Soon after stepping down as president of the North Canterbury Jockey Club in 1964, Jack became a steward for its big brother, the Canterbury Jockey Club.
The stewards helped the CJC committee, but almost seemed to be on probation. The five stewards didn’t have official roles and didn’t attend committee meetings, but were there to work on race day and gradually get involved. If you were successful you were eventually asked to stand for the committee when vacancies came up. You’d look at the fellows in that group of 12 and wonder how there was ever going to be vacancy, though.
Finally one came up, but when I joined, five committee members were in their late 70s. It was pathetic, really, because they were totally out of touch. Doc Louisson was about 80, Bill White was in his late 70s, and Harold Greenwood was the same. Our treasurer, Derek Gould, and Gilbert Grigg, who was chairman for about 15 years, also tended to dominate and the others were too scared to say anything. One fellow from Waikari, Ben Rutherford, had a tremendous knowledge of racing, but he simply got nowhere.
Jack decided he wasn’t going to let his own racing drift in the same way.
I said to myself that by the time I was 70 I would give it away. When you get to that age on a committee there’s no place for you – you’ve lost touch. You become like an old bear, bumbling in the background, with nobody taking much notice. You are almost in hibernation.
One of his first jobs with the CJC was as a weigh-in steward, tending the scales after a race.
The rider of the horse Mosque, owned by Bill Haslett, weighed in one day 1 ½ or 2 pounds light, and under the rules he had to be disqualified. Bill was an extraordinary mixture, very pugnacious. He’d been an All Black – a big man who could be a nasty customer if he got drunk … so here was I left to go and tell him his horse was disqualified. He wasn’t happy with this news, of course, but he asked who was second. I said ‘Freda White, with Teak’. ‘Couldn’t happen to a nicer person,’ said Bill, and away they went and got drunk together. He had big farming and liquor interests in Southland, and I judged him a few times in dog trials. Apparently as part of his training he would take the night shift for foaling mares and have jack up a huge woolshed with ropes and pulleys attached to his dogs. He then used the ropes and pulleys and whistled as he pulled a rein and his dogs would end up magnificently trained for the trials.
I was judging at the Waikari trials one time with Bill and Jack McKenzie. It was a clear, frosty, still morning and not a sound to be heard when the two of them started telling stories at the back of the judge’s box. Apparently, Hazlett had come out of the pub that morning with McKenzie and they’d let their dogs go for a run.
One of the street sweepers found the dogs and asked what the hell was going on. They said, ‘Oh, there’s been a murder around here, there’s been a murder. We’re just trying to track the murderer down.’ The last they saw of the street cleaner he was running down the road. Later on that day, McKenzie got out of his truck just before he made it to the grounds and hopped away into a gully to seek relief. Bill sneaked off after him and took an air gun – which he used as part of his method for training dogs. Poor old Jack was squatting down about halfway through the job and Bill hit him in the arse with an air gun pellet. The mind boggles… but by the time they’d finished these stories I was absolutely helpless in the judges’ box.
Jack’s earliest memory of the CJC committee was deciding how to replace a wooden stand which had blown down in a strong nor-wester. The senior member’s choice of substitute building was unfortunate, but again they had their way.
I can still hear Gilbert Grigg and Derek Gould saying how the old members’ block would be a wonderful place to rebuild. They commissioned an architect who was working for the Racing Authority. Well, if ever an architect made a mess of a stand, it was he. His first step was to move the sight line of the new stand 10 or 15 yards to the east, away from the winning post. There was only going to be one entrance to the stand, at the end nearest to the winning post, so he put a little narrow stairway in there.You could only go up there one at a time and the big stairway was right down the far end, so the whole design was totally wrong for a big crowd.
Before the building went much further, we realised it was so cramped at the back that we had to extend it right out the back another 20 or 30 feet and put in another stairway up to the betting floor. But with the length of the building the people down the far end were almost out of touch with the racing. The only races they saw were the 2500m or the two-mile New Zealand Cup. It was a vast failure, it really was. Some of us argued it would be better to knock down the old stewards’ stand and start afresh there. Well, the abuse we got for that. The members were in the biggest stand on the western side and they brought them over into the new stand, so they really were hard done by, because they gave away the best view on the course.
Jack was on the CJC committee for 30 years, and became a delegate to the New Zealand Racing Conference in 1976. By that time he was devoting more time to the industry than farming.
I worked pretty hard on the farm, but by this stage Gordon had finished Lincoln College and was at home, so it made it much easier for me to go and do these outside jobs. It was annoying for him, of course, because he never really knew when I was to be home or when I wasn’t, but really it led me to having a most interesting life with the Racing Conference, and the Freezing Company Association later on.
One of Jack’s regular jobs was on the Racing Conference’s judicial committee.
We had a dreadful case with a chap down south who had formed a syndicate with people who had never raced horses. The horse raced once or twice, broke down, and was put out to graze. The next thing, one of the syndicate was listening to the wireless one day and he heard this horse was racing, up in Hamilton.The owner never said anything to the syndicate owners and sent the horse to race in Waikato; he’d completely led them astray. There were about six or eight of them and here was this horse racing again but it’d been sold out of their hands without their knowledge and they’d got no money for it. The case went on for two or three days in Dunedin and we put this chap out just about for life. He never came back to racing anyway, and we disqualified the horse. The owners were staggered at the way we handled our own affairs, but I reckon they were given a pretty fair hearing. This rotten hound – he was one of the few really bad eggs I’ve found in racing.
I was talking one night with Marie Lyndon, one of the top riders of the late 1970s, when she said she believed some of the jockeys were on marijuana or other drugs, and that at times she was frightened to ride against them.
In response, Jack asked the conference to introduce some form of drug testing – particularly for marijuana, but also for drugs in general. Because of privacy laws, however, it took many years for random drug testing to be approved.
When we spoke to the jockeys they were all for it, but we had to find tests that were foolproof, and it took a long time to work out who was to do it, and where and how it was to be done. We suspected there were one or two very bad riders who were using marijuana. One was just like a kamikaze pilot. I remember one Easter, he started off at 18 in the barrier and finished up in the rails at about 50m. There was just a string of horses piled up behind him, and the inside horses got chopped right out of the race – they had no show. Some jockeys would use marijuana to settle their nerves but in doing so they probably took risks on the course they wouldn’t normally have taken. Judging by what happened after we brought in testing, a lot of kids were obviously on it, particularly jumping jockeys.
The highlight of Jack’s career with the Racing Conference was the 1978 annual meeting, when he successfully moved that women be licensed to ride at race meetings. By 1976, 14 countries had allowed women jockeys top race against their male counterparts. New Zealand and Australia were the only notable exceptions among major racing countries. With this knowledge, Linda Jones applied to the conference to become a probationary apprentice to her husband, trainer Alan Jones. Together, the couple dissected the Rules of Racing and had found no suggestion against men in conference-sanctioned race meetings. The conference turned Jones down, however. No reason was given, and Jones appealed the decision. The conference said it believed Jones was too old (she was 26), she was married, not strong enough and would be taking away a male jockey’s livelihood. Other women and civil rights campaigners joined the fray, arguing the industry was discriminating against women jockeys for no good reason, and was out of touch with modern reality. Industry diehards refused to budge and many male jockeys spoke out against riding with women, restating the conference’s fears. In November, 1977, the Government passed the Human Rights Bill under which the conference could be found in breach of the law if it failed to grant women licenses to become apprentice jockeys. The conference therefore had to change policy the following year. (1)
National MP Marilyn Waring had written to the New Zealand Racing Conference advising that under that Human Rights legislation, denying jockeys’ licences to women would be illegal.
The racing industry history, “Tapestry of Turf”, says that when the historic July 1977 annual meeting was held, the Rotorua Racing Club (which had given so much support to the women riders) again played a leading role.
Club president Brian Jew was the advocate for a remit which would have permitted betting on special lady riders’ races. The Qantas Lady Riders’ Series was that year to be a four-race series involving Stratford, Waikato and Rotorua.
The remit was supported by a majority of clubs and failed by only 17 votes to gain the necessary two-thirds majority. This indication of more liberal thought was borne out when the question of licensing females as apprentices, arose in general business.
Jack, representing Canterbury, moved that “where females meet the criteria which would be applied to male applicants, they should be duly registered as probationers with a view to their eventually becoming apprentices”.
He said: “this is a change which is inevitable. It is going to come and we should do it the right way and accept the change gracefully.”
Those who spoke in favour of the motion were Lloyd Brown QC (Auckland), Dennis Payne, (Taranaki) and predictably, Brian Jew. Put to the meeting, the motion was, considering the previous drawn out opposition, passed with a surprising lack of dissent.”
Jack doesn’t remember it that way, however.
Some of us had argued the case for women for some time but one delegate, Pat Donnelly, and one or two of the old hands said over their dead bodies would they have girls riding in races. Pat argued that if there was an accident in front of the stand, how terrible it would be if it was a girl lying on the track. I said, ‘Pat; you’ve been show jumping all your life and the men have had just as many falls as girls. What difference did it make in the hunting field whether it was a male or a female who had an accident? In a car accident, what difference does it make if it’s a woman or a man involved?’. He said girls weren’t strong enough to do this, that and the other’…I was furious with him. I couldn’t believe they went on like this. Eventually, I was able to move that they be granted a license. The president Arthur Hughes nearly jumped clean off the table in a rage; he and one or two of the old hands were savage about it. I was not very popular but it opened a whole new aspect for racing. It’s enabled it to continue, particularly in the stables.
Linda Jones, a decade or more older than other beginners, started her apprenticeship with her husband Alan, for $45 a fortnight. But life was even tougher if you weren’t an apprentice. (1) Jack and others also established a union so the riders had a proper contract – a wage contract from the conference and the stable owners. Before that, the trainer could pay the kids in the stables or the stable hands anything they liked. They were bound by the Minimum Wage Act but there was no proper wage structure and the girls before would just be used as slave labour.
They loved horses and would go up to the stable but none of them were getting a decent wage. They were expected to work all hours of the day and night, and were getting nowhere. Here, at least, they had a chance – if they were good enough and keen enough – to ride.
Jack later accepted an offer from the Agricultural Training Council to chair the Equine Training Council.
When I became chairman, I tried to get some sanity into the industry’s wage structure. Of course, at the word ‘union’, the old hands said the riders will go berserk.I would say to them, ‘you have got to come to an arrangement with these kids. You cannot go on like this, with some of the kids being paid peanuts, and in conditions that really were a disgrace.’ Eventually, a proper agreement introduced payments for hours worked and at the same time, we were setting up a cadet scheme. But again it got an awful response, particularly from the Auckland people. Auckland clubs had a good cadet apprenticeship scheme but it was based mainly on riding and racing rather than general industry training. It had a very wealthy apprenticeship school – funded by one of the clubs so they had no problems in looking after 30 or 40 kids who wanted to ride. But what I wanted was a much wider scheme where the kids were taught business skills and the whole gamut of skills to do with racing.
In other words, if a kid finished this cadetship he could work, go into a trainer’s stable and have enough business sense to be able to run a business, as well as knowing all there is to know about horses and the craft. The Auckland jockey clubs initially refused to agree to a national scheme and the whole thing never happened until years later. Harness racing, on the other hand, supported a proper national scheme with both hands and they did well out of it because it was funded by the Government, under the training council. There was considerable money to be made – even the trainers were paid to train the cadets. I must have spent five or six years on the council, batting my head against the wall, trying to get the racing people to agree to having youngsters trained properly. But even today the galloping cadet scheme is really not functioning properly.
The apprentice scheme is demanding, no matter how well it is managed.
Jockeys were coming out as wealthy as any apprentice was at that age because the money was administered by the Racing Conference, which looked after it and invested it for them. Unless you had a very good excuse you couldn’t get your hands on it until you’d finished, so it was a wonderful scheme for kids. It’s not easy being an apprentice, though. You could be in Hokitika one day and Invercargill the next, and not many can put up with all the travelling. You expect kids to ride or to drive all those distances and still do their best at the other end and it’s just not on. There were five or six days in the Canterbury/South Island calendar and you had to travel huge distances. I knew some people who didn’t know where half these places were. Most of the riders in galloping got an apprenticeship and were looked after, though. And eventually they got to the school and got the training, which they’d never got before, and they were lucky if they got a good trainer and bloody unlucky if they got a bad one. The same old story was, of course, ‘we can’t give them time off the stables. It’s too important to give them time off’. The trainers argued they the jockey’s couldn’t go away for three weeks as they would have nobody to do the work. But, of course, they’d forgotten that, if they gave them three weeks off, they came back twice the person. When we worked out the training standards for the industry we went through each of the skills they had to have, even down to tying up horses. We sat down with a committee and said, ‘now, how do you tie a horse up?’ We had as many ideas on tying a horse up as there were people in the room. Nobody could say what was the right method. All these things, the very basics of training skills, were documented and put into a book. It was the first time it had been done, getting these things put on paper so kids knew what they should be doing.
If apprentices were looking for help, then struggling clubs were also crying out for answers – this time in a battle to raise enough income to keep the industry financial.
We had some frightful arguments with the Racing Authority and the Government over racing taxes. Eventually, we got tax on betting lifted and another percentage was taken off it, but it was mainly the punters who suffered through smaller stakes. We believed strongly that the tax was far and away too severe. Again, the Government put up some awful protests. Before 1983, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon promised he would reduce racing taxes after he became Minister of Finance, but the first thing he did was poo-hoo the industry. In fact, it got to the stage where he told the next Minister for Racing that if he didn’t shut up and stop complaining on our behalf he’d sack him from cabinet. I could have shot Muldoon, because he clearly made a promise he would reduce taxation. Again, it was the short-sightedness of it all that annoyed us. Our whole argument was the more you reduce taxation, in other words the more you put back in the pockets of the punter, the more tax you earn. Muldoon couldn’t see this, though, and he did racing a total disservice. If we’d had that extra money, another one or two percent off in taxes, racing would never have looked back.
|A member of a prominent South Island farming and racing family Bill Hazlett created a stir in his first season of representative rugby. In a 1925 Ranfurly Shield challenges the 19 year old Hazlett, fresh out of Waitaki Boys High, tangled with Hawkes Bay captain Morrie Brownlie, perhaps the best forward in New Zealand at the time. And was told by the referee “You Leave Mr Brownlie, Mr Hazlett” Newspaper reports of the incident went all over New Zealand, and provoked a poem in which each verse ended “You leave MISTER Brownlie alone!” Brownlie was not amused.
Bill Hazlett toured Australia with the All Blacks in 1926 and South Africa, where he played in all four tests, in 1928. He appeared in a further four tests in 1930 against the British tourists before retiring, still aged only 25.
A back row forward in the days of the 2-3-2 scrum, the 6 foot 15 stone Southlander was fast, energetic and a top lineout forward. At the time of his retirement one critic rated him “as one of the best three or four forwards that have ever represented New Zealand”.
A successful high country farmer, Hazlett was also prominent as a sheep dog trialist and even more so as a racehorse owner, heading the list of leading owners from 1965-69. In all he owned the winners of more than 1,000 races, with total earnings of over $900,000.
Profile by Bob Luxford
Thoroughbreds, Trainers, Toffs and Tic Tac men. A Cartoon History of Horse Racing in New Zealand. David Grant, Dunmore Press, 2001. P86.