Alan Coles marked his last day as a stipendiary steward at the Cambridge synthetic track on Wednesday.  Photo: Leigh Phelan

Well respected stipendiary steward bows out

Tim Barton
1 July 2021

Alan Coles has rarely been far from a horse, either in work time or leisure time.

The Auckland horseman served his final day as a stipendiary steward at Wednesday’s Cambridge meeting.

It marked the end of almost 30 years in the role, mainly in the Auckland area. Coles was first employed as an assistant-stipe in early 1992 and became a full-time steward from August 1998.

Noel McCutcheon, who was the chief stipe at the time, was based in the central districts and Coles became the senior steward for the Auckland area, with George Lawson looking after the Waikato region.

“I have absolutely loved it but with everything there is a time to step aside and let somebody else step in,” Coles said. “But I will miss it.

“It’s the people you meet that I will miss more than anything, but I won’t be disappearing from the industry. I will still be around.”

 Coles always knew that his duties as a stipendiary steward meant he was never going to please all of the people all of the time and neatly summed up the realities of the role. “It’s one of those jobs where you are appreciated one day but not so much the next.

“But I think the current relegation rule is an improvement on the old rule and has made it easier to resolve protests.”

There is also no doubt that Coles was widely respected by the licence-holders he dealt with. “He had a job to do but I never heard anyone say a bad word about him,” former champion jockey Noel Harris said.  “He had a good demeanour about him, was fair and explained things well.

“Nothing was a problem for him, and a lot of knowledge will be lost to the game when he goes.”

 The Coles family has made a significant contribution to racing in Auckland, particularly at Ellerslie where Alan’s father, Ray, and brother Ross both had long careers as clerks of the course. Alan also worked as a clerk of the course for about 10 years, mostly at Ellerslie. ”I worked under both my father and Ross.”

Alan and his siblings were brought up with horses. “Dad had a farm at Karaka and was huntsman for the Pakuranga Hunt.  We used to ride trackwork at Takanini for the likes of Baggy Hillis and Colin Jillings and spend time there in the holidays and we were heavily involved in pony club.”

Coles also rode on raceday as an amateur rider and his job descriptions have invariably involved horses. “I have been involved with horses, in different ways, all my life, including driving horse floats for a few years.

“I have loved the [racing] industry.”  

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