New Zealand Racing's Olympic Heroes
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 (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1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 (Horse, Kayem, pulled up injured on the eve of competition and was withdrawn), Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 (coach), Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio de Janeiro 2016.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.