NJC chairman Barnett hits out 

CONCERNED: Geoff Barnett
CONCERNED: Geoff Barnett

NEWCASTLE Jockey Club chairman Geoff Barnett has responded to director Gary Dowling's suggestion that Racing NSW was bluffing over its $11.2 million funding ultimatum, saying he is certain the offer is a "one-off".

Dowling told the Newcastle Herald on Saturday that he would vote against changing the 10-person board to seven, with three appointed by Racing NSW, at tomorrow night's annual general meeting.

Racing NSW has promised to provide $11.2 million to the NJC for desperately needed track upgrades but the money is conditional on the club changing its board structure.

A yes vote from attending members of at least 75 per cent is needed tomorrow night for the deal to be sealed.

Dowling remains the only director set to vote against the proposal. He said the NJC should have negotiated and used political influence to secure better conditions.

Describing Racing NSW chief Peter V'landys as "master of the bluff", Dowling believed the governing body would not leave the NJC to die if it voted down the deal.

But Barnett hit back, saying the club could not risk losing the golden opportunity.

"I do not think Racing NSW is bluffing," Barnett said.

"We, the majority of the NJC board, are not prepared to gamble on the future of Broadmeadow or this chance of fixing our worn-out track.

"Maybe others know something that I don't, but I just can't picture Peter V'Landys folding.

"In the board's opinion, it is a one-off chance to carry out essential works on the Broadmeadow race track. This funding is so very important to racing in Newcastle.

"I'm urging members to come to the meeting and vote yes tomorrow night at 6pm at the NJC."

He also rejected Dowling's notion that the club could use the Hunter's state government members to broker a better deal.

"Remembering that this is industry money and not a government grant, we can't see that pressuring the local politicians would influence Racing NSW," he said.

The future of the industry in the Hunter was riding on NJC members making the right choice, he said.

"Leading trainers Paul Perry, Kris Lees, Alan Scorse, Peter Eggleston, Darren Smith and Steve Hodge understand the members have to vote on this," he said.

"They also know that the track is worn out.

"So they are relying on us to accept the funding and make good our race track.

"Jockeys' safety is paramount at the NJC, and leading jockeys Robert Thompson, Dale Spriggs and Andrew Gibbons have told me that improvements need to be done."


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