(By John Jenkins)
Dick Bothwell, one of the true gentlemen of New Zealand thoroughbred racing, died yesterday aged 72.
Bothwell, who always had a beaming smile and loved to socialise with his peers, trained from his Stratford base for more than 40 years before handing the reins over to his son Chris in August 2017.
He was one of the most respected trainers during the 1980s and 1990s when he achieved an amazing winning strike-rate with a small team. He prepared some special horses in his time but rated two above all others, the outstanding filly Summer Haze and Silver Chalice.
Summer Haze raced in the early 1980s and had 40 starts for 13 wins, nine seconds and five thirds and amassed more than $136,000, which was a respectable sum in those days. She won the 1980 Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) as well as the Wellington Stakes (1600m) and Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes the following year and finished second behind Glamour Bay in the 1981 Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).
Silver Chalice had 47 starts for eight wins, 10 seconds and six thirds and amassed more than $400,000 in stakes. She had five starts as a two-year-old for two wins, a second, a third and a fifth but then seemed to get even better with age. She took out the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham in January 1995 and then went on to win the Group 3 Kings Plate (1600m) at Ellerslie, Group 3 Trentham Stakes (2400m) at Trentham and Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) in 1996.
“I’d have loved to have taken Summer Haze to Australia for some of the two-year-old races because I think she would have been really competitive,” Bothwell once said.
“She showed blistering speed as a two-year-old and then almost won a New Zealand Oaks as a three-year-old. What a horse she was and Silver Chalice was just a very talented horse,” enthused the trainer.
Dick Bothwell seemed to have an affinity with fillies as two other top performers he trained were Love To Dance and Moralee. Both horses were part-owned by Auckland-based Leigh McKenzie, who said today Dick Bothwell was not only a great trainer but also a personal friend who was respected by everyone in the racing industry.
“I knew him for a long time and never heard a bad word said about him,” McKenzie said.
Love To Dance recorded three wins and two seconds from only 10 New Zealand starts before she was transferred to Australia. She took out both the Group 3 Wakefield Stakes (1200m) at Trentham and Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) in 1996.
Moralee’s four wins included the Group 2 Sir Tristram Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa and the Group 3 Wellington Stakes (1600m).
Bothwell trained in partnership with his son Chris for a number of years and produced another good mare in Dancing Jess to win seven races including the Group 3 Taranaki Breeders Stakes (1400m) and Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m). The daughter of Danske was also runner-up in both the Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) and Group 2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa.
When asked about his disappointments in the game Bothwell cited the tragic ending of the very talented Partee as one, the mare having to be put down after breaking down in a race.
Partee also won seven races from only 18 starts, with her biggest victories being in the Listed Matamata Cup (1600m) and the St Leger Trial (2100m) at Otaki. She also finished a close third, beaten a head and a neck, in the 2005 running of the Group 2 Waikato Cup (2400m).
“She could have been anything and had really untapped ability,” said Dick “She was a very talented stayer in the making.
Dick Bothwell also had a very distinguished career working on studs in his early days, employed first at Middle Park and then Waikato Stud.
“I had the pleasure of being involved with some great stallions like Decies (sire of the mighty Dulcify) and Battle Wagon and they were both very good stallions,” he said.
Dick Bothwell also liked to point out that he was the trainer of the first winner under lights in Australasia at Avondale many years ago, something a lot of people didn’t know.
Bothwell rated Greg Childs as the best jockey he had a seen in his time as a trainer, a very talented rider who rose to the top of the jockey ranks in Australia and went on to become the regular rider of champion mare Sunline.
Dick Bothwell’s last runner when training in partnership with his son Chris was Gordy’s Gesture who finished a very unlucky fifth over 1800m at New Plymouth in July 2017.
Dick Bothwell is survived by his wife Jilly, his three children Chris, Richard and Dale and two grandchildren.