H is for A.G. Herlihy

When it comes to his deeds in a sulky, Anthony Grant Herlihy (Tony) is without rival.

Since reining his first winner Gymea Gold at Cambridge in 1978, the Papakura-based trainer-driver has saluted the judge a record 3530 times, including three New Zealand Cups with Luxury Liner (1988) , Christopher Vance (1991) and Chokin (1993).

On the all-time list of New Zealand drivers, he is 262 clear of nearest rival Maurice McKendry (3268) and then Ricky May (2949).

Along the way he’s also won four Inter-dominions, eight Driving Premierships, been World Champion, and made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

As a driver he’s won more than $38m in stakes, as a trainer he’s had 970 winners from 5377 starts. He knows his way around a track.

Not from a traditional racing family Herlihy started out by helping his uncle Arnie Gadsby before leaving school in Te Awamutu at 16.

By then his uncle was stable foreman for one of the sport’s legends, Roy Purdon. Many years later Herlihy married Roy’s daughter Suzanne and has had a long and successful association with the Purdon clan, including brothers-in-law and champion trainers Mark and Barry.

Known for his unflappable demeanour Herlihy is commonly referred to as The Ice Man but apparently has other nicknames as well.

According to an interview with the New Zealand Herald (2012) they include Mr Perfect, Ice Block and also Forest Gump, “because he is so simple and down-to-earth yet has achieved so much.”

And the COVID-19 lockdown came at a time when Herlihy was in fine form.

At Alexandra Park on March 20 the Iceman became the Thriceman with a treble of winners with Platinum, On the Cards and LL Cool J.

Tomorrow we bring you “I” and a NZ Cup win that ran in the family.

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