Sam Ballantyne - Obituary

After nearly 50 years’ involvement in the harness racing industry in this country Sam Ballantyne has died in Christchurch, aged 74.

A studmaster, trainer and driver Ballantyne was born in Scotland where he bred horses, just as his father had done.

He also raced horses regularly throughout the UK at venues such as Prestatyn in Wales and it was during this time he crossed paths with now prominent Auckland trainer Ray Green (of Copy That fame).

They would become mates.

“The UK scene then was like a league of nations. I’d bump into Sam twice a week and I’d drive horses he bred and then sold on, he was right up there with the best.”

“He was associated with a lot of Derby winners – he was a top breeder and he sold a lot.”

In the 1970s he made the decision to go to New Zealand. According to Green he was “looking for some adventure in his life.”

After settling in Christchurch he married into one of the country’s most prominent harness racing families. His wife Judy was the daughter of Freeman and Peggy Holmes, of Noodlum fame. He also set up his stud operation, Eastwood Lodge.

“He was a top stockman," says retired bloodstock agent Bruce Barlass, who worked at the Lodge for five years (1978-83).

“His care for the horses, especially broodmares and foals was paramount”

Among the other people he employed were now top American-based trainer Mark Harder, Grant Payne and the late Dennis Smolenski.

“In the biggest years 250 mares would be served there, to the two stallions Plat Du Jour and Nardins Byrd,” said Barlass. Other stallions there over the years included Australian champion pacer Preux Chevalier.

Gee du Jour (Plat du Jour – Geena) won the 1991 Rowe Cup while Folie Bergere,a Plat du Jour – Del Parole filly, trained by Ballantyne, finished third to the colts in the first ever Sires Stakes final in 1984.

After starting out in the mid 1970s, Ballanytne trained the last of his 73 winners (Amenophis) at Addington on January 2011.

As a driver he had 35 wins with Graikos arguably his best horse (8 wins – 17 starts).

Among his stand out performances was a second to Lord Module in the Group 1 Pan Am Mile in 1979.

“He was very professional,” says Green , “and his horses were always immaculate.”

“He would fit in with anyone, he was likeable and agreeable.”

Sam Ballantyne’s funeral will be held at Westpark Chapel, Burnside on Saturday, Dec 5 at 2pm.

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