Sally Cassels-Brown retires after 28 years with the NZTBA

Life Member and Past President Sir Patrick Hogan (left) photographed with Sally Cassels-Brown and CEO Michael Martin after the presentation .
Life Member and Past President Sir Patrick Hogan (left) photographed with Sally Cassels-Brown and CEO Michael Martin after the presentation .

The NZTBA's Administration Manager Sally Cassels-Brown was farwelled at the NZTBA's Annual General Meeting in Cambridge recently as she prepares for retirement after 28 years of service.

Current NZTBA President John Fokerd presented Sally with a sterling silver horse, usually reserved for Dewar and Grosvenor stallion award winners and CEO Michael Martin gave a glowing citation of the wonderful contribution Sally has made to the organisation since she joined in 1986.

Michael said that Sally was willing and able to do everything from licking stamps to welcoming the NZTBA's patron Her Majesty the Queen to open the new office. She was never late for work, always had a smile on her face and made the most of every dollar of income. She was completely loyal to the Association, utterly trustworthy and always ready to assist the Council, members and anyone who visits, calls or emails the office.

Michael stressed that Sally had been all of this and much, much more since joining the Assoication in Newmarket in 1986. One of her early tasks was the planning and fund-raising for the office building at Ellerslie.

"The outstanding success of that project will remain a great credit to Sally, it was a really attractive and immensely valuable base for our organisation for almost 25 years.

"During my time with the NZTBA Sally has turned her hand to everything from the preparation of our annual accounts to enrolling 640 fillies for the new Pearl Series (her third bonus scheme) to encouraging new breeders to join the Association. That's why 'Sally at the Breeders' is code for getting stuff done, no matter what the obstacles, the challenges or the size of the task.

"Above all, we will miss her as the classy, generous and resourceful first contact with our Association for almost half of its entire existence, and while her job can be filled, Sally herself is simply irreplaceable," he added.

Michael then thanked Sally and wished her well in her retirement. Sally will remain with the organisation until her replacement commences work, from a new base in the Arion Pedigrees office in central Cambridge, already the new home of the Stead Memorial Library.

Sally graciously accepted her silver horse, thanked Michael and in her typical forthright and eloquent manner delivered the following speech in reply.

"For the past 28 years I have ordered these sterling silver miniatures from Walker and Hall for the Dewar and Grosvenor Stallion Trophy winners. I think they are exquisite - each year I have commented to Michael that when I leave I would love one. So thank you very much. I don't aspire to amass a collection like Patrick has on his mantelpiece - I think he has 27 - but my one will be very, very treasured.

"As Michael said, I started work in August 1986 when we had a staff of seven working out of very cramped, rented premises in Newmarket. I have worked with three Chief Executives: David Bradford, who employed me, Brian O'Flaherty from 1988 to 1996, then from early 1997 with Michael, and together he and I have forged a very special working relationship. There have been eight presidents and I couldn't begin to count the number of individual councillors I have worked with.

"You could never say my job has been boring – as well as running the office, I have turned my hand to publishing, managing public syndication, organising raffles - indeed one of them was for a service to Generous donated by the Jenkins family and the proceeds of that raffle provided every member of the staff – and I think it was four or five at the time, with a networked computer. How generous our members have been to us in so many ways.

"When I started in 1986 the NZTBA owned one computer – an IBM which had cost a staggering $12,000. At that time there were three women in the office and we all queued up to use it - the clunker of a printer was so noisy it had to be housed in a soundproof box. How things have changed! While we had access to the membership database, it was maintained by an independent IT bureau and any reports or labels we needed were ordered, and of course, paid for. I soon took control of our own database.

"My first real challenge came when David Bradford resigned in 1988 to join the fledgling Magic Millions in New Zealand. He left at the time when we were undergoing great change – launching the Industry Development Plan, re-branding the Association with a new logo, launching public syndication under an exemption notice from the Securities Commission, and of course, the project to construct an office at Ellerslie Racecourse.

"There was no money in the pot to fund such a venture but using the successful formula of my ski club, we went out to the members with a subscription prepay scheme that far exceeded our expectations. Two hundred and fifty four Gold Badge members subscribed and this raised enough money for the bank to lend us the balance - in 1989 construction commenced.

"The Queen came to Ellerslie in February 1990 and opened our building. She also became our Patron. That day remains the highlight of my employment. There have been others but that occasion stands out as very special.

"The loss of our building has been devastating. To this day I cannot understand why the Auckland Racing Club treated us so badly. We had been repeatedly assured that if the site we occupied was needed for any other purpose, there would always be a place at Ellerslie for our building.

"That didn't happen and as John Fokerd said in his annual report, the Association has now walked away from its major asset and written off almost a quarter of a million dollars. In my opinion the Auckland Racing Club and its officers, past and present, have been dishonourable, and downright dishonest in their treatment of the NZTBA.

"There have been other highlights, and low points. One of the latter was the shutting down of the FAMIS bonus scheme which the NZTBA had run for several years. That was replaced by the TBS, a bigger, better scheme that included colts as well as fillies. Unfortunately, our management of TBS ceased in 2010 so it was with guarded enthusiasm that Michael and I once again took on the challenge to get the new Pearl Series up and running. I tell you, I'm a whizz at setting up bonus schemes. I've had a lot of practice!

"I take with me the history of the past 28 years of an organisation that is essential to every thoroughbred breeder. Our organisation was founded by forward thinking individuals back in the 1940's and the strong foundations it had then, encompassed every effort of every breeder, no matter how big or small their portfolio.

I witnessed growth during the early years of my tenure, and am proud to have worked for an organisation that has always put its members, the industry and its stakeholders first – a stance that has not always been popular or valued, but which I hope will be maintained in the future.

"The NZTBA will for ever hold a very special place in my life and I thank you all for supporting me over the years."

- Michelle Saba


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