Known for love of racing and service to region

00:00, Jun 02 2014

A Hunterville man who is one of New Zealand's most successful racehorse owners says the excitement of dealing with horses is what has kept him in the industry for so long.

Christopher Grace has been awarded a Queen's Service Medal for his services to both racing and the Hunterville community.

While his work in the community has been important and varied, it is his rich racing history which many will know.

He raced his first horse more than 50 years ago, and has had more than 200 winners since.

One of his most recent triumphs was his horse Graphic taking out this year's Wellington Cup.

He said he got involved in racing through his family connections.


His great-grandfather, G G Stead, won the Wellington Cup four times, while a grandfather, Thomas Duncan, also won the race in 1926.

Grace said he purchased his first horse, Hakawai, in 1962 as a 21-year-old.

He paid 2300 guineas for the filly, the highest price at the national yearling sale at Trentham that year.

But it turned out to be a good investment, winning multiple races and providing the bloodstock which ultimately spawned Graphic.

"For [Hakawai] today you would be paying $1.5 million or $2m.

"Eight generations later we've still got horses coming from it."

The interest in breeding and training has kept the racing industry interesting for him, he said.

But while he has had many winners, there have also been the losers.

"We have had to get rid of a few and give a few away."

His involvement with horses goes beyond breeding them though.

He was the youngest ever president of the Marton Jockey Club, and represented the club when the decision was made to transfer its racing from Marton to Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North.

He also has a life membership to the club.

Outside of horse racing, Grace has been heavily involved in the Hunterville community.

He has been involved in the local water scheme, which helps supply water to the township, and assisted in the construction of an all-weather sports field nearby.

He was also on the board of trustees when Nga Tawa Diocesan School became integrated.

Grace said the school was effectively on its last legs at the time.

"One group of trustees made the decision that the school was going to close, and another group . . . decided they would have a go at keeping it open.

"It has been going really well ever since."

A Hunterville resident for life, he said it had been the perfect place to provide both the room for horse breeding and a good community of people.

"I have been very lucky to come from Hunterville."

Manawatu Standard