Ten horsemen and one horsewoman were inducted into the Noel Taylor New Zealand Trotting Hall Of Fame on Auckland Cup night last Friday.
But it was harness racing legend, Charlie Roberts, who stole the limelight at the 4pm ceremony.
He was one of four industry participants who were also bestowed with ‘Harness Racing Contribution Awards’.
Mr Roberts, who turned 90 this month, left hospital on Friday especially to be at the function and to watch Adore Me run second in the Auckland Cup.
A renowned veterinarian, breeder, stud master and owner, Mr Roberts has been a driving force in New Zealand harness racing circles for more than 60 years.
Initially involved in thoroughbreds it has been his association with Woodlands stud that has kept him a household harness racing name.
For example at last year’s annual Harness Racing Awards he Christchurch Mr Roberts won five trophies including Owner and Breeder-of-the-Year, as well as awards for his champion stallion and broodmare Bettor’s Delight and Scuse Me.
As co-owner of Christen Me and Adore Me, added to his status as a true harness racing legend.
Mr Roberts is also the only person to be named Breeder-of-the-Year in both the standardbred and thoroughbred codes. Being an original shareholder in Sir Tristram is another one of the many feathers in his cap.
Long before Woodlands Stud Mr Roberts was associated with Haunui Farm, and later qualified as a veterinary surgeon based at Takanini.
He became an expert on the reproductive aspect of breeding and more than six decades ago he helped set up the original swabbing proceedings on a national basis.
In 1976 Mr Roberts established the Riverside Veterinary and 11 years later the Auckland Vet Centre in partnership with Andrew Grierson, who is now the leading advisor to both codes in all veterinary matters.
In partnership with Grierson, Mr Roberts in 1987, bought what was then ‘Harness World’ at a mortgagee sale. They returned its original title of Woodlands and revolutionised standardbred breeding in New Zealand by concentrating on shuttling stallions from the United States and then buying the Southern Hemisphere rights.
In The Pocket was the first and his line changed the face of breeding in this country.
Then Bettor’s Delight made an even greater impact, now dominating premierships on both sides of the Tasman as well as premierships in North America.
He has also been our most dominant forces at recent yearling sales.
The 15 people to receive a commemorative plaque and Hall Of Fame cap were:
TRAINING ACHIEVEMENT (500 wins or more):
Tim Butt – 583 wins and $7,406,072.
Tony Herlihy (MNZM) – 670 wins and $8,304,330.
Doug Gale – 524 wins and $4,809,758.
John Hay – 530 wins and $4,168,136.
Grant Payne (Mark Purdon) – 585 wins and $14,433,012.
David and Catherine Butt ¬– 676 wins and $5,420,711
DRIVING ACHIEVEMENT (1,000 wins or more):
Dexter Dunn – 1,232 wins and $12,047,272.
David Butt – 1,100 wins and $9,789,301.
Ken Barron – 1,024 wins and $8,557,176.
Jim Curtin – 1,430 wins and $11,225,559.
Maurice McKendry – 3,002 and $25,452,271.
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO HARNESS RACING:
Note: Statistics were as at March 10, 2014.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing NZ)