The scratching of the jumping castle on a record-breaking Royal Randwick Saturday will be an issue for immediate attention when Jamie Barkley, the recently appointed Australian Turf Club CEO, takes over the reins.
Never has there ever been more twelves and under at headquarters, swelling that attendance to 9163 against the average 5000 for similar meeting.
Solid foundation: New Australian Turf Club CEO Jamie Barkley in his Sydney Cricket Ground Trust days.
But the highly anticipated jumping castle was out of action, and the youngsters were compensated with free popcorn, fairy floss and countless other attractions in what was yet another example that Sydney racing is fighting against the doldrums.
The situation should please Barkley, who attended under the wing of former racing writer Grant Vandenberg, now minder and confidante of the rich, the famous and wannabes.
Vandenberg was a protege at The Sun around 40 years ago, where I imparted animal cunning, guile, how to lose badly and polish, which he picked up in bucketloads.
Next week he’ll be in New York tidying up a deal, no doubt on time in contrast to his duties with the afternoon newspaper, where he found it difficult to make Randwick tracks gallops at 5.30am.
However, he was pointing Barkley in the right direction on Saturday. Barkley has spent nearly two decades with the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and, judging by his youthful appearance, he must have gone straight from a jumping castle to Moore Park.
Barkley takes over at a time when the future of Sydney racing looks good due to the foundation of his predecessor, Darren Pearce, who went into a hot seat at the most demanding period for the NSW industry.
Pearce had to weather the combination of the Australian Jockey Club and Sydney Turf Club as well as the new Randwick grandstand – the subject of consideration criticism.
Also the ATC was in conflict with Peter V’Landys, the Racing NSW CEO and a general who doesn’t lose battles. V’Landys is now the strongest man in Australian racing, and the ATC has a more harmonious relationship with him. No doubt The Everest has helped.
Racing is an industry and usually best served by enthusiasts like Peace, and hopefully Barkley is another.
I was only too happy to inform him I’d been an SCG member for over 50 years, 60 in fact being a junior member prior, and felt the worst thing that had happened to that sacred ground was the loss of The Hill that epitomised Australian character.
On many occasions, member’s privileges were bypassed for a cricket Test to wallow in the sunshine and humour. Yes, The Hill had to go with the modern trend towards civilisation and seating, but not the mounting yard in front of the Randwick grandstand.
Even now at the SCG, football teams warm up on centre stage, not the back paddock, which is the situation at Randwick. Rosehill Gardens is a superior racing experience because of the parade location that doesn’t necessitate a constant trek to see horses before the race.
Saturday, though, was more about family, and perhaps Barkley will now consider other demographics, although The Everest, the weight-for-age sprint at Randwick, will be very much to the fore with him.
John Rouse, a former AJC CEO and travelling enthusiast for The Everest, recently ventured to New Zealand expounding its joys to picnic clubs, and took me to task on my lack of enthusiasm.
“Your colleague John Holloway said he had never heard a bigger roar than the start of the Everest last year,” Rouse stressed.
Under my doctrine to Holly, a pupil before Vandenberg, the roar at the gates hardly compared to the cheer at the finish when the winner is carrying your own.
But there was little turbulence on Saturday when Nature Strip, an Everest possible, was a lacklustre Flemington winner, which was put down to the head wind – also responsible for the withdrawal of the jumping castle.
Obviously Barkley will require something more substantial at Randwick.
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