Newcastle harness racing boss backs club to end seven-year losing streak

CHIEF executive Tony Drew is hopeful of a “break-square” result this financial year forNewcastle Harness Racing Club (NHRC) despite it posting a seventh consecutive year of substantial loss.

Newcastle Harness Racing Club CEO Tony Drew.

NHRC announced a$116,910 deficit for2015-16, which was down from $171,631 (2014-15) and about $207,000 (2013-14) –the club’s worst results. Those followedlosses of about $103,000, $122,000, $120,000 and $97,000 in the years since theclublost regular Saturday night TAB dates.

However, Drew was optimistic about the future given the improvement of 2015-16, an increase in Saturday night meetings and new concessions from Harness Racing NSW.

“It was a pleasing result,” Drew said.“We were able to secure for this financial year the Saturday meetings, and we’ve got to thank Harness Racing NSW. Halfway through last financial year they gave us quite a few Saturdays.We went from 12 to 25 and now we’ve got 41.

“The last financial year, the majority were twilight meetings, but it gave us a stepping stone to this year.We’ve got 41 Saturday nights and four Friday nights as well –it’s almost back in line with about seven years ago.

“We’re looking forward to this financial year with great anticipation and we would hope it would be a break-square.”

Drew said an HRNSW initiative to coverthe costs of photo-finish and ambulance services for each club would also help NHRC. It is believed the change will equate to about $75,000 in savingsfor Newcastle.

“For a club that runs 61 meetings, it certainly helps our bottom line,” Drew said.

He said the other significant cost-saving came from the expansion to 12-horse field with fewer meetings but more races on each program.

“Our fields since we’ve gone to 12 runners have held up remarkably well,” he said.

“All you can do is thank the local participants, they’ve been marvellous.

“They have embraced the 12-horse fields and we are having nine and 10-race meetings on a regular basis. We are down only about seven races from last year.”

He hoped the increase in Saturday night meetings would increase attendances and profits.

“We’re trading pretty well and heading in the right decision,” he said.

“Hopefully in the future people will realise we are racing on Saturdays. It’s been seven or eight years since we did regularly and people havefound other things to do. Hopefully with our promotions, we’ll start to get them back.”

To help the turnaround, NHRC has recently employed a marketing and business development manager, Jane Hextell.

“Give us 18 months, we’ll achieve our goals,” Drew said.

“It’s been a four-year plan and we’re getting there.”

Meanwhile, NHRC will on Tuesday farewell club accountant Steven Norris, who died last Wednesday.

Norris, 44, was with the club for about 18 months. His funeral service will be held at Lake Macquarie Memorial Park from 10am.

In other news, lone Hunter hope UltimateArt has arrived safe and well in Perth ahead of the Inter Dominion Series.

Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa said Ultimate Art, which missed last year’s series in Perth but was a heat winner in the 2015 Menangle edition, had a good nature, which served him well for the long trip.

Mick Radley from GPTV interviews Michael Formosa about Ultimate Art’s arrival in Perth for the Inter Dominion.Ultimate Art is ranked 14thfor the series which starts on November 25.

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