A series of racing celebrity lunches and dinners will go up for auction next week, in an initiative founded by the New Zealand Jockeys’ Association.
And if that wasn’t enough, all funds raised by the auctions will go to the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust.
“I came into the role at the Jockeys’ Association in February, and one of my ambitions is to increase the profile of jockeys, to help them be regarded as sporting heroes,” says Andrew Lacy, Executive Officer New Zealand Jockeys’ Association.
“You see kids lining up for autographs and selfies after rugby games, and I’d love to see that happening at race meetings with the jockeys.
“So I put my mind to it, and came up the idea of celebrity lunches. I knew that the Horse Ambulance Trust was raising money to complete their fleet, and thought they would be the perfect cause to raise money for.”
Lacy got to work, ringing jockeys, trainers, celebrities, restaurants and studs, to transform the idea into reality.
“Not one person turned me down,” says Lacy. “That just shows the willingness of the industry to pull together for a common cause. The horse is at the front and centre of the industry, and everyone has horse welfare at the heart of things.”
There will be six lunches/dinners held across the country, with the times and dates of individual meals to be determined by the successful bidders and the celebrities. The meals are all-inclusive, and the winning bidders will also get to bring a guest along.
Auckland: Dinner at Volare with Opie Bosson, Luke Kemeys and Ben Masters (sponsored by Haunui Farm and Ribchester);
Cambridge: Lunch at Alpino with Brendon McCullum and Stephen Marsh (sponsored by Haunui Farm and Belardo);
Christchurch: Lunch at Lonestar Riccarton with Chris Johnson, Sam Wynne and Tina Comignaghi (sponsored by Inglewood Stud and War Decree);
Palmerston North: Dinner at The Fat Farmer with Kevin Myers and Tony Lee (sponsored by Cambridge Stud and Hello Youmzain);
Wellington: Lunch at Rydges Wellington with Lisa Allpress and Johno Benner (sponsored by Grangewilliam Stud and Wyndspelle); and
Matamata: Lunch at Osteria with Danielle Johnson and Sam Collett (sponsored by Waikato Stud and Super Seth).
“The Jockeys’ Association has northern, central, and southern area presidents – Sam Collett, Lisa Allpress, and Sam Wynne. We wanted them to all be involved and they were all happy to.
“And with the help of a few people, we have rustled up a really good line-up of restaurants and people, which will hopefully get the bidding up to raise good money for the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust.”
Bidding will open on gavelhouse.com on Tuesday 30 March, and will run online for a week. There has already been plenty of interest, particularly around the Palmerston North lunch, with commentator Tony Lee and trainer Kevin Myers.
“I’ve already had a guy tell me that he’ll open the bidding at $2,000 for this one. While Kevin is usually media shy, I’m sure he’ll be opening up at the lunch and telling a few good racing yarns!”
In addition to the celebrity lunches and dinners, Boys Get Paid has also generously donated a pair of Winx breeches, signed by Hugh Bowman, which will also go up for auction.
“Whatever is raised across the meals and the breeches, the Jockeys’ Association will also match dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 – so it’s probably a fairly safe bet that we’ll also be putting in $10,000 towards the cause,” says Lacy.
“As you can imagine among the jockeys’ ranks, there’s already strong internal competition around whose lunch will get the highest bid – they will definitely be encouraging people to bid big on their lunches!”
Jo Starr, Community Engagement and Social Media New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust, is thrilled with the level of support they have been receiving.
“The Jockeys’ Association fundraiser will be fantastic, and will be a huge help for us to complete our fleet,” says Starr, who juggles working fulltime with her voluntary role at the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust.
“We started a givealittle campaign not long ago – we hadn’t really done any public fundraising as such before, and we had really fantastic support in particular from Cambridge Stud around doing this campaign.
“There are currently eight horse ambulances out there, we’ve just about funded our ninth, and we are working on funding for our 10th as well. A horse ambulance costs around $95,000 and then a towing vehicle is needed as well.
“The horse ambulance attends all race meetings, and we want to be able to attend all equestrian events as well.”
It was Starr’s love of the horse that initially prompted her to get involved with the Trust 18 months ago.
“I love horse racing, and I hate seeing horses get hurt, and that’s why I got involved – I felt like I needed to do my part and I felt like I could offer something. The horse ambulance is about trying to provide the best possible outcome for horses.” – Liz Wheelan, Race Form