At the Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association last week, Michael Martin the former long-term Chief Executive of the Association was honoured with Life Membership.
Martin had a long tenure at NZTBA, working for the association for 23 years, 21 of those as chief executive.
“It is the first time they have awarded the lifetime membership to a former employee,” Martin said. “I feel particularly honoured and I am joining a list of very eminent people in the thoroughbred breeding industry in New Zealand.”
Martin, together with his wife Susan Archer, also experienced success as breeders, having bred 13-time Group One winner Sunline.
“That was our personal breeding highlight,” Martin said. “In 1999, Susan and I were named breeders of the year. We also bred So You Think’s mother as well.”
Martin said he has taken particular enjoyment in mentoring younger generations in the industry, with the Sunline Trust scholarship being a pinnacle part of that.
“One of the most enjoyable parts of my role has been the mentoring of young people and the formation of the Sunline Trust, which is an educational trust that was formed after Sunline retired in 2002,” he said.
“It has sent a lot of young people overseas to further their careers. I have had a lot of satisfaction in watching people grow into significant industry roles as a result.”
NZTBA President John Fokerd presented Martin with his Life Membership and gave the following citation detailing the achievements and the growth the Association had during his tenure.
Michael Martin worked for the NZTBA for a total period of 23 years, serving under six different presidents, for that feat alone he should be awarded Life Membership, as there has only been 14 presidents in the history of the Association.
However Michael’s numerous achievements with the Association amount to more than that.
Michael was appointed Marketing Manager of the Association in 1989 a role he held for three years. In that time the TBA introduced the first Inward Buyer Scheme in New Zealand targeting young Asian and Australian trainers. It was fully funded by vendors on a pro-rata basis depending on the number of horses they had entered in the sales and it was not supported by the Auction house.
It was during that time that the TBA developed the marketing department and founded NZTM, quantifying the ½ % of money from the yearling sales to help fund it.
In his role as Marketing Manager it was necessary that Michael went overseas to target the young trainers and form a client base for the scheme, and in one year alone he spent 95 nights away from home, not an ideal situation for a man with a young baby. With this in mind he accepted a position with Racing Tasmania, and developed and honed his commercial skills, and five years later returned to the TBA in the role of CEO.
A priority for Michael throughout his time with the TBA was to support the membership to help keep the members racing horses. In the early 90’s programming for fillies and mares was abysmal, and the TBA worked hard to change this, and in 1991 FAMIS was developed to promote fillies and mares. Michael saw FAMIS out, and developed the TBS Scheme, which led to the now very successful Pearl Series.
Three programmes all ahead of their time, and ahead of Australia. There was no support from the Government or the Auction houses. It was purely a sweepstake funded by the members themselves. The long term aim of these schemes was to tap into the prize money pool and get government support.
In his early years as CEO Michael formed strong working relationships with the Trainers Association and the Owners Association. With the impending new Racing Act in 2003 together they worked to fight the potential detrimental effects that racing was facing under the proposed Act.
The NZTBA went to all the racing clubs and sector groups and ended up finding a fund to fund the report with the help of the Owners and NZ Trainers and only two racing clubs, Wellington and Hawkes Bay – of which Arthur Ormond was the Chairman as well as being President of the TBA at the time as well. That report known as the Brown Coupland Report highlighted the problems that unfolded over the next 15 years. Unfortunately what was proposed got very little support and left the industry in the difficult situation it faces now.
Together with the Trainers Association, Michael successfully fought with ACC to have separate levies for breeders, prior to that the levies were crippling as breeders were lumped in with trainers, jockeys, and stable hands.
In 2007 Michael was at the forefront, along with a team of industry people and the government in keeping EI (Equine Influenza) out of New Zealand following an outbreak in Australia which crippled the racing industries in New South Wales and Queensland.
That also highlighted the importance of the New Zealand Equine Health Industry and how severely tested it was at the time. It also led to stronger protocols being put in place and to the Racing Board funding a full time executive to run that body which the Association still has one voice on.
As a former school teacher education was a priority for Michael and he worked with the Auckland branch to establish the Sunline Trust, and that added to the substantial work that had already been done by the Wellington branch. He was one of the first trustees on the Sunline Trust which promotes the overseas scholarships for young people involved in the industry.
In 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations Michael with the help of Sally Cassels-Brown oversaw a spectacular fundraising event for the Trust with the then Governor General Sir Gerry Mataparae at Government House.
Over the years New Zealand has had a proud reputation at International Breeders conferences and meetings and under Michael’s reign presented some top presentations. In the early days of the World Wide Web, the TBA went to the International Breeders Conference in Milan along with 35 other countries, and staged a presentation on the importance of websites. The NZTBA was one of the first in the world to have their own website and they were involved in helping numerous studs set theirs up in the early days.
Following the presentation Michael O’Hagan the then CEO of the Irish Breeders Association, immediately went home and set up the first website for the Irish.
In the latter years at the TBA Michael, was able to work on modernising the constitution of the association and the branches, bringing them all under one constitution and directive that was a task that required extensive time and effort and took many years to achieve.
Michael wasn’t just an employee of the TBA but an active member, and along with his wife Susan they bred the outstanding champion mare Sunline. They continue to be involved and bred and race a number of family horses.
It has been my privilege to work with Michael, as a Councillor, as Treasurer of the Association and for the last 3 years as one of those six presidents and it gives me great pleasure to present Life Membership of the Association