Barbara Blackie Service Award
Barbara Blackie receives her award alongside jockey Terry Moseley.
Barbara Blackie is still thinking about the future, even as she approaches her 100th birthday.
New Zealand’s oldest horse trainer – who might be unmatched in the racing world - is the latest recipient of a NZTR Service Award.
The award was presented by Martin Burns, NZTR’s GM of Racing and Equine Welfare, and Barbara, who was born on July 20, 1919, expressed the hope that planned legislative changes to the racing industry would result in a better deal for South Island racing.
Barbara was in her 50s before she became actively involved in the thoroughbred code but quickly became a racing enthusiast and has been a licensed trainer for around 45 years.
Horses have always played a major role in her life and she received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to equestrian sport and organisations in 1983. “Mum has been obsessed with horses her whole life,” Barbara’s daughter, Angie Brott, said. “She was a very good rider herself and has an amazing knowledge about horses. Every spare cent has been spent on horses of one kind or another.”
In addition to being involved as a rider and owner in a variety of equestrian disciplines, Barbara was heavily involved as an administrator and volunteer with pony clubs and Riding for the Disabled.
She began training thoroughbreds after approaching renowned Riccarton trainer Jim Tomkinson about training a horse for a friend. “Why don’t you do it yourself,” Tomkinson said.
The upshot was that Barbara took out a licence to train Lurkio, a Greek God gelding she raced in partnership with Ian Bell. Lurkio did not race till he was five and recorded his first win, as a six-year-old, at Rangiora in 1976 and won again the following season. “She was bitten by the [racing] bug after that,” Angie said.
Barbara has continued to operate as an owner-trainer from Riccarton since and has had a runner in each of the last 30 seasons.
Her current representative is Diplomat, a four-year-old maiden who was placed at the Rangiora trials last month. An Alamosa gelding, Diplomat is the first foal from Diplomacy, who won four races for Barbara.
“He [Diplomat] has still got to show a bit more of his dam’s ability but he’s a lovely natured horse and a nice horse for Mum to have,” Angie said.
Barbara races Diplomat in partnership with Karen Peters who does the day to day work with the horse.
Barbara had a fall a few weeks ago, suffering a suspected cracked pelvis, which has significantly reduced her mobility. “Mum has found that very frustrating,” Angie said. “I used to take her to the track to see the horse work and then back to the stable in the afternoon to make up the feeds.”
Many of Barbara’s horses were raced in partnership with the Johnson family, with the best being Ayrgo, a good handicapper who won 10 races and gave Barbara a black-type win, in the Winter Classic at the 2002 Grand National meeting.
Ayrgo was also twice runner-up in the Canterbury Gold Cup and won a Birthday Handicap at Wingatui and contested a New Zealand Cup.
His last win – at Timaru in 2003 - was a memorable one, coming on Barbara’s 84th birthday and giving rider Terry Moseley his 500th win.
Moseley, who was among those present when Barbara received her service award, rode Ayrgo in 42 of the horse’s 49 starts and has had a long association with Barbara. “She’s a very capable horsewoman and has always been brilliant to work with,” Moseley said.