The Oxford dictionary describes a volunteer as a person who willingly works for an organisation without being paid. Jeff Drinkwater, the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Wellington Branch of the NZTBA certainly epitomises that definition.
The branch recognised Drinkwater's efforts at a function following their AGM last week, presenting him with the John A Higgs Trophy for Contribution to the Branch.
“It was a real shock especially as I am still in all the roles and look forward to being in it for a few more years to come,” said an obviously delighted Drinkwater.
“We do these things because we can, it’s good to catch up with likeminded people on the committee and the members. It’s a pleasure to be involved.
“When you look at the honour roll of who has received this trophy before me, it’s quite humbling. I think I would have felt I deserved it at some stage down the track at a more appropriate time. But it is certainly appreciated.
“As you look through the list of recipients, I feel like I have short-changed them. I can’t justify it in my own mind I don’t feel I have achieved what so many others have so if that spurs me on to stay in the job then that is well and good.”
Wellington Branch President Alex Kelly was quick to dispel that theory and is full of praise for Drinkwater.
“Jeff is the man behind all our activities,” said Kelly, “He organises everything - our movie nights, our recent visit to Little Avondale Stud and he ensures we get the best venues, catering and everything to make an event run smoothly. He handles all the correspondence and does so much work in the background.
“He is on my case all the time to keep me on my toes. He was a massive support to Darryl (Burrows the former President) before me as well. We only have 90 members so it is quite hard for us to fundraise. With his skills as a Chartered Accountant, he picked up the financials and made the reporting so much easier."
Drinkwater has been on the committee for a number of years and took over the treasurer role and Secretary and Vice President around the same time about three years ago.
He admits that when he first joined the committee it was in deficit and facing ongoing deficits and credits the stallion nomination placement scheme that Darryl Burrows set up for the branch as being their lifesaver.
“We get a commission from stallion service shares that we on sell,” Drinkwater explained, “That grew in momentum and now we receive a surplus and that’s why our branch has reserves.
“I am pretty proud of where we are financially and we hold a few events each year which we can invite our members to. If we have a surplus we can hold these events and it doesn’t matter if they do cost us a little bit of money.”
Drinkwater gave up private practice as a chartered accountant after forty years and is now the accountant for the Forest Owners Association. Like most people of his era, he developed his interest in racing through his family.
“I started out going to the TAB on a Saturday morning with my Dad then listening to the races with him on a Saturday afternoon," he said. "From there it progressed to going to the races, owning racehorses, buying at the sales, then breeding horses - the whole lot.
“I served 10 years on the Hawke's Bay Jockey Club board in the days when the Kelt Capital was at its peak, and then when I moved to Wellington I did nine years on the Wellington Racing Club board."
Besides the John A Higgs Trophy, several other awards were presented at the function where Alex Kelly was re-elected President.
“We are only a small branch,” said Kelly, “But having said that we do punch above our weight when it comes to breeding horses.”
That is evident by the list of award winners below:
Broodmare of the Year | Extra Explosive dam of Explosive Jack (Luigi Muollo)
Horse of the Year | Hypnos (Ron and Fran Dixon)
John A Higgs | Jeff Drinkwater
Breeding Excellence Awards
Luigi Muollo breeder of Explosive Jack winner of ATC Australian Derby G1, SAJC South Australian Derby G1 and Tasmanian Derby LR
Mark Freeman and David Price breeders of Sky Darci winner of HKJC Hong Kong Derby G1 & HKJC Lion Rock Trophy G3
John Fokerd breeder of Sierra Sue winner of the Rose of Kingston Stakes G3
Luigi Muollo breeder of Only Words winner of The Roses G2 and H S Dyke Stakes LR
John Barnao, Tommy Heptinstall and Tom Pivac breeders of Toffee Tongue winner of Sky High Stakes G3
John Barnao, Tommy Heptinstall and Tom Pivac breeders of Lord Vladivostok winner SAJC RA Lee Stakes G3
-Michelle Saba, NZTBA