Passing of Royce Cleal
Courtesy of Dan Moloney, Westport Trotting Club
The death occurred in early March, after a long illness, of D.R. (Royce) Cleal. Royce trained and drove many horses in a long career notching up many winners from a limited number of drives each season. His first win was with Star Raider at the Hokitika races in 1955. He trained Intercede (Smokey Hanover-Caprice) for Digger Hartigan and Peter Phibbs. She was the winner of four races before being sold to America. Black Pan (Jerry Adios -Garrison Lady ) won four races as did Braeburn (Brahman -Direct Approach.)
He had a great day at Methven in February 1979 when he reined in two winners. The first was behind Greymouth’s Len and Rosie Goodall trained Karleda Maid (Port Boxer-Viva Lady) who paid $34 for a win. In the next leg of the treble he drove the Westport Wonder, Canny Tina (Canny Scott-New Tina) to victory. She was trained at Westport by Paddy O’Toole and paid $31. Thurber’s Command won the last leg of the treble but there were no live tickets on him so the treble pool ($92,000) was shared by the two ticket holders on the second horse. One was Bob Dayne from Greymouth and the other was Royce’s brother-in-law, Max Walsh. Max and Royce headed to the Yearling sales with the winnings (well some of them) and purchased an H.T Luca –Sly Imp yearling filly they named Lady Luca. Royce trained and drove Lady Luca throughout her career for Max and wife Jeanette. She only had 32 starts for 3 wins, 7 seconds and three thirds. Lady Luca ran second in the 1982 Westport Cup to the well performed Ansett (her next start was in the NZ Breeders Cup in which she finished 5th to Bonnies Chance and Armalight.) The winning margin for Ansett was half a head with four lengths back to the third horse.
Royce drove many horses for local trainers and among the ones he reined home first were: Stoney Cold for K.J. Beveridge, Omanu and Neveles Own for FP Higgins, King Turk for T.A. Craddock, Rosewood Lady for C.R. Woodcock, and Ailsa Hanover for W.N Forsyth. With limited opportunities he was chosen as a reserve for the Drivers’ Championship in 1980. The other reserve drivers were Pat O’Reilly, Kevin Townley and Trevor Thomas so he was in pretty good company.
Royce drove well over seventy winners from limited opportunities with his final winner being at Nelson at the ripe old age of 69.
Today his nephew, Trevor Walsh carries on the family tradition training at Patterson Park and driving on race days.