IN Our People
Brian Anderton Reflects
Random Chance is fondest memory at Riccarton Park
September 28, 2016

The name Brian Anderton is synonymous with everything that’s good about the thoroughbred history of New Zealand.  Few people could claim a bigger contribution over so many aspects of the industry over such a prolonged period of time, and it continues to this very day.


It all began for Brian in 1944, aged eight, when he began riding trackwork for his trainer father, Hector.  He went on to become a jockey, trainer, owner, studmaster, committeeman, president and then Life Member of the Otago Racing Club and executive on the then NZ Racing Conference.  That’s not to mention his long time service to breeders at branch and national level on the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Association, or his mentoring at the Otago apprentice school.


In the nineties he was honoured with an ‘outstanding contribution award’ to NZ Thoroughbred Racing, and in 2012 was inducted to the NZ Racing Hall Of Fame.  Superlatives don’t do justice to this remarkable man who now, at 80 years of age, still harbours the desire to achieve in the game he has loved for so long.


Riccarton Park and especially ‘Cup Week’ has figured strongly in the B.J. Anderton success story but no day more so that NZ 2000 Guineas Day in 1985 when his top class colt Random Chance scored a brilliant win in the ‘blue ribbon’ race, ridden by Brian’s son Shane.


“Random Chance has given me my fondest memories of Riccarton, “said Brian this week. “ It was a family affair and Shane’s first big win as a jockey, and he beat a top field that included Bonecrusher who finished third.  His form going into the race was very good, he had won them in a row, and we knew he was good enough to do the job.”


Another great Riccarton memory for Brian was 12 years earlier on ‘Cup Day’ of 1973.  Strangely, Brian didn’t venture north to the races that day but it was more a case of not being able to rather than not wanting to be there.  At his White Robe Lodge Stud at Mosgiel, Mellay was at the height of his stud career having won the sires’ premiership the previous season and he was just too busy breeding the great stallion to some of the best mares in Country.


His Cup runner was the 10-year-old gelding Watallan, an unsound son of Bellborough who wasn’t given much hope of winning, except by Brian himself.  Top jockey John Dowling was originally engaged to ride but opted for a more fancied contender before Ali Robinson also turned down the mount for similar reasons.  Finally, Brian phoned fellow trainer Rex Cochrane and convinced him to release his 15-year-old apprentice Steve Allen to take the mount.


Thus, history was made at Riccarton that year when Steve Allen became the youngest jockey and Watallan the oldest horse to win the New Zealand Cup.  Brian watched the race at home on his black and white TV and while he very rarely bothered to have a bet, on this occasion the $98 win dividend on offer proved too good to resist, and he invested a fiver each way.


“He was a very good horse but very unsound,” lamented Brian.


It was a great training feat to get Watallan to the post in such good order that day.  The gelding’s training consisted mostly of swimming, and after getting him to win first-up in June at the start of his Cup preparation, Watallan afterwards had a set-back when struck down with colic.


There are numerous Riccarton Park success stories attached to the name Brian Anderton including A Gordon For Me which he trained to win 26 races and a favourite horse named ‘The Wanderer’ which Brian rode in 123 of his 165 starts for 12 wins.  Brian also rode the great Kumai to win 27 of his 34 wins and although he never won a Grand National Steeplechase he carved out an amazing record at Trentham.


As a jockey on the flat or over the jumps Brian won 398 races and as a trainer, either in his own right or in partnership with son Shane, has trained more than 1400 winners.


Brian’s first winning ride was as a 13-year-old at Wyndham on a mare named White Robe after-which he named his stud farm when founded in 1956.  Princess Mellay which won the NZ Cup in consecutive years in 1970/71 and Prince Majestic both descend from White Robe.


“I think Sunline is the best racehorse I’ve seen – absolutely marvellous,” said Brian when asked to name one.  “But Show Gate was also a great mare; it’s hard not to name her”.  But when it comes to the best jockeys Brian says it’s even harder to line them up.


“A jockey in my day I remember as being brilliant was Colin Wilson.  Then there were people like Gary Edge, Artie Stokes and Grenville Hughes, so many good ones over a long period of time, it’s tough to compare them,” Brian concluded.



by Brian de Lore.