NOT since the 1950s has Leo Dwyer walked through the Penshurst Racing Club entrance without a job to do on race day, but the former clerk of the course will be a spectator for the November 20 event.
The Penshurst Cup, which will be run for the first time in November, will offer the 83-year-old a chance to watch on from the other side of the fence.
With nearly 70 years since he last enjoyed the day without responsibility, Dwyer said he was looking forward to the day.
“It will be different for me, because I have always been involved,” he said.
“I have had a wonderful time working and I particularly like Penshurst, because the people who run it are country people and I feel very much at home at Penshurst.
“I started going to the Penshurst races back in the 1950s then was a stable hand.
“As time went by, I got involved and started working as clerk of the course and it was pretty continuous until I retired.”
Dwyer retired from the racing industry at the end of 2019 and after more than 50 years of being clerk of the course, he has witnessed many changes at the track and across the industry.
A reduction in race meets at Penshurst is a big difference, and enjoyed the way racing was back in the day more than the current product.
“It is totally different today to what it used to be, back in the days when I started, they would have had five or so meetings a year and they would have started around October and raced through until Easter, but those days have been gone for a long time,” he said.
“The way the situation is now, they just have the one day each year.
“Racing has changed from my early days, but I enjoyed the older style of racing when I knew everybody.
“Now horses travel all over the state and are mostly accompanied by stable staff, not the trainers themselves.
“(Penshurst) ranked right up there with the best of them in days by gone, it was very prominent, and we used to run the steeplechases there and it was very well attended back then.”
With crowds banned from race meets for much of the past 18 months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dwyer said he was excited to finally get back to tracks and enjoy racing again.
“Since retirement, I haven’t had the opportunity to go to races so much,” he said.
“I will be going this year and I think it will be a great little meeting.
“When you look back over the time I have been involved, we had great local jockeys and people we all knew, it was a real family affair.
“I just want a nice day out, I have seen an awful lot of what happens at a racecourse, I have chased horses around paddocks at Penshurst when they get loose, there is an awful lot to handling the horse and for it to be a successful day, you just have to meet whatever requirements come up.
“My love is always the horses, I am not a punter, and I am not big into the entertainment, horses are my interest.
“My granddaughter, Melissa Julius, rode her first winner at Penshurst, so it is a special place to me.”
The date change is also a shift for the club, and Dwyer is hopeful it leads to a regeneration of the event for the future.
“I hope for Penshurst’s sake that now they have made the change from Boxing Day … it can bring back a better attitude to race day and people will find more time to go to Penshurst,” he said.
Umbrella packages are selling well, with a big increase in presale tickets sold.
The club recommends people pre-purchase their tickets online to make the entry process easier at the gate.