John Key’s lifetime love of harness racing

12:44 PM 05 May 2014 NZST
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John Key - has had a longtime love affair with harness racing.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has had a lifetime love affair with harness racing and says he would like to own a pacer one day.

“I’ve never owned one, but one day I might well buy a pacer. I have always enjoyed harness racing.

“I’m going back to the 1970s now – my all-time favourite pacer was Lord Module, one of Cecil Devine’s champions, and my favourite trotter was Scotch Tar,” the Prime Minister said.

There was always going to be a Cecil Devine trained standardbred in the Prime Minister’s “favourite list”. He used to work for the six-time New Zealand Cup winning trainer.

“I actually have a bit of history in racing, going right back to the days when I worked for the legendary driver and trainer Cecil Devine in my youth in Christchurch.

“It was an after-school job cleaning out the stables, and all the things that stable hands do. And I have to say I did it mainly for love, not money!

“And while I sometimes did drive horses, I was pretty young – only 14 or 15 – so I wouldn’t want to overstate my responsibility. But, my lasting memory is that they’re big animals and they go quick.” 53-year-old Prime Minister Key said.

From those early days, through to more recent years when Mr Key was a member of Kumeu Trotting Club.

“I have had a real fondness for horses and racing, and in particular, harness racing. I actually used to go to the New Zealand Trotting Cup and the Inter-Doms whenever I could when I was at school and university. I loved it,” He said.

The Prime Minister did have a share in a galloper named Atherius, as one of about 10 in a syndicate at one stage.

“I believe he’s now enjoying his retirement on Norfolk Island. But for me personally, you can’t beat harness racing and it would definitely be a pacer if I was to get a horse.

“Harness racing provides a great day out for families; it’s a lot of fun and because trotting is held at night, it’s often a very picturesque occasion,” The Prime Minister said.

In terms of the racing industry itself, Mr Key believed it was going through a period of substantial change, and his goal was to make owning a racehorse profitable.

“There will always be those who simply get involved for the sheer fun of it, but at the moment the stakes are too low and the costs are too high.

“I know the New Zealand Racing Board is constantly working on ways to improve those metrics,” he said.

A little bit about our Prime Minister:

Born in Auckland before moving to Christchurch when he was a child, Key attended the University of Canterbury and graduated in 1981 with a bachelor of commerce.

He began a career in the foreign exchange market in New Zealand before moving overseas to work for Merrill Lynch, in which he became head of global foreign exchange in 1995, a position he would hold for six years. In 1999 he was appointed a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York until leaving in 2001.

Key entered the New Zealand Parliament representing the Auckland electorate of Helensville as one of the few new National members of parliament in the election of 2002 following National's significant defeat of that year. He has held the seat since then. In 2004, he was appointed Finance Spokesman for National and eventually succeeded Don Brash as the National Party leader in 2006. After two years as Leader of the Opposition, Key led his party to victory in both the November 2008 and the November 2011 general elections.

As Prime Minister, Key leads the Fifth National Government of New Zealand which entered government at the beginning of the late-2000s recession in 2008.

By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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