Industry identity Tony Ryan has passed away at the age of 83 after a long illness.
Tony grew up in Lower Hutt and spent many a day at the Trentham racecourse where his love of thoroughbreds developed into a life-long passion.
He purchased his first horse in the early 1970s after his father died and the estate managed to sell each of his horses bar one, which Tony and his first wife Mary Lynne purchased.
That horse was Go For Broke, who would go on to be his most successful, with daughter Benedict Ryan recalling her with fondness and said that purchase led to Tony and Mary Lynne acquiring a small farm for their growing equine portfolio.
“Go For Broke was always great for a quinella,” Benedict said. “If she didn’t run first, she was always second.
“In about 1974/75 they bought 10 acres in Whitemans Valley, over the hill from Trentham.
“They started breeding horses from there before moving up to the Waikato in 1978. He was appointed as a judge in the family court but the Waikato was also the obvious place for him to move to because it would save him thousands of dollars on float fees sending the mares to stud every year.
“He and mum loved breeding horses and met a lot of people through that interest.”
Tony and Mary Lynne were members of the Wellington branch of the NZTBA before their move to the Waikato when they then became heavily involved in the administration of that division of the association.
They were instrumental in developing the Waikato Group One Awards with Nelson Schick and David Benjamin, and Tony was always supportive of his wife’s interest in the education of young people in the industry.
Tony spent a stint in Samoa as chief justice before returning to New Zealand where he was an integral part of setting up the Judicial Control Authority for racing. He was also a trustee on the Travis Trust.
Tony was an avid racegoer, especially when it came to the Wellington and Melbourne Cups where he was well known for his ‘boot parties’.
“It all began with the Wellington Cup. Trentham was when it all started but he must have gone to at least 37 Melbourne Cups,” Benedict said. “He had an obsession with the Melbourne Cup and he loved a party after the races.”
NZTBA president John Thompson is another that holds fond memories of a trip to the Melbourne Cup with Tony, having met him while working at Cambridge Stud with his son James.
“I was working at Cambridge Stud and he lived around the corner at Tamahere,” Thompson said. “At the time, his son James was working at Cambridge Stud so I used to go around there for dinner and he and Mary Lynne were always generous people.
“They always made you feel very welcome. Tony had a gruff exterior, probably from being a judge, but when you got to know him he was different. He was never scared to give you some free advice.”
Fellow racing enthusiast John Clapham knew Tony both in a professional and personal sense, sharing a career in law, and a love of breeding, racing and a round of golf.
“Tony was involved in racing for many years,” he said. “I remember his horses Go For Broke and Steve Austin, who never lived up to his name as million dollar man.
“When he ran the Judicial Control Association, he ran it very competently and involved a lot of people to fine-tune it.
“We bred horses together and travelled regularly to the Melbourne Cup.
“Susie, his second wife, has looked after him for many years while he was unwell and supported his interests in racing.
“He was a good, reliable guy, a good friend and it is sad that he is gone. He formed a rigid point of view and was then unshakable. I guess you’re never wrong in that case.”
Tony is survived by his wife Susie, four children Benedict, James, Lucy and Charles, and his grandchildren. - NZTBA