Gary Harley – RNSW – December 2021
Dowell’s New NJC Boss
From a coalmine electrician to the Chief Executive Officer of one of Australia’s highest profile Provincial race clubs is the story of the Newcastle Jockey Club’s new CEO Duane Dowell.
The latter has lived most of his life in the Upper Hunter Valley after spending his childhood in the Lower Hunter at Dungog. He left the coal mine more than six years ago to take the reins of the Muswellbrook Race Club. That club has gone ahead in leaps and bounds under Dowell’s direction.
He is energetic, very hands on and ambitious and was always destined to be snapped up by a Provincial Club. On August 16, Dowell started with the NJC in the newly created position of General Manager Of Racing and Operations. On October 15, then CEO Matt Benson resigned from the position after close to six years with the club.
The NJC Board soon after, promoted Dowell to the position of CEO and he took over the role on November 1. NJC Chairman Geoff Barnett said the Club had envisioned Dowell moving into the top job ‘a few years down the track’. “Duane was always a part of our succession plan for CEO. It is just something that has come around a lot quicker than we thought it would. He has a great relationship with all in the industry” Barnett said.
Dowell hit the ground running when handed the reins on November 1. “I am very excited about what I can do at Newcastle. From three or four years back, Newcastle was the club I wanted to run” The CEO said.
Securing funds for the NJC’s multimillion dollar 500 stable complex plan is an obvious goal. At present our training facility won’t cater for 500 horses so it has to be a two-stage approach – stables and an upgrade to the training facilities” Dowell said.
Departed NJC CEO Matt Benson, cited a desire for a change in lifestyle as his reason for his resignation. “I have always had a yearning to end up on a farm somewhere. There is certainly no issue with me and the NJC.
I love the place and I can only see an incredible future for it. There is a real can-do feeling around the place because Newcastle has to be the northern centre for training and racing in New South Wales” Benson said.
In his time at Newcastle Benson has seen major changes at the club including the $11.2 million course proper overhaul.
He spearheaded the rebranding of the Broadmeadow complex to Newcastle Racecourse. The introduction of the Max Lees 2YO Classic was instigated by Benson. He oversaw the construction of the new race day tie- up stalls following the sale of Cessnock Racecourse to Racing NSW.
Benson took the idea of a Newcastle Hunter Racing Hall of Fame to the Board after a suggestion by Sky Racings Greg Radley.
Kavanagh Moves To Newcastle
Sam Kavanagh has moved to Newcastle where eighteen of his horses are stabled at the former home of the late Alan Scorse.
The NJC has also provided Kavanagh with eight boxes at the track. The former Rosehill based trainer made his comeback to racing in 2019 and moved onto a property at Scone. He trained his horses at the Muswellbrook track. It is a big move but timing wise he felt it was the right one.
“I have got a lot of young unraced stock that can really turn up over the next 12-18 months.” Kavanagh said,
“Training on a Group 1 facility like Newcastle will make a significant difference in their education. And with the new stabling to be built the plans for Newcastle look incredibly exciting.”
“We started off in the country because of the quality of the horses we had. The Highways and the Country Championships made it exiting to stay there but the new Midways and the Four Pillars are great for Provincial trainers” Kavanagh added.
Dylan County Top Apprentice
20 year-old Newcastle based apprentice Dylan Gibbons was presented with the 2020-21 Racing NSW Country Apprentice Premiership award at a recent Newcastle race meeting.
Gibbons in his first season of riding, steered home 86 winners. He was runner up to Mikayla Weir in the 2020-21 Racing NSW Rising Star Series. In the first quarter of the current season Gibbons rode 33 winners clearly the most of any New South Wales based apprentice.
Jungle Juice On Beaumont
The famous Jungle Juice Cup was founded by the NJC and the race had its home at Cessnock Racecourse. The latter was sold two years ago to Racing NSW and in 2020 the Cup was held on the Newcastle course proper. This year the $37,000 TAB venue Mode Jungle Juice Cup (1350m) was run on Newcastle’s Beaumont track and the track was in superb condition.
Taree trained Charmmebaby was heavily backed on the evidence of a placing in the Country Championship Final earlier in the year. Charmmebaby turned in an outstanding performance after a slow start and caught in heavy traffic until late In the straight. She sprouted wings late to win narrowly. Grant Buckley was aboard the mare and his run of success in country cups continued as he had won the Dubbo and Port Macquarie Cup during the Spring. Veteran Taree trainer Bob Milligan trains Charmmebaby.
Newcastle trainer Nathan Doyle claimed the $40,000 Sharp Office Cessnock Cup (2100m) with 4 Year-old mare Unwavering Faith ridden by Ash Morgan.
It was the first meting on the Beaumont track since February 2020. The track and its manager Chris Nation were the subject of high praise from the top jockeys at the race meeting. Jeff Penza, Grant Buckley, Andrew Gibbons and Roy Hutchings all praised the track and Nation.
Newcastle to Host Provincial Summer Series Final
The Sky Racing Provincial Summer Series Final will be held at Newcastle on December 18 over 1600m.
Heats were programmed for all five Provincial tracks and the $150,000 Final will be the NJC feature race during December.