Death of legendary racing figure
Mr John Albert Hennah who become a legend in his own lifetime in the sphere of thoroughbred breeding and racing, died in Hastings yesterday at the age of 88. Mr Hennah raced his ﬁrst horse, Flower Girl at the age of 19 when he took her to the West Coast and won six races, and in later years he raced and trained such notable gallopers and Jumpers as Captain Jingle, Padishah and Indian Gold.
Mr Hennah, who remained remarkably alert during the brief illness that preceded his death had an outstanding memory which went back to the days of his boyhood in Greymouth where he was born, and the earliest times of his long association with Hawke’s Bay when he came north in 1895 to work as a lad at Maraekakaho Station, near Hastings.
When Mr Hennah went to Maraekakaho, the station was shearing 84,000 sheep, the biggest ﬂock in New Zealand and there were hundreds of work horses and Welsh ponies by the famous Welsh pony sire Comet, on the property.
Mr Hennah was four years at Maraekakaho and afterward moved to Hastings where he began to breed and race horses, a field in which he was to achieve outstanding success.
One of the earliest good horses he trained and raced was Captain Jingle whom he bought for £100 and with whom he won the Napier Park, Wellington, Winter and Grand National Steeplechases in 1912. During the same year he took Continuance to Australia and won the Dowling and Melbourne Cup steeplechases with him.
Altogether, Mr Hennah made 16 trips to Australia with horses and he won many races there. Gold Mag was a horse he had conspicuous success with in Australia, and with whom he landed some big plunges.
Possibly the best horse Mr Hennah owned was Padishah whom he bred, along with the brilliant galloper Cuddle, from the Martian mare Caress.
Padishah was a versatile horse worthy of being ranked a champion. He won the Grand National Hurdles twice and the Grand National Steeplechase, as well as the Wellington Cup.
When he won the Grand National Steeples in 1939 for Mr Hennah, Padishah was ridden by Mr George Beatson, an amateur rider, who later became Mr Hennah’s son-in-law.
Mr Beatson was the ﬁrst amateur rider to succeed in the race since Mr Martell rode Royalty in the second running of the race in 1876.
Later, Mr Hennah continued to race many useful horses, one of the best being Indian Gold with whom he won the Wellington Racing Club Handicap and took to Auckland for the ﬁrst £10,000 Auckland Cup. Indian Gold was an unlucky fourth and the race was won by Howe who was later relegated in favour of Balgowan.
The last horse Mr Hennah raced was Honeybun, whom he trained a few years ago.
Mr Hennah gained a wealth of experience of racing during his lifetime and he was an outstanding judge of a horse. His advice was keenly sought by young trainers during the many years he regularly attended the training tracks at Hastings, and his opinions were always respected.
He always held the late R. J. Mason, the trainer of Gloaming among dozens of great horses, in highest regard and considered him the ﬁnest trainer he had known.
Hector Gray in New Zealand and Jim Pike in Australia were the two greatest jockeys he saw.
Over the years, Mr Hennah acquired considerable property in the business area of Hastings as well as a farm at Fernhill. His early experience as a lad at Maraekakaho gave him a good grounding in stock management and he was keenly interested in the activities of the Hawke’s Bay A and P Association of which he was a founder member when the Show moved to Tomoana.
He was a longtime member of the Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club and the Napier Park Racing Club. He was also for many years a member of the County Club in Hastings.
Possibly Mr Hennah’s greatest interest in life was his family. He is survived by his wife whom he married in 1916 and four daughters Mrs D. H. Grieve, (Hastings), Mrs G. G. Beatson (Dannevirke), Mrs W. N. [D.H.] Grieve and Mrs D. Wedd (Hastings) and one son, Mr M. D. Hennah, also of Hastings. There are 22 grandchildren and ﬁve great-grandchildren.
Mr. Hennah’s funeral was held this morning.