Ray Norton : Obituary

New Zealand Cup-winning trainer-driver Ray Norton was farewelled in Auckland this week, after a near 50-year career in harness racing.

Between 1957 and 2006 he had 207 wins as trainer and 69 as a driver.

His biggest win came on November 7, 1967 when he trained and drove Great Adios, a horse raced by his mother Phyllis, to take out the New Zealand Cup, beating Happy Ending and Spry.

Great Adios veered out down the home straight at Addington and was close to the outside fence at the finish line, but still got home by five lengths.

His time of 4:10.4 was the third fastest in Cup history at the time.

Among those who spoke at Norton’s funeral this week was Robert Mitchell.

“He was a mentor and a very good friend.”

Their association stemmed back to the 1970s when Norton was training at Whenuapai. Mitchell started out by helping around the stables and their friendship only grew over the years.

“When he was a friend of yours he was a friend for life,” said Mitchell, “he was a very hard worker and he played hard.”

A devout Christian who “enjoyed a drink”, Norton was also the first private trainer for John Street’s Lincoln Farms until 2004 when Robert Mitchell and Ray Green took over. Together Mitchell and Green had 80 wins between 2004 and 2008.

“Ray (Norton) was a master trainer,” said Mitchell, “he worked them tough and he feed them well.”

As well as Great Adios winning 24 races between 1963 and 1969, other top performers included Sempre Veloce (7 wins from 55 starts), Versace (8-14) , Attorney General (20-27) and Brocketsbrae (10-38).

Attorney General was the joint fastest ever pacer bred in New Zealand (along with Allstar Blue Jeans) with a best mile rate of 1:48.4.

Norton also had success with trotters (McShane and Monsignor) but one in particular stands out - Mighty Hanover won the National Trot at Alexandra Park in 1969 in a then world record 2:53.8 (11 furlongs, 2200 metres).

Mighty Hanover had a reputation for lying down on the track and Norton had threatened to retire him before his record-breaking run. In all Mighty Hanover won 14 races from 93 starts.

“He was proud of Great Adios, breaking a world record with a 13-year-old trotter and also winning a steeplechase at Ellerslie with Jason Charles (in the early 1980s),” said Mitchell.

Raymond Phillip Norton was 90.

 

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