IN Racing
HB thoroughbred racing and breeding icon Tom Lowry has died
John Jenkins | July 06, 2024
Renowned Hawke’s Bay thoroughbred owner-breeder Tom Lowry

Tom Lowry, an immensely influential figure in the New Zealand thoroughbred industry, passed away on Monday of this week aged 88.

He was the third generation to operate the famous Okawa Stud in Hawke’s Bay, a property first established by his grandfather and then successfully run his father for many years.

Thomas Russell Lowry was born in Hastings on April 13, 1936, and educated at Christ’s College in Christchurch and then the Royal Agricultural College in England.

Like his father before him, Tom quickly became heavily involved in Hawke’s Bay thoroughbred circles, both as a successful breeder and owner.

He became a member of the former Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club in 1963 and a committeeman in 1969. He was vice-president of the club from 1978 to 1986 and president from 1987 to 1991, whereupon he was made a life member.

The Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club became part of Hawke’s Bay Racing Incorporated in the early 1990s and Tom Lowry served as a director on the Board of the new body before becoming Chairman from 2000 to 2002. He retired from both positions in October 2002.

Tom Lowry was also heavily involved in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Association, becoming a council member in 1976 and serving as vice-president from 1983 to 1987.

He was the NZTBA representative on the Board of the New Zealand Racing Conference from 1994 to 1996 and was also made a life member of the NZTB Association.

In the mid-1970s Tom Lowry decided to import a European-bred stallion to stand at Okawa Stud and purchased Three Legs from Ireland.

The son of Petingo went on to become one of the most successful sires of his time, being crowned champion New Zealand stallion for three years and producing a steady stream of Group race winners including the champion mare Horlicks, winner of the 1989 running of the prestigious Japan Cup.

Horlicks was by Three Legs out of the Okawa Stud-bred mare Malt and was bred and owned by Graham de Gruchy, a brother-in-law of Tom Lowry.

The steely grey mare recorded 17 wins from 40 starts and, besides being the only ever New Zealand owned and trained winner of the Japan Cup, she also recorded Group 1 victories in the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) in Melbourne, the DB Draught Classic (2100m) at Ellerslie (twice) and Television NZ Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie. She was also runner-up behind fellow New Zealander Poetic Prince in the 1988 Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne and went on to become the dam of the 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew.

Another outstanding early daughter of Three Legs was Burletta, bred by another Hawke’s Bay man in Tom Mulcaster. She won 16 of her 33 starts and was crowned New Zealand Three-year-old Filly of the year in the 1983-84 season when her victories included the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas and Group 2 Bayer Classic.

Three Legs also left the 1984 New Zealand Derby winner Jolly Jake as well as the multiple Group race winners Random Chance (15 wins), Our Secret Weapon (11 wins), Eastern Joy (12 wins) and Shannon (5 wins).

Tom Lowry, in partnership with his brother Pat and their sisters bred and raced a number of successful horses under the Okawa Partnership banner.

They included Cure, winner of the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas and runner-up in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby.

Tom Lowry also bred and raced the high-class racemare Dare, whose eight wins included the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes and, although he had wound down his thoroughbred interests in recent years, he celebrated another memorable success on his home track at Hastings this year when Testwin won on debut over 1600m on January 6.

The Time Test gelding was bred by Tom Lowry and raced by him from the Hastings stable of his nephew Guy and training partner Leah Zydenbos.

Testwin is out of the Don Eduardo mare Edwina, who was purchased out of a 2013 mixed bloodstock sale as a four-year-old for just $2250.

“I got another person to buy the mare for me and she traces back to a good Okawa Stud family,” Tom Lowry recalled.

“She was unbroken when I bought her but was an outstanding looking mare. If you saw her in a paddock with other mares you would pick her out on looks just about everytime.”

Tom Lowry decided not to get Edwina broken in and sent her straight to stud, getting her in-foal to Niagara who was standing at Okawa Stud at the time.

The resultant foal was Nedwin, who started out in Guy Lowry’s stable but was sold to Gisborne couple Mick and Suz Gardner. He won three races on the flat before entering the Hastings stable of Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal and has since won another three on the flat and six over fences, including last year’s Great Northern Hurdle (4200m).

Edwina didn’t leave another live foal until 2018, when she produced a filly by Darci Brahma that Tom Lowry also raced from his nephew’s stable and was named Darwin.

“She won a race but then her form started to drop away so we pulled the plug and we have retired her to stud too,” Lowry said.

Testwin is the third living foal out of Edwina and his win belatedly fulfilled one of Tom Lowry’s breeding rules.

“I usually say that if a mare can’t produce three winners before she is 12 years old then you should get rid of her. Edwina is 14 years old now but she has now produced three winners so I think she’s worth keeping.”

Tom Lowry had a life-long passion for thoroughbreds and was a special guest at the Hawke’s Bay/Poverty Bay Thoroughbred Breeders annual weanling walk last Sunday, which culminated in a luncheon at Linden Estate winery.

He was in fine spirits then but sadly passed away the next day.


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