Jim Dalgety dies, age 88

Harness racing has lost one of its greats with the passing of famed horseman Jim Dalgety.

The 88-year-old passed away overnight on Wednesday at his home in Canterbury, where he had wanted to spend his final days.

He leaves behind a huge legacy in the industry not only as the patriarch of a famous harness racing family through son Cran and grandson Carter but for what he achieved personally and those he passed his skills on to.

A ruthlessly hard worker and deep thinker about the harness racing industry Jim learned his craft under legends like Maurice Holmes and Cecil Devine, settling in Canterbury after moving from his home town of Oamaru.

He was a successful trainer and breeder, owning many of his better horses which included the Great Northern Derby winning brothers Bolton Byrd and Melton Monarch, Bolton Byrd going on to win the Auckland Cup.

Bolton Byrd was driven in both those group 1 wins by a young Robert Dunn, Melton Monarch in his Derby triumph by Barry Purdon, just two examples of the impact Dalgety’s mentorship would later have in harness racing.

While they were his best the list of Dalgety stars, either trained, bred or owned was long: Golden Oriole, Happy Hazel, Scuse Me, Solberge, Lucy Lumber, Fancy Wishes, Imagine That, Rely, Astrazaani, Violetta, Jovial Jeanne, Dictatorship and Sunny Action, who caused one of harness racing’s greatest upsets downing Lyell Creek in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All.

But like most of the greats of the industry the deeds of his horses only tell part of the story.

“Dad was a hard worker and somebody who liked to do things the right way,” says son Cran.

“He instilled that in my brother Blair and I and everybody who worked with him.

“His knowledge was wonderful and he never stopped learning.”

Dalgety also stood stallions Bachelor Hanover and Out To Win and had an encyclopedic knowledge of bloodlines both here and in North America.

He imparted that knowledge on anybody who asked for his help, his pearls of wisdom always accompanied by his catch phrase “me old mate.”

Being called “me old mate” by somebody twice your age may have made plenty who talked to Jim smile but being welcomed into the “me old mate” club was like a warm blanket of experience being draped across your shoulder, harness racing’s version of having made it.

So Wednesday was the end of an era, with Dalgety joining other legends no longer with us like Derek Jones and most recently Roy Purdon, off for a drink with his real “me old mates.”

But what he achieved in his life, both as a family man and in harness racing, will be felt for decades to come.

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