A Big Year for Newcastle Racecourse



The year 2017 was a year of highlights for the Newcastle Jockey Club and a year of progressive changes to help take the famous club into the future.

At the heart of the changes was the $11.2 million redevelopment of the course proper funded by Racing NSW, which saw the sometimes-problematic old course proper rebuilt as a sand-profile all-weather StrathAyr © track.

The launch of the track was celebrated at an intimate event held at the Newcastle Racecourse on March 9. Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landy’s was one of the many industry personnel in attendance. “Racing NSW’s $11.2 Million commitment to the NJC highlights the importance we place on racing at Newcastle and how integral the NJC is to Racing NSW’s vision” V’landy’s said at the time.

There was a trackside facelift early in 2017 but it was more than just the track facilities that have undergone a rebirth.

As part of a revitalised “feel “at the Newcastle venue a separately branded identity for the racecourse, as distinct from the actual NJC, was also launched. The entire precinct was rebranded under the banner of ‘Newcastle Racecourse’. The racing club’s logo was refreshed and features the year 1907, celebrating the commencement of racing at the Broadmeadow site.

March 2017 was a huge month for NJC with the opening of the new track, the Newcastle Newmarket Raceday and the inaugural Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame function. With the wealth and quantity of talented nominations, judges Greg Radley, Ray Thomas, yours truly and Chairman Brian Judd faced a tough task selecting the eight inaugural HALL OF FAME inductees.

Associates Alf Ellison and Billy Hill, trainers Max Lees and Paul Perry, Jockeys Wayne Harris and Robert Thompson and racehorses Rogilla and Luskin Star were duly inducted. In the spring, the NJC 2016/17 Awards Presentation was held in Chevals Restaurant at the racecourse in conjunction with the launch of the 2017 Spring Carnival.

A very successful Tyrrell’s Wines Spring Carnival took place at the Newcastle Racecourse in the traditional September timeslot. The NJC also hosted three feature race-days at Cessnock including the Anzac Day meeting, Cessnock Leagues Club Jungle Juice Cup and Royal Oak Hotel Cessnock Cup.


The Newcastle Jockey Club will host its 2018 Provincial Championship Qualifier on Easter Saturday - March 31. In a big change to programming, all five Provincial qualifiers in 2018 will be held on consecutive Saturdays in March.

NJC Chief Executive Matt Benson is excited about the prospect of promoting a bumper Easter Saturday race meeting. “This will be the last day of daylight saving and it will give us the opportunity to run the Provincial Qualifier as the second last race at around 5.45pm.

There will inevitably be a quality field for the $150,000 race and the later timeslot will attract additional betting turnover and also give our regular Provincial jockeys the chance to compete for big prizemoney. All the clubs are working with Racing NSW to come up with some exciting entertainment options for a younger crowd – so watch this space” Benson said.


The Group 3 $150,000 Newcastle Newmarket will be held on Friday March 9, 2018. The time-honoured event is the Newcastle Jockey Clubs major sprint of the Autumn and is run over 1400 metres.

Some topliners have won the Newmarket since it was first held in 1955 and last year’s winner Happy Clapper is among the best. 

The 2017 Newmarket was the highlight of the of the first meeting on the new course proper. It was the first time the Group 3 event had been switched from a Wednesday to a Friday date.

The track received rave reviews from all the top jockeys. Blake Shinn had an armchair ride on Happy Clapper, who went on to finish a gallant second behind Its Somewhat in the Doncaster Mile at his next start. In the Spring Happy Clapper won the Group 1 Epsom. Secret Savings (1997) and Patezza (2005) both completed the Newcastle Newmarket – Doncaster double.


22-year-old Irish apprentice Louise Day arrived in Newcastle in late 2016 unheralded but determined to make it in her adopted country. Kris Lees agreed to take on Day after she introduced herself to the Newcastle trainer during the 2016 Melbourne Spring Carnival.

The young lady was working for Ciaron Maher at the time and Lees star apprentice Sam Clenton had been involved in a serious fall a few weeks earlier.  Day - after months of riding in barrier trials – she rode her first winner Face Like Thunder in her first day of riding at Tuncurry in March.

Approaching Christmas she has notched up 17 winners, a great achievement in only nine months of riding. Day had endured limited opportunities until early December because authorities had restricted her to only riding in trackwork and races for her master Lees.

However, the restrictions were lifted in early December and the telephone hasn’t stopped ringing since. She is in demand from leading Newcastle and Country New South Wales trainers. The ‘Luck of the Irish’ has nothing to do with Days achievement, the talented and fresh faced youngster makes her own luck.


THE December pre-Christmas race meetings at Newcastle on the 3rd, 9th and 23rd were very popular with all function areas choc a block for the first two meetings.

On the track the talented 37 year old Irishman Declan McDonough, on a working holiday, visited Newcastle for the first time and landed a double on December 9. McDonough, who is closing in on 1000 career winners, piloted Puppet Master to victory for Gary Portelli and he teamed up with the Snowdens with impressive winner California Turbo.

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