Couple making most of passion for racing

RACING ENTHUSIASTS: Allan and Catherine Wood
RACING ENTHUSIASTS: Allan and Catherine Wood

Owning a racecourse is among a variety of racing aspects experienced by Mosgiel couple, Allan and Catherine Wood.

They have also bred and raced horses and been involved in racing administration. They owned the Beaumont racecourse when farming at Beaumont for 37 years. The course was leased to the Beaumont Racing Club for two meetings a year until the club transferred to Wingatui in 1987.

The club, with a history dating to 1891, raced mainly in March and December. The property containing the racecourse belonged to the Wood family for almost 100 years. The last generation of owners were brothers Allan, Jim and Bob Wood. The property was finally split among the brothers with Allan and Catherine taking the portion containing the racecourse soon after they married in 1962.

STILL STANDING: The totalisator building at the former Beaumont racecourse. The track was to the left of the building.
STILL STANDING: The totalisator building at the former Beaumont racecourse. The track was to the left of the building.

''We had to move stock off the racecourse weeks before a meeting and mow the track and surrounds,'' Allan recalled. ''There was quite a bit of work involved.''

The totalisator building is the only remaining structure to indicate a racecourse existed at Beaumont. The property is now a dairy farm.

Allan was president of the Beaumont club for seven years. He continued his involvement in racing administration as a judge at trials at Forbury Park. He was made a life member of the New Zealand Trotting Owners Association (Otago) branch on Monday for his 15 year contribution in that sphere.

Allan and Catherine bred and raced the pacers, Regency Girl, Wee Willam, Count James and Optica between 1996 and 2008. Catherine raced the trotter Banker's Moment (five wins) in partnership. The horses were trained by Craig Buchan. Wee Willam won five races and another five in the North Island after being sold. His half brother, Count James won three and a further three in Australia after being sold.

Wee Willam and Count James were out of Regency Girl, who was minor placed in four of her 19 starts. They bred the daughter of Double Century-Hurricane Girl in 1990.

''I have always been more interested in standardbreds than thoroughbreds,'' Catherine said.

''I used to be taken out as a child to watch horses work at Colin Berkett's at Templeton and to visit Roydon Lodge Stud of Sir John McKenzie and loved it.''

She was born in Christchurch, the daughter of Bill Stickings a prominent standardbred owner in the 1930s and 40s.

''Children were not taken to the races in those days but I do remember going to New Brighton on the odd occasion.''

The New Brighton racecourse is now Queen Elizabeth II Park with the last race meeting there in September, 1963.

''We listened to the races on the wireless (radio)''

Mr Stickings, mine host the Waltham Arms Hotel in Christchurch and later the Bridge Hotel at Millers Flat, numbered among his winners, Bellisima, Tan John, Desworthy, Accountant, Blaydon, Carver Doone and Mazaire.

Bellisima won the 1948 Rowe Cup on grass at Auckland from a 72 yards (66m) handicap. The Certissimus mare had won against the pacers the previous day from a 36 yards (33m) handicap.

Bellisima, a chestnut with a blonde coloured mane and tail, was Catherine's favourite.

Tan John won the 1940 Dominion Handicap at Addington. The same day his trainer, Ces Donald and driver, brother Ron, won the New Zealand Cup with Marlene.'

Accountant, a brother to Marlene, won 10 races before he perished, along with six other horses in a stable fire at the Donald stable at Belfast.

Blaydon won at Trentham in 1942 when the Wellington Trotting Club was permitted to race there with Hutt Park in use for military purposes.

''Dad was always going to the races in little planes with Mr Donald and other horsemen,' she said.

Mr Stickings won 13 races in the 1948-49 season with Belshazzar contributing five and Desworthy, four. Desworthy won the 1949 Ashburton Trotting Cup.

Carver Doone won the 1938 Hawera Cup and Mazaire the Westport Cup the same year. Catherine has the trophies for those races.

She also has the trophies for several fashion competitions she has won in Otago and Southland.

''I have judged at some (fashion competitions) as well and that and the racing has been lots of fun,'' she said.

The Southland Times