Bax deserving recipient
As requests go, it was a beauty.
It was 1996 and Waikato Racing Club general manager Tony Enting and marketing manager Faye Bax were meeting with Sir Patrick Hogan, who was a major sponsor of the club.
“I would like to get [film and television star] Joan Collins to the International meeting next year,” Hogan said.
Hogan has always been willing to aim high but, even by his standards, this was a tough ask. It was difficult to imagine that somebody with Collins’ profile and commitments could be persuaded to pop along to Te Rapa on a set date.
“Well that was simple,” Bax remarked to Enting, as they returned to the office following the meeting with Hogan.
But Bax did get Collins to Te Rapa the following February, a feat that was the highlight of her 20 years on the staff at Te Rapa. “We had to go through her agent in America and did a lot of work to get her here,” Bax said.
The enormity of the achievement hit Bax as she made her way to Te Rapa on race morning. “Herbie Dyke had provided a flash vehicle for her [Collins] and she was scheduled to have breakfast at Patrick’s that morning. I drove past Patrick’s place and saw her car parked there and realised that it had all come together – and started to cry.”
Bax’s time at Te Rapa is just part of decades of involvement in the racing industry and she was recognised for her lengthy – and continuing - contribution to the industry when presented with an NZTR Service Award last month.
Joan Collins attracted a huge crowd to Te Rapa and the only comparable crowds during Bax’s time with the Waikato Racing Club were when Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter appeared two years earlier and Sunline made her two appearances in the Waikato Sprint.
“NZTR arranged for Rod and Rachel to come, and the success of that meeting prompted Patrick to look for another celebrity,” Bax said. “While Sunline proved that nothing brings a crowd like a good horse.”
Bax has spent a lifetime in Cambridge, which is in the heart of the thoroughbred industry but had nothing to do with either horses or racing during her childhood.
That changed when she began working for an accountancy firm, as a short-hand typist, aged 15. “Mum got me the job – I didn’t even know what an accountant did.”
One of the partners, Roy Lorigan, was also secretary of the Cambridge Jockey Club and the Waikato Hunt. “Those were the days when the secretary’s office staff did all the entries and acceptances and put the racebook information together.
“The clubs did the barrier draws as well and for Roy’s clubs the numbers were picked out from a container that was basically a cut-off lemonade bottle. It was invariably dropped, and we would be scrambling around on the floor picking up the numbers.
“But I found I liked the racing and horse sides of the business.”
As a result, Bax took the opportunity to take a permanent part-time job with the Cambridge Trotting Club, during which time she had her family.
That was followed by eight years as secretary of the Cambridge Jockey Club, then other roles, both in and out of the racing industry, before her lengthy stint with the Waikato RC. Bax’s initial target when she began at Te Rapa was to get a sponsor for every race, a challenge she was able to meet.
Bax continues to work in the racing industry and is back at the Cambridge Jockey Club, in a part-time role. “I’m still very fit and I plan to continue working for a while yet.”
Bax has also acted as secretary of the Waikato branch of the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. “We used to organise a lot of stud tours, around Waikato, and also to Hawke’s Bay, and they were always a lot of fun.”
Bax and her husband, Ken, have been married for more than 50 years but their home life has faced some unwelcome challenges over the last 20 years, following a road accident which left Ken confined to a wheelchair.