.

“I eventually got into horses through my father’s friend. Through him, Fred and I went into the Yaquis Syndicate,” she said.

Mrs Bassett and her late husband then shared a passion for harness racing.

Mrs Bassett was on the Monowai during the Second World War and when the boat was under fire the guns were hit and it was believed he and several men were killed.

Mr Bassett was placed with the dead bodies, everyone presuming he had died.

He was in fact alive but had his ear drums injured and was deaf for the rest of his days.

Mrs Bassett said she would continue to enjoy racing until she reunites with her husband in heaven one day.

“I love horses. In fact I love animals. I always have. It goes back to my chicken and cat days. I currently have three in work, including a Mach Thee filly out of Tigers Swish named Tiger Tamer. She qualified recently and is currently being trained by Derek Balle at Pukekohe.

By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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