When David Branch leaves New Zealand bound for London on Sunday June 1 he will know he has played a huge part in developing possibly a world first at the Auckland Trotting Club.
The former assistant racing manager, and now sales and marketing coordinator at the ATC, has been the leading force behind the club’s new-look website which will be launched on May 23.
The website will stream all of its weekly race-card, as well as non-totes, Kidz Kartz Races and in fact all Alexandra Park happenings on race-night via APTV.
“We have been working on this launch for several months now. It will be sad to walk away from it all just as it’s taking off – but I will walk away satisfied knowing a new revolution in racing has been forged,” Branch said.
“The website will also have individual driver pages with their latest tips and information, as well as video interviews. But it is APTV that excites me the most. I don’t know of any other club that does this,” the 24-year-old added.
Branch said the time was right for him to do his OE and see the world.
“It took a lot of thought because I work with a wonderful team at the ATC and that’s going to be the hardest part – saying goodbye to them. I think Dominique (Dowding) is an exceptional CEO with revolutionary ideas. APTV and the new website is just one of them,” he said.
“The club is heading both with the times and in the right direction because of her,” he added.
Branch, who is the son of Hautapu trainers Murray and Susan Branch, started driving in the 2007-2008 season.
He was appointed ATC assistant racing manager in May 2010.
That was almost two years (August 2008) after he drove his first winner behind the John Green and Brian Hughes trained Roddick at Cambridge Raceway. That was the same year Branch was named 2008 Northern Harness Racing Cadet-of-the-Year.
His racetrack highlight however came in May 2011 when he trained his first winner on his hometown course of Cambridge. The horse was his favourite all-time pacer - Ripped Pocket.
“He was just the coolest horse to do anything with and definitely my favourite. I started working with him when I worked for Michelle Wallis (2010) and was later given the chance to train him thanks to Michelle and his owner, Tim Vince,” he said.
He said he would sorely miss being around horses.
“I love harness racing and sadly where I’m heading it’s not strong but I’m looking forward to a complete break from the industry,” he said.
Branch said there were many highs during his four years with the ATC.
A couple of those were hosting the 2011 Inter Dominions with the NZMTC and then this year’s Auckland Cup.
“I enjoyed working with the team from Christchurch and then again this year the Auckland Cup was so satisfying because we all worked so hard - and pulled off an amazing event,” Branch said.
Branch said he would be coming home for Christmas before deciding his next move.
“It was always going to be hard leaving and it’s even harder knowing the Club is experiencing a lot of changes and I can’t be there to see them develop.
“But if I don’t do it now I may never get the chance. At 24 I feel the time is right.”
For the record Branch has driven 18 winners since 2008 and trained five more.
Branch also paid tribute to his parents.
“Both Mum and Dad have been amazing and thoroughly supportive with my decision. That made it a lot easier knowing I have their blessing,” he said.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)