NEW Broadmeadow track manager Peter Birch has revealed a truly grand vision for Newcastle’s home of racing.
‘‘When we are finished, Broadmeadow will be the best provincial track in Australia, that’s for sure,’’ Birch said confidently.
He then added quickly: ‘‘And we will give some of the major city tracks a shake, too.’’
Birch, who shortly turns 63, is a major player behind the biggest project in the history of the Broadmeadow racecourse, which is more than a century old.
Late last year Birch was chosen to care for Broadmeadow as the $11.2million rebuilding venture beckons.
The huge financial windfall from Racing NSW will help turn the number two training track into a viable racing surface. Once that is completed, work will begin on rebuilding the entire course proper at Broadmeadow.
The Newcastle Jockey Club hierarchy chose Birch from Queensland above a raft of candidates.
‘‘We are sure he is the right man for the job and he is already showing us he is ready for the big task ahead,’’ NJC chairman Geoff Barnett said.
Birch has extensive experience in preparing courses for race day and also rebuilding tracks.
He was head of Toowoomba’s refurbishment and in recent times rebuilt Mackay. He also had 10 years at the Sunshine Coast course.
‘‘There is a huge task ahead of us but I am confident we will get the job done and done well,’’ he said.
‘‘Expressions of interest have been sent out for the building project.
‘‘Once contracts are signed we are looking to get going at the right time for the regrowing of grass.
‘‘The inner track will take a year but it will be a great racing surface, then we will concentrate on the course proper.’’
The Broadmeadow course was closed for 10 weeks late in 2011 because of safety fears.
Jockeys right through to Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy claimed that the track, which had not had any major work done in recent times, was a health hazard for those riding in races.
There were corrugations in the back straight and the camber on the home turn presented major problems for horses going lickety-split in races.
Birch has been involved in racing since he was 12 as an apprentice jockey in the Riverina and has passed his passion on to son Wade, who is the chairman of stewards in Queensland.
‘‘You have to be passionate to keep going in racing and my focus now is purely on returning Broadmeadow to the top,’’ Birch said.
‘‘The inner track will be 18 to 20 metres wide, which will accommodate good-size fields. The course proper will be refurbished and all the areas that jockeys had concerns about will be worked on.
‘‘All we need now is time and good weather to get things going.
‘‘I will say that the staff have been great. Once I showed that we have to get on with plenty of work they have shown their willingness to make sure the projects are completed successfully.
‘‘I have also had great support from the trainers.’’
■ Kris Lees will be chasing plenty of big money with a strong team at Rosehill tomorrow.
He will saddle up four last-start winners in a team of five runners.
Soapy Star, which won a $100,000 bonus at Moonee Valley, is eligible for another $100,000 bonus in race four.
‘‘This is a tougher race than she won in Melbourne and she is up in weight,’’ Lees said. ‘‘But she is going well.’’
Devil In A Dress chases $250,000 on offer in the Inglis Classic.
‘‘She won well at Scone and in the past there have been only a few chances in this type of race but this year is very open,’’ Lees said.
Lees said Project Compassion is a ‘‘50/50’’ chance about running because of a bad barrier in the outside gate 11.
‘‘Whitlam [race 6] is probably my best chance on his latest good win,’’ Lees said. ‘‘I also have Motspur [race 8] in on Saturday and he ran well first up.’’
■ Racing icon Robert Thompson is under consideration to be named in the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame.
The new inductees into the Hall Of Fame will be named next month.
A Stable Talk insider said Thompson was definitely in the mix for selection.
So he should be, having ridden more winners than any other jockey in the history of Australian racing.
The surprising part is that Thompson’s nomination did not come from a local source.
■ Sydney apprentice Shaun Guymer has joined the stables of multiple group1-winning trainer Steve Farley at Wyong.
Guymer, who was with Joe Pride, had his apprenticeship transferred on Wednesday and officially starts with Farley on Tuesday.
Guymer will ride for Farley at Gosford today and at Rosehill tomorrow when stayer Gazza Guru resumes in the last race.
He also rides the favourite She’s Clean for Chris Waller in race three.
‘‘He can ride and just needs confidence which can come from getting plenty of rides which we hope to give him,’’ Farley said.
■ Newcastle journalist Frances O’Shea had two important dates that clashed last Saturday.
O’Shea is the managing editor of From The Track magazine, which put together a syndicate of 25 people who race promising filly Dream Forward.
Dream Forward ran second at Rosehill but O’Shea was not on hand to watch the potential star.
She was in Byron Bay for the wedding of her brother’s daughter.
The problem came when the races were put back two hours because of fears of high temperatures.
That meant that Dream Forward’s race was on at 2.55pm and the wedding started at 3pm.
O’Shea watched the race in Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel.
She then raced down the street to the nuptials venue in the surf club in her wedding outfit, high heels and all.
‘‘I got to the surf club, raced up the stairs and a girl presented me with a glass of champagne,’’ she said with a laugh. ‘‘That made the run all worth while and the wedding was beautiful.
‘‘Dream Forward will go for a two-week spell and hopefully she will make her mark later in the year.’’
■ The announcement that Channel 7 would broadcast on free-to-air TV most of the major races in Sydney and Melbourne begs a couple of important questions.
Does this mean we will see more of Francesca Cumani on our TV screens? Hope so!
Does this mean we will see more of Richard Freedman on our TV screens? Hope not!
■ Those travelling on a plane from the Gold Coast to Newcastle on Monday would have heard plenty of chitter chatter about racing.
Among the passengers on the same flight were Broadmeadow trainers Paul Perry, Kris Lees and Alan Scorse with their respective families.
Newcastle syndicator Jamie Lovett and his family were aboard as well as local vets and farriers. They were all returning from the Magic Millions sales and race day.
■ Mateship might indeed come before family.
Gosford trainer Adam Duggan and the owners of Frozen Rope are great mates with jockey Josh Parr.
He will ride Frozen Rope, which is a huge chance in race two at Rosehill tomorrow.
In the same race, Duggan’s sister-in-law Jenny Duggan, who is also his apprentice, will ride Falklands for North Coast trainer Marc Quinn.
■ Darren Smith chases his third straight win with Testarhythm in the last race at Rosehill tomorrow.
‘‘He is going terrific and has thrived since his win the Takeover Target Stakes at Gosford,’’ Smith said.
He also runs California Storm and Networth in race six.
‘‘California Storm just had an off day at Gosford and will improve,’’ Smith said.
‘‘Networth has had three trials and there is nothing between my two runners.’’
Other Newcastle horses at Rosehill include Grant Delaney’s promising galloper Ying La in race six and David Atkins’s mare Panko in race seven.