The death of Beverley Ryder at the grand old age of 95 last week severed not only a close link to days of genuine  innovation in harness racing but also with the Purdon family.

Beverley’s late husband,Kevin’s enterprise resulted in the family spending time living among the harness racing fraternity in the US for several years in the 1970’s. Her most famous son in harness racing, Chris, races G1 winning Oscar Bonavena with Mark and earlier sent him the crack Australian filly Shez All Rock  to train for major events  including the NZ Oaks (beating Elle Mac) and running 1.51.8 to win the Harness Jewels.She was not beaten in this country but it was no easy assignment for she did not prove easy to train and her problems caught up with her subsequent career.

Peter,the youngest of the Ryder tribe and married to the former Joanne Smolenski, rarely misses the big Saturdays at Rolleston as a trusted fast work driver.He also races a horse out of the stable. 

Beverley and husband Kevin made the long journey from their Inchbonnie farm to Saratoga (New York)  and New Jersey as a trainer and sellers of standardbreds . The always close family went with him and Kevin later wrote that when he was offered a private training position there, Bev was keener than he was to stay longer. Family came first in the end as family always did for her. 

Kevin, enterprising like his forefathers and a man who spoke plainly and expected others to do the same, had some notable successes over a long period perhaps the  most high profile one being Franco Tiger, who came to him as a problem horse of little value; he was sold for 6 figures,and  became one of Australia’s best performers winning a Miracle Mile (beating Christopher Vance, Jack Morris and Westburn Grant) and  over $1m. 

The best pacer Kevin raced was in fact Franco Tiger’s dam, Tempest Tiger, whom he had sold in foal when the big corporate money poured into racing in the 1980’s. Tempest Tiger,who only raced for one season, was the first female  to win the NZ Messenger, driven by Jack Smolenski,and later held the mare’s mile record with Westburn Vue of 1.58.5 Both were later to leave champions.  He also owned and trained the celebrated but unsound trotter Westland King, sire of Stormy Morn.

Roy Purdon was one of his small number of associates who journeyed to America in the early 1970’s on a flight as horse attendants and surveyed the standardbred scene there. The following year he began his routine of taking a team of horses there to race only  to sell and mostly sourced from Australia. It was a big challenge for the Ryder clan and to make it work as long as it did some achievement.

So for several years Bev handled with aplomb the  difficult assignment of managing the dual hemisphere lifestyle with her family of six  who rather enjoyed the climatic advantages of both but still keeping up with things like their education. And they all chipped in with a contribution to the horses.

Chris, allowed to find his own destiny as was the case for all Bev’s children, but influenced by his younger days n the States would later return to trump his father’s feats  and become one of America’s most famous harness  trainers a feat in which the family took great pride. Gavan had been a regular raceday driver for the stable in the  Yaldhurst period and Peter handled Speedy Cheval after his purchase for Australia, training and driving him to run third in the memorable NZ Cup of 1988 to Luxury Liner and (Our) Maestro and a similar placing in the NZ Free for All-notable for Mark’s first G1 driving win behind Tax Credit who outfinished Luxury Liner at long odds. All  six children,including the only daughter,Patricia,proved a credit to their mother’s principles and example.

At one time when Kevin was public training, Robert Dunn was on the staff and of course it was Chris who paved the way for Dexter’s sensational subsequent career in the US.

All through the ups and downs of a horse dealership enterprise (and they are more volatile than most ) Bev was the calming influence;family director, charming hostess and wise counsel.The family achievements and loyalty are testament to that.

A lady of class Bev (christened Margaret Beverley) is one  we don’t need to say was taken too soon. Beverley ( and Kevin who died aged 88 in 2012) lived to witness  what their efforts had achieved.

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