Proud, passionate and persistent

BRENDAN Drechsler doesn't like to take no for an answer.

Whether it's family, business, the Sedgwick CFA or his beloved horse racing, once Drechsler puts his mind to something you better not stand in his way.

It's far from arrogance, rather passion and pride in what he does.

"I hate it when people say "no you can't do it",’’ Drechsler said this week.

"If you're fair dinkum about something and you love what you do, then you can make things happen."

Making things happen has been Drechsler’s mantra in 20 years on the Bendigo Jockey Club committee, including the past six-and-a-half years as chairman.

Moving the date of the Bendigo Cup and making the race a Melbourne Cup qualifier, the return of jumps racing to the BJC and the hosting of the feature Golden Mile meeting as a Saturday metropolitan class raceday sit atop Drechsler’s achievements.

All three plans had cold water poured on them by racing hierarchy in Melbourne.

"I was told there was a snowflakes chance in hell that the Bendigo Cup date would be moved,’’ Drechsler said.

"We were knocked back in 2005, but we kept campaigning and we finally got the date moved.

"When the Bendigo Cup was the week after the Melbourne Cup we struggled to get good fields and as far as the spring carnival went it didn't really matter.

“Once the Melbourne Cup carnival is over the interest in racing drops and Bendigo was an afterthought.

"Now that we are six days before the  Melbourne Cup we have the racing world looking at Bendigo.

“Years ago, who would have thought that the Bendigo Cup would have international horses in the field?

"How good is that for Bendigo?"

Horse racing has been a major part of Drechsler’s life for more than 30 years.

As fate would have it, he met his wife Pam at a Bendigo Cup eve ball in the early 1990’s.

Pam, an accomplished harness racing trainer/driver, and Brendan have raced and bred pacers for more than 20 years, including Jack Denver which won 21 races.

Drechsler’s major equine love has always been the thoroughbred and he’s owned gallopers for 30 years.

In 1993, he decided to take his passion for the sport to the next level by nominating for the BJC committee.  

In a close election, he fell just four votes short.

That was like flying a red flag in front of a bull.

The following year he campaigned heavily, met personally with members and was elected to the committee.

The BJC soon experienced Drechsler’s “make it happen” attitude.

Drechsler’s plan for the 1995 Bendigo Cup was to have the best racecaller’s in Australia in Bendigo to call one race each.

He was told it would never happen.

On November 16, 1995, a who’s who of Australian racecallers - Greg Miles, Peter Donegan, Wayne Wilson, John Russell, Greg Radley, Bryan Martin, Dan Milecki, Brian Markovic and Brian Blackmore – called the Bendigo Cup day card.

It remains one of Drechsler’s favourite achievements.

A group photo of the racecaller’s sits proudly on the wall of his office and he has kept letters of thanks from the likes of Miles and Donegan.

Miles’ letter includes a heartfelt thank-you for Drechsler organising his “magic moment”.

Despite being one of Australia’s greatest racecallers, Miles had never ridden a horse.

Drechsler changed that when he took Miles to his Sedgwick property and put him on the back of a striking bay horse.

The horse – Better Loosen Up – the 1990 Japan Cup winner who paraded at Bendigo on Cup day.

One of the few racecallers Drechsler couldn’t get that year was legendary Sydney caller and harness racing trainer John Tapp.

However, a phone conversation with Tapp that year turned out to be the start of a wonderful friendship.

“I asked John to look out for any staying horses in Sydney that could have a jumping future,’’ Drechsler said.

“John was keen to find some lightly raced three and four-year-old pacers for him to train in Sydney.

“Pam and I had a couple of three-year-old’s being broken in by Mark Hayes at Maryborough.

“One was a horse called Riverlea Blue, the other was called Cole Denver.

“We asked Mark which one we should keep and which one we should sell to Tappy.

“Mark said to keep Cole Denver and sell Riverlea Blue.

“We took Mark’s advice. Cole Denver won three races for us and Riverlea Blue won about 25 races for Tappy.”

The relationship between Tapp and the Drechslers remains strong.

Pam and Brendan still race horses with him now and Tapp stays with the Drechslers when he races horses in the feature events in Victoria.

“The great thing about horse racing is you meet so many great people,’’ Drechsler said.

Drechsler loves jumps racing.

He’s owned jumpers with the likes of Eric Musgrove and Robbie Laing for years.

The best, so far, is Corries, who ran second in the 2010 Australia Hurdle behind champion jumper Black And Bent.

“In all the years I’ve been racing horses I’ve never won a race in Melbourne,’’ Drechsler said.

“I reckon I’ve been beaten in three photo finishes.

“My brother Vin wouldn't know which end of the horse eats from, but he owned a horse called Rumbird which ran in the Magic Millions (earned more than $330,000 in stakemoney).

“Owning horses costs money, but I love it. I've had a lot of fun.”

That love of jumps racing brought about the return of the sport to the BJC.

After an extended period with hurdle racing at the club, the BJC now hosts the feature Mosstrooper Steeplechase day every winter.

“I remember standing in the BJC grandstand with Rick McIntosh and telling him that I want jumps racing to be back on the course proper at the BJC,’’ Drechsler said.

“Rick loved the idea, but he said it would never happen.

“I was very lucky that the BJC committee had the guts to back the proposal.

“At the time no-one wanted to go near jumps racing because everyone was listening to the minority groups.

“We’ve turned a normal cold, Sunday meeting into a feature day of jumps racing and it’s one of the highlights of the jumps season.”

Last year the BJC committee voted in favour of naming the feature hurdle event on Mosstrooper Steeplechase day the Brendan Drechsler Hurdle in recognition of his work for jumps racing.

“I wanted the race to be called the Karasi Hurdle because Kararsi was a champion jumper,’’ Drechsler said.

“I didn’t get my way. It’s a huge honour to have the race named after me.

“Being on the BJC committee is a prestigious job and not once have I ever taken the position for granted.

“I love it and cherish it.”

Drechsler’s favourite moment at the BJC doesn’t involve a horse.

He’s chaperoned countless celebrities over the years on Bendigo Cup day, but two stand out – Anna Meares and Kristi Harrower.

“I remember one year we had a big name celebrity for Cup day and she was terrible,’’ he said.

“You could just tell she didn’t want to be there. Coming to Bendigo to her was like being sent to the desert.

“About five years ago we had Kristi Harrower as our special guest.

“I was walking Kristi through the crowd and a lady yelled out “we love you Kristi”.

“Kristi stopped, gave the lady a hug and sat down and spent time with her.

“She’s not only a champion player, she’s a champion person.

“Anna Meares is the same. She was just sensational the year she came to Bendgo.”

Good people is the key to success, according to Drechsler.

“At the BJC I've been very lucky to work with so many great people,’’ he said.

“When I first became chairman the club had a great CEO in James Heddo.

“Once James left, we got Ian Hart and he's done an amazing job.

“We have a super team of people around us and that's why the club is going well.

“It's all about the good people.”

As much as he’s achieved in his time with the BJC, Drechsler has another project that he intends to follow through until it’s successful.

“I want the winners of the Geelong Cup, the Moonee Valley Cup and the Bendigo Cup to be exempt from ballot for the Melbourne Cup,’’ he said.

“Imagine how good it would be for Bendigo if the winner of our Cup was given automatic entry to the following week’s Melbourne Cup.”

A high-rating Victorian racing official has told Drechsler that having the Bendigo Cup as an automatic Melbourne Cup qualifier is “light years away”.

History says that Drechsler will make it happen.

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