Vale Jeff Crouth
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
After a harness racing career that spanned nearly 40 years, former Pukekohe-based trainer Jeff Crouth has died in Northland.
From 1977 to 2014, Crouth had 232 wins and accrued nearly $3m in stakes, before making a big lifestyle change.
"He retired to head up north and go fishing," says Trish, his wife of 53 years.
They settled in the Northland coastal community of One Tree Point.
Throughout his decades of training one of Crouth's main drivers was champion reinsman Maurice McKendry.
"Jeff was a character," McKendry chuckles, "he said what he thought."
Over the years they combined with many winners, and in some big money races as well.
"He was very good at getting the young ones up and going."
Case in point was the then International Classic Series Final for the two-year-olds at Alexandra Park in 1991. It was worth $375,000, with $227,000 going to the winner.
And it was Butler's First (pictured above), a top performer for Crouth, who came out on top, with McKendry in the bike.
"He won well that day too... and Butler's First went all the way to open class."
Butler's First won 13 races and $380,882, including the 1993 Group 3 Cambridge Classic when he beat none other than Chokin, who won the New Zealand Cup the same year.
McKendry was also driving in another big money race for Crouth in 1989 when Casino Lord won the $245,000 National Bloodstock International Classic for the two-year-olds at Alexandra Park. Casino Lord won seven races in all.
Driven by Peter Ferguson, Running On Faith was another class act for Crouth. She won the Group 1 Pascoes Northern Oaks and the 3YO Diamond at the Harness Jewels in Ashburton in the same year (2007).
Other top horses Crouth trained included Stormy Sirocco, who won 11 from 47, and Precious Lu (8 from 39).
Crouth's first winner was Jungle Maid in Wanganui in 1985, with his most wins in a season coming in 1995 (19 wins).
Crouth was also a committee member and former president of the Franklin Trotting Club.
"He was organised, and ran a good ship," says McKendry.
Jeff Crouth was 77. His funeral was held earlier this month.