Vale Our Dear Friend Colin Jillings

Date: 25 Dec 2022

Vale Our Dear Friend Colin Jillings


A man that meant a lot to Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM, Hall of Fame Trainer Colin Jillings has died aged 91.

Not only did he train for Ellis, but he was one of his closest 'pals' - he provided a lifetime of mentorship, friendship, and introduced him to his wife, Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM.

Ellis had his first winner in 1978 at Paeroa, while Cosmetique (Barcas), which he bought and raced, provided his first Group One win in the 1986 Easter Handicap (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Ellerslie.

In 1990 Ellis purchased Te Akau Nick (Grosvenor) for $40,000 at the Trentham Magic Millions Sale. Trained by Colin Jillings, Te Akau Nick finished third in the NZ Derby before being sent to Gai Waterhouse in Sydney, where he provided Gai with her first Group One win [Metropolitan Handicap] and finished second to Vintage Crop (Rousillon) in the 1993 Melbourne Cup, during a career of six wins for stakes earnings of $1.3 million.

Among his many successes, Jillings trained Uncle Remus (Bandmaster II), New Zealand Champion Three-Year-Old in 1977-78, who recorded ten successive wins and 13 of his 15 starts at three.

He trained McGinty (One Pound Sterling) for legendary race caller Keith Haub, winning five of his six starts as a two-year-old in New Zealand, before defeating subsequent Golden Slipper (Gr. 1, 1200m) winner Marscay (Biscay) in the Todman Slipper Trial Stakes (Gr. 3, 1200m) at Rosehill, Sydney.

And Jillings trained 1993 Cox Plate (Gr. 1, 2040m) winner The Phantom Chance (Noble Bijou).

“He was a massive help to me as a young guy when getting started in racing and is probably the best horseman I've ever met,” Ellis said.

“He picked his words and the advice he used to give me was quite incredible. He was a champion person and helped so many people in his life.

“He was fantastic with apprentices. He and he wife, Alison, used to take the apprentices into their home and they would live as part of the family.

“Colin, Peter and Ivan Grieve, Herbie Dyke, and I, fished together in the same trout fishing tournament at Lake Taupo for 22 years. Colin was a wonderful fisherman, very competitive, and we won the tournament 17 times.

“He only ever trained a relatively small team of horses, 35 to 40, and to win the Derby in the '50's, '60's, '70's, '80's, and '90's, was just incredible.

“He won quite a few races for me, about three Derby trials, before we started training our own horses at Te Akau in Matamata.

“Colin introduced me to Karyn at the Trentham races. I was having a drink at the bar with Colin and Peter Grieve. Karyn walked past and Colin said: “Hello love, how are you?” They started talking and he introduced us and two years later we were married (Colin and Karyn in 2005 below).



“I was very lucky that about five months ago I put on a special lunch for Colin and our long-time pals in Auckland, and it was just one of the happiest afternoons for everyone. It's something that I'll always look back on fondly and I'm just pleased to have arranged it. He was ageing, but he was still very sharp in the mind and he gave a simply unforgettable and very emotional speech.

“We often invited Jillo and Alison to share our table at the New Zealand Racing Awards, and I remember back in 2012 he came out to the farm and inspected the yearlings we'd bought in January at Karaka.

“Colin had never seen a better crop of yearlings, in the one place, anywhere. He was blown away and that was from a man who trained his first Derby winner fifty years ago.”

Te Akau trainer Mark Walker also attributes the best advice he received to Colin Jillings. Colin said to me: “Never let them know when you're hurting, son”, meaning when you're having a bad run, never show it.



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