Andrew Birch

published: 31 Oct 2014 in Q&A

New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing chief executive Andrew Birch has already put together quite an impressive record in the racing industry.

After securing a degree in marketing and international business Andrew began working with NZTM in 2001 and later joined auction house New Zealand Bloodstock.

Then in 2006 he undertook the Darley Flying Start management traineeship, which led to him travelling to the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Dubai and Australia.

On completing the program he assumed the role of editor of Pacemaker magazine before joining U.K.-based vendor Jamie Railton as marketing and sales manager.

Along the way Andrew has worked in a “hands on” capacity for leading trainers Tony Vasil and Herman Brown as well as at a number of studs around the world.

With all that in mind Stallions fired a number of questions at him about Emirates Melbourne Cup week.


Q.: Who would you rate as the best Melbourne Cup winner in your time

A.: Obviously you can’t go past Makybe Diva, with her three consecutive victories. Her win as a seven-year-old in 2005 carrying 58.5kg was exceptional.


Q.: In your view what have been other outstanding winners in that period

A.: I think you could make a case for almost all of them. You don’t see too many poor Melbourne Cup winners.


Q.: Do you have any special memories about Melbourne Cup winners

A.: I was a massive fan of Saintly, so to see him bounce off defeating an outstanding field in the Cox Plate to streak away with the Melbourne Cup in 1996 was pretty special.


Q.: Has the class of the Melbourne Cup lifted in recent times

A.: Without question. The depth of the race has improved enormously. Where there was once a doubt over 90 per cent of the field getting the journey, we are now seeing proved high class stayers of weight-for-age quality in the Cup.


Q.: Has this resulted from the ever-increasing northern hemisphere participation

A.: Yes, the northern hemisphere involvement has definitely seen the bar raised, and local owners and trainers are more realistic about their entries. These days 200/1 shots like Sunshine Sally no longer get into the race and the locals realize they are coming up against horses like last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente and this year’s Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti..


Q.: Will this benefit the Cup’s profile in years to come

A.: It already has and it will continue to grow the Cup’s profile into the foreseeable future. International competition, where-ever that may be, is great for racing.


Q.: Is there a reason for the decline, of late, in New Zealand-bred Cup winners

A.: International competition is coming from all corners of the globe and it’s an enormous task just getting a start in the race. There wouldn’t be too many breeders in New Zealand who set out to breed “two-milers”. The day that they put a 3200m race on every metropolitan Saturday program is the day that might change, but for the time-being breeding “two milers” is commercial suicide for those who breed to sell. However, the efforts of Rising Romance and Lucia Valentia in the Caulfield Cup wouldn’t have hurt our stocks.


Q.: Which would you rate as the best Victoria Derby winner in your time

A.: Efficient, who won in 2006, was pure class. The way he picked them up at the end of 2500m showed he was a grade above the opposition. His ability was further enhanced when you consider he became the first Victoria Derby winner since Phar Lap to continue on to Melbourne Cup victory as a four-year-old. Lion Tamer was also hugely impressive in his year, albeit in wet conditions, and it was a tragedy that he died in the Cox Plate as there was plenty more to come from him.


Q.: What have been the classiest VRC Oaks winners in your years

A.: Probably the Bart Cummings-trained Magical Miss is the most impressive VRC Oaks winner I have seen. Serenade Rose, who won in 2006, was a good filly too as obviously was Miss Finland.


Q.: Do you feel the Derby and Oaks distance should be reduced

A.: No, otherwise we will end up like America where they refer to the 2400m of the Belmont Stakes as a “marathon”.


Q.: Who do you regard as the most impressive Emirates Stakes winners

A.: All American beating So You Think in 2009 was probably the most visually impressive. So You Think was a three-year-old coming back in distance from winning the Cox Plate, gave All American weight and did all the donkey work up front in a fast rendition of the race. That allowed All American to run over the top of him in the straight.


Q.: What is you overall feeling about Melbourne Cup week

A.: It’s the best week of racing anywhere in the world, not just for the action on the track but also for the way the general public gets right behind it. In my opinion Melbourne Cup week has 10 lengths on Royal Ascot.