Racing NSW combatting steward exodus

Todd Smith (right) is no longer a Racing NSW steward and instead works for Clint Lundholm in Dubbo. Photo: Racing Photography.

Racing NSW stewards have long been considered some of the best in Australia, but the industry body is facing an exodus, with Racing NSW losing a plethora of good stipes in recent times.  

In the last few years, two Deputy Chairman of Stewards in Phillip Dingwall (2016-2019) and Wayde Birch (2019-21) have departed Racing NSW, along with experienced and respected Chief Stewards such as Todd Smith, John Davidson, Shane Cullen, Jason Shultz, Jack Penfold, and Sam Woolaston.

In fact, upwards of 25 stipes have left the Racing NSW stewards ranks in recent years, with some taking on new opportunities within the Racing NSW hierarchy, while others have found jobs within the NSW thoroughbred racing industry, working as either Racing Managers, Jockey Managers, or Race Club CEOs

Many other experienced stewards have since taken their talents to Harness Racing NSW and Greyhound Racing NSW or have been recruited by other state and national racing bodies. 

When questioned on the high turnover of Racing NSW stewards, Racing NSW Chairman of Stewards Steve Railton said that NSW stewards are highly sought-after due to their extensive training.

“The NSW thoroughbred racing industry has always been the breeding ground for stewards, with our stewards being in high demand in other jurisdictions, both throughout Australia and internationally, including in racing administration roles,” Railton said. 

“This is no doubt due to the skill set that that they gain from commencing as trainee stewards on the Metropolitan Stewards Panel to spending time in the country regions where they officiate at a number of racecourses within their region and have a high degree of responsibility and autonomy.”

Railton reiterated that no meetings in NSW had been postponed or abandoned due to a lack of stewards.

“It is pertinent that the NSW thoroughbred racing industry has just navigated its way through two years of COVID related restrictions with the loss of minimal race meetings, none of which have been due to staffing difficulties,” Railton said. 

“Noting further that the NSW thoroughbred racing industry was one of the only industries to continue operating throughout the pandemic, ensuring the livelihood of its 50,000 plus participants.”

Railton and Racing NSW are taking steps to lessen the workload on regional stewards, while the industry body is currently advertising vacant roles across the state as they search for replacements.

“From a resourcing perspective, in the last 12 months Racing NSW has appointed three former members of the NSW Police Force as Investigators to work exclusively in country regions to ensure that integrity is at its highest,” Railton said. 

“These additional resources have reduced the non-race day workload of our regionally based Stewards who continue to work diligently to undertake all racing related tasks.

“That said, we are proactively engaging in the recruitment of suitable replacements for those Stewards who have left the organisation for varying reasons in more recent times with some appointments soon to be announced. 

“Racing NSW also continues to bolster depth in the Stewarding ranks by attracting and developing Trainee Stewards, some of whom will be relocating to regional centres in the near future to advance their careers.

“In summary, Racing NSW remains confident that our Stewards and Investigators will maintain the highest degree of integrity throughout NSW, without the loss of race meetings.”

For more information on current vacancies with Racing NSW, readers can click here