Trainer Barbara Blackie, who is widely recognised as the oldest active racehorse trainer in the world, reached a massive milestone at the weekend, celebrating a century of birthdays with family and friends.
“We had the most wonderful celebration for her,” New Zealander Blackie’s daughter, Angie Brott, said. “So many people called in to see her and there were wonderful floral tributes from the racing people from Wellington [New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing] and the Canterbury Jockey Club.
“We have been so overwhelmed as a family with the love that has been shown to Mum. She had the most wonderful day and enjoyed herself immensely.”
Blackie was a noted rider, having competed in dressage and eventing before taking out her trainer’s license later in life. “We do believe that Mum would be the oldest racehorse trainer in the world and it’s such a thrill for her,” Brott said.
“I think she started training in her late 50s. Before that she was heavily involved with horses, she was a top dressage judge and she was into eventing.
Plan to ride on her birthday
“She was a very good rider herself, in fact Ray Burgess, who used to be the racecourse manager at Riccarton racecourse many years ago, was quoted as saying that she was the best female rider in Canterbury in her day.
“My mother and her sister were allowed to school their hunt horses over the jumps at Riccarton and she was the very first woman ever to jump them.”
Blackie continued riding well past retirement age and had planned on getting in the saddle once again to mark her 100th birthday, however, an unfortunate fall a few months ago halted those plans.
“She stopped riding when she was about 84,” Brott said. “When she was 92 she jumped up on my daughter’s horse and just had a bit of a ride around.
“She said to me that she would have liked to get on a horse for her 100th birthday, but she broke a vertebrae in her back a couple of months ago when she had a fall and it wasn’t conceivable to try and get her on a horse.”
Blackie’s entry into the trainers ranks came about by chance when a friend requested her assistance in finding a suitable trainer for his horse. “She went to Jimmy Tomkinson and asked him who he would recommend. Jimmy said to her ‘why don’t you do it yourself?’
“So she decided that she would. She loved it and she has loved the racing game ever since.”
Blackie has experienced a number of highlights in her training career, but Brott highlighted Ayrgo as her mother’s best horse. “Probably training Ayrgo to win the Winter Classic (listed, 2000m) and he won ten races for her, and four of those were in a row at Riccarton, which was very special for her,” she said.
“She has had success with other horses. She would say herself that every horse she has trained has been a joy to own and train. She is a real horse person. Her whole life has been horses.”
Blackie will be hoping to receive a late birthday present at Ashburton tomorrow (Tuesday) when Diplomat, her only horse in work, competes in The Brydone Hotel (1400m).
“She only has one in work. One at 100 is plenty,” Brott said. “Mum trained his mother, who was called Diplomacy, and she won four races. Mum is confident that Diplomat will come into his own and probably just needs a bit more maturity. He has got the ability, but he needs to learn how to race a bit more. She said to me yesterday ‘I’m not giving up until Diplomat wins a race’.
“He will do his best and so will Terry [Moseley, jockey], what will be will be. He has drawn the widest gate  of the field for the third time in a row, so that may be against him at Ashburton.”
Brott said Moseley has come to mean a lot to Blackie’s family, as too has Riccarton trainer Karen Peters, who has assisted Blackie immensely in recent times. “She [Peters] has been amazing,” Brott said. “She and Terry Moseley are just superb. We consider them a part of our family. They have both looked after Mum amazingly.
“Before every race they come and discuss what they are going to do. Terry comes to see Mum regularly, before and after each race. Terry is like a second son to my mother. He has been so loyal to her and so good riding all her horses for all these years.
“Karen has been helping Mum out with all her horses and since Christmas. Karen has really done all the work.”
In that time Blackie has been recovering from a broken vertebrae in her back, and Brott said a number of parties have been very accommodating and Blackie is looking positively to the future.
“We are very indebted, as a family, to the Canterbury Jockey Club and New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing because they have understood that it is important that Mum is allowed to keep training even though she can’t be at the racecourse as often as she wants to be,” Brott said.
“She tries to get around there occasionally, but since she broke her back it has been very difficult. I did take her out to watch a trial the other day, but it was a bit much for her.
“She is not at all well really, but she says to people after the winter is over she will be back. She is still looking ahead very positively and she has renewed her license for another year.”
While Blackie will be unable to be on course at Ashburton on Tueday, she will be tuning in to cheer home her gelding. “She won’t be on course, but we will all be glued to the TV,” Brott said.