NJC fears track won’t be ready for spring carnival

OFF COURSE: Construction work at Broadmeadow this week. Picture: Marina NeilWORK on upgradingBroadmeadow racecourse is behind schedule and Newcastle Jockey Club is pessimistic about the track being ready in time for its spring carnival in September.


NJC chairman Geoff Barnett said recent rain had hampered work on the newStrathAyr trackand delayed the laying of new grass in time for the summer growing season.

“We’ve had terrible setbacks with the weather,” Barnett told the Herald.

“We’re very concerned about the spring carnival. It would be fantastic to race on the new track.

“But for every day it’s wet, one wet day becomes a three-day delay because it takes time to dry out. Any construction site is the same.

“We were due to have the turf down before Christmas, and now we’ll be lucky to get it down by the end of February or the middle of March.

“We won’t get the growing season, and I don’t think it will be ready in time. It’s almost a given.”

The NJC has been racing since October on the innerBeaumont track at Broadmeadow, which was upgraded first as part of a $10 million improvement project at the course. It had hoped the course proper would be completed in time for its two-day spring carnival, which includes the group 3 Cameron Handicap and Newcastle Cup.

The most likely outcome is that the NJC will race the carnival on the inner track, although Barnett said the club had discussed shifting the meeting until later in the year.

Meanwhile, Barnett said the club had not found the right candidate to replace former chief executive Cameron Williams.

Barnett, who is acting in the position, said none of the applicants for the job had sufficient experience in the industry.

The NJC sackedWilliamsin September amid speculation of a falling-out with Hunter owners and trainers, and he ispursuinganunfair-dismissal case in the Federal Court.

“The search is still on,” Barnett said.

“We’re after a person with a lot of experience in different things. It’s not easy. It’s a specialised position.”

Barnett said the Australian Turf Club in Sydney had recently employed two people to perform the duties of a chief executive.

“That’s taken two off the scene for us,” Barnett said.

“We need someone who is ready and who knows the industry and how it works, who understands how race-track funding works. It’s very complex.We would prefer someone who’s already in the game.”

Brian Judd, who retired recently as Racing NSW Country boss, is acting as a consultant at the NJC two days a week until it finds a new chief executive.

Barnett said the club hoped to have a new CEO in place by the end of March.