The NZ Herald and editor-at-large Shayne Currie are on a two-week road trip to gauge the mood of the nation and meet everyday and notable Kiwis making a difference in their communities and the wider world. Today he hears how one of New Zealand sport’s greatest legends is flying again in a small Taranaki town. Meanwhile, we have Nine Questions With Liam Malone and from a north Taranaki farm to Kenya to a New Plymouth brew pub, an entrepreneur says doing good can be a way of life. Dan Radcliffe talks to Stratford Press editor Ilona Hanne.
Forty years after his astounding last-to-first Melbourne Cup victory, Kiwi is flying again.
One of our greatest racehorses has been immortalised in bronze in the town where he was beloved - trained just up the road by the legendary Snow and Anne Lupton.
The statue, which has recently been unveiled in the centre of Waverley in south Taranaki, was attracting visitors and locals just a few hours ahead of yesterday’s Melbourne Cup, the race that Kiwi won in 1983 in an astounding run from last position.
For those of us old enough, who will ever forget the race commentator’s shock as Kiwi came from nowhere with seconds to spare?
“KIWI! Kiwi will beat them all. It’s come from last... a blistering performance!”
Nickie Andrews, one of the Luptons’ three children - and still regularly introduced as “Kiwi’s sister” - was at Flemington in 1983 and still gets goosebumps when she watches replays of the race.
She told the Herald yesterday that the victory was “unforgettable”, and that the new statue - by sculptor Fridtjof Hanson - was testament to the town’s love affair with Kiwi.
Hanson died in September 2021, but not before gifting his final work to the South Taranaki District Council. A local committee has, in turn, raised funding and grants for a project likely to be in the vicinity of $250,000 - the bronzing of the mould cost $150,000 alone.
“Everybody in Waverley has always referred to Kiwi as their horse. The township all thought that they owned a hair on Kiwi’s back,” says Andrews.
“Mum and Dad loved that - just the fact that everybody referred to him as their horse, Waverley’s horse. As a family, we all used to really like that. We thought that was wonderful.”
Kiwi died in 1995 and is buried on the Lupton farm. In keeping with Snow’s non-fuss approach to life, the horse’s headstone reads: “Kiwi, 1983 Melbourne Cup.”
Snow died in December 2004, aged 84, and Anne four years later.
The couple are just as beloved in the town as Kiwi.
Councillor and former police officer Brian Rook, who chairs the sculpture committee, says: “Snowy and Anne were just lovely, lovely people - they really were.”
Andrews, who still lives locally, remembers her dad as a “very kind, gentle and humble man” and Kiwi as a gentle horse. That, she believes, was the secret to their partnership.
“Dad and Kiwi were just really great mates.
“Dad had such a gentle sort of nature and I think Kiwi was gentle too - they were a real partnership and if you think about [jockey] Jimmy Cassidy and Kiwi, they made quite a team as well.
“When people are in sync with an animal... we ended up with the result we got.”
Of the 1983 race, she says: “We could see the way he was racing - we could see him all of the time.
“The people in New Zealand who were watching the race on the television probably couldn’t see the way he was moving up through the field.
“We were starting to get pretty excited when we could see that he was starting to pick up a bit and move. I have to say I came very close to throwing my hat off of the grandstand.
“Every time I watch the race now, it brings back that same feeling that I had on the day. I still get just as excited when I watch it.”
Rook says: “My goodness, the Australian fraternity was laughing. They thought it was a joke that this horse that lives on a farm with the cows and everything could go over and win the Melbourne Cup - that just wasn’t heard of.”
Andrews says it was a wonderful day, and possibly overwhelming for her parents with everyone - including dozens of press - wanting to speak to them.
They celebrated at a special dinner at the Southern Cross Hotel - Snow Lupton turned up later than the others because he had travelled back to the Mornington stables with Kiwi.
“Dad grew up in a family of eight - they all rode and they were all into horses. That love of animals, love of horses has gone down from generation to generation,” she says.
Horses also featured strongly on her mother’s side of the family, too, and has continued through the latest generations, who feature in training, riding and administration.
Rook says the Melbourne Cup still holds a special place in the heart of locals, although it is more low key these days. “The town is shrinking, and there’s only one pub and the mill’s closed down, so it’s a little bit sad but everyone will remember Melbourne Cup day, for sure. At 5 o’clock, there won’t be anyone on the street.”
Rook says the sculpture is still a work in progress with lighting and information boards to come, but it was already creating excitement in the town. “It’s creating a lot of interest.”
Members of the public can donate to the cause by buying a brick with their name on it, for $150, that will be laid around the statue. About 300 have been sold so far.
Nickie Andrews paid tribute to the sculptor Fridtjof Hanson for his vision.
“It’s been 40 years since Kiwi won but the level of interest is still there. And of course, horses and racing are very much part of this district - there’s some very talented horsemen and women in Waverley.”
Andrews says Snow was astounded that media kept calling him on Melbourne Cup every year afterwards. “Dad was just astonished that anybody would even remember it.
“He said, ‘It’s been 20 years - I would have thought they would have forgotten it’.”
Now, 40 years on, it’s his daughter taking the media calls.
Day 9 - Palmerston North to New Plymouth
After leaving Palmerston North in the all-electric Volkswagen ID.5 about 10am, I spent a couple of hours in Whanganui - the city centre was bustling - and more than an hour in Waverley, once I had spotted the new bronze statue of Kiwi.
I called councillor Brian Rook and Snow Lupton’s daughter Nickie Andrews while I was in town, and they were both very obliging in giving me details of the project.
As tourists came and went, I asked local Four Square worker Fiona Fredricson to pose with the Great New Zealand Road Trip moodboard in front of the statue.
Her mood? “Life’s good!”
In New Plymouth overnight, I charged up the Volkswagen ID.5 at the ChargeNet station, at New World, while enjoying a pizza dinner. It’s primed and ready to head to Taupō today.
Shayne Currie is travelling the country on the Herald’s Great New Zealand Road Trip. Read the full series here.