BIG YEAR AHEAD: Matthew Bertram, the new general manager of the Ballina Jockey Club, will be overseeing big changes at the Ballina racecourse as well as the Ballina Cup centenary.
BIG YEAR AHEAD: Matthew Bertram, the new general manager of the Ballina Jockey Club, will be overseeing big changes at the Ballina racecourse as well as the Ballina Cup centenary. Graham Broadhead

New GM takes up reins at Jockey Club in time for new track

MATTHEW Bertram might consider himself a lucky punter - and a busy one, too.

He is the new general manager of the Ballina Jockey Club and he will oversee one of the biggest changes at the racecourse since horses started running in 1885, and that's the construction of an all-weather track.

"This is a one-in-100 year event," he said. "It will make the Ballina club the premier racing facility on the North Coast."

A Stage 1 Masterplan has already been drawn up, and Ballina Shire Council is currently undertaking a flood assessment of the plan as it will include the raising of the level of the surface of the main race track and the two training tracks.

Mr Bertram said once the flood assessment was completed, the master plan would be adjusted if necessary and costs would be finalised for the multi-million-dollar project.

The plan is to complete the work next year, but a precise timeframe on how long it will take isn't known yet - it could be as little as eight months or more than a year.

The race track will be closed during the construction period.

In the meantime, however, there's racing at Ballina this year.

And what a big year it will be with the Ballina Cup celebrating its 100th anniversary on race day, September 12.

The first Cup was run on Boxing Day in 1914, and the winner was Poor Tom carrying 49.2kg in weight.

Mr Bertram said the racecourse in any town was a central part of the social fabric - not to mention the $20 million the club was reported to generate for the local economy - and he wanted to rekindle local interest in the jockey club.

Already, he has organised a luncheon during the March 16 races for invited life members and patrons.

The next step will be a membership drive.

Monica Wells has been appointed the sponsorships manager for the club.

For more information on sponsorships and memberships, phone the club on 6686 0333.

About Matthew Bertram

MATTHEW Bertram, the Ballina Jockey Club's new general manager, was born in Sydney and comes from a racing background.

He has owned racehorses and worked at Racing NSW as well as in hospitality and finance.

He has lived in the area for four years, having married an Alstonville girl, Naarah Rodwell, whose family still lives locally.

The couple moved to the area to raise their child (with another on the way).

He took up the job with the Ballina Jockey Club in December.


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