Ivan Schwamm Obituary

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk

Aged 87, well-known racing identity Ivan Schwamm has passed away, only months after training his last winner.

It was just October last year when his four-year-old trotter Majestic Sunset and driver Jimmy Curtin combined to win at Timaru.

“I got him for nothing off Bruce Negus. Bruce bred him, and trained him, but didn’t really like him.

According to an interview he gave at the time , the victory at the Phar Lap raceway was clearly a thrill : “It was so great at the races today, the number of people that called out to me, owners, trainers, drivers – many of them I’ve known for years and years. It’s a fellowship and I love it.”

It’s an industry he was part of for nearly 70 years, after first gaining his license while living in Palmerston North in 1954-55.

Trotter Perekop was one of his early success stories, while Rocky Star was a stand-out. Against a field of 25 starters, he took out the 1966 Hawera Cup and was a 10-race winner.

It appeared Schwamm also had an entrepreneurial streak. He started out milking cows and shearing, and in the 1960s negotiated the sale of numerous horses to North America.

“I would hire an aeroplane to take a consignment of 21 horses at a time and I was in the business for 10 years”.

He was associated with some great horses. He trained and drove the great mare Tussle to success early in her career after regular trainer and owner Cliff Irvine was away overseas. Tussle ended up winning 38 races including the 1987 Interdominion final at Addington.

He also drove Ruling Lobell to victory in the Group 2 Welcome Stakes in 1976. Starting a $2.90 favourite he won by five lengths for trainer Des Grice.

1976 was his best year for driving with 11 wins while as a trainer, he had 122 winners from more than 1700 starters from the 1950s through to the 2020s. The veteran trainer-driver had a stable at Leeston on the outskirts of Christchurch but did most of his work with the horses on the roadside.

Known for his bold driving tactics, in 2010 the then 77 year old drove his own horse Doc’s Delight to a win at Rangiora. It was his first for two seasons.

At the time the horse was trained by Lew Driver. He followed that up with Saltwater Gold’s success at Orari in 2015.

He will be remembered as one of harness racing’s most enduring characters

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