Horsham Greyhound Racing Club

LCA: Horsham Rural City Council
President: Ian Bibby
Manager: Justin Brilliant
Tel:    (03) 5382 4329
Fax:    (03) 5382 1949
Email:    horsham@grv.org.au
Website: horsham.grv.org.au
Address: Horsham Showgrounds,Horsham, 3400
Postal: PO Box 458, Horsham, 3400

Justin photo for website Justin Brilliant 

The Horsham Greyhound Club has been part of Justin’s life for almost 10 years, transitioning from the gallops as Manager of Horsham and District Racing Club. 

Much of Justin’s life spent in and around Horsham where his parents owned an ran multiple local hotels.  He graduated from the University of Ballarat in 1993, spending the following 13 years as an accountant.  The last 8 years as a partner in a multi office firm, then running his own farming consultancy business.  Justin’s other passion was golf where he once obtained a handicap of 2 at his peak, however it took a back seat once his children arrived and breaking his wrist 3 times in 4 years.  He now has two permanent plates and a dozen screws holding his wrist together.  Justin said “he was ok at golf when he was supposed to be at Uni, admitting he spent more time on the fairway, or driving range, than in lectures”.

From a racing background, Justin and his father were prominent local bookmakers for many years and have owned many successful racehorses.  Justin is also active in his local community being Chairman of the Horsham Showgrounds Committee of Management and a committee member of the Horsham Yacht Club.  His two children and his small acreage property keep him busy away from the track and provide good life balance.

History of the Horsham Greyhound Racing Club 

Live coursing began in Horsham in the early 1900s land was held on flat country off Plumpton Rd, on the site of the future abattoir. The club had strong religious connections with Father Jon Manning as vice President and Father Tony Waldron as treasurer surprisingly, it was not until 1971 that the Horsham Greyhound Racing Club IHGRCI was formed to take up an offer to conduct licensed greyhound racing in the Wimmera area. The first Public meeting in Horsham's Town Hall attracted a Large crowd of vocal greyhound supporters.

Further meetings followed and Mr Jim McCabe, the Member for Lowan, was elected as the clubs first President.  Jim played a Large part in obtaining Horsham's racing licence and paid tribute to the GRCB, Department of youth, Sport and Recreation, the Greyhound Development Board and the Horsham Agricultural and pastoral Society for allowing the HGRC to share its grounds.

When work began on the track construction. The Trotting Club was still racing at the Showgrounds and it had requested that sufficient room be allowed for an ambulance to follow the trotting races. Track design is a critical issue for new club’s and protecting the design was very important. Reducing the greyhound track to accommodate the ambulance would have resulted in much tighter corners on the greyhound track. Tight turns increase the chance of interference and injury to greyhounds Finally, an agreement was finally reached which allowed the ambulance to use the greyhound track during Trotting Meetings. Thanks to the foresight of the Committee of the day, many trainers and locals now regard the Horsham greyhound track as one of the best in Australia. Club president and Life member Bill Powell believes that this is because of the configuration of a Long run to the first turn and a long, race home over the 40m track.

Legend has it that there was also an unacknowledged contribution to the track shape. Club stalwart Bluey Kemp related the story at fellow club member Reg Forbes’ funeral. Construction of the track was underway, and the surveyor's pegs set in place. Bluey and Reg were having a few beers one night when they decided to enlarge the track to take advantage of the fact that the trots had moved out and left extra space that the greyhounds could use. Later that night, they went out and shifted the surveyor’s pegs set in preparation for Laying the track the next day. When greyhounds were returning slower times than expected the track sprint distance was remeasured.  0riginally designed to be 320m, the actual distance was found to be 336 metres presumably as a result of the intervention of Messrs Forbes and Kemp. Early racing at Horsham had its ups and downs. ln the first trial at the new track, a greyhound caught the lure and bit its tail off.  It became common for the greyhounds to catch the lure before steps had to be taken to speed up the mock hare. 

The opening meeting at the showgrounds was held on 17 December 1973, with a large crowd in attendance.  The first race on the program, a Juvenile Stakes, was won by the youthful Allan Britton-owned and trained The Vixen, who took home $50 plus a trophy, Other winners on the night received $50 $60 or $170 plus a bag of Noskes racing bits and a magnum of Champagne compliments of Noskes and bookmaker Mr. Craig Parkes.

Racing at Horsham became a regular Monday night attraction with a large contingent of bookmakers betting Win & Place and Concession on both the local races and the metropolitan meeting at Olympic Park. The granting of the license in Horsham had stimulated greyhound ownership in the area early on, the tracks were very heavy, and the racing was tough. Races over 450m could be won in 29 seconds.  Over many years, many improvements have been made to the grounds and the racing surface now with track improvements, winning times are closer to 27 seconds.

The Monday meetings continued until 1982 when the club experimented with Saturday racing in an attempt to seek wider public interest Finally with the introduction of SKY Channel coverage racing settled into the Tuesday twilight timeslot The change to twilight racing and off course betting has meant that $40 000 originally bet off-course on a Horsham meeting has now become $300,000, making a significant contribution to the financial, wellbeing of the HRGC and the industry. The club has been privileged to see some of the best greyhounds in the country race at Horsham including former track record holder Tempix, superstar Brett Lee and current 480m track record holder Crash, now at stud in Ireland. The HRGC owes much to the hard work and dedication of the people who contributed to volunteer Committees over the years, in particular, past Presidents Jim McCabe, Doug Hughes, Brian Murray and foundation Member and current Club President Bill Powell, The Club is also fortunate to have the work of two dedicated and Long serving women in Sylvia Penny and Jenni Coustley, Jenni joined the Club Committee in 1984 and Sylvia joined in 1977, the first woman to be on the committee. When she was first appointed Sylvia remembers one mate member of the committee resigning in disgust however, he later returned and apologising saying she was doing a good job.  Sylvia’s dedication is shown by the fact that she worked as the unpaid cleaner during a long period of her association with the Club. ln addition, she has been running trials, cooking for the raffles and running the bingo.  When a Local greyhound, Eight West, which raced for a child who was in the Eight West wing at Royal Children's Hospital, bolted and disappeared for three days, it was eventually spotted by an ex-Lure driver for the cub.  He notified Sylvia who found the greyhound still with its racing jacket and muzzle on, coaxed it into her car and nursed it back to health.  The greyhound went on to win more races for the Royal Children’s.  ln 2002, Sylvia Penny's efforts were recognised when she was awarded Horsham Volunteer of the Year Award.

Jenni has been Vice-President of the Club for between 15 to 20 years and been both President and Secretary of the Ladies committee. Jenni is the only local owner to win the Horsham Cup, which she did with Propellant in 1984. Her long association with the Club led to her being awarded the Horsham Volunteer of the Year Award in 2002

Club Presidents

Brian Murray 1973 - 1983

Doug Hughes 1983 - 1988

Bill Powell 1988 - 2011

Jenni Coustley 2011 - 2013

David O'Loughlin 2013 - 2014

Bill Hartigan 2014 - 2015

Ian Bibby 2015 - Current

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