It is his extensive contributions to the community, by way of both charity and time and in very much a hands on manner, along with his gentlemanly and principled conduct generally over many years that have won the most praise and admiration. Either aspect of McKenzie's life provide for ample material to fill a book, and in fact they have, but this is a harness racing publication so in this instance we will just reflect on his contributions and influence in that sphere.
McKenzie was still a young man in his early thirties when he effectively took over Roydon Lodge with the passing of his father in 1955. The original Roydon Lodge was established as a standardbred nursery in 1928 and following the importation of Light Brigade and U Scott for racing and breeding purposes during the depression years, it grew to become the longest running and most successful standardbred stud farm outside of Walnut Hall in America. Roydon Lodge will be celebrating its 80th anniversary next year, and while Sir Roy had scaled back his involvement in more recent years and left day-to-day operations to son-in-law Keith Gibson, he could reflect on over half a century of history at the helm.
The ill-fated Captain Adios was the first sire imported by McKenzie in 1956 and the likes of Scottish Hanover and Thurber Frost would soon follow and be joined by U Scott's son Scottish Command as successful sires at Roydon Lodge. In 1978 and the year of Roydon Lodge's 50th anniversary, Scottish Command was leading sire over Scottish Hanover with his progeny headed by NZ Cup winner Sole Command, and when Adio Star was judged the 10th Broodmare of the Year, she was the eighth by a Roydon Lodge sire. Others would follow such as Desilu and Black Watch and the influence of Roydon Lodge imports, with Light Brigade and U Scott in particular, is simply inestimable.
Game Pride and Smooth Fella kept Roydon Lodge very much to the fore during the 80s and more recently, Sundon has been McKenzie's crowning glory. Just recently he was named NZ Stallion of the Year for the third time in the last five seasons. Sundon came to be after McKenzie had gone looking for mares to breed to his world champion Arndon (3,TT1.54), a son of Arnie Almahurst and the Super Bowl mare Roydon Gal that he had bred and raced in America with Del Miller. Arndon fell from favour at stud during the Speedy Crown 'onslaught', but he did sire another world champion and significant siring son in Pine Chip (4,TT1.51).
Sungait Song actually came with a colt foal at foot by Arndon and back in foal to him - she was carrying Sundon at that point - and McKenzie bred her back again before sending the package to NZ in 1987. The foals on either side of Sundon were Arnsong (t,8NZ wins) and Roydon Arnie(t,9NZ wins). Despite being a late foal, Sundon was a horse 'born ahead of his time' from the moment he stepped on a racetrack as a January 4 2-year-old, still two months shy of his second birthday. He would not be beaten in 14 races over the next 14 months, and win 18 of his 19 starts, and he would also single-handedly advance trotting breeding in NZ by 'quantum leaps'.
Arania, a daughter of U Scott and the second foal bred by Roydon Lodge from the Gold Bar mare Local Gold in 1956, was a grand racemare in NZ and in the early 60s she was among those to 'blaze a trail' when she accompanied False Step and the Australian champion Apmat to America for the 1961 International Series in New York. Later that year under Billy Haughton's guidance, Arania time trialled at The Red Mile in 1.57 to become the fourth fastest female ever and only a tick behind Her Ladyship, Dottie's Pick and trotter Rosalind. Arania won a NZ Oaks and would produce an Oaks winner in Hurrania, and the family would lead to the likes of the Christian Cullen-Personality Plus colt which sold for $200,000 at this year's sales, while Roydon Dream, a mare who descended from one of Roydon Lodge's foundation broodmares in Parisienne, would be a Broodmare of the Year. Acquired as a broodmare in 1945 on the advice of George Noble, Parisienne would for Roydon Lodge produce the likes of Mary Wootton (dam of Scottish Command) and the top mare La Mignon, a daughter of Light Brigade who to Thurber Frost produced the brilliant Garcon Roux, the first 3-year-old to break 2:00 in Australasia when he time trialled at Hutt Park in 1:59.6 in 1969. Garcon Roux was the winner of the inaugural Horse of the Year Award as a 3-year-old, and daughters of Thurber Frost in Bonnie Frost (as a 3-year-old) and Stella Frost would be next in line and followed by his son Wag in 1973.
Roydon Dream's eight winners included open class pacer Roydon Scott and Roydon Glen, a Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old in a season when he was unbeaten in 12 races for trainer-driver Fred Fletcher including the Auckland Cup and Messenger. The would also be the source of McKenzie's biggest disappointments in the game when they failed to win a NZ Cup after countless earlier attempts. For Roydon Lodge these dated back to Great Bingen, who was second way back in 1925 and who was quite clearly the winner in 1928, only to be placed second by the judge behind his brother Peter Bingen.
Roydon Scott was the pre post favourite in 1979 and 1980, but went amiss on each occasion, while Roydon Glen started the favourite in 1985 along with Preux Chevalier and was plain unlucky and a certainty beaten behind Borana. Preux Chevalier, like Roydon Dream by Lumber Dream, was from the Roydon Lodge mare Heather Frost, a daughter of Thurber Frost also tracing to Parisienne.
Roydon Glen would prove an abject failure at stud, but he did sire NZ's greatest trotter Lyell Creek. Those NZ Cup disappointments would rival the biggest in the game for McKenzie along with the demise of harness racing at Hutt Park, for which he donated Roydon Glen's Auckland Cup winning stake in order to glass in the public grandstand. Such generosity was no stranger to Sir Roy McKenzie.
The McKenzie family originally came from Ullapool on the north-west coast of Scotland and John Robert was born in Melbourne in August, 1876. As one of seven children life was not easy, and he left school at the age of 13 to do odd jobs which included newspaper deliveries. This led to buying a bicycle and later cycle racing where he won several trophies. McKenzie also encountered horses on a small farm of an uncle and this experience was put to good use when the Boer War broke out in 1899 and where he served for two years with the Victorian Bushmen's Regiment. In those days enlisted men were required to take their own horses and after securing one from his uncle, his experiences in South Africa deepened his love for them. On one occasion he was unseated when his horse took fright at gunfire, but the horse returned to be remounted and carried McKenzie to safety. Later his horse was killed and McKenzie was invalided home with a leg injury in 1901.
While convalescing McKenzie worked at times in a store and this led to plans to start up his own shop. In 1905, along with his 16-year-old sister Ella, they had saved £100 and opened up their own fancy-goods store in Collingwood, and within 12 months they had started a second in Richmond. In 1908 their main competitor, Edmonds Ltd, offered to buy them out which included an agreement to take possession in one month. McKenzie immediately organised an extensive closing down sale and before long they were virtually buying stock at the back door to sell at the front. A further offer from Edmonds to close within the week was declined.
Another condition of the sale however was that McKenzie was not allowed to set up the same line of business around Melbourne, and after setting up stores in Tasmania and Sydney, a decision was reached in 1909 to move to NZ after a tour using motor cycles. At the time there were no such things as fancy-goods stores in NZ and in 1910 the first of what became a chain opened in Dunedin. Before long a Head Office was required in Wellington and in 1918, the 42-year-old McKenzie married Miss Ann May Wrigley and they settled in Rawhiti Terrace. Their first son Don was born in 1920 and Roy followed 18 months later.
The 1920s were hectic years for 'JR', as he became affectionately known by friends and colleagues, and after observing a department store while on an overseas trip, within two years his 22 fancy goods stores had been closed down and 22 department stores had opened. During the 30s it was the largest organisation of its kind in NZ and in 1936 McKenzies (NZ) Ltd became a public company with further expansion taking place to 33 stores until the outbreak of the war.
1941 marked the year however when Don, having gained his 'wings' as a pilot in the Royal NZ Air Force, was lost over the sea near Marlborough only days before being posted. JR searched the area for days in vain and it was many weeks before he took an interest in anything. It was only after considerable effort from his wife, George Noble and Rotarian friends that he started working with horses again and he gradually recovered. He would gain great satisfaction from breaking in his youngsters and handing them over to Noble to be trained as 2-year-olds.
It had been in the early 20s when McKenzie had first taken up an interest in standardbreds and the second horse he purchased for good money was a young colt by the name of Great Bingen, a son of Nelson Bingen and the imported Peter The Great mare Berthabell who had been bred at Akaroa by Etienne Le Lievre. Great Bingen, raced with good friend Dan Glaville, became a champion and by 1926 McKenzie had purchased 100 acres with an old homestead at Yaldhurst and would name it Roydon Lodge after his sons. It was in 1928 when McKenzie moved his family to just outside Christchurch.
With the stores already well established and with a view to semi retirement, McKenzie planned to breed on a large scale and handle his own youngsters as a way of relaxing. During the 1930s and while on two business trips to America, JR purchased a few mares which included Airflow and Spangled Maiden and two young colts which were to prove two of the most influential sires at stud in Australasia ever - Light Brigade and U Scott. Airflow was a fine trotting mare and won nine races and she was the dam of top performers Aerial Scott (1948 Inter-Dominion in Auckland), Flight Commander, Highland Air (1957 Auckland Cup), Red Emperor and Slipstream (14 wins), but she only left one filly to breed on and the family died out in NZ, while Spangled Maiden proved the grandam of great Australian filly Argent and Inter-Dominion winner (for Sir Roy) Jar Ar and established a fine family all round.
Esprit, Slapfast and Widow Volo were other mares imported in those early years who contributed towards making Roydon Lodge the foremost standardbred nursery in this part of the world. And these were just some of the standardbred legacies which Sir John left to his son, with a Trust which was established in 1940 and which enabled one third of the dividends from McKenzies (NZ) Ltd to be distributed to various charities just another.
Sir Roy had casual acquaintances with the family horses while growing up and at school at Timaru Boys High, but in 1941 any of those interests went on the back burner when he went to Otago University to study accounting. There he played cricket and rugby and developed a love of tramping and skiing, which led to captaining the NZ team to the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952, although a broken bone kept him from competing, along with a successful ascent of the Matterhorn. He also enjoyed photography and playing tennis and the tramping led to a close involvement with the Outward Bound Trust as a patron. Over the years he was an active Rotarian and also gave significant support to many other charities, including Women's Refuge, Birthright, the Deaf Decade Trust, the hospice movement and the Nga Manu Native Reserve Trust. He was instrumental in setting up NZ's first hospice with Te Omanga in Lower Hutt, where he was later admitted as a patient.
In 1989 he was knighted for his services to the community and education, and was made a member of the NZ Order of Merit, while he held an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce from Victoria University and of Literature from Massey. In 1990, Sir Roy initiated Philanthrophy NZ, a regular meeting for a wide range of charitable groups. He was passionate about philanthrophy, but preferred to be as a "community volunteer".
McKenzie was in training with the army when his brother was lost late in 1941, and later he transferred to the Air Force and did training in Canada before going on to England to serve in a Bomber Command squadron for the last six months of the war. Upon returning from England, McKenzie completed his accounting studies and in 1948 he joined the family firm. Within a few months he was then reluctantly on his way back to England however to gain further work experience, and while on the ship he met Shirley Howard and they married six months later. Returning to NZ at the end of 1949, McKenzie worked at the company's head office in Wellington as Executive Director for the next 20 years.
His first horse had actually been Scottish Air, a daughter of U Scott and the first foal from Airflow who won five races in a row at one point. However, this was when Sir Roy was 'underage' and she was not in his name. George Noble had been appointed by Sir John as his private trainer and the studmaster at Roydon Lodge in 1941. It was no doubt one of his best decisions and Noble would guide the overall operation until 1969. Noble had come fron NSW where he had trained to be an architect, but when work proved difficult to find during the Depression, he had turned his attention back to horses and become the leading horseman in the state. McKenzie, knighted in 1949, had selected Noble after recognising his ability with the anvil. With the blood of Light Brigade and U Scott and those imported mares to work on, Noble had Sir John at the head of the owners' list on three occasions and following his death at the age of 79 in 1955 after taking ill while on a voyage to England, Sir Roy was the leading owner for seven consecutive years.
From the early 50s and into the 60s, Noble built up a stable which included top performers in Adioway, Arania, Bonheur, Commander Scott, Flight Commander, Garcon D'Or, Garcon Roux, General Frost, Golden Hero, Highland Air, Highland Kilt, Jay Ar, La Mignon, Red Emperor, Royal Minstrel, Roydon Roux, Samantha, Scotch Paree, Slipstream and Valencia. When Roydon Lodge was moved to 150 acres at Templeton in 1970, Fred Fletcher also took over the training after earlier being in charge of the studmaster duties. It was during the 60s that Roydon Lodge suffered some crippling blows. The first of these was the loss of Captain Adios after only three seasons at stud, while U Scott and Light Brigade soon followed in 1962 and 1964 respectively as did Thurber Frost in 1968 at the age of 14.
Noble also reached the compulsory retirement age of 65 as a driver, and those duties were assumed by Doug Mangos and Noble's son John. Noble had driven 1944 NZ Cup winner Bronze Eagle for trainer Roy Berry and continued to train a small team at Yalhurst in his twilight years during the 70s. His career was capped by preparing the 4-year-old Stanley Rio to win the 1976 NZ Cup and later at the meeting, Rustic Zephyr to win the NZ Derby, both driven by John. Rustic Zephyr was by Armbro Hurricane, one of the sires at Roydon Lodge in the early years at Templeton along with Scottish Hanover, Tarport Coulter and Keystone Way. Stanley Rio also won the Inter-Dominion in Brisbane that season and Noble won the NZ Racing Personality of the Year Award.
In 1947, a visitor to the Wellington office had made a good impression on McKenzie and he would play a leading role in his future involvement with standardbreds in the city and the region. McKenzie would set up his own training facilities near Hutt Park within a couple of years upon returning and Jack Hunter would oversee the operation. As a young man in his late 20s, McKenzie was not inclined to listen to the advice of his father and his first standardbred purchase was a horse called Rocky Reef. A brother to top trotter Barrier Reef, Rocky Reef was a pacer with a known problem for knee knocking, but McKenzie and Hunter set him for a race on the big grass track at Wanganui and he prevailed by a neck, and won two more races as a trotter before being sold to Australia. Roaming was another early winner for the partnership with a double on the same day at Awapuni, when later found to be quite heavily in foal.
The association led to Hunter training full time from a 30 acre property at Moonshine in Upper Hutt, from where he won the Trainers' Premiership in 1964 with 31 wins, while three years later he won the title again with 33 wins while training in partnership with son Charlie. Jack had been assisted in this time by sons Charlie, Kevin and Ian. Charlie was the oldest and after experience as an accountant in a textile firm and undertaking an engineering course in Australia, he had decided in 1958 to rejoin his father in Upper Hutt and work with horses full-time. In 1967 and in the same season where they won the premiership together, Jack and Charlie won nine of 17 races over a two day meeting at Wanganui, with Charlie driving eight including a record five on the second day. Jack had to retire that year with health problems and Charlie won the premiership on his own account the next season with 35 wins, when McKenzie's Golden Sands and Dominion Handicap winner French Pass were stable stars. The latter also won the National Trot in Auckland and the Taranaki Cup beating pacers from 18 yards.
George Noble won the premiership the next year, while in 1971 Charlie Hunter made the important decision to move to the more central location of Cambridge. Seven acres were leased near the Cambridge track while Hunter set up his own property so he could train professionally. It was during the early 70s that Hunter built up the Central Standardbred Agency with Brian Meale and was handed the training of a rising star from Southland - Young Quinn. Hunter would have to watch from the grandstand after an accident on the opening night of the 1974 Inter-Dominions at Alexandra Park, as protege John Langdon drove Young Quinn to triumph in the Pacing Final after earlier winning the Trotting Final with Sir Roy's Castleton's Pride. Young Quinn was by U Scott's fine son Young Charles and would make Hunter a star on the international stage in America.
Another top trotter trained by Hunter for Sir Roy was Geffin, who won the NZ Trotting Stakes and the 1971 Inter-Dominion at Addington when a 4-year-old. Geffin had gone into that series as a six-win horse and won two heats, while he won five straight races afterwards before unsoundness ended his all too short career. Hunter rates Geffin as easily the best trotter he has trained or driven.
The best horse trained by Jack for McKenzie was Scottish Command, who won 16 races including the 1959 Auckland Cup from 60 yards when driven by Ian. Jack Hunter took Scottich Command to America in 1962, but he only raced fairly before returning to stand at Roydon Lodge. McKenzie would be on hand most Saturdays at Upper Hutt to drive work, but the Hunters were surprised the day he informed them he had procured a licence to drive on raceday. It was Scottish Conmmand who would provide him with his first wins at Hutt Park when a 3-year-old. Driving was an important aspect of Sir Roy's involvement, particularly the trotters, and he would win about 50 races over the years. This pleasure was without ever affecting the chances of Hunter's sons or later his trainer Martin Lees, as McKenzie would usually buy his own horses to drive in his own colours of white with a cerise sash. Towards the end of being allowed to drive, Game Yank was a useful trotter for him with three wins, while his last win in March, 1988, came at Manawatu with Argentina, a son of Game Pride who had been purchased out of Owen Quinla's stable.
Charlie Hunter has very fond memories growing up with Sir Roy around. "He was a very special man. He was absolutely loyal to and supportive of this staff and gave people like myself and brother Ian every opportunity by having us do the stable driving right from the beginning - in effect we learned to drive on his horses," said Hunter. "Roy was initially my employer, but since then I have regarded him as a mentor over the years and was especially grateful to be able to regard him as a dear friend throughout my adult life. He was a lovely man who will be sadly missed," he added.
Sir Roy's last big win came as a part-owner when Fiery Falcon won the NZ Sires' Stakes 2yo Final at Addington in May, while his last outright win was with the Fred Fletcher-trained mare Dear Diedre at Addington in July.
FOOTNOTES: In 1998, Sir Roy published his memoirs in a book entitled Footprint - Harnessing an Inheritance into a Legacy. In 2004 a short film was made about his life called Giving It All Away. One of his three sons, John, is today the chairman of the J R McKenzie Trust.
Tony Williams writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 29Mar83
Roy McKenzie sits in his Rangitira Ltd offices in Wellington's James Cook Hotel building talking horses - or more particularly his Roydon Lodge Stud horses. Two weeks later, he is named Trotting Personality of the Year by the NZ Standardbred Breeders' Association at their prestigious Dinner of the Year in Auckland. The following week, the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame chips in with its Trotting Celebrity of the Year Award. For the man who has guided the destiny of one of NZ's premier standardbred nurseries since the death of the stud's founder - Roy's father Sir John in 1955 - such awards are recognition of the contribution he has made to harness racing in this country.
Such is Roy's involvement and commitment to trotting, he actually took the time out to write and publish, in 1978, his tribute to all his father set out to achieve. That book - "The Roydon Heritage-50 Years of Breeding and Harness Racing" - was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Roydon Lodge Stud, then based at Yaldhurst. Now, because of Roy's decision that to operate successfully the stud had to stand four stallions, and to do that needed more ground, Roydon Lodge occupies 150 acres at Templeton, with a further 150 acres at Springston where the stud mares are grazed.
The past few years have been satisfying ones for Roy - last year his American-bred trotter Arndon, under the guidance of long time friend Del Miller, became the world's fastest ever with a 1:54 time trial at Lexington. He has seen Smooth Fella, a stallion he imported in partnership with Central Standardbred Agency directors Brian Meale and Charlie Hunter, quickly rise to a prominent place among the country's stud horses. And he has retired another outstanding stallion, Scottish Hanover, knowing that he was another Roydon Lodge stallion to make an everlasting mark on the NZ breeding scene.
Roydon Lodge is a name which has long been synonymous with success on the NZ breeding scene. A roll call of stallions reflects the influence it has had. Names like Great Bingen, the first stallion to stand in the stud's name, U Scott, Light Brigade, Captain Adios, Thurber Frost, Scottish Command, Scottish Hanover, Armbro Hurricane, Game Pride and Smooth Fella, to name but a few. Their past and present influence on NZ breeding has been, and will continue to be, felt for generations.
But even with sires like this gracing the record books at Roydon Lodge, even now, Roy McKenzie is heading the stud on a slightly different tack. Rather than try and import ready made stallions for stud - "It's getting too dear over there" - Roy's latest thinking represents a change of policy for Roydon Lodge. Now, he is setting out on the time consuming - though obviously more satisfying - policy of spending more time in making horses he believes to be stallion prospects. Evidence of this line of thinking can be found at Roydon Lodge already, where, alongside established stallions Smooth Fella and Game Pride, stand the horses of the future. They are Roydon Albatross, a son of Albatross from the Adios Butler mare Poppy Butler, and Yankee Reb. Roy purchased Poppy Butler in foal to Albatross from Del Miller and the resultant foal in NZ was Roydon Albatross. Roydon Albatross did not start racing in NZ until relatively late in his 3-year-old career because he was a very late foal by NZ standards, being foaled to American time, yet won three out of four starts after failing first time up. At four, he raced only nine times for two more wins, including a Nelson Cup in track record time of 4:16, for 3200 metres on the grass, and two placings.
Roy hopes Yankee Reb will be the eventual successor to Game Pride, the leading sire of trotters in NZ for the past two seasons and heading for his third season in that position. Yankee Reb is by the Speedy Scot stallion Speedy Crown (1:57.2) out of Brazen Yankee, a mare by Hickory Pride out of Hoot Yankee. Hickory Pride is by Star's Pride while Hoot Yankee is by Hoot Mon. Rich in trotting blood, Yankee Reb represents Roy's interest in the breed, an interest enflamed even further by the preformances of Arndon, whom Roy bred himself.
Another Roydon Lodge stallion, Meddlesome (Bret Hanover-Medley Hanover), is to stand at Tony Milina's property for the next two seasons after two terms in Central Otago, while at Mangaroa in the Hutt Valley, where Martin Lees looks after the Roydon Lodge training establishment there, Dreamover (Scottish Hanover-Roydon Dream), a brother to the brilliant but ill-fated racehorse Roydon Scott, is to stand the coming season. Dreamover was originally destined for sale to America, but developed a couple of problems when being trained by Ian Hunter at Morrinsville prior to his departure. "We decided to bring him home then, and, though he may race again, there is enough support around here for him to get 20 mares," Roy said.
Alongside Dreamover at Mangaroa will be the trotting stallion Game Shooter, who up until now has stood in the Manawatu. Game Shooter (Game Pride-Shooting High, by Sharpshooter, by Worthy Boy) received limited patronage in the Manawatu, but, according to Roy, has left some magnificent foals. "Those that have his foals are delighted with them, so he should get around 20 mares," he said. A smart racehorse himself, Game Shooter won six races against some useful trotters.
While it is unlikely Roy McKenzie will be buying stallion prospects in the United States on any scale in the future, this does not mean the end of imported stallions at Roydon Lodge, for in recent years he has been steadily expanding his breeding interests in the United States. "You are looking at paying a lot of money to import a top stallion now, and $200,000 is about the most you can contemplate paying these days with the stud fees that can be charged. Therefore, we now have a situation where we will be trying to make our stallions rather than buy them ready made." Such a policy, Roy admits, is assisted by having a stallion like Smooth Fella in the barn, but it is one he would have been pursuing even without that advantage. "Having an in demand stallion like Smooth Fella has helped to the extent that he can 'support' the other stallions," Roy said. "Even so, Roydon Lodge is run at a profit - we paid a bit of tax this year - and this is the way the operation is geared to run, with or without Smooth Fella."
Smooth Fella is to stand two more seasons at Roydon Lodge before returning to the North Island, where he stood his first season at stud. "He will probably go back to Peter McMillan at Yankee Lodge, Matamata," Roy said. "He has been in such demand - though we have kept him to around 120 mares - that we have had to restrict a little the number of mares we could take to the other stallions. This summer was a particularly dry one, of course, which made it a little more difficult."
Roy McKenzie takes a great delight in all aspects of trotting and later that night, at Wellington's Hutt Park, took the reins behind Milford Merroney, a trotter trained for him by Martin Lees. "Yes, I like driving, but don't get many opportunities." One such opportunity he grabbed with both hands was to win a race at Morrinsville that carried a $50 trophy. That trophy was donated by veteran Auckland horseman George Stubbs in 1972 "to help the battler" in trotting. While Roy McKenzie could hardly be described a battler in just about any other form of endeavour, he later wrote to George Stubbs explaining that the trophy meant a lot to him, as he considered himself to be a battler as far as driving goes.
It took Roy McKenzie 177 pages in his book to detail the history of Roydon Lodge and the stud's achievments. Those two recent awards are payment in small part for the part Roy has had in filling those 177 pages.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Sep07
PARISIENNE - Classic Winner Producing Mare