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Funny stories and great memories were the order of the day.
Bill Colgan
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Funny stories and great memories were the order of the day.

The celebration lunch to commemorate 40 years of racing at Ruakaka was enjoyed by all on Friday.

Celebration of Ruakaka's Racing Heritage 

The nostalgic afternoon function on Friday was a most enjoyable reflection of racing. The master of ceremony skills, racing knowledge and humour of George Simon provided a brilliant foundation for stories that kept everyone entertained.

A snapshot of photos from various times of the last 40 years was displayed and can be viewed on the Club's website in the gallery section http://www.ruakakaracing.co.nz/Gallery.aspx.

In addition a booklet with some of the races from that first meeting is available below by clicking on the PDF link.

The Club's Patron and passionate racing man Les Donaldson set the scene as he described the transition from racing at Kensington park and the re-location to Ruakaka for the first meeting on May 27 1977. Les and another speaker Kim Clotworthy raced horses together including the 1997/8 horse of the year Uncle Remus. Between them they told a story of one of their experiences at Kensington Park that cost Les a $50 fine in funny circumstances. 

Legendary race caller and ex-Whangarei barber Keith Haub joined Kim to regale stories of their involvement in racing and the start of their careers with Dargaville, as well as Ruakaka, being a major part of their starts in the industry. Keith was the leading caller for the northern region including Ellerslie for many years and a very successful owner including Mr McGinty. In a very laconic style Keith provided advice on how and where to build racetracks, how to turn the fortunes of the NZ TAB around and entertained the crowd with the stories of the hard drinking, all night card playing and rodeos that were an integral part of the two days' meetings in the north.

The afternoon was complemented by Donna Logan outlining her family's association with racing and some of its characters when she was a child and then how she began to ride work for various trainers all throughout the region before enticing a number of horses to be based at the new Ruakaka track. 

Donna commented on the various stages of her progress from apprentice to trainer with a number of humorous incidents and how her training career has flourished with a number of partnerships to produce nationally and internationally competitive horses. Donna extolled the Ruakaka location with the beach and track for training but it is clear her passion and absolute commitment to succeed is as much part of that success.

The Club thanks George, Les, Kim, Keith and Donna for sharing their time and memories in such great style so that the history but more so the memories of the people are not lost.

The final act was the cutting of 40 years commemorative cake by Les and the only other surviving member of the 1977 Committee Noel Reed who served for over 46 years in various capacities for the Club.

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