Star southerner's emotional connection with young Charlotte McLeod
by Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
Unbeaten southerner Tact McLeod has been one of the finds of 2023 so far. The four-year-old son of Sweet Lou has had two starts for two big wins, at Winton and Addington.
But it is not just about winning races for Winton trainer Trevor Proctor and partner Diane Dynes. It is about keeping alive the memory of a cherished member of their extended family, nine-year-old Charlotte McLeod, who died from cancer in 2021.
Charlotte's mother Hayley McLeod is Dynes' niece, with Dynes' sister Ellayne Kelly being Charlotte's grandmother.
"It's all about family as far as I'm concerned," says Proctor.
"Tact McLeod was named after Charlotte," says Dynes. There had already been a Tact Charlotte, who won two races in 2013 and 2014.
When Tact McLeod won his second start, very impressively, on February 10, the Proctor-Dynes-McLeod clan were all at Addington and in the post-race photo Charlotte's father Hamish was holding Charlotte's favourite teddy (pictured above).
"That's Bau Bau," says Proctor, "and it just chokes me up thinking about it."
Charlotte and her health battles were well known in racing circles and her death was widely felt. Particularly poignant was "uncle" John Morrison's tribute to her when winning at Addington just a week or so later.
Morrison flourished his whip as he crossed the finish line and then lifted up his helmet. Inside was a sticker with Charlotte's name on it. It was in her own handwriting.
The heartfelt gesture was voted "best moment" at last year's Harness Racing New Zealand annual awards.
The "Tact" prefix goes back to the 1940s. HRNZ records show that over the years there have been more than 100 horses with the "Tact" name. It all started with the late Derek Dynes and his cousin Jim Dynes. Derek was Diane's father.
Proctor started training on his own account only 15 years ago and his first winner came with Tact Aunty at Invercargill in January 2008. Tact Lizzie also won the same day, completing a memorable double.
"I knew I had to start good because I knew everyone would be watching."
Tact Aunty also happens to be the mother of gun pacer B D Joe.
Since then Proctor's bred, trained or raced a succession of good "Tact" horses like Tact Maggie, Tact Hayleys Delight, Tact Major, and Tact Fergie.
Many have raced in Australia and the USA with huge success, including 29-race winner Tact Tate.
With Tact McLeod (Sweet Lou - Tact Hayley Jane) Proctor has taken a very patient approach. Foaled in 2018 he only qualified in December last year.
'We just took him through the motions slowly and built him up."
"He's just a laidback character which works in his favour."
His next start is likely to be at Addington on Thursday, February 23 - a day after his half brother goes into the ring at the NZB Standardbred Yearling Sales in Christchurch (Lot 393).
A bay colt by Lather Up out of Tact Hayley Jane, he is one of two yearlings that Proctor and Dynes are hoping to sell. The other is a bay filly by Always B Miki out of Tact Eze (Lot 386).
At 71, Proctor is savouring the success of Tact McLeod for many reasons.
The memory of Charlotte McLeod is clearly one of them. Another is that he is, in his words, "weaning himself away from training".
While he will continue to breed a few foals he concedes he is scaling back.
"There's no one in our family to take over."
"He could be the last good horse I have."