IN Racing
McCutcheon recognised in King’s Birthday Honours
Noel McCutcheon’s lifelong dedication to the racing industry was recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours on Monday where he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the thoroughbred and harness racing industries.
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | June 05, 2024
Noel McCutcheon has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the thoroughbred and harness racing industries. Photo: Race Images

Noel McCutcheon’s lifelong dedication to the racing industry was recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours on Monday where he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the thoroughbred and harness racing industries.

McCutcheon didn’t have any family involvement in racing when growing up, but it was as a fresh-faced 10-year-old that he got hooked on the sport, which has led to several career paths, including jockey, harness racing trainer and driver, chief stipendiary steward, and JCA race day committee member.

“I was in Greenmeadows, Hawke’s Bay, as a child and there used to be races at Napier Park,” he said. “I used to sit on the top of a macrocarpa hedge when I was a wee lad and when they raced past me, I thought ‘that is what I want to be, I want to be a jockey’.

“I didn’t have any family involvement in racing, I just had a pony from as far back as I can remember.”

The enthusiastic youngster didn’t waste any time in following his chosen career path.

“I started off as a 10-year-old lad in a stable,” McCutcheon said. “I had my first ride as an apprentice jockey when I was 15 and completed my apprenticeship when I was 19. I was based in Hawera at the time, and then I moved to Otaki where I rode for another 10 years.”

McCutcheon spent 14 years in the saddle and tasted success at the highest level on both sides of the Tasman.

“I rode three Derby winners – Mission in the South Australian Derby in 1965, a New Zealand Derby on Royal Duty in 1963 and another New Zealand Derby with Pep in 1968. I also won the Hawke’s Bay Cup and Awapuni Cup on Royal Duty,” he said.

“I finished riding when I was about 28 or 29, but I had periods off with injury.”

When McCutcheon called time on his riding career, he decided to shift codes and take out his harness racing trainer’s and driver’s license. He became interested in harness racing during his time in Hawera and thought it was an opportune time to try his hand with standardbreds.

“When I was an apprentice jockey in Hawera I became friendly with John Butcher, who is the father of David and Phillip Butcher, who have been very successful harness drivers,” McCutcheon said. “I remained friends with him until he sadly passed away. I used to drive work for him when I was based in Hawera when he came down for the Easter circuit.

“I trained a few harness horses and drove them for a while. I drove and trained about 20 winners. I was in Otaki at the time, and it wasn’t a viable proposition as there weren’t many harness meetings. I decided to sell my property and move to Cambridge, which was the home of harness racing in the North Island.”

In his shift north, McCutcheon was approached to follow a different career path.

“In the interim, I was approached by the then chief stipendiary steward, Mr Phil Reid, and he asked if I was interested in becoming a stipendiary steward,” he said.

“I attended about three race meetings and he said he was going to recommend to the then Racing Conference Board that I be put on as an assistant stipendiary steward. That was in May 1980 and at the end of 1982 I was appointed a full stipendiary steward.

“In November 1989, they approached me and said they wanted me to be the next chief stipendiary steward. I commenced those duties on January 1, 1990, and I remained in that role until 2006.”

McCutcheon spent a few years away from racing before the pull became too strong, and he was asked to assist the Judicial Control Authority, which he has continued to do to this day.

“For three years I didn’t have a lot of interest in racing, I just travelled and did things that I wanted to do,” he said. “I was then approached by the Judicial Control Authority to see if I was interested in training some people in the finer points of race reading.

“I did that for a short period of time and then I was asked if I would sit on race day judicial committees, and I have been doing that for about 14 years. I finished the race day work last July and I only do the appeals judge panel now.”

McCutcheon was delighted to be recognised for his contribution to thoroughbred and harness racing in New Zealand, and said there is one formula for success – “Hard work, grind and determination. If you want something bad enough you can get it,” he said.