Mark Wilkinson has taken the reins as the new Gunnedah Jockey Club president and brings a wealth of knowledge to the role.

With more than two decades racing experience in the UK as a group winning trainer, the new Gunnedah committee leader is well-versed in how to build a successful racing environment.

“I trained in the [United Kingdom] for 25 years, I trained group winners in the UK – I’ve been in racing all my life,” Wilkinson said.

He hoped a “fresh set of eyes” would help breathe new life into the Gunnedah club, spearhead an overhaul of racecourse facilities and reinvigorate the local racing calendar.

“If you produce good ground, you will get competitive racing,” Wilkinson said.

One thing, however, which he said needed no change was Australia’s generous prizemoney on offer.

“Standards vary all over the world but one thing that stands out for me is the prizemoney that’s available in Australia – it’s absolutely unbelievable – [Australia] is leading the field worldwide on that,” he said.

Almost $100,000 in prize money across six races was on offer at Gunnedah’s recent race meet – far less than a comparative meet in the UK.

Wilkinson also hoped to upgrade on-course facilities at Gunnedah’s Riverside Racecourse and build on plans set in motion last year.

In February 2023, Gunnedah Shire Council agreed to allocate a $30,000 grant as a co-contribution for the jockey club towards a grant application for planned developments.

The jockey club was proposing to construct a new transportable kitchen and an elevated, air-conditioned dining room facility located on the southern side of the main grandstand to allow views over the race track.

The aim was to market the venue not only as a racetrack but a function centre as well – capable of hosting guests and weekend events when races were not being held.

Wilkinson described the Gunnedah racecourse as “one of the best in the area” but believed it can be better again.

To realise that ambition, he hoped to modernise the standard of on-track infrastructure as well.

“From a racing point of view we want to provide a really good ground and the racecourse is key to that,” Wilkinson said.

He said the moment was right to “move with the times and bring the changes” at the Gunnedah track.

“We’re looking for grants and work is in progress to do that,” he said.

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