LEADING ADMINISTRATOR AND BREEDER
During the 2005 series held in Auckland, Tony Abell received the
Ern Manea Inter Dominion Gold Medal for his service and contributions
over a long period of time to the championship. Following Dewar
Robertshaw and Jack Phillips, he became the third New Zealander
That same year, Tony Abell was a thoroughly-deserving recipient
of the New Zealand Order of Merit, bestowed on him in Queen's Birthday
For more than half a century actively involved in harness racing
- most of that time giving dedicated service to the sport he has
loved - Tony Abell must rank high amongst the harness code's top
administrators of all time.
Advancing in the sport from the ground up, Abell, originally a chicken
farmer at Yaldhurst, near Christchurch, first registered his North
Canterbury farming company – Kotare Downs Ltd. - in 1954. He and
wife Gay bought their first horse, a broodmare, in 1967. That marked
the genesis of what became Kotare Downs Stud, formed in 1969 after
the purchase of 40 hectares at Fernside (33 kilometres from Christchurch).
There, over the years that followed, they stood several stallions,
including Brad Hanover, Bay Foyle, Dominion Hanover, Estes Minbar
and Kotare Legend.
Their first “quality” racehorse was Kotare Scott, who after finishing
second in the NZ Derby of his year was sold to America. In all,
the Abells bred more than 100 winners, headed by Kotare Legend.
This son of Fallacy and Australian-bred mare Silver Halo (whose
outstanding half-brother Don't Retreat finished third in the 1976
Inter Dominion Grand Final in Adelaide) was champion 3-year-old
of his year (1973-74), when his nine wins took him to open class.
Runner-up to Robalan in the 1974 New Zealand Cup, he was an Inter
Dominion Grand Finalist – albeit unplaced – in Auckland in 1975,
then became a successful sire.
Other good horses bred by the Abells included Kotare Knight (a Ballarat Cup and Inter Dominion heat winner and later a successful sire in Australia, where his credits include Tasmanian standout Halyer). There was also Kotare Topaz (Victorian Silver Chalice winner) and Kotare Testament, the latter catching Mark Purdon's interest after showing exceptional promise.
It is common knowledge within the harness racing fraternity of New
Zealand that the flourishing NZ Standardbred Breeders' Association
might never have got off the ground but for the foresight, initiative
and energy shown in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Abell and
his close associate Peter Binnie, also of Canterbury. In the face
of some stern opposition from die-hards who resisted their efforts
to establish an appropriate body to govern the blossoming breeding
industry around those years, Abell and Binnie eventually won the
Abell's close links with the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club were
begun almost 40 years ago. In the first half of that time he served
diligently as a steward and committeeman, while he subsequently
became vice-president for five years, then, from 1994, president
for five years.
Serving as “the Met's” representative on the NZ Sires Stakes Board
(of which he was chairman from 1984 to 1993) he brought a wealth
of experience to that organisation, which appreciatively recognised
and worked with all that he had to offer.
For good measure, he contributed extensively and valuably to the
Canterbury Owners and Trainers' Association, of which he is the
esteemed patron. He received the Needham Heatley Merit Award for
services to harness racing, and he is a past chairman of Rangiora
His worth was recognised at top level when, after being appointed
the New Zealand delegate to the Inter Dominion Council in 1995,
and serving as its Treasurer to 1997, he was elected vice-president,
and was then its president from 2000 to 2005.
In 2005 Queen's Birthday honours he was bestowed with the coveted National Award for Harness Racing Contribution Excellence, and was inducted into the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club's Hall of Fame in 2011.
Among Tony Abell's many and varied accomplishments, his proposal
of the registration of stud prefixes was accepted and registered
by the NZ Harness Racing Conference.
Following a visit to the USA, he lobbied successfully for the registration
and training in New Zealand of artificial insemination technicians.
In association with Mr John May (then promotions manager of the
Auckland Trotting Club) he co-authored the initial conditions for
a group racing structure in New Zealand, which was later adopted,
almost without amendment, by various Australian States. He wrote
the conditions for the first NZ Sires Stakes Series, using the New
York Sires Stakes constitution as a model, and was similarly responsible
for the conditions of the 3-year-old Fillies' Series. Using the
successful fillies format as a base, he proposed the re-formation
of the Triple Crown Series, which was adopted.
During Abell's involvement in the Inter Dominion Council, several
notable innovations and changes took place. The clubs running the
Inter Dominions were given much greater flexibility in programming
and were encouraged to introduce new ideas. Most importantly, he
was a key figure in the negotiations which resulted in all the clubs
involved in the Inter Dominions signing up for a funding agreement
to ensure the long-term stake-money for the pacing and trotting
championships would be maintained at the highest possible level.
In contrast to their parents, Tony and Gay’s two children have established
their horizons beyond the standardbred industry. Daughter Marcia
is a home education practitioner (in Wellington), and son Rhodes
has business interests in South Africa. Both have three children,
who give grandparents Tony and Gay many happy moments to share.