by john manzi for NAADA
In early December four members of the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA) will travel New Zealand to represent America in a series of races in a Friendship Competition against their counterparts from Down Under.
Leading the USA team will be Peter Kleinhans who earned that honor after winning a lottery drawing upon the completion the NAADA Summer Trotting Series. Recently the international amateur drivers organization had released that Dave Offenberg will join Kleinhans on the overseas journey to represent the USA in the competition. Now NAADA has named Joe Lee to join the aforementioned and in upcoming weeks they’ll name the fourth and final member of the USA team.
Joe Lee is the assistant to the head equipment manager of the New York Yankees and has been for 22 years. He is also a member of many amateur driving organizations and this year he has been able to compete in amateur races more than in past seasons. Thus far this year “Yankee Joe” has eight wins, 10 seconds and eight thirds in 64 starts and all with what would be considered in the industry as “catch drives”.
Asked how a youngster from New York City got so involved in harness racing, Joe was pleased to expound.
“My parents owned some Standardbreds when I was a kid and I grew up going to Freehold, Roosevelt, Yonkers and the Meadowlands. I show-jumped horses for just about 20 years so I definitely was always around horses.
“Going to the racetracks as much as I did, I wanted to see what it was like to sit behind one rather than in a saddle, so my good friend Sandy Goldfarb put me in touch with Buzzy Sholty who trained many of Sandy's horses over the years.
“I began going to White Birch Farm (in New Jersey) every Saturday morning and any other chance I had. I would leave my house at 4:45 in the morning to get there on time and start jogging and training the barn with Buzzy. Buzzy, knowing I had been around horses began trusting me right away with some of his horses and I never looked back.
“In 1995, while in high school, I was offered a position with the New York Yankees as their batboy which I enjoyed for three seasons. After that I got the opportunity to become an assistant to the head equipment manager, and have done so ever since. This year completed my 22nd season there.
“Since 2001, I have worked in the Financial Services industry. I was a financial advisor with UBS from 2001-2004. In 2004 my team and I started our own registered investment advisory firm in Westchester (NY). I have assisted families with the managing of their assets and helped with their estate planning since 2001.
“It has been a great thrill over the past few years to own some horses with family and friends. An even bigger thrill is the excitement of going behind the gate and racing. It never gets old. I have been so fortunate to have so many trainers give me the opportunity to drive their horses and am thankful for the relationships I have developed in the sport. Being invited to represent the NAADA in New Zealand is a thrill and an honor.
“Many people drive in the NAADA races and to be asked to go is definitely something that I couldn't even think of turning down. It is always a thrill to go to a new racetrack and drive but this time it’s combined with sharing the experience with other people from the opposite end of the planet that share the same passion of the sport as I do. I look forward to the experience and thank everyone involved that puts these trips and competitions together.
“I think it’s always important for the amateurs, as well as everyone involved in racing, to do what they can to spread their enjoyment for racing so the sport can continue on.”