O’Sul­li­vans lose guiding light and ma­tri­arch

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport -

Dave O’Sul­li­van and his equally suc­cess­ful sons, Paul and Lance, have for years been the public face of one of New Zealand rac­ing’s most fa­mous fam­i­lies.

The past week has been a re­minder of the in­flu­ence of fam­ily ma­tri­arch Marie O’Sul­li­van, who lost a long battle with can­cer.

Her death came just nine months af­ter that in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances of the youngest of her five chil­dren, Lisa Chittick.

Dave O’Sul­li­van is the first – and the best qual­i­fied – to ad­mit that the huge suc­cess of the past 40 years was as much down to his wife as to him.

‘‘If it wasn’t for Marie, I could have been no­body. She was a re­mark­able woman you know,’’ he says.

By sheer hard work and a grad­ual re­al­i­sa­tion that the mas­ter of Wex­ford Sta­bles had what it took to make it in horse train­ing, the win­ners started to flow and the O’Sul­li­van name be­came re­spected and even feared through­out New Zealand, Australia and be­yond.

‘‘ They were hard times and noth­ing came eas­ily but be­tween the two of us, with me work­ing around the clock and Marie look­ing af­ter the kids, the staff, all the of­fice stuff, we some­how got there,’’ Dave re­calls.

Fam­ily and busi­ness were al­limpor­tant dur­ing those early years but in time Marie al­lowed her­self an in­dul­gence. Prom­i­nent in that were two pur­suits, race­horse own­er­ship and gar­den­ing.

Snap, a pint-sized but sturdy filly she raced in part­ner­ship with close friend Robin, the Duke of Bed­ford, was one of the best in the early 1990s with wins in the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes, New Zealand 1000 Guineas and New Zealand Oaks and Waikato Sprint; later that decade Zola was a Gr. 1 win­ner.

Just last Septem­ber Pure Cham­pion, trained by son Lance and An­drew Scott and raced in part­ner­ship with Dave, Lance and the lat­ter’s wife Brid­gette, was a more than timely win­ner of the Gr. 1 Wind­sor Park Plate.

Marie proved a dab hand in the gar­den, with a spe­cial pen­chant for roses.

‘‘She just loved get­ting out in the gar­den, to begin with when we lived at the sta­ble homestead and then af­ter I re­tired and we moved into our new home,’’ said Dave.

‘‘Roses were her favourite and last year was the first time in years she didn’t have an en­try in the lo­cal Rose So­ci­ety com­pe­ti­tion. I doubt if there’s a tro­phy that doesn’t have her name on it,’’ he added with pride.

Most of all, though, Marie O’Sul­li­van will be re­mem­bered for her de­vo­tion to her fam­ily.

‘‘Mum was the driv­ing force, she steered the ship and she was the one we all knew to go to for ad­vice,’’ Lance re­calls.

‘‘ She was a very in­tel­li­gent woman but most of all she was a great mother and a won­der­ful grand­mother. We were all blessed to have her.’’

Photo: SUP­PLIED

HUGE LOSS: Marie O’Sul­li­van with hus­band Dave.

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