On July 5 John Devlin was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fifty-seven days later (Saturday August 31) the 70-year-old stole the limelight at the annual North Island Harness Racing Awards at Alexandra Park.
Devlin termed his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing Award’ as the pinnacle of a 40-plus harness racing career.
“Winning the Great Northern Derby and the recent Breeders Crown with Ideal Scott was my career highlight up until Saturday night.
“This award beats them all. It means so much to be recognised by your peers. This is the pinnacle of everything I have achieved in harness racing,” Devlin said.
Devlin had no idea that he was being presented an award but he did think it unusual that his son Bradley attended the Alabar Auckland Reactor-sponsored function.
“He doesn’t usually come to things like this. Actually I wasn’t going to come either but my boys said it would be a great chance to see my all of my trotting mates one last time.
“It meant a lot to me having both sons and my grandson Josh with me. I was overwhelmed,” Papatoetoe-based Devlin said.
Devlin said he didn’t want to the doctor to tell him how long he had to live when told he had incurable cancer of the pancreas and liver.
“I’d rather not know. I just want to carry on and live each day to the fullest. I’m a man of faith and I have a ninth grandchild on the way. I still have plenty to live for,” Devlin, a practising Catholic said.
“I would have been at Mass on Saturday night had it not been for the Awards. I never miss. That’s what keeps me going,” he added.
Devlin is a true Anzac. He was born in Brisbane and attended St St Laurence’s College.
He came to New Zealand in 1963, and even though he still supports Australia in sport, most of his family are Kiwis. He has two sons – Bradley a Kiwi, and Shane an Australian.
“I came to New Zealand with a few mates from the Gold Coast who were on a working holiday. When I got here night trotting was relatively new and I took to it immediately.
“Four years after getting here I married a Kiwi and have remained here since,” Devlin said.
Devlin got a job writing for Ron Bisman and the Star. A renowned journalist Devlin later started South Auckland Bloodstock before being employed by Woodlands Stud.
“I still work for Woodlands Stud and really enjoy doing all their promotions work,” he said.
Devlin has owned a couple of Group Two galloping winners but Ideal Scott is the best horse he has owned.
“The first nice horse I had was Sir Vance. I bought him for $1,500 and sold him for $100,000. Riley was a nice horse too. He started in the Auckland Cup and lost 30 metres.
“You can’t afford to lose that sort of ground against a champion like Delightful Lady,” Devlin said.
He said he was both humbled by the award and the amount of support he had received since his diagnosis.
“The support from the harness racing people in both Islands has been absolutely tremendous. They have been so wonderful.
“It is a fantastic industry to be involved in. To you all: I thank you so much for your kind words and gestures,” Devlin said.
Meanwhile one of the organisers of the Awards function Raelene Balle said Devlin was a more than worthy recipient of the major awards.
“John acknowledged the support he has received from both the North and South Island racing community over the last couple of months. As usual he was still quick witted and hasn't lost his sense of humour, and had MC Michael Guerin at a loss for a cheeky response for a change,” Balle said.
Results from the 2013 Alabar Auckland Reactor North Island Harness Racing Awards were:
- Glen Elgin Farm North Island Groom of the Year: Leon Adams.
- Graeme Blackburn Memorial Amateur Driver: Michelle Northcott.
- Magness Video Ltd-Vid-Com Ltd Licence to Train/Owner Trainer: David Cambie;
- Mitavite Junior Driver: Zac Butcher;
- PGG Wrightson 2 year old Colt or Gelding: Sky Major;
- PGG Wrightson 2 year old Filly: Angelina Jolie;
- Breckon Bloodstock Ltd 2 year old Trotter: Hot Chocolate Tart;
- Breckon Bloodstock Ltd 3 year old Trotter: Prime Power.
- Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock 3 year old Colt or Gelding: Cyamach;
- Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock 3 year old Filly: Adore Me;
- Garrards Horse and Hound Owner: Charles Roberts;
- Caduceus Club Filly / Mare: Adore Me;
- Nevele R Stud North Island Breeder: Charles Roberts.
- IRT Driver: Tony Herlihy;
- Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm Trainer: Barry Purdon;
- Equine Veterinary Services Broodmare: Scuse Me;
- Woodlands Stud Stallion: Bettor’s Delight;
- Harness Racing New Zealand Trotter: I Can Doosit;
- Auckland Trotting Club Aged Pacer of the Year: Bettor Cover Lover;
- Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms Racing Achievement: Colin Butler
- Alabar Auckland Reactor Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing: John Devlin.
By Duane Ranger
Harness Racing New Zealand