Pat O'Brien - Obituary

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk

Former Harness Racing New Zealand chairman and long-time trainer Pat O’Brien is being remembered as a “passionate” advocate for the sport.

O’Brien died in Blenheim over the weekend, aged 86.

“He was professional and genuine and passionate about harness racing, “ said former HRNZ Chief Executive Edward Rennell, who had a long association with O’Brien.

“He understood the industry at all levels, particularly grassroots. ”

In 2010 O’Brien received an award for his “outstanding contribution to harness racing”.

“He was a great guy with a great sense of humour,” said Rennell.

A big supporter of racing in the Central Districts, O’Brien trained 79 winners on his own account from 1971 to 2003, and then had 197 wins while training in partnership with his son Mike. Their best season was in 2006 when they had 26 winners, including Kay N Kayes, Ballroom Babe and Sandstorm.

Another of his top performers was Il Campione, who won nine from 46 before being sold to North America.

“It won a few country cups and we called it Blenheim Reactor just to wind Pat up,” said Rennell.

In 2009 the father and son combo trained the trifecta at Manawatu, with Clinton’s Maid, Rolias and Glengarry Sunrise finishing first, second and third.

An accountant, O’Brien was involved in exporting horses to the US in the 1970s.

“He forged a business relationship with Charlie Hunter and Brian Meale,” said Rennell.

As an administrator O’Brien was on the board of Harness Racing New Zealand from 1997 to 2011, the last three years as chairman.

“He is a genuine loss to the industry.”

A Celebration of Pat's life will be held at the Springlands Chapel, Cloudy Bay Funeral Services, 15 Boyce Street, Blenheim, on Thursday, January 28 at 1.30pm, followed by private cremation.

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