First woman president for Wairio

PRESIDENT: Sonia de graaff
PRESIDENT: Sonia de graaff

The Wairio Trotting Club's first woman president is determined to continue the fine work done by her predecessors.

Sonja de graaff stepped up from vice-president to president at the club's annual meeting recently. She follows other presidents, including Reg and Earl Drake and Jack and Oscar Lynch.

''These men have made the club,'' de graaff said of the past presidents.

''We're a family friendly club, a community orientated club.''

Many people involved with the club have links to coal mining in the district.

''Basically, coal mining guys are the ones that formed the club 76 years ago. We still have committeemen that were underground miners.''

De graaff moved from Wellington to Ohai in 1998. She met racing people in western Southland and got involved with the club in 1999 as a starter's assistant. Three years later, she was elected to the committee.

The administrator's grandfather, Tom Pemberton, was a jockey in Southland in the early 1900s. One of his wins came in the 1921 Otautau Cup.

For 15 years de graaff has helped Nightcaps trainer Jack Lynch, who won with well-performed pacers Tact Halsey and Shades Of Success. Lynch has turned unsound horses into winners.

''I love horses. It's horses like Tact Halsey and Shades Of Success that make you want to get out of bed in the mornings,'' de graaff said.

One of her goals is for the Wairio Cup to be increased in distance from 2400m to 3200m.

''I'd like to see it go back to two miles (3200m) because that's what it was historically.''

The Southland Times