Tony Music retires after long tenure at Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club

Tony Music handing back the Addington Raceway keys to Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club...
Tony Music handing back the Addington Raceway keys to Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club president Murray Wigley. Photo: Dave Robbie
Tony Music certainly didn't realise when he commenced dispatching fields at the QE II stadium for the Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club back in the late 1970s that he would ultimately become a long-serving CEO of the country's most powerful greyhound club.

Over the years, Music did plenty of voluntary work for the Christchurch GRC and he held positions on the Club's Board, sitting on it at various times from 1988 through to 1999.

He also represented Christchurch at national level, when the head office was run from Auckland under the guidance of Ron Kilpin.

It was in 2004 when Music was appointed as the club's full-time secretary/manager (CEO) – a position he held continuously until last July, retiring at the end of the 2021/22 racing season.

"I have only ever had two jobs throughout my entire working life. For 27 years, I was the assistant registrar of companies, then moved to be the official assignee in Christchurch.

"In 2004, Graham Barron approached me to see if I would manage the Club full-time, as Gordon Kingston was retiring. I spoke to my wife Sally about it and she straight away said, 'don't be silly – take it, as you'll be getting paid to work in your hobby'," he recalled.

And so started Music's long and fruitful full-time association managing the Christchurch GRC.

Let's go back to those "hobby days" back at Q EII.

For a number of years, Music and his mate from school, Dave Fahey, started races. Later on, they were the best man at each other's weddings. They were also joined occasionally at the traps by Garry Cleeve.

"We worked on working bees prior to the December 1975 opening of the QE II track. I raced some handy greyhounds over a period of time, while also enjoying the odd punt or three. I had a system when taking the TAB 6 Pack races, spending $72 each time.

"I managed to strike a couple of $20,000 payouts – one of those involved a jackpotting $60,000 pool. I picked mine, then I later found out that the other two successful tickets were bloody easy bets," chuckled Music.

The most humorous incident Music remembers was back in the OE II days, which involved the current Christchurch GRC President Murray Wigley.

"The TAB was running a Joker promotion at the time. Murray was running the Shirley TAB back then and he came out to QEII dressed up as a Joker. It was planned for him to chase after the lure up the home straight, starting from beside the starting traps.

"He got about 30 meters up the straight then collapsed straight onto his face. We all thought it was part of the Joker promotion, laughing like anything at him. When he didn't get up, we went to check up on him – he had torn both of his hamstrings.

"Luckily, the Crusaders rugby team was training in the infield and their physios helped Murray after we carried him off the track. Murray and Steph (wife) were due to fly to America the following day – they didn't make it!"

On the racing side, he enjoyed success with greyhounds like Black Echo who won the 2002 Waterloo Cup over 527m.

"That was satisfying, considering we brought her over from Aussie as a sprinter. I also raced Sydney Title, who won the 1999 Galaxy Sprint, then he was the runner-up in 2000.

"I was importing dogs from Mick Abbott in Australia back then. One I sourced was Token Token, who won the first Sister City Cup Challenge – which was held in Adelaide – for Garry Cleeve.

"We bought a six-acre property in Mairehau in 2000 to rear greyhounds, plus we recuperated injured dogs there. We also raced Mairehau Mill, who won six races for us. I got out of greyhound ownership when I started as the Club's manager."

When asked about work highlights during his time as CEO, Music responded with: "Financially, it was getting the club into a solid position by securing race sponsorships and obtaining pub gaming grants. Those grants were used for rental reimbursements at Addington, which enabled us to build up the club coffers."

Other accomplishments included building the brand-new single-story kennel block.

"We built those Rolls Royce kennels at no cost to the club. We were also the first club to install the Steriline starting traps, while we were one of the first of the clubs to get a sectional timing board up and running. We continued to make enhancements to track infrastructure, including installing safety rails.

"The expansion of racing dates at Addington was very satisfying adding to the racing opportunities for owners and trainers. In 2007, we lifted the New Zealand Cup stake to $100,000, while we were also proud to host the $250,000 Platinum Paws feature event in 2008."

Music's toughest decisions were made when having to abandon the odd race meeting.

"It was always tough to have to make calls like that because you were fully aware of the impact the decision would have on trainers and owners."

He was always a brilliant host for visitors at Addington, with many of them enjoying the club's hospitality. Sociably, Music joined guests after the conclusion of the racing activities.

Music was very much a "hands-on" man during his tenure. And that included race days, such as the numerous times he filled in as the race starter.

"I enjoyed getting out on the track and helping in the kennel block. I found it was a great way to build good rapport with the trainers."

He also worked hard to build respect with the harness racing community.

"It took a bit of work during the early days. I guess early on having the 'dishlickers' at Addington wasn't the 'in thing'; however, that quickly changed and we built a solid relationship."

He had the best seat in the house to view numerous quality greyhounds racing over time.

"In the QE II days, it was a highlight watching greyhounds like Misty Anna and Magic Command racing.

"Later on, Cecilia Bale and Cecilia Lloyd were classy performers, as was Winsome Ashley. I had a special spot for Dangle The Carat, with Sally being involved in her ownership."

Murray Wigley recently commenced his fifth term as the Christchurch GRC President. Understandably, he holds a huge amount of respect when speaking about Music's outstanding work ethics.

"Tony was an excellent guy to work with – an absolute pleasure. The club has ticked over like clockwork during his time managing us. He has been a huge asset for us," expressed Murray.

"He made huge inroads in many projects, especially when supervising the big ones. Collectively, Tony worked extremely well with the club's board keeping us fully informed and updated. He was an excellent communicator.

"18 years is a long time in the role, and it is the mark of the man's skills that he so successfully achieved such long service.

"I first met Tony in 1991 at QEII when I became involved in greyhound racing. He has always been a thoughtful, caring good bloke.

"He always got on great with club staff and the general public – nothing was too much of a hurdle for Tony.

"In summary, no organisation could have wished for a better guy to undertake the role than what Tony did. He was always on the case. We look forward to continuing seeing him around the club and track. We all wish Tony and his family all the very best in retirement – he thoroughly deserves it," advised Wigley.

And the future plans for Tony Music?

"I have a couple of projects to work on, while I'm also happy to help out at the track whenever needed.

"Sally and our children Daniel, Savannah and Celena supported me 100 per cent all the time. They sacrificed a lot of family time.

"I'm also keen to put our campervan and caravan to good use, while I also want to improve my golf game!"

- By Peter Fenemor