Allan Beck

Beckie Gets 800 (Wednesday 3rd January 2018)

Bruce Stewart

Popular Southland horseman Allan Beck reached a milestone at Winton on Sunday when he drove his 800th winner – Gotta Minute.

He said he was aware he was getting close to the mark and that it was possible he’d achieve it on his home track.

“I thought I would (go close) because my own team was starting to go good. Then Des (Des Baynes) was on a roll, winning with his three and that helped the tally a bit. I thought Alfie Romeo would be my best chance (on Sunday) with the way it’d been trialling. But it was that wee fella (Gotta Minute) that won the last. He went a good race when he won three weeks ago but he wasn’t impressive. He jumped up in grade quite a bit. I thought it might have been out of his league but he got the good run and it worked out good,” he said.

Beck began his career under the guidance of his father Bob who was training at Winton at the time. Allan’s  first win came in February 1984 when he guided the classy filly Josephine Bret home to win by two lengths at Gore.

He drove eleven winners in his first season as a Junior – all for his father. They included Josephine Bret (3), My Girl (2), Free Bret (2), Beaudiene Scott (2), Awakite and Paleface Bret.

Also in his first season of driving, he won four races in one day. It was at Winton in March 1984 when he reined home Josephine Bret to win the Southland Oaks Final, and Awakite, My Girl and Beaudiene Scott to win their respective races.

His second, and what was to be his last season as a Junior, produced nine winners. In 1986 he joined the Open Drivers ranks and also started his career as a trainer after his father relocated to Ashburton.

“I was up there too and we worked together. He had a job at the works in Ashburton. I was going to get one as well but couldn’t. I still had my job at the Freezing Works down here so I came back and leased land off Roddy McFarlane right beside where I’m living now. I ended up with a few horses so decided to stay and train them. I had Beaudiene Byrd in that first season and she won five of her seven starts. That got me going. I stayed at the works for a few years and did the horses. When I applied for my Trainers Licence they took my Junior Drivers Licence off me so that’s why I was only a Junior for two seasons.”

In the early days Beck also had a Jockeys Licence.

“I had an amateurs licence for one year. When I left school Hunter McHugh had a jumper and he talked me into getting an amateurs licence so I could ride it.”

Alongside driving has own horses, he started to drive for Ray Faithful in the early 1990s, with his first winner for Faithful being Oberoni at Forbury Park October 1991.

It was a partnership that was to win many provincial cups and Tartan Lady was to provide Beck and Faithful with a Group One winner in Tartan Lady which won the New Zealand Breeders Stakes in 1999.

“I drove all his horses when he was at Lochiel. Tartan Lady ran out of her class down here and went to Cran Dalgetys. Then he got Feverish and she won about six.”

Of all of the 800 winners, Josephine Bret his first winner stands out.

“Your first one is always special. I think the most precious one was with Shortys Girl when she won the Breeders the second time. She hadn’t raced for quite a while and went into the race fresh. She won and broke the track record.”

Beck has also had a good association with a handful of good trotters over the years and he developed multiple group winner Diamond Field. He also trained handy intermediate square gaiter Prince Whiz which won the Forbury Park Trotting Cup.

“That was always a good race and he was only a three win horse. Eastburn Grant was in it and he’d come back from winning the Rowe Cup.”

Tact Tar was one horse Beck trained and drove that he says never reached it’s potential. The Boyden Hanover gelding raced for one season as a six year old, winning three of his twelve starts including a double at Ashburton in June 1988.

“He had a lot of issues but was unsound. He would have gone a lot further.”

As Beck looks back at his long career in the race cart, he reflects on the many changes. He says one positive change has been the number of younger drivers that are involved in the industry.

“When I started there weren’t the same amount of young fella’s in the game. Now they’re all younger.”

Another change has been the way races are run. He says an uncontested lead for a horse is very much a thing of the past.

“Those days are gone.”

He also says the standardbreds are more durable now.

“The horses seem to be able to work a bit more and they don’t seem to stop. Once upon a time if you worked a horse too hard it would only run home in 30 seconds. Now they can work and still run home in 28. The Standardbreds have improved so much. When you go back forty years in the galloping side they used to go 1-08 to win the Telegraph Handicap at Trentham. They still only go 1-08. Forty years ago in the Standardbreds they were flat in going 1-55 (for a mile). Now they’re going 1-50. We can get the best artificial semen in the world for our mares but all the gallopers are served naturally, so if you want the best you have to send your mare over to England to get them served. The race carts have improved, so that’s made a difference.”

He says the country now has a very good depth of young driving talent.

“When I started off Henry (Skinner) was the best. Southland’s probably blessed with a lot of good drivers like the Williamson boys and Brent Barclay. You wouldn’t be disappointed to have any of them driving for you. Dexter’s just another dimension. He’s just a freak and we’ll probably not see another one like him again. He’s just like the Chris Johnson of the racing world. Dexter’s just got a gift and they seem to run for him.”

Beck freely admits that he’s not an overly aggressive driver, something that was instilled in him early on.

“It was something I was brought up with. If you burnt them out you couldn’t back up with them the next week.”

And like many drivers in those earlier years he was pretty much self taught.

“You just picked it up yourself. Dad hardly ever drove. You’d sit down after a race and talk about the drive with him but you’d know yourself what you’d done wrong.”

In thirty four seasons of driving he says he’s been lucky to have escaped any major injuries.

In January 1988, in a heat of the Forbury Park Four Year Old Series, seven horses went down or were pulled up including his drive Black Print. He walked away injury free from that smash but wasn’t quite so lucky when Franco Cuisine, in a heat of the Sires Stakes at Invercargill in October 1994, fell. Beck was away from driving for six weeks after that accident.

He rates Josephine Bret and Shortys Girl as the best female pacers he’s driven, Bee Bee Cee as the best male pacer and Diamond Field as the best trotter.

Shortys Girl was the horse he drove to win the most races (11), followed by Bee Bee Cee and Tartan Lady (10).

Other trainers he drove successfully for were Graham Bond (23), Des Baynes (22), Ian Wilson (16), Peter Davis (11), John Keenan (10) and Derek Dynes (10).

“Graham had a good team when he was at Drummond and I did all his driving. In the last ten years I haven’t been chasing the drives – now that I’m a bit older.”

Beck has won the Southland Drivers Premiership five times; 1989,1992,1993,1997 and 1999. His best season as a driver was in 1999 when he drove 42 winners for a UDR of .2348.


First winner: Josephine Bret at Gore February 18th 1984.

800th winner: Gotta Minute at Winton December 31st 2017.

Beck driving stats:

  • Trained by Allan Beck  295
  • Ray Faithful 70
  • Graham Bond  23
  • Des Baynes  22
  • Bob Beck (father) 16
  • Ian Wilson  16
  • Peter Davis  (EJP) 11
  • John Keenan 10
  • Derek Dynes 10

 Biggest winners (by wins)

    • Shortys Girl 11
    • Bee Bee Cee 10
    • Tartan Lady 10
    • Tact Halsey 8
    • Amiable Popular 6
    • Diamond Field 6
    • Preiswert 6
    • Prince Whizz 6
    • Feverish 6
    • Imperiora 6
    • Cordon Hops 5
    • Black Print 5
    • Mavora Boy 5
    • Glen Atom 5Southland Drivers Premierships: 1989 (35), 1992 (34), 1993 (29), 1997 (28) and 1999 (42).Beck has won most Provincial Cups and Finals in Southland and Central Otago including:Southland Oaks: Josephine Bret (1984), Adrenalin (1989), Tartan Lady (1998) and Shortys Girl (2001).
    • Wyndham Cup: Tact Halsey (1996), Feverish (2000), Franco Novella (2003) and Flamin Tact (2006)Central Otago Cup: Horatius (1990), Admiral Smooth (1992), Preiswert (1996) and Tartan Lady (1999)Roxburgh Cup: Imperiora (1997), Brydone (2004) and Seelster Blue Jeans (2005).
    • Group One wins: New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes: Tartan Lady (1999), Shortys Girl (2002 and 2003)
    • Group Two wins: Southland Oaks Final – Shortys Girl (2001), Law Courts Hotel Trotting Cup at Forbury Park – Prince Whiz (1998), Southland Oaks Final – Tartan Lady (1998) and Forbury Park Four Year Old Championship Final – Bee Bee Cee (1994).
    • Group Three wins: Southland Oaks Final – Adrenalin (1989)
    • Pacing winners: 728/800
    • Trotting winners: 72/800
    • Total stakes won: $4,846,019