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Tom Burn accepts Life Membership at AGM

Every time Tom Burn watches a young horse handler make an impact in New Zealand after winning a scholarship to the English and Irish National Studs he feels immensely proud.

Latest NZTBA Life Member,
Tom Burn

Burn was this week made a life member of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, a fitting reward after nearly 30 years of service to the organisation.

He achieved a great deal for the NZTBA, both as president of the Wellington branch and as a member of the national council, but he regards the Wellington branch's launching of the scholarships to Ireland and Britain in the late 1980s as his greatest achievement.

"We were looking at ways of giving young horse people opportunities to improve their skills overseas and we came up with using stallion tenders as a way of perhaps providing some scholarships," Burn recalled.

"The breeders embraced it, we made inquiries to the national studs in Britain and Ireland, and the scheme went from there."

Since then, about 35 young horse men and women have won scholarships after satisfying a panel that they deserved it. And though it was a Wellington branch initiative, Burn is also proud that people from all over the country have won scholarships.

"I think the first two that won scholarships were Russell Rogers, who's done such a great job at Rodmor Stud, and Grant Hunt, who has been a valuable stallion manager at a number of top studs," Burn said.

"The quality has been very good since then as well. I'm proud of all of them."
Burn, 57, grew up in the King Country without a family horse background but was keen on racing horses from a young age. He moved to Wellington in his 20s to be a professional firefighter, and while there followed his passion with thoroughbreds into owning and eventually breeding.

Eventually Burn joined the NZTBA, and by 1979 he became a committee member of the Wellington branch.

"If you go to an AGM and you've got the slightest inclination you often end up on a committee, and that's what I did," Burn said.

"Ted Howarth (a former NZTBA council president) took me under his wing and guided me along and things went from there."

Burn became vice-president of the Wellington branch in 1985 and president the following year, a position he would hold until 2006. He was also a member of the national council from 1997 to 2004.

Burn bred horses for more than 30 years, but it is as an owner that he had his greatest moments in racing. He and his friends Ron Rosenberg, Graeme Mander and

Alan Fraser were fortunate enough to spend $7000 to buy a young Maizcay colt who became one of the fastest horses ever to race in New Zealand.
Racing against one of the finest crops of young horses in Australian history, Our Maizcay would go close to winning a Golden Slipper before a dazzling spring three-year-old campaign saw him beat the best sprinter-milers in Sydney and Melbourne. Among those in his wake were Octagonal, Flying Spur, Gold Ace, Strategic, All Our Mob and Catalan Opening.

"A lot of people go a lifetime without racing a good horse and I had the privilege to have one like him," Burn said.

"But I feel just as privileged to have raced a number of others. Kaapeon won a number of races for us, Sir Howard was a group winner who we sold to the United States, and Our Fuji won nine."

Burn says he's pleased with his time as a breeder, which has now largely ended, and says he hopes his successors on NZTBA councils and branch committees continue to campaign strongly.

"We were often accused as an organisation of having too much to say or too big an opinion on domestic racing," he said.

"But 82 percent of our members are current racehorse owners as well as breeders, and without breeders there aren't any horses to race."

- Alastair Bull


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