Memories at farewell from family

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
Jack Smolenski
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
DISTINCTIVE: The late Jack Smolenski’s cap and silk on display during his memorial service in Christchurch, yesterday.

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A dedicated family man, Jack Smolenski lived his life to the full and was always on hand to offer some quick wit.

The hundreds of people who turned up to Addington Raceway yesterday to honour a true legend of New Zealand harness racing were offered a wealth of memories of a man who carved his own niche in the sport he loved.

The anecdotes flowed. One retold the story of how Smolenski hushed a trainer one night at Addington, who was busy offering up an array of driving instructions: "Write them on the dust sheet and I'll read them when I get out on the track."

His grandchildren spoke of his being known across the country as a legend of harness racing.

But to them he was just a legend of a granddad.

Smolenski, who died last Thursday aged 78, is regarded as one of the greatest horsemen of his era.

A severe stroke four-and-a-half years ago just minutes before he was due to take a drive at Addington, abruptly ended Smolenski's career but his colours remained in action and his legacy lives on through son Mark and daughter Jill as well as successful reinsman grandson Sam.

He became just the third driver to reach 1000 career driving wins and is the only person to have been crowned leading trainer and also driver in New Zealand harness racing history.

He finished his career with 1059 driving wins in New Zealand and many more overseas and also picked up 742 wins as a trainer.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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