Here Comes The Judge

Avondale JC has been well-served by BRAD SMITH, well known racing identity, as the club’s Judge. Brad first provided services at Avondale in August 2018 and continues to do so.

In this post we profile for members the life and times of Brad Smith and record the Committee’s thanks for his all-round contribution to the club.


Brad always had a strong interest in racing and got into judging while on the committee of the Matamata Racing Club (MRC). “I served on MRC for about 18 years and during that time I was timekeeper at Trial meetings at Matamata alongside the late, great Jim Lambert and his successor as Waikato judge, the late Dave Carter. I judged a few Trial heats with Dave and Jim and after Dave’s passing the opportunity came up to assume the Judge’s role at some clubs, sharing Northern duties with Tom Thomson and John Craig” said Brad.

Brad is contracted to Avondale, Matamata and Taupo, judges Trial days at Te Aroha and shares duties with Tom Thomson at the Cambridge Greyhounds. His career was in banking where he worked around the Northland, Waikato and Auckland areas. On leaving the BNZ, in Matamata, after 23 years’ service he worked in the breeding industry at Wedgewood Stud (Rob Lithgow) for some years. Since 2000 Brad has been involved with the TAB in Matamata latterly on a part-time basis. Brad has experience as a racehorse owner: “I would recommend racing a horse to anyone and if you get a good one – nothing compares. It is not practicable for a Judge to race horses but before I started judging I was fortunate enough to be in the syndicate that raced the very good mare Everswindell, a multiple Gr 1 placed mare and winner of the 2007 New Zealand Cup. A little mare called Chatterbox (won 6 races) was also raced by our syndicate. That was a very enjoyable couple of years involving, among others, multiple trips to the Riccarton and Trentham Cup carnivals” said Brad.

Brad Smith has many great racing memories. “My early memories include being at Kensington Park when Kiewa won for Kim Clotworthy (possibly his first winner), seeing Nausori beat Il Tempo in a hack mile on Franklin Cup day at Pukekohe and having Gus Gillespie say the word was that Il Tempo was going to be a pretty good horse. Seeing Uncle Remus during his unbeaten 3 year old run and a couple of times before that including his first raceday at Ruakaka and the crowds he attracted, and the day he returned to the track, at Avondale, subsequent to an operation. Another is being at Ellerslie when Balmerino won the Derby, and the inaugural Air New Zealand Stakes won by Balmerino beating Tudor Light and Battle Eve. Not to forget the Lester Piggot day with his four Ellerslie winners.”

“On the junior rugby fields in Dargaville I chased Eddie Dunn around for a couple of years and realised I was not going to be an All Black, so my next goal was to be 12 years old so I could get into the Lawn Enclosure at Ellerslie (age restrictions applied then) and accompany my parents on their annual trip to the Great Northern. The first I saw was won by Royal Polo, then Falada the following year, and so on.”

Commenting on thoroughbred racing’s positioning in New Zealand society, Brad Smith noted that “race meetings at the likes of Gisborne, Wairoa, Dargaville, Cromwell or Omakau were always a local highlight (and you could possibly syndicate a horse there among the locals if you wanted to) – without them interest is lost among that part of the population. The rural areas of the country provide a base that develops horse people of the future and the CEOs and the like may not have their jobs in the industry without that part of society being involved.”

“There have been lots of changes in all aspects of the industry (breeding, racing and betting) over the past 40 years, from Trentham to Karaka, the development of race sponsorship to where it is now essential to clubs. Karaka Millions Day is a highlight for the breeders and some of the TAB front people, and New Zealand Bloodstock, as it should be as part of the front window for our large export business.  I think, though, that the heart of the racing industry is in the likes of New Zealand Cup Day, Breeders Stakes Days at Matamata and Te Aroha, the West Coast circuit, Cromwell and Omakau and through to the Point to Points around the CD.  Community appears less and less relevant now.”

Referencing the old days of racing’s monopoly on gambling, Brad Smith said: “While betting was the base of all clubs’ income when I first joined the MRC committee, now the code’s turnover cannot sustain the industry in its current form subsequent to the introduction of Lotto and Sports Betting. As with large portions of NZ, diversification is now necessary to keep the industry viable (and sustain jobs). There are very real parallels between two of the staples of our society – rugby and racing. Basically I feel that both codes have a tiger by the tail in that their domestic markets are not big enough to generate the funding that the high quality of their product demands. Rugby players go overseas to play under the larger contracts available, and racing has to have the same mindset – make use of our neighbour’s systems. Just as we race on Wednesdays and improve to better quality on Saturdays, the whole industry just has to treat Australia as another tier rather than going broke trying to compete and keep our best here.“


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