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Eric Ropiha was a master horseman

Eric Ropiha (right) pictured in the early 1970s with (from left) Gerald Fell, Dannevirke racing identity Tom Beatson and Arthur Fell.
Eric Ropiha (right) pictured in the early 1970s with (from left) Gerald Fell, Dannevirke racing identity Tom Beatson and Arthur Fell.

New Zealand racing has lost a highly-respected, successful and decorated horseman with the recent passing of Eric Ropiha. He was 88.
Ropiha trained 716 winners during his career from 1948 to his retirement in 2001 and won the National Trainers' Premiership in 1959-60 with 43 winners.

He had a number of top-class gallopers through his hands, including the 1960 Caulfield Cup winner Ilumquh who was twice placed in the Melbourne Cup and Fans also finished third in the Flemington feature for him.

Ropiha's first major success came with the 1952 New Zealand Cup winner Conclusion and other feature race victories followed with Roman Consul (New Zealand Derby), Routine (NZ Oaks), Baraboo (Railway Handicap), Baloo (Canterbury Gold Cup-twice) and Judge (Grand National Hurdles).

Honoured with an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996, Ropiha also enjoyed a long and rewarding association with the Fell family's Fairdale Stud.

"Eric was at the top of his game in 1965 and we chose him to train Chapel Belle, a filly we retained from the first crop of Pakistan," Gerald Fell said.

"She became Pakistan's first winner and Eric trained more than 250 winners for us. He had Ajasco, who won the Stewards and the Railway Handicap, and he had her first foal Silver Liner who also won the Stewards and the Railway.

"Chapel Belle was the dam of Harp and Eric won the Hawke's Bay Cup with her and she was beaten a whisker in the Auckland Cup and he also had Tiptoe, who won the George Adams at Trentham when it was a Group One race.

"Eric was an absolute master at setting a horse for a race and having it peak on the day, a great conditioner with a great instinct about horses. He trained for some of the aristocracy of New Zealand racing - two Governor-Generals and Sir Woolf Fisher and people of the like.

"Eric was self-made and was a shy, but very proud person. He was a real gentleman, widely-respected and was always immaculately dressed, a fine fellow.

"After he retired from training in 2001 he became heavily involved in the show jumping world and again was well-respected and successful."
Ropiha is survived by his son Eric junior, also a trainer based at Toowoomba, and daughters Anne and Judy. – NZ Racing Desk.


- NZ Racing Desk