Day At The Track

Tom's trackside in rain, hail or shine!

09:00 AM 08 Apr 2021 NZST
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Horsham HRC president Terry Lewis presenting volunteer Tom Burdett, Harness racing
Horsham HRC president Terry Lewis presenting volunteer Tom Burdett with his Volunteer of the Year Award

When Tom Burdett and his dad Jack decided to give horse training a go, the local Horsham Harness Racing Club, in the Victorian Wimmera, found one of its most loyal volunteers.

“That was 42 years ago. We didn’t have any background in training trotters, but I was young and keen, and we decided to give it a try,” Tom said.

“Dad was the trainer and I was the owner, and it’s fair to say we didn’t have a lot of success – but I did find that I loved working with horses.  You either love them or hate them, they say, and I came down on the right side!”

Tom jumped the fence to hold a horse on the track one day, and someone at the club seized the chance to sign him up as a volunteer track attendant – and Tom was recently presented with an award by the club for his 40 years’ continuous service.

“We gave the training away, because we were just finding it was too expensive, and I still wanted to learn more, so I started working for a local trainer here (the late) Clive Rees.  And I’ve also loved being a barrier attendant for the trots and the gallops ever since,” Tom said.

“As well as the horses, it’s the people.  I’ve got to know a lot of the trainers and drivers, as well as the stewards and I’ve met a lot of lovely people through the years – they do appreciate the job you do.”

When it comes to volunteers, the Horsham Club breeds a loyal bunch.  The president Terry Lewis said Tom was the third club volunteer to be recognised for long service (more than 40 years), along with Kevin Pymer and Kevin and Lesley Lane.

“Tom began as a barrier attendant back when our club was racing at the Horsham Showgrounds at night, so his role worked well around his full time job, working for the local council,” Lewis said.

“But once we moved to the racing club site, and day meetings, Tom made sure his days off were always rostered around his ‘trots days’, which is a fairly big commitment.  All the drivers love him and I don’t think he’s ever missed a meeting, come rain, hail or shine,” he said.

“Like all clubs, we struggle a little bit to attract younger volunteers, so we well and truly value the fact that we have long-serving people who are so dedicated. The volunteers bring a different degree of connection and commitment to the sport.  They have a real affiliation for harness racing, but from a different perspective.”

Lewis said the club had been on a strong growth trajectory since making the move to the gallops track and was eagerly awaiting the expected opening of an expanded Tabaret and trackside hospitality facility in August.

“We wouldn’t be running $60,000 Pacing Cups, $25,000 Trotters Cups and our big National and NZ Drivers Invitational if it wasn’t for the Tabaret we opened here back in 1996,” he said.

“It has given us so much extra discretionary funding and allowed us to do things around the club and with our racing, that wouldn’t have been possible without that revenue. 

“So we’re pretty excited about the expansion.  It’s nearly $3 million dollars’ worth of work, but it will make the world of difference to our facilities with a new bistro overlooking the track and bringing a whole new dining and entertainment experience to the area and our meetings.”


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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