IN a career profile, Graeme Hawkins is described as administrator, race caller, auctioneer, racing journalist, television presenter, track expert, salesman, owner and punter, writes DAVID MOLLETT.
To that impressive list we can now add sales record breaker – Graeme is the man who sold the R9 million record yearling at last week’s Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales in Germiston.
A few hours after bringing the hammer down in favour of legendary trainer Mike De Kock, Graeme sat in Kelvin’s packed bar and reflected on one of the most memorable moments in a career which has touched practically every corner of the racing industry.
“I guess it goes down as the most exciting moment of my auctioneering career – I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in a position to say to a prospective buyer – ‘dare I say, sir, that you can give me R10 million.”
That was exactly the situation as the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which had identified the Silvano colt as the sort who might plunder big races in the former British colony, finally threw in the towel. They had made a good fist of the bidding – entering the fray at R6,5 million and seeing off the formidable Tony Millard and John Freeman.
That the Hong Kong Jockey Club – annually big buyers in Australia – had even targeted this sale is a fillip for our breeding industry. They are aware – as De Kock pointed out minutes after securing the colt – that you’d pay much more “Down Under” for a classy individual as the one which had the crowd at the sales ring enthralled last Wednesday.
But back to Graeme Hawkins. In his various roles encompassing Phumelela, the TBA, Racing Association and, more latterly Gold Circle, Graeme has had to be Mr Diplomacy.
Not that he’s ever been a pushover in any drama – and there’s been no shortage of those – but there must have been many occasions when he has returned home and uttered a few expletives “damn Mr So-and-So – he just doesn’t see reason.”
Four KZN controversies which spring to mind which Graeme has had to go into diplomatic mode are the laying of polytrack at Greyville, 20-20 meetings, Durban July conditions and the state of the Greyville track.
To his credit – and perhaps a major reason why his employers over the year have viewed him as a vital cog in their wheel – he has often come up with solutions to problems without being dogmatic about his viewpoint.
He says he currently has “a contractual agreement” with Gold Circle which covers marketing, eventing and sponsorships. Regarding the latter, he made an accurate comment when saying “television and social media exposure has become absolutely critical for sponsors.”
So the events last week can be described as a kind of homecoming for Graeme as he did stints at the TBA as sales manager – putting up with journos like Charl Pretorius and myself – from 1983 to 1987 and 1991 to 2000.
It was in 2000 that we first welcomed New Zealand auctioneer, Steve Davis, whose loyalty to SA’s most historic sale is second to none. He sent me an SMS after the record sale which simply said: “Well done to Mr H.”
Whilst Graeme’s racehorse ownership isn’t anywhere near that of Grant Knowles, he’s dabbled in that part of the sport and – as I can attest to – probably lost money on a horse you own a leg in despite the form being “dodgy”.
Perhaps now that he’s a grandfather, Graeme might take his foot off the accelerator a little, but few will dispute he still has plenty to offer in a sport where people with little knowledge of racing are suddenly promoted to top positions.
One gets the impression the bumpy road for one Graeme Hawkins is far from over – he wouldn’t want it any other way particularly with high spots like April 24. – (Headline photo: Candiese Marnewick).