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Nice to meet you: Bill Heap, sponsorship manager at Auckland Racing Club

If he weren't so swift at slicking paint, Auckland Racing Club (ARC) may not have been lucky enough to end up with Bill Heap in its stable.


Today, we learn more about how he turned his hand from painting to racing; what his next career pursuit may be ('retired' is not in Bill's dictionary) and what one thing he has achieved that (probably) no one else ever has.

Bill with Opie Bosson after his (Opie's!) win on Cool Aza Beel in the 2020 Karaka Million 2YO

Most people come to a new job from another. Not Bill Heap.


After having spent 23 years working for Coca-Cola, Bill - or 'Heapsy' as he's commonly known around the traps - retired to live the good life & "paint the roof".


That roof was painted so quickly however, that Heapsy found himself seeking out ways in which to fill his newfound, care & career-free days.


And so it was, some near-on ten years ago, that Bill turned up at ARC's stable door, offering to help out the sponsorship manager at that time.


Not only did Heapsy help that person out, but he also secured their job and, fast-forward to present day, he's still the man in charge of looking after our valued sponsors,

the office music playlist, the Boardroom drinks fridge & the baking of the Irish Raceday cake (whose secret ingredient, he says, is "just the right amount of Baileys Irish Cream & Guinness!").


As Bill is about to mark ten years out of retirement, we thought it was a great time for some Q&As to get to know this ageless personality a little better...

You recently went on a bit of health-kick and gave up your usual 'good greens' for a more ‘wholesome’ variety of greens. What was the best thing that came out of that?

Learning that mung beans and chutney on wholemeal bread makes for an awesome sandwich.


Best purchase you’ve ever made & why?

The Dyson Cyclone V10 vacuum cleaner – it is the Rolls Royce of cleaning machines. Need I say more!?


Was ‘retired’ your shortest-lived occupation, or have you had any other brief career forays?

I briefly crushed dag wool for a mate and then spent a month on the beef boning floor at the Whakatu Freezing Works.

What has surprised you most about your job at Ellerslie and what do you think would surprise others about what you do?

I'm probably most surprised about the fact that I enjoy my job as much now as I did when I started some ten or so years ago. What I think would probably surprise others is that since I've been in this role, I've secured about $13 million worth of revenue for the Club.


Bill (right) with sponsor & friend, Peter Thompson of Barfoot & Thompson

What's your favourite part of the job?

Having such regular contact with our partners - many of whom have become good friends.


[Ed's note: This comes as no surprise - Heapsie is very much a people person!)



And what's your least favourite part?

The worst bit is working on a rainy raceday. You feel for the horses, the stable staff, the sponsors, the owners, your colleagues, the punters and the general attendees. You could say it certainly puts a dampener on things!

What's been your greatest achievement?

Watching my darling wife Sharron give birth to our son, Liam.

A very tropical-looking Heap family portrait

Have you had any notable achievements or done something that perhaps no one else has?

I represented New Zealand at roller skating and played rugby for Hawke's Bay in the same year!

How did you keep yourself busy during lockdown and what did you learn about yourself during that time?

From a work perspective, I spent quite a bit of time keeping in touch with our partners informing them of recent racing developments and news.


In terms of lockdown itself - I hated it. I didn’t realise how much I missed my colleagues and friends.


[ Ed's note: Bill also put some time into ensuring that not only was he repping our friends on the daily, but that he never wore the same outfit to his home office twice - see below.]

Make a prediction (about anything!). What is it?

The Blues could get 10 more star All Blacks and they will still find a way to lose the Championship.

What's been your best raceday at Ellerslie so far?

One of my best days was last year when Glory Days won the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup. Not only was she ridden by my good mate Samantha Collett, but she had won a race another good mate (Peter Thompson) sponsored.


[Ed's note: Sam is clearly keen to ensure Heapsy has amazing days at Ellerslie as she went and won this year's Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup too - this time aboard Roger That.)

If you could pick a horse based off one thing only, what would it be and why?

In addition to the form, a racebook can be a treasure-trove of our sponsors' special offers & more. Here's Bill pointing out the latest from Vodafone to top jock, James McDonald.

I tend to pick those horses that have previously won at Ellerslie, or any horse that Craig Baker [ARC Exec GM of Racing] has tipped.


Who is your all-time favourite horse? Bonecrusher

Who is your all-time favourite jockey? Lance O’Sullivan

You’re starting out in a new (dream!) career – what is it?

Lawyer


If you were a racehorse, what would you be called?

Whataboutthatguy


Have you got a pre-raceday ritual?

I always have two poached eggs on toast before I head into work

What are you most looking forward to about our first raceday back in September?

Working alongside my colleagues again, something that I have missed, as well as the beers with Paul (Wilcox, CEO) and Noel (Kilkenny, Maintenance Manager) after the last race.

Bill, Paul & Noel with the Mitre 10 and Auckland Cup trophies

What's the best advice you’ve ever given or received?

Be upfront and don’t sit on the fence!


If you had $10 left to your name, how would you turn it into a fortune?

I would no doubt waste it on a slow racehorse, so I should probably give it to my wife to do something with instead.


What are you horrible at?

Tact.

You may not find a pot of gold at the races but you'll always see Heapsy's friendly smile!

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about:


A day at the races?

You don't need to be the punter from hell to enjoy a day at the races.


The racing industry?

That it employs more people than the wine industry and is worth $1.4 billion to New Zealand's economy - roughly the equivalent of 18,000 full time jobs.


And finally, seeing as it's late afternoon on a Friday - what’s on the playlist?

AC-DC. I need invigorating!!!

Want to get to know some more team members? Get to know them here - we have plenty more profiles to come!

BONUS CONTENT! Interested in seeing what's involved in becoming a sponsor at ARC? Below Bill shares a little more about what we can offer...


Says Bill...


We're lucky being the premier racing club in the country as many of our partners have approached us to sponsor a race, rather than us chasing them. That's not to say that we can't fit anyone else into our Group One stable!

Sponsorships are many and varied but could include naming rights to a raceday that might be a major carnival event, a smaller winter raceday or one of our charity racedays or an individual race - whether it's a winter maiden or a Group One event.


We then offer fashion partnerships, on-site signage packages, activation opportunities and more.


The brilliant thing about my role is that I can be creative and work with a prospective partner on tailoring something to suit their business needs & objectives.


What are some of the benefits of becoming a sponsor at ARC?

On and off-course branding and exposure is key, but in my eyes the biggest benefit or reward is what we can give them on a raceday - they are spoilt rotten!


Still keen? Email Bill via billh@ellerslie.co.nz or call him direct 09 522 3835.

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