One of the North Island’s finest horsemen who practised his trade mainly from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s died in Pukekohe on September 16. Colin Chandler was 75.
Chandler had only been diagnosed with cancer 10 day before he passed away. He had also been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last five years.
Chandler was born in Auckland and got into racing by helping his former employer Peter Skewstart feed up at nights.
“Dad kept a scrapbook from 1957 to 1977. He moved to Cambridge and then Morrinsville for 10 years. That’s how Brent, Dean and myself got into it,” said step-son Tony Grayling.
Chandler took over the parenting of Brent and Tony Grayling in 1970 and then went on to have two children of his own - Robyn and former horseman, Dean.
His wife Alison passed away in July 2010. He is also survived by his 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Grayling said his step-Dad was an inspiration.
“He influenced me to take up the game. I was just five when Mum married Colin. Harness racing was a whole new world.
“Dad was pretty good at it too. He won just on 200 races between 1957 and 1981. Then after he retired we took up the game, and then later on Dad came back and helped us train part-time,” Pukekohe-based Grayling said.
From 1978 to 1996 Chandler drove 32 winners on a part-time basis. Records since 1985 show that he also trained 46 winners up until 1989.
He said his father’s best horse was Loyal Knight.
“Dad finished second behind him in an Auckland Cup and also drove her in the New Zealand Cup. He was the best horse he drove but he did have quite a few nice ones over the years.
“Dad was also known has ‘Autumn Leaves’ for the number of crashes he had. They also called him ‘Sparrow Legs’ and ‘Chan The Man or simply ‘Chan’. He was a great man and even better father,” Grayling said.
Chandler also bred raced Super Heir, who finished third behind Delightful Lady in the Waikato Flying Mile before being sold to the United States.
“That was when Brent started junior driving. That horse put him on the map. He went 1:54, and at the time was the fastest New Zealand-bred to be sold abroad,” said Grayling.
Chandler also raced Belinda Morris to some nice 2-year-old victories, including the Debutante Stakes in 1977, before she was abruptly retired through injury.
“She only raced four times and never raced again after rearing up in the concrete birdcage. Sadly she got brain damage and couldn’t race again but luckily we were able to breed from her,” Grayling said.
Her son Jack Morris (1:55.7) raced initially for Grayling before going on to race in Australia with distinction where he won 31 races ($827,754), including the 1993 Inter Dominion grand final AT Albion Park.
He was also Australian Horse-of-the-Year.
Chandler’s last driving victory came behind the Irvin and Warwick Behrns trained Peg Bundy at Alexandra Park on May 15, 1996.
“I would like to pay a tribute to my wife (Leanne) for the way she cared for Dad during his last days. I will never forget it. She stepped up to the plate when Mum died as well.
“A true champion,” Grayling said.
Mr Chandler’s funeral was held at Graham’s Funeral Chapel at 1pm on Thursday (September 19).
By Duane Ranger