Jewel in breeding crown to change hands

Iconic is a word which is, in my humble opinion, rather overused. Yet, when it comes to Cambridge Stud what other description is there?

Today’s news that Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan’s property will change hands next April left me feeling somewhat melancholic at the approaching of the end of an era.

We all realised Sir Patrick wasn’t going to be at the helm forever but there is a sense of finality in the fact he is stepping down and handing over the jewel in New Zealand’s breeding crown to Brendan and Jo Lindsay.  Obviously, not “literally” handing it over – the money involved would not be insubstantial and Sir Patrick could probably still teach lesser mortals a thing or two about the art of the deal!

I had cause to visit Cambridge Stud recently after a substantial lull – I think the previous occasion was the launch of Sir Patrick’s biography many years earlier – and there was still that feeling of history combined with familiarity.  The magnificent drive, the stable block which in early days the occasional visitor mistook for a residence, and just the sense of place that this property has carved out over the years.

A couple of years earlier, through a comedy of errors which I will claim were totally intentional, an old friend and I managed to seal our own part of Cambridge Stud history when purchasing a yearling from their draft.  To prove that the magic pixie dust comes as part and parcel of the CS brand, said yearling evolved into yet another of the Group One winners to be reared and sold under their banner.

Long before this though, Cambridge Stud was part of my daily life as I worked at BloodHorse magazine and the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.  These were the glory years of Sir Tristram and his phenomenal offspring.  They were heady days as the Group One winning tally climbed and the desire to own a son or daughter of Sir Tristram saw the magic $1million mark broken at the yearling sales.

Sir Tristram was, in journalistic terms, the gift that kept on giving as each new Group performer allowed us to write yet another chapter in his remarkable history!

The Sir Tristram juggernaut rolled on as his sons and daughters also dominated at stud – his dynasty was well and truly established.  And then along came Zabeel.  Continuing Cambridge Stud’s fairy-tale story, in March this year Zabeel overtook Sir Tristam’s benchmark of 45 Group One winners when Lizzie L’Amour took out the Bonecrusher Stakes.

“I doubt very much if there will ever be two stallions, a father and son standing at the same farm, that can leave 45 and 46 Group One winners in New Zealand again,” Sir Patrick said at the time. “It’s a tremendous achievement.”

It is also a rather large feather in the cap of the man who selected first Sir Tristram as his foundation stallion in 1976 and then chose exactly the right son in Zabeel, to take over his sire’s mantle.

Sir Patrick not only gave us two of the all-time greats he also put an indelible mark on the way we sell horses in this country. In every area from professional marketing to hospitality and staff livery he set the bar.

In the history of New Zealand thoroughbred breeding Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud was epoch-making.  Next April a new era will begin.

More climb aboard the NZRB gravy train

In my job in the real world I joke with one of my academics about a certain media topic being “the gift which keeps on giving.”

“The gift” is one of those stories which is continually evolving and of which the media is never going to tire.  Pretty much how I felt when, just days after writing my last post about the salary excesses of the Racing Board, an email was circulated announcing some new appointments.

Obviously those 488 permanent employees mentioned in my previous post weren’t cutting it when it came to government and industry stakeholder engagement.  The email in question stated that NZRB had reviewed that area of its communication earlier this year and after an extensive recruitment process claimed they now had the right team to work more closely with stakeholders.

Faced with that task is a team of five. Yes, you read that right – five people to focus on that area of communication.

It was another of those jaw-dropping moments which made me ponder how many people at the Racing Board it might take to change a lightbulb.

Of course, they would probably need to undertake a review before any bulb was changed and quite possibly advertise externally to ensure they found the right people!

The cohort of five is headed by an Irishman Ian Long, who previously held a similar position at NZ Rugby and, like NZRB CE John Allen, also worked at NZ Post.

Given the onerous task in front of him, he is going to be “supported by” parliamentary refugee Bill de la Mare, who comes to NZRB from positions with various ministers, including former racing minister Nathan Guy.  Propping the other side of this front row will be James Wigley, who boasts a marketing background according to the NZRB email, though Green Grass Marketing Services where he was a Marketing Consultant for a number of years, does not appear to have any visible digital footprint.  Wigley also has two years’ experience as a senior marketing manager with the NZRB’s Event Marketing and Logistics team.

The final two making up the team both have interesting titles, with Pete Lane tagged as Operations Specialist and Dan Smith carrying the poisoned chalice as Strategy Manager – Calendar Optimisation.  Presumably the former will provide protection when the latter advises clubs of changes to their dates!

You’d think that just reading this email would be enough to confirm that NZRB is not even paying lip service when it comes to looking at ways to cut its costs.  But it gets better, or worse depending upon your level of tolerance for black humour.

While the email is signed by one Stephen Henry, General Manager Services, it is actually sent by an executive assistant.  I am always suspicious of people who need others to send their emails, they engender memories of black and white movies where women were in the typing pool while blokes did the “real work.”

It may well be that Henry is indeed too busy to deal with emails to industry stakeholders or maybe it is something which was common practice during his time at MFAT.  The last time I received an email from someone, but actually generated by someone else, it came from Henry’s CE, John Allen, who also came to the Racing Board via MFAT.

Given Allen proposed job losses of close to 300 when at MFAT (that was later reduced to a mere 79) one would be forgiven thinking he would be capable of bringing NZRB staffing levels back to a manageable level.

However, based on this latest announcement expect the following – come the annual report there will be savings of between $3-$5million in salary expenses and we will be expected to be grateful for a job well done.

Try and shake off the Stockholm syndrome, instead we now need to channel the crazy newsman from Network, meet outside those offices in Petone and yell:  “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”