L is for Lyell Creek

At the beginning New Zealand’s best ever trotter Lyell Creek seemed destined for anything but greatness.

He had pacing bloodlines with his sire being Roydon Glen and his maternal grandsire was none other than Noodlum.

He also took three attempts to qualify as a trotter and then when he did get to the races he could finish no better than fifth on debut.

From there he ended up winning 56 races in total and accruing bang on $3m in earnings. He broke records wherever he went.

“Creek the Freak” or the “People’s Horse”, as he became known, was simply a square-gaiting sensation.

Named after an actual place on the South Island’s West Coast Lyell Creek was bred by Kaikoura’s Peter Smith and bought by colourful owner Graham “Steel Balls” Bruton after his first win in Nelson on January 1999.

Apart from his first two starts the horse was trained by Tim Butt, with brother Anthony driving him in 51 out of his 54 starts in Australasia. A globe-trotter (excuse the pun), he raced in seven different countries in eight seasons, winning 18 races in the USA alone.

A polarising figure, Bruton was a high profile high stakes punter and a big part of the Lyell Creek story.

“I’ve travelled the world with Lyell Creek and he’s given me the ultimate buzz as a harness fan”.

Lyell Creek’s achievements make for impressive reading and often he didn’t just win, he annihilated the opposition in the process.

Such was his dominance that he not only won the country’s two top trotting races, he completed the Dominion Handicap – Rowe Cup double three times.

At one stage he won twenty in a row, and had a winning sequence of 34 from 37 starts.

He finished racing after a battling eighth in the 2005 Rowe Cup won by Martina H, the 11 year old getting an emotional send-off at Alexandra Park.

Everybody knew they were farewelling a horse that only comes along once in a generation.

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