Manning Valley Race Club appoints new chief exective

Experienced administrator Helen Sinclair is Manning Valley Race Club's new chief executive.
Experienced administrator Helen Sinclair is Manning Valley Race Club's new chief executive.

MANNING Valley Race Club’s new chief executive, Helen Sinclair, remembers when she attended her first State Racing Conference.

Helen was the chief executive of the Scone Racing Club at the time.

“At the conference there were two women and about 80 blokes. It was a bit daunting,’’ Helen laughed.

“But when I went last year it would have been about 50-50. You can seen the increase in the number of female jockeys, trainers and strappers – although women were always well represented there because they’re so great with horses.

“And the increase in the number of women administrators has been very rewarding.’’

She will take up duties at the Bushland Drive complex on June 18, replacing the chief executive of the past five years, Brian Leggett, who tendered his resignation in March.

This will will be almost two months to the day before the Taree Gold Cup Carnival is run in August.

“I’ve been briefed on the carnival,’’ Helen said.

“But this year there’ll be no changes. Next year it may be different, but not this time around.’’

The Manning Valley position came up just at the right time for Helen, who had relocated to Harrington from Muswellbrook. She's been coming to Harrington for 50 years since her parents first moved there. Helen knows she is taking over the running of a club in a strong position,

Manning Valley is the third biggest in Country NSW in terms of meetings held at Bushland Drive following the amalgamation last year of the Taree-Wingham and Krambach clubs. The Bushland Drive complex rates with any in regional Australia.

As such, Helen said there won’t be any dramatic or immediate changes

“In my view the club has one of the best curators in the State in Scott Olsen. There’s a strong board with an eclectic mix of people and skills. The club has been really progressive,’’ Helen said.

“I don’t think implementing change in the beginning is ever a good idea.

“But I’d like to think I can bring to the club some of the many things I've experienced in my working life, all of which have been at race clubs. I want to continue Brian’s good work.

“I want to give the community a great experience when they come to the races. I want to make it a really fun place for patrons to come and enjoy.’’

Her first role in racing administration was at Scone when she accepted the chief executive’s position.

“We took Scone from a club having 12 TAB meetings a year to what it is now, having a stand-alone metropolitan race meeting.

She was at the helm in 2011 when Scone created history by becoming the first club country club to conduct a stand-alone two day carnival. 

This attracted huge crowds and drew a massive turnover. Scone also won the Most Popular Race Meeting award in 2010.

After Scone Helen took the general manager’s position at Muswellbrook. She described this as ‘one of the highlights of my career.’

“It was a most wonderful race club and a fabulous board. We achieved some amazing things,’’ she smiled.

“The point of me being there was to mentor someone into the (GM’s) role which, happened.’’

in her time there the club turned around from trading, as she said, ‘pretty ordinarily,’ to become one of the most financial in the state.

“We won the TAB Club of the Year in 2013 at the Racing NSW awards,’’ she added.

Helen said the biggest change in the industry has been the increase in prizemoney from Racing NSW.

"When I started at Scone it was $5000 a race in the country sector. Now the minimum prizemoney is $20,000,’’ Helen explained.

Helen said an added bonus with her new job is the fact she can live at Harrington – a place she first visited 50 years ago.

“I’ve always loved Harrington and now I live there and I can work here,’’ she said.