Passing of a Trentham stalwart

Trentham trainer Eddie Carson passed away on Tuesday Photo: Race Images

Trentham has lost one of its final training stalwarts with the death on Tuesday morning of Edward (Eddie) Carson.

After suffering from ill-health in recent years, Carson (87) passed away peacefully at his home in the Mangaroa Valley surrounded by members of his family, including his dear wife of 60 years, Rosaleen.

A hard-working Irishman with a broad Irish accent and an infectious smile, Carson became a fixture at Trentham after gaining his owner-trainer’s license on August 1, 1987 and he never lost his passion for racing.

His final racing thrill came when Master Pat, whom he bred and raced in partnership with his wife, finished second at Woodville on March 15, just over a week before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Group One performer Irish Rover, the winner of 17 races for Eddie CarsonPhoto: Trish Dunell

Carson trained his first winner in the 1990-91 season and Master Pat was his last winner, taking his overall training tally to 62 with the greatest contributor being his wonderful winter galloper Irish Rover, who won 17 races, almost $540,000, and registered seven of Carson’s eight black type victories.

From the family of Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Stylish Dude, Irish Rover (by Kenfair) was bred by Carson’s friend and fellow Irishman, Barney McCahill, who enjoyed so many highlights racing the great gallopers McGinty and Castletown and fellow Group One winners Mickey’s Town and Dungarvan (a close relative of Irish Rover).

Being Irishmen who loved racing horses weren’t the only things Carson and McCahill had in common. Both had come from struggling backgrounds in Ireland (Carson hailing from Carlow) and migrated to New Zealand as young men striving for a better future.

Through sheer hard work and determination, they established successful contracting businesses, McCahill (with another Donegal native, Hugh Green) in Auckland and Carson in Wellington, and when their paths crossed more than 60 years ago they became close friends.

Carson established Carson Contracting in 1958 after he and his brother, Jim, had worked their way up to initially purchasing a quarry in Plimmerton.

In 1983 the drainage and general contracting company was renamed E. Carson and Sons Ltd with sons Michael and John joining their father in the operation and a few years later Carson’s other two sons, Eddie junior and Myles, also became involved.

The latter two are now managing the Upper Hutt-based family business which undertakes contracts throughout New Zealand, although concentrating on the wider Wellington region. 

Carson had been racing horses since 1970, originally in partnership with his brother, and Levin trainer Errol Skelton provided them with a thrill when producing their one-race winner Tinryland Lass to finish third to the great gallopers Fury’s Order and Jandell in the inaugural Ellerslie running of the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in 1973.

Tinryland Lass went on to win a further race as a four-year-old when trained by Jim Carson and became a foundation mare for the Carson brothers. She left four winners with her best two, Tinryland Lad (by Mr Illusion) and Home And Hosed (by Lord Ballina), both bred by Carson and his wife.

Tinryland Lad was trained at Levin by the Haigh brothers, Geoff and Noel, and won four races before Carson stood him at his property.

Though Tinryland Lad had limited patronage as a sire with just 13 foals, he had five runners for two winners of a total of seven races including the Carson owned and trained Dunmore Boy (six wins, Listed Marton JC Metric Mile). But more importantly it was his time at stud which led Carson on the path to owning Irish Rover.

“Eddie asked Barney for a mare he could put to Tinryland Lad and he sent down Sterling Lea, who was carrying Irish Rover at the time,” Geoff Haigh said.

“Irish Rover was here at our place as a foal and Eddie really liked him. Barney told him the foal was his, but Eddie, being Eddie, insisted on giving Barney a half share and they ended up having so much fun racing him.

“I first got to know Eddie through his brother Jim, who was living at Ohau, and we’ve been good friends ever since.

“Eddie was a tough man who told me many stories of his hard times growing up in Ireland. He was straight as a die. He supported our stallions and was a good owner and a true friend.”

Irish Rover took Carson on a joy ride of success, winning his debut over 1200m at Trentham in October 2001 by 11 lengths on a heavy track and going on to win his first four races by an aggregate of 25 lengths, with three of them at Trentham.

Though he relished heavy tracks and was best with easing of the ground, he did record one of his best wins, a deadheat with Group One winner Distinctly Secret in the 2004 Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m), on a firm track.

He also won the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Challenge Stakes (1600m), the Gr.3 Awapuni Metric Mile, the Listed Marton Metric Mile twice (2003 and 2004), the Listed Wanganui Stakes (1600m) and gained his final win in the 2005 Listed Foxbridge Plate (1400m) at Te Rapa.

Irish Rover’s notable efforts also included five Group One placings, among them a third to Starcraft and Miss Potential in the 2004 Gr.1 Stoney Bridge Stakes (1600m) followed by a fourth to Balmuse and Starcraft in the Gr.1 Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m), both at Hastings.

David Walker was aboard Irish Rover in all his 17 wins and rode almost half of Carsons’s 62 winners.

After the first trip, Irish Rover provided a sudden form reversal with a win at Trentham just a week after finishing unplaced in the 2002 Gr.1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick.

Now 22, Irish Rover is enjoying his days on the Carson farm in the Mangaroa Valley, a fitting retirement for a horse Carson labelled as ‘my champion’.

Irish Rover also had the distinction of winning the Opunake Cup (1400m) at Hawera three years in succession (from 2002) and Carson made it four Opunake Cups in a row when he lined up Hamilton Road (a grandson of Tinryland Lass) in 2005.

Hamilton Road won seven races for Carson, while other multiple winners included Home And Hosed (six), The Brown Bomber (six), Roscommon Lad (four), Danny Boy (three) and Never Say Die, Raglan Road and Watch Your Man (two apiece).

Carson attributed much of his success over the last 25 years to his loyal foreman and track rider Dennis Hewitt, who has been in charge of the team during Carson’s illness.

Carson’s best season was 2002-03 when notching 10 wins, including two black type victories, and the following season his eight wins included five of Irish Rover’s stakes wins, while in 2009-10 he won the outstanding central districts owner-trainer award.

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