Maurice Skinner – “true southern character”

Maurice Skinner is being remembered as a “true character of southern harness racing”, following his death at the weekend, just months before his 90th birthday.

The Skinner family is a Southland racing institution. Maurice was the oldest of three children to Arthur and Flo Skinner. Arthur was successful in his own right (His gun trotter Worthy Admiral finished second in the Rowe Cup twice).

Maurice and his brother Henry (of Honkin Vision fame) became jockeys in the early 1940s. Maurice was 12 at the time. He rode 22 winners before weight problems ultimately prompted a switch of codes to the trotting ranks.

In the early 1950s he got his professional drivers’ licence and his first winner was with Johnny Smith, trained by his father, at Gore in 1961.

Five years later the pair went into partnership with the duo training 33 winners together. Maurice Skinner ended up training 150 winners, including Balgrove Boy who gave his son Neville his first driving success in 1978.

He also drove 238 winners, with his last coming in 1998. The horse he rated the best was Fort Nelson, an Interdominion heat winner who was subsequently the first New Zealand pacer sold to United States for $100,000. He was also associated with Fab, who finished 12th at the 1973 and 74 New Zealand Cups, five-race winner King Suva, and Haughty Romeo.

Known as a jovial family man, Maurice is survived by his wife Val and three children (Judy, Neville and Shelley) and their families. Brother Henry Skinner died in 2011, aged 78.

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