Pete Cook - 37 years with the Trainers and Drivers' Association

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

A harness racing enthusiast through and through, Pete Cook has stepped down after a huge shift as secretary of the Trainers and Drivers' Association.

For nearly 40 years he was involved with the organisation, mainly running and documenting meetings as well as lobbying on behalf of the Association's members.

Now he's enjoying his retirement by helping out with a few horses and having the odd "small punt."

"I just felt it was time for a change," Cook says.

Cook's association with harness racing stems back to his days as a teenager.

After emigrating from England with his parents as a child, Cook went to Riccarton High School and was initially attracted to the gallops before a visit to Addington would have a telling and long-lasting effect.

"It was just better."

After leaving school, Cook had some stints working for trainers, and had other jobs including assembling metal racing sulkies. He was also employed at the now defunct Harness Horse Association in Christchurch.

"It folded due to politics and money - they just could not afford to keep going."

"But it got me a foot in the door."

Some time later he was asked if he'd be interested in being secretary of the Canterbury Trainers and Drivers Association.

He got the job and ended up doing it for 37 years.

"Primarily it was all about organising meetings and doing minutes."

Around the turn of the century the job morphed into being secretary of the Trainers and Drivers' National Council as well.

"That did increase the workload."

Over the years he's been involved in some prickly issues.

In the late 1980s there was a drivers' strike at Motukarara over stakes. It also coincided with the introduction of Sunday racing.

The Trainers and Drivers Association insisted the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club should be allowed to pay $5500 for maiden races if they wanted to. But the Harness Racing Conference was equally firm that the stakes should be $4000.

Some licence-holders decided they would boycott the meeting in protest.

"But the strike was a flop," says Cook," because all the junior drivers and everyone else decided they'd drive instead."

In more recent times whip use changes and integrity issues have also been major talking points.

"In some cases I found my enthusiasm for the job was waning so decided to move on."

Paul Black, whose experience in the sport includes being a trainer, driver, microchipper and TAB operator, has taken over from Cook.

Cook is still involved in the sport. He helps out his partner, trainer Sue Blake, though their numbers are much reduced these days.

In recent years Peter Cook also had a go in the sulky, winning two amateur drivers' races, both at Rangiora with Bettor Backim (2017) and Anna Barclay (2019). He got his amateur drivers' licence just weeks after turning 65. Ironically during his time at the Trainers and Drivers' Association many of those involved were opposed to amateur drivers competing in their own totalisator races.

By his own estimate Cook reckons he has had some ownership of around 50 horses over the years, with a total of 39 wins.

"Sue and I have had 14 wins just by ourselves," Cook says.

Among them Flamboyant has won eight from 168 (5 for them) while Kennedy is a four-race winner.

Cook may have moved on from his official roles but he still has a keen interest in the sport, and barely misses a race.

"Trackside is our default channel!"

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