Harvey Wilson at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games  Photo:

New Zealand Racing's Olympic Heroes

24 July 2021
With the Tokyo 2020 in full swing, we reflect on some of our very own who took the Olympics by storm! 
Ready Teddy,  Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004
When it comes to New Zealand thoroughbreds competing on the Olympic stage, you can't go past the legend that was Ready Teddy. Piloted by equestrian great Blyth Tait, the flamboyant gelding by Brilliant Invador represented New Zealand at more Olympic Games than any other horse in history, as well as the only horse to win both World Equestrian Games and Olympic gold.
Setting the benchmark of what can be achieved with an off the track thoroughbred, he made his Olympic debut at Atlanta '96 at just 8-years-old to bring home individual gold in the three day event. Returning to both Sydney 2000 and finally Athens '04 as a 16-year-old, the pair won an array of global accolades throughout their career, with Blyth turning down offers of up to half a million dollars at his peak. With a very special connection, ‘Ted’ retired at Blyth’s Karaka property in 2004 and remains the pinnacle for what our amazing thoroughbreds can achieve.
Blyth and Ready Teddy at Athens in 2004 (Image: Barbara Thomson)
Blyth and Ready Teddy at Athens in 2004 (Image: Barbara Thomson)
Harvey Wilson, Montreal 1976, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992
Grand National winning trainer Harvey Wilson is not only highly regarded throughout racing, but also within the equestrian world as a three-time Olympian.

Now training a small team of jumpers out of his Waverley stables, Harvey along with his wife Ann were once globetrotting showjumpers and eventers. Competing in Montreal '76, Seoul '88 and Barcelona ‘92 along with ex-pat Kiwi trainer and renowned competitor Mark Todd, Harvey switched his focus to racing in 2004. Still very much an active rider at 72, he continues to ride gallops and pace work as well as providing them with their early jumping education. He can often be seen preparing his team before the winter months at local sport days and continues to collect the ribbons.

Glengarrick, Athens 2004 

At 15.3hh and 18-years of age, Glengarrick was the oldest and smallest horse in the field at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Ridden by a young Heelan Tompkins, the pair finished seventh in the individual eventing competition, the best place by a New Zealand combination at the games that year.

The black thoroughbred gelding’s first job title was ‘racehorse.’ Glengarrick, or ‘Nugget’ as he was known, had six starts, with his best a third over 1600m at Woodville. Upon retirement, he was taken to medium level dressage by his trainer’s wife, Kath Robins. He then moved to eventing with rider Karla Jamieson, before being purchased by Heelan, who at the top was the top-ranked young rider in the world.

The pair were reserves for the Sydney Olympics, before being given the chance to compete at Athens. At the ripe age of 18, Glengarrick was retired following his efforts at Athens, although this was short lived. Glengarrick and Heelan returned to competition in 2006, competing at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, where they (once again) finished seventh. Glengarrick’s foot-perfect cross-country round at the games earned him the title of ‘Best cross-country horse in the world’ – not bad for an ex-racehorse who couldn’t win a race!

Upon his return to New Zealand, Glengarrick enjoyed teaching the next generation of eventers the ropes at pony club. He passed away at the grand age of 29, on Heelan’s farm in Taranaki.

Heelan and Nugget during their cross country round (NZHP Library)

Heelan and Nugget during their cross-country round (Image: NZHP Library)

Sir Mark Todd, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 (Horse, Kayem, pulled up injured on the eve of competition and was withdrawn), Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 (coach), Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio de Janeiro 2016. 

Sir Mark Todd is among New Zealand’s most accomplished Olympians, collecting two gold and three bronze medals over eight Olympic games between 1984 and 2016. His golds came in Los Angeles ’84 and Seoul ‘88 with his superstar eventer ‘Charisma’, who might we add, was out of a thoroughbred mare! Sir Mark’s five Olympic medals places him alongside kayakers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald as New Zealand’s top Olympic medalists.

Sir Mark Todd has an undeniable ability with horses, something he transferred to his new venture in the training ranks where success quickly followed. Sir Mark trained three-year-old filly Bramble Rose to win the 2003 New Zealand Oaks in just his second season of training. Foreign shores beckoned and today he has a boutique training yard in Wiltshire, UK. Recently, Sir Mark featured at arguably the biggest week of racing in the world, with ‘Tasman Bay’ finishing second in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

You might also like