'Originally founded, in 2006, as a tribute to beloved Bankstown Paceway life member and standardbred owner, trainer and reinsman Ned Feehely - immediately recognizable by his distinctive pink and purple silks - the race was renamed the Ned and Jean Feehely Memorial in 2012, following the passing of Ned's wife, Bankstown Paceway life member Jean Feehely, who was also a tireless volunteer and supporter of harness racing here at Bankstown,' Ms Lavender said.
'In October 2012, Mrs Feehely was also posthumously honored as the Harness Racing New South Wales Volunteer of the Year for her lifetime of dedication and commitment to Bankstown Paceway,' Ms Lavender added.
Ned and Jean's son, Bankstown Paceway life member and Brisbane businessman Laurie Feehely, said his late parents' association with Bankstown Paceway dated back to the 1950s, when unofficial races, known as gymkhanas, were held at the Condell Park show ground track on the first and third Sunday of each month.
'Mum [Jean Feehely] would take nominations from home and collate the fields on the kitchen table,' recalled Mr Feehely, who owns and operates the race sponsor, Airport and Regional Corporate Cars.
'After Bankstown Paceway acquired its official racing license [in March 1965], Mum [Jean Feehely] would continue to take the nominations for Bankstown and Lithgow racing fields, and she would take them over to Harold Park for the handicapper,' Mr Feehely said.
'Mum [Jean Feehely] always worked for Bankstown for the love of the harness racing sport itself and the people associated with it. She derived great enjoyment in helping in any way to promote the industry and, of course, to watch Dad [Ned Feehely] race in the pink and purple - her favourite colours,' he said.
'Dad and Mum [Ned and Jean Feehely] were involved in the early mobile barrier design for handicapping. It was called the "brown barrier" - not having much knowledge of design, it eventually failed. But it was used at the Bankstown track for handicapping from scratch back to 48 yards.
'It was a walk up mobile with tapes that went over the top of the horses on release. Dad [Ned Feehely] was a plasterer and a builder by trade - and, so, the Bankstown Paceway stables were built with him leading a working bee.
'The materials were all donated by Bankstown Paceway members, by Harry Westwood, by Ray Fitzpatrick, by Wally Thompson, by Jacky Binskin, by Roy Treasure, by Max Truer [Senior], and by Dad [Ned Feehely], to name a few.
'I have no memory of Mr Eldridge being involved in [the actual construction of] the stables - only that he was an original [Bankstown Paceway] committeeman, who was stricken with cancer and died around the time that they were built. However, the stables were named after him because of the original concept that he had in mind.
'Mum [Jean Feehely] was heavily involved in the very early establishment and licencing of Bankstown Paceway as a harness racing club. She also helped establish the Bankstown Trotting Recreation Club - doing all of the paperwork, all of the correspondence, and she later worked on the office side of this until her retirement.
'She was well into her late sixties when she finally retired, and a surprise dinner was organised for her at the Trotting Club. Mum and Dad [Jean and Ned Feehely], even during their later years, had stabled horses at Condell Park. Dad [Ned Feehely] was also the time keeper at Bankstown Paceway.
'Whenever Mum and Dad [Jean and Ned Feehely] visited my family and me in Queensland, they could only ever stay for a short time - during the intermission between race meetings at Bankstown. That is because the pull to return to their beloved race club, Bankstown Paceway, was so strong,' Mr Feehely added.
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014, will see the 9th running of the Airport and Regional Corporate Cars Ned and Jean Feehely Memorial.
Past winners of the race include: Silent Judge (2006), House Master NZ (2007), Just Radish (2008), Jemas Glory (2009), Valiant King NZ (2010), Blaze of Art (2011), Chips McFadden (2012) and Four Jokers (2013).
The Legends of Bankstown Gala Race Night will be held at Sydney's Bankstown Paceway, 178 Eldridge Road, Bankstown, on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - with Race 1 set to start at 5.25 pm.
Entry is free and families are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner or they can purchase club priced food and drinks from the racecourse kiosk. Bookings for the $40 per head three course race night buffet dinner can also be made on 02 9708 4111.
Megan J. Lavender