Mike Dillon: Brownie had to be quick as a fox when press were adjudged the enemy

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Allan Brown, who died last week, spent practically his entire working life at the Herald.

You would have known that only after New Zealand's largest newspaper lost a lot of its stuffiness and writers were allowed their own names in print.

For the first half of his four decades at the Herald, Brown, known to all as "Brownie", was Eclipse.

As Allan Brown he was a regular track spy, clocker at Ellerslie then later at Takanini.

As one who covered Takanini trackwork for the defunct Auckland Star for 11 years, I can attest to how difficult it was in the days when the press were adjudged the enemy by the trainers, who simply didn't want to see what their horses clocked in the morning in either the Star or the Herald.

Colin Jillings put his owners on a throne as the kings and queens of those who deserved a "quid off the punt". Newspapers were off limits.

Jillo didn't entirely exclude himself from the royal family either.

There were not many tricks the master trainer did not pull to fool the clockers. Saturday's divvie was what it was all about.

One memorable morning, Jillo told a fib about what the horse was that recorded spectacular time.

Brownie was caught and when the horse won at inflated odds he sent Jillo a note: "Shillings for Jillings, but you'll never go to Heaven."

Brownie was just about as proud of that as he was of anything he wrote.

His greatest mate was legendary trainer Ray Verner, but Brownie himself was probably not cut out to make a horse trainer, if he could be judged on how he trained humans.

Towards the end of his career he put forward the name as guest speaker at the journos' fabulous black tie dinners of the time - the Racing Writers Dinner - another of his mates, Christchurch Press editor Jack Boyle.

"He'll be a bit nervous," said Brownie, "but I'll pick him up from the airport and throw a couple of scotches into him at my place."

Brownie over-trained Jack something fierce. When he got to the dinner, Kindergarten could have become Cardigan Bay in the speech.

But Jack being Jack, he rallied and made his speech admirably.

But when he sat down he relaxed to the point that after a crowd-pleasing joke from MC Keith Haub he fell off the back of his chair, which prompted a hard case in the crowd to stand and yell: "There's a Boyle over."

It's a legacy Brownie was proud of.

•There is a one-year lease with the right of further one-year renewal of the Paeroa course for the Waikato Racing Club.

Waikato's major racing club secured those rights this week and barrier trials will be held at Paeroa on Tuesday next week.

- NZ Herald

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