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Staff reunion brings back memories

(Staff at the Reunion on Sunday at Wingatui)

Graeme Offen, who was apprenticed as a jockey to White Robe Lodge trainer Brian Anderton and later trained in partnership with him was among those to attend a staff reunion in conjunction with the WRL champions day at Wingatui on Saturday. The day was capped when Gallant Boy, owned and trained by Brian and his son Shane won the featured White Robe Lodge Weight-For-Age.

Offen, now retired, rode the Anderton-trained Bold Mellay to an upset win in the 1976 James Hazlett Stakes at Wingatui. Bold Mellay, owned by Fred La Hood and Dave Bedford was 9/9 in the betting and paid $34.15 to win.

Offen entered a training partnership with Brian in the 1983-84 season and they had 51 wins over three seasons.

Paul Richards, Peter O'Malley, John Carvalho, Debbie Henderson, Liz Hodson, Michael  Casey, Bill Beck, Val Hall and Tommy Hazlett, were among other former staff member of WRL at the reunion.

Paul Richards was the stable jockey for several years and provided Brian with his 1000th win as a trainer on Burton in the 2002 Timaru Cup. Richards rode stable star A Gordon For Me in 23 of his 26 wins among them the White Robe Lodge Handicap in 1992 and 93. He won Canterbury Gold Cups for the stable on Random Chance (1987) and Burton (2003). Richards is now travelling foreman for the Te Akau stable at Matamata where his son Jamie is making his name as a trainer. Richards has been campaigning Weaponry in the South Island. Weaponry has had no favours in the running when third in the Gore Guineas and fourth in the Dunedin Guineas.

O'Malley was a stud groom at WRL in the 1970s, the last two seasons Mellay was at stud and the first season of Noble Bijou, both champion sires. Brian recalls Mellay dying in Peter's arms in 1974.  Short Stops (by Noble Bijou), was an early breeding venture for O'Malley. Short Stops won six races in his ownership and three open handicaps in the North Island after being sold. O'Malley and his family have continued to breed to WRL sires and race horses from the stable, including the Noble Bijou gelding Young Noble (16 wins) and more recently the son of Gallant Guru, The Man (six wins).

Carvalho was foreman for the stable for 29 years until he stood down in 2015.

Henderson became the first female rider to win a New Zealand Grand National Steeplechase when she rode Noble Express for the WRL stable in 1994.

Casey and Hazlett were both apprenticed to Brian. Casey rode Powley (trained by Hector Anderton sen) to win the 1980 New Zealand One Thousand Guineas as a 17yr-old apprentice and he was twice leading South Island apprentice. He rode Powley in the first 11 of her 17 wins including eight in a row. He and his wife, Ange have just sold their Four Square supermarket after three years in Twizel and are shifting back to Mosgiel.

Hazlett rode Gold Jet to win the Waikato Steeplechase for the WRL stable in 2004 and 05.

Liz Hodson worked for WRL for 41 years, the first 20 as a stablehand and subsequently at the stud. Bill Beck was horse dentist for the stable during that time and Val Hall the office manager for 20 years.