'Iconic personality' proves to be stayer

Barbara Blackie will become the first 100-year-old to start a horse in New Zealand at Ashburton...
Barbara Blackie will become the first 100-year-old to start a horse in New Zealand at Ashburton tomorrow. PHOTO: SUPPLIED.
The postponement of yesterday's Oamaru Cup meeting means Riccarton trainer Barbara Blackie will have wait to make world racing history.

Blackie was to have lined up Diplomat in maiden company yesterday, one day after celebrating her 100th birthday.

The Riccarton horsewoman, who is known as "Mrs B", is believed to be the world's oldest horse trainer.

That record has not been confirmed by racing authorities, but Blackie is undoubtedly the oldest active horse trainer in New Zealand.

She has 10 years on Australia's oldest active trainer, 90-year-old Bob Hennigan, who continues to train at Port Augusta.

An American media report claims late American trainer Jerry Bozzo was the oldest person to prepare a winner.

Bozzo was 97 years and 11 months old when he won a race at Gulfstream with Cotton Tooyah in October 2017.

That means Blackie was likely to have been the previous record holder.

She was 97 years and five months old when she produced her last winner in January of that year.

She scored that victory with Thewayweroll, who won in maiden company at Hokitika.

Blackie will get a belated birthday present and surpass Bozzo's unofficial world record if Diplomat can break his maiden at the Oamaru meeting, rescheduled for Ashburton tomorrow.

The trainer's longtime rider Terry Moseley will ride her 4yr-old in his 1400m event.

Blackie, who has three children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, races Diplomat with Karen Peters, who takes the horse through much of his training.

Despite showing outstanding skill with horses, the centenarian's training career began in unlikely circumstances.

It was not until she was in her 50s that Blackie gained her training licence.

The horsewoman previously had an extensive involvement in equestrian and pony club activities, leading to her being awarded the Queen's Service Medal for her voluntary work with Riding For The Disabled in 1983.

Her training career began after she approached former leading Riccarton trainer Jim Tomkinson about training a horse for a friend.

He said "Why don't you do it yourself?", and she did.

Blackie has been represented by a runner in each of her 30 seasons as a trainer,

enjoying her best success with Ayrgo.

The open handicapper won 10 races, including the listed Winter Classic in 2002.

Blackie's contribution to New Zealand racing was recognised when she was awarded an NZTR Service Award last month.

A crew of supporters, who travelled to Oamaru before the meeting was postponed, will be on hand to support Diplomat tomorrow.

Among them will be Canterbury Jockey Club chief executive Tim Mills.

Mills, who visited Blackie on her 100th birthday on Saturday, said she had made an incredible mark on the Riccarton racing scene.

"She has been an iconic personality around the traps and she has been respected and revered by all.

"She is a wonderful lady, who is as bright as a button."

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