Obituaries - Pilcher and Steele

Neil Pilcher


Courtesy of the All Stars site

Neil, who has been in indifferent health for some time, suffered severe back pain late in the week and was removed to hospital on Thursday. The family, including his wife, Rose  were summoned on Friday evening and he passed some hours later. His last harness racing runner, Mach Up, had been a winner for Mark at Addington a few hours before.  He was 80.

Neil has been closely associated with Mark's training career from the start of it.

"We had been family friends for years. Neil was in Kumeu earlier and transported the horses down south for Roy and Barry and was then in Christchurch so the association continued when I moved south" Mark said.

Neil played a key role in that stage of Mark's career as a backer, advisor and "volunteer" stable hand. In more recent times he was the man finessing the track before fast work at Rolleston and master of the kitchen for staff breaks. But he did a lot more than that. Much more.

He raced any number of successful horses, most notably the $2.5m winner Smolda and his contemporary Fly Like an Eagle as well as outstanding horses like Waikiki Beach (19 wins), Major Mark (12 NZ wins)  Follow the Stars (16 wins), Classic Cullen (16 wins) Border Control (18 wins)  Ohoka Dallas and  Russley Rascal) to name a few. 

But he remembered with affection lesser winners of earlier days in the north of which he told many stories. And his winning tally could have been much higher but for the fact that Neil just loved "the deal" and was always prepared to sell horses for export before they reached their potential. He preferred to race with one or more partners than solo ownership though he did both.

"You always leave something in the horse for the next owner. I have always followed that and if you do it they will come back for more" he used to say and a lifetime of experience in doing deals meant he was a man to listen to.

"He was just a really good bloke and of great support to me in so many ways" Mark said.

"Roy and Barry had a horse for him, I think Speedy Demo who  started his racing association with our stable. He was a good friend of Peter Wolfenden in those days and Peter Young trained for him as well. He was a regular at the Kumeu track which is where we got to know him well"

"Like everyone else you always expected him to bounce back from a bout of bad health. He had done it so many times"

"It is a sad day for those of us who knew him but you are reassured by the knowledge that Pilch had done so many things in his life that he would have gone having no regrets"

Although Neil realised he was nearing the end of his life it never affected his spirit. He went to the Yearling Sales and spent $120,000 on one lot {"He was one of our owners we couldn't put a limit on!" Mark says) and more recently has invested in several new ventures including the trotter Musculus just two weeks ago in anticipation of another Harness Jewels runner. He had hoped to be at Addington Friday where he had three runners engaged and then head north for Cambridge.

It is a great sadness for Neil Pilcher's family and many friends as well as a host of associates that this time he will not be there.

An interview with Dave McCarthy on Trackside Radio regarding Pilcher can be heard here 


Colin Steele

Collie Portrait

Colin Steele sadly passed away on Saturday 19 May.

Steele was a dedicated member of the Addington Racing Department team for 23 years.

His work family, who affectionately referred to him as “Colli”, said “He was such a caring person who gave so much of his time to support others.”

“Over the 23 years he worked with us, he found a place in all of our hearts.  Colli's smile, facial expressions and sense of humour were infectious.   We are going to miss you Colli (and your chocolate fish bucket).  You were such a dear treasured friend who will live on in our memories forever.”   

Steele’s funeral will be held at the Christian Cullen Lounge, Addington Raceway on Tuesday 22 May at 2pm.

The Harness Racing New Zealand team that worked with Steele during his time in the industry would also like to pass on our sincere condolences.


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