Harness Obituaries - Smolenski and Dykman

Dennis Smolenski 

Frank Marrion, The Informant

The harness racing industry was saddened to hear about the passing of the likeable and well respected Dennis Smolenski this week.

The 63-year-old died on Sunday night and knowing what was coming, as a tribute, his brother Bob raced Rosinupthebow at Methven earlier that day in Dennis’ training colours with his good friend Tony Herlihy driving.

“Dennis was diagnosed with a tumour last year and had an operation, but the cancer returned and claimed him rather quickly in the end,” said Bob.

“He was at his happiest doing gardening work and in recent years he’d really been enjoying life as the caretaker at the West Melton Domain while fixing up his own place at Weedons.”

Dennis was a son of Brian Smolenski, a cousin of Jack, and together the family had great success from the late 70s with the top filly Gina Marie.

She won 10 races under trainer-driver Jack, including the 1978 Great Northern Oaks.

Gina Marie’s first two foals were the top colt and Great Northern Derby winner Nardinski and the brilliant filly Gina Rosa, who won 17 races and $415,000, although she was sold as an older mare to Wellington’s Garth Williams.

Dennis started out as a stock agent for PGG and had stints in the stables of Sam Ballantyne and Jack Smolenski along with the Andertons in Mosgiel.

He made his own way in life doing a wide variety of jobs, but he was best known for his stud work and preparing yearlings with his wife and partner in life, Jill.

Dennis was 43 when he married Jill (nee Fraser) and after a period where the latter worked at Wai Eyre and Studholme Park and Dennis did a bit of training and driving and breaking in, they moved to Auckland to become the studmasters at Woodlands.

During this time they bred and raced the outstanding Dream Away filly One Dream, who won 18 of 23 races and $900,000 under trainers Dave and Clare McGowan.

In 2005, Dennis and Jill took on the job of building up the Stonewall Stud farm and operation and they prepared those yearlings before returning to Canterbury in 2009, when Jill began working at Nevele R Stud before taking over as studmaster in 2013.

“Dennis was helping out Jim Dalgety in the mornings while doing a few of his own horses in the afternoon after they returned home to Weedons,” said Bob.

“He also had jobs delivering sawdust and chickens, but he really enjoyed tidying up and maintaining gardens and he did a lot of that sort of work for various people.

“Jill finished up at Nevele R a year ago and has been running her own dog grooming business since.”

Dennis Smolenski’s funeral will be held today (Thursday) at Lamb & Hayward’s Westpark Chapel in Burnside, Christchurch, at 5.30pm.


Albert 'Slim' Dykman 

By Denis Smith, Queensland 

We are yet again reminded of our own mortality, as another of the light harness craft, have left us, bound for "that big race track in the sky"!

The hobbyist, a boy refugee from war torn Europe to New Zealand where he became a farm hand in the dairy industry, later taking on the breaking and education of harness horses and progressing to training and driving. He was in his early 80's at the time of passing.

Albert Willem "Slim" Dykmann was a well known identity in NZ prior to coming to Queensland, through the deeds of his star trotter, Scotch Tar. A gelded son of pacing sire, Tarport Coulter, Scotch Tar raced for 8 seasons , starting on 87 occasions for 29 wins and 10 placings, maintaining a high profile among the square gaiters, and banking $140,920 AUD in the process.Slim settled at Ebenezer south of Ipswich and commenced to weave his magic there, first rising to notice through the deeds of Natty Jack, a winner of 20 races on the "old" Southport track. 

It was, however his skill with mares that bought him fortune here. Top of the tree was the 'iron legged" Happy Haldon starting on 196 occasions for 62 wins 52 placings, sitting death seat and grinding her opposition into the ground, while earning $290,000. Diamond Hunter, with 11 wins under two minute rate from her total of 17, and $71,000, an Australian high point at the time. Then came Hike Along. A massive 32 runs as a 2yo in a total of 60 starts which netted $68,000 from 15 wins and 19 placings. At stud, 11 foals, 7 winners, 4 of which earned in excess of $100,000. Slim Dykman.

No dynasty, just the sharp and lasting memory of a man who knew what he was doing, and did it incredibly well!!


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