Murray Edmonds - one of the genuine ‘nice guys’ of the game

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress

There were no surprises when the support for Murray Edmonds’ recent fundraising night at Addington proved quite overwhelming.

Edmonds was one of the genuine ‘nice guys’ of the game who would pretty much do anything for anybody and one never heard a bad word about him.

The overall support extended to Murray and wife Kelly was also overwhelming during his brief illness with a brain tumour.

Murray passed away on Tuesday at the age of 62 – it was only about 10 weeks ago that out of the blue he collapsed while feeding out and was rushed to hospital.

The initial diagnosis was encouraging but the tumour proved inoperable and Edmonds lost the use of his left arm and leg, which was shattering for a man who liked to keep active and loved working his horses.

Edmonds had trained next to the Motukarara racecourse for 38 years and had the last of 377 wins when Get Back scored at Addington in late August.

Watching Our Coin and Gerard O’Reilly had briefly looked like giving Edmonds a fairytale ending by winning at Addington a fortnight ago on his fundraising night, which was sold out in a matter of hours.

The large crowd on hand for the event erupted when Watching Our Coin hit the front at the 100m mark, but he was nabbed right on the line by Rakanotta and Carter Dalgety, beaten just a half head.

Edmonds usually drove his own team and had 345 wins in that respect, the last with Watching Our Coin at Addington in February.

He was driving right up until the time of his surprise and fatal illness.

Watching Our Coin pretty much summed up Edmonds’ attitude to training for his owners.

He was acutely aware of the costs involved in racing horses and did his utmost to keep them to a minimum, often doing stuff for people without charging them.

He avoided calling vets whenever possible although Kelly used to be a vet nurse for Bob McKay in Riccarton and between them they could usually manage most issues.

“That was probably to his detriment to some extent, but it summed up how much he cared about people,” said younger brother Craig.

“He was very loyal to his owners and his owners were very loyal to him.

“Guys that worked for him along the way like Michael Howard, Darren Simpson, Todd Macfarlane and Brent White, they became like family.

“Brent actually lived on the property for quite a while.”

Howard and his father Graham were among those to help with the team when Edmonds was sidelined.

Ray McNally also helped out stable employee Brett Gillan in those remaining months and many others contributed in other ways.

“Jimmy Curtin would also come and help with fast work along with Tim Williams when he could.”

The Edmonds family grew up in Lower Hutt and Craig can recall being introduced to trainers at nearby Hutt Park by an Irishman called Wesley ‘Paddy’ Armstrong when they were about 9-10.

“I wound up helping out Bill Marwick and Murray worked by Brian Hunter, a cousin of Ian Hunter and I think Charlie.

“Trainers would also come up from Canterbury and Murray wound up working for Colin Berkett in his school holidays.

“He moved to Canterbury when he was 18 and Colin also had Mike DeFilippi working for him in those days.

“When Mike went out of his own, he asked Murray to work for him.”

Edmonds married when he was 24 and bought the Motukarara property shortly after from Alex Purdon.

His first training win was with Idle Thoughts, who Murray drove to win a double at the Marlborough meeting in February, 1986.

Edmonds had already driven several winners at that point including 15 as a junior driver, the first with the Mike DeFilippi-trained Abel Royal at Methven in September, 1979, or 43 years ago.

Abel Royal was raced by Edmonds’ mother Gloria so he was no doubt doing much of the work with him.

Edmonds had his first big win when Anvil Lad won the Group 2 Forbury Park 4yo Pacing Championship in February, 1992, with DeFilippi driving.

Anvil Lad had been purchased by Graham Beirne after qualifying for Edmonds and was Beirne’s first horse.

He won nine races with Edmonds driving him in the other eight, with the last of them at Addington when he beat Blossom Lady.

Edmonds took Anvil Lad to the Inter Dominions at Albion Park in April, 1993, but failed to qualify for the final won by Jack Morris.

Edmonds trained and drove the filly Breton Abbe to win the Hambletonian Classic a few weeks after that Forbury Park feature and a few months later, they won the Group 2 Rosso Antico Trotting Stakes in Auckland.

The Rosso Antico became the Group 1 Great Northern Trotting Derby in 2002.

Edmonds won 18 races that season and 22 the following year, while he achieved a career high 24 training wins in 2000 and had 23 in 2008.

It was in the winter of 1999 that Edmonds won the Sales Series race for two-year-old trotters with Flip Flop in Auckland, while Sun Del (2nd in Trotting Stakes, Sires Stakes & Sales race at two) and New Year Whiz (2nd NZ Trotting Derby) were other top young trotters in the stable around that time.

Edmonds was going to win the Sales race for two-year-old trotters at Addington in 2006, but Ronnie Coute galloped after hitting the front less than 100m from the finish.

The Sundon gelding redeemed himself 10 months later by winning the three-year-old Sales race however.

Around this time, Edmonds had his best performer in Running On Time, like Ronnie Coute another Sundon gelding which had been bought at the yearling sales by Eric ‘Cookie’ Inward of Nelson.

Running On Time was beaten by Sovereignty in the Sires Stakes and the Great Northern Derby in 2008 and the following year he finished third in the Group 1 NZ Trotting FFA on Cup Day, beaten half a length by Speculate.

Running On Time won 10 races and $138,000, while a short time later Edmonds trained a good Muscle Mass trotting filly for Inwood in K D Muscles.

She was second in the Sales race at three at Addington to Thebestlove and was also runner-up in the Trotting Oaks to Majestic Time before a sale to Australia, where she won nine races in nine months in Victoria and finished second in the Group 1 Knight Pistol to Sunny Ruby.

Not long after, Edmonds trained a son of Muscle Mass in Heavyweight Hero as a two-year-old for Inwood.

Edmonds drove him to finish second in the Sales race and third in the Sires Stakes at Addington to Enghien.

But following the passing of Inwood, the family wanted the horses gone, so Edmonds arranged his sale to Todd Macfarlane, and in his first race for him, Heavyweight Hero was beaten a head at the Jewels in Cambridge by Custodian.

Edmonds’ name had become synonymous with trotters over the years and 215 or almost two-thirds of his training wins were with them.

Anvil Lad was easily the best of his pacers while he trained another good one for Beirne in Anvil James before his sale to Western Australia.

One of Edmonds’ last pacing winners in Teds Legacy is being raced by another one of his loyal owners in Ian Sunckell, a son of Ted who also had horses with Edmonds.

Teds Legacy and Get Back were Edmonds’ last starters in the same race at Addington last Friday night.

Edmonds’ oldest son Scott used to be the track manager at Motukarara and helped out Murray at the stables from time to time.

He now owns a couple of gyms and has a landscaping business, while Edmonds’ daughter Lisa is a beautician and runs her business out of one of those gyms in Lincoln.

The Edmonds family will be having a private cremation. – by Frank Marrion

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