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Obituary - David Benjamin

David Benjamin passed away on Friday - Photo: Trish Dunell
David Benjamin passed away on Friday

Photo: Trish Dunell

With the passing of David Benjamin, the Thoroughbred world lost one of its champions and the NZTBA lost one of its greatest supporters.

Benji, as he was known to most, was a stalwart of the association, joining as a member of the Waikato branch when he returned from overseas in the 1970’s to take up the position of manager at Sir Jack Butland’s Blandford Lodge.

He progressed to serve on the Waikato branch committee and in the mid 1980’s was instrumental in starting their Group One Awards dinner and the Dewar and Grosvenor stallion awards. The Grosvenor Award being named after the successful stallion he launched during his tenure as Manager of Fieldhouse Stud.

That highly successful dinner has now morphed into the annual National Breeding Awards.

He also served on the Council during the mid-80’s and was present when Her Majesty the Queen opened the Association offices in Auckland in 1990. He was a Life Member of the Association and a frequent visitor to the Association’s headquarters in Cambridge right up until last year when his ailing health started to really deteriorate.

David George Murray Benjamin was born in Auckland and grew up in Remuera. He attended King’s Prep School before boarding at Wanganui Collegiate. On leaving school he worked for Wright Stephensons and Ra Ora Stud and his future in the thoroughbred industry was determined there.

A stint at Sidehill Farm in Newmarket followed, before Benji made one of the best decisions of his life taking a job at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. It was there that he met Masey who happened to be working in bloodstock insurance. They married, and full of dreams and inspiration for a future, they returned to New Zealand.

Benji was outstanding at designing farms, and reshaped the landscape at Blandford Lodge, Fieldhouse Stud, and his own Fayette Park. The trees on those properties will be just one of his legacies.

When it came to marketing, he was innovative often thinking outside the square, and was definitely a leader when it came to promoting stallions and yearlings. He could be flamboyant in his fashion, and the pink and green Fayette Park marquee was a sight to behold at the Karaka sales.

He was an exceptional host both at the sales, on the farm or at his beloved Hahei beach house, a trait which could be attributed to his wicked sense of humour and his love to have a chat.

Benji was associated with some good stallions - Grosvenor, Prized, Stark South, Postponed, and Don Eduardo to name a few; and Fayette Park held the title of Breeder of the Year in 2003.

Aside from that he was a superb mentor and a large number of successful players in the industry have benefited from his wisdom.

One such beneficiary is Scott Eagleton the Manager at Fayette Park for seven years.

“I can’t speak highly enough about Benji and what he has done for me,” Eagleton recalled.

“It was my first time managing a farm when I went to Fayette, we had five stallions, 180 odd mares and 40 yearlings. When I went there, I was pretty green, and he was a brilliant mentor.

“His biggest gift for me was that he allowed me to make mistakes and then walked you through them. Then he would ask what did you learn from that? He always gave you confidence.

“He had an incredible vision when it came to building a farm, Fayette Park was testament to that. He loved the land and loved trees.

“When I went to branch out on my own, he even came to give me advice. Seaton Park was an ex dairy farm with a two-wire fence and his vision certainly helped develop it.

“He was phenomenal.”

It wasn’t just the alumnus of the studs he ran either, he helped others finding their way in the industry with advice and assistance especially when it came to gaining overseas experience.

Benji was a wonderful husband and father and was proud of Blanton and Annie, and their achievements and more recently always spoke fondly of his five grandsons George, Jack, Samuel, Lachlan and Thomas.

Ill health plagued Benji for many years, but his sense of humour remained, he once described Waikato Hospital as his second home. He was tough but it finally got the better of him and he died peacefully surrounded by Masey, Blanton and Annie.

Rest in Peace old friend. I will miss our banter, your intelligence, your congeniality and your wisdom.

A celebration of David's life will be held at The Woolshed, Te Awa Lifecare, 1866 Cambridge Road, Cambridge on Saturday 3 February at 2:30pm. Prior to this, a short service will be held at St Andrews Church at 1:00pm. All welcome at either or both services.



 

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