Vale Bryce Espin

Remembered as a man who "loved" harness racing, Bryce Espin has died in Cambridge.

A trainer and driver for more than half a century, the 90-year-old drove 15 and trained 33 winners between 1962 and 2019.

"For Dad harness racing was his love, his sport and his pleasure," says son David Espin, "he watched all the race meetings until pretty recently and just loved talking horses and racing."

Born at Ngaere just south of Stratford in the Taranaki, Espin was a dairy farmer and hobby horse trainer.

Coincidentally his first win as a trainer was with Fairbrook at Manawatu in 1962, with the horse being named after his Jersey breeding stud.

He sold the farm and semi-retired in his 40s so he could spend more time with the horses, moving to Cambridge in 1980.

His best year wins-wise was the four winners he trained in 1994 - three by Desaroha and one by Lights Out.

Their most successful performer was Pinerty, who was co-bred by both father and son. He won five from 68 starts between 1997 - 2001.

About the same time Espin senior had some health issues to contend with.

"In the early 2000s he had a quadruple by-pass," says David.

After getting the appropriate medical clearances he continued driving and training, even driving on his 80th birthday at Manawatu. Jimmy's Girl unfortunately finished down the track that day as did stablemate Struth Whata Party driven by Phil Fleming.

In 2013 at age 81 he drove his last race.

"He wasn't very happy about stopping the driving ... not happy at all."

Then six years later he handed in his trainers' licence as well. His last winner was Old Man Geez at Cambridge in 2013 while the last horse he trained was now four-race winner Lukyanova before she was transferred to Kyle Marshall.

In March this year his family sponsored the Happy 90th Birthday Bryce Espin Handicap Trot at Cambridge, taken out by the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett-trained Aeonian.

Over the years Bryce Espin also dabbled in racing administration, serving on the committee at the Hawera Harness Racing Club and others.

His funeral will be held on Wednesday, November 30.

Harness Racing New Zealand would like to pass on its condolences to the Espin family.


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