Muswellbrook Race Club general manager Duane Dowell reflects on a successful year as Skellatar Park prepares to host its last meeting in 2018

GREAT YEAR: Muswellbrook Race Club general manager Duane Dowell with Debbie Mitchell (left) and Kristie Corbett at the Skellatar Park racecourse.
GREAT YEAR: Muswellbrook Race Club general manager Duane Dowell with Debbie Mitchell (left) and Kristie Corbett at the Skellatar Park racecourse.

IF 2019 turns out as good as 2018, then Muswellbrook Race Club general manager Duane Dowell will be one happy chap.

As the organisation prepares for its final meeting of the year, on Friday, November 30, the hard-working GM took time to reflect on another successful season.

“We accomplished all of our goals we set ourselves,” Dowell said.

“So, it’s been a very good 12 months, highlighted by winning the Country TAB Race Club of the Year title at the 2018 NSW Country and Provincial Racing Awards in Sydney.

“It was terrific to get that recognition from the governing body.

“And, testament to the team work here at Muswellbrook.

“I have a very supportive committee and fantastic staff – we all pull together in the one direction, which makes my life easier.

“We also made a lot of improvements at Skellatar Park, from upgrading the surface of the parade ring [to improve everyone’s safety] to the sealing of the access roads.

“Although we spent $120,000, the club still turned a profit.”

Muswellbrook will host an eight-race card this week, with the likes of Gai Waterhouse, Adrian Bott, Bjorn Baker, Kris Lees and Paul Perry set to lock horns with a strong local contingent headed by Andrew Robinson, Jan Bowen, Stephen Gleeson, Pat Farrell, Tim McIntosh and Todd Howlett.

“The fields are looking good,” Dowell said.

“More provincial and city trainers head here these days, which is pleasing.

“Gai [Waterhouse] and Adrian [Bott] have nominated Barnum because the meeting suits their galloper.

“Afterwards, the track will undergo six weeks of extensive works.

“We’ve also had a great response from local businesses using the day for their Christmas parties.

“So, we’re expecting a good roll-up.”

Dowell admitted the club’s attention would soon turn to 2019 – and a couple of important events.

“After Christmas, we’ll start intense planning for the Country Championships and Muswellbrook Cup,” he said.

“Those meetings fall right in the middle of the Sydney autumn carnival.

“It’s a formula, which should work well for us.

“We’ll boast stronger fields at a time our track is in its best shape.

“The Country Championships will draw the top horses [in the state] here on Sunday, March 24, with the Muswellbrook Cup on Friday, March 29.

“That change, of the Cup dates, was endorsed by Racing NSW and is expected to ensure an even more successful day.

“It’s still a gazetted half-day holiday, too.”

Another main attraction to entice people to stay in town will be the Muswellbrook Cup Festival Charity Golf Day, in support of Riding for the Disabled, on Thursday, March 28, at the Muswellbrook Golf Club, followed by the Cup Calcutta at the same venue from 5pm.