Duane Dowell gets early call to grab the reins as CEO at Newcastle Jockey Club

Dowell was appointed NJC chief executive on Thursday, less than two weeks after Matt Benson’s resignation following almost six years in the role.

Dowell served as Muswellbrook Race Club boss for more than six years, after serving on the board there for five. He appeared the obvious choice to take over from Benson and the NJC board met last week to discuss the move. Dowell accepted the position and was signing off on Thursday.

Barnett said the club had envisaged Dowell moving into the top job “a few years” down the track.

“Duane was always a part of our succession plan for CEO and it was discussed when he joined the company, even though it was only a short time ago,” Barnett said.

“It’s just something that’s come around a lot quicker than we thought it would. We didn’t need to go out looking for a replacement. We already had this plan in place, and we’re really, really happy with him.

“His experience is very strong and his relationship with all in the industry, whether it’s country, provincial or metropolitan trainers, he’s very much aware of all of them and has a great relationship with them.”

Barnett was unsure when and in what capacity Dowell’s former role would be filled. However, it was clear the club’s multimillion dollar plan to build a 500-box stabling complex would be a key factor in deciding the new management team.

“Duane will need support in his new role in the form of people with a project and WHS background and he will be involved in recruiting those,” he said.

“But Duane himself has a good history from his work in the mines with contracts, projects, WHS. All that is his strong suit, but he just needs someone to manage it as a second in charge.”

Barnett said he had spoken with Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys on Thursday and he was excited about Dowell’s appointment.

Dowell will start in his new role on November 1.

“Under the leadership of Matt Benson, this club has established itself as one of the premier race clubs in Australia” Dowell said in a statement.

“The future of this club is exciting and I look forward to working with the NJC team to lift the club to even greater heights.”

Meanwhile, Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock will have Gold Trip in the $750,000 Rosehill Gold Cup (2000m) on Saturday after he was passed fit to race on Thursday. It came six days after the import was controversially scratched by Racing Victoria vets from the Cox Plate because of deemed lameness.