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The history of Oakbank Racing Club

17/02/2020

For the first time in its 145 year history the Oakbank Racing Club will not race on Easter Monday in 2020. This has been brought about partly as a reaction to a national trend of seriously dwindling crowds on Holiday Mondays and fierce competition for the entertainment dollar.

In 2009 the Club introduced what was called a Prelude Meeting which was run two weeks prior to Easter. In 2018 the time honoured Great Eastern Steeplechase was moved from its traditional running date of Easter Monday to Easter Saturday with the Von Doussa Steeplechase moving to the Prelude Day a fortnight earlier. Long time Chairman, John Glatz OAM, stated at the time that the switch had become necessary due to dwindling crowds.

The fortnight break between the meetings, however, proved to be difficult particularly for Interstate and New Zealand trainers as they were then required to leave their home stables for over two weeks or make two trips. Easter Monday was left without a feature race and the continuing fall in attendance was a reflection of this.

To its credit, the Committee put on their thinking caps once again resulting in the creation of OAKBANK WEEK including:-

We are all aware of the importance that sponsorship is to Sporting Clubs today. Oakbank Racing Club has recently secured a three year Major Sponsorship with Ecycle Solutions a major partner of the AJRA and headed up by AJRA Chairman Sandy McGregor. In addition to the sponsorship, Sandy with the support of Thoroughbred Racing South Australia and Oakbank Racing Club has devised an initiative to increase the local pool of jumpers by making the qualification process easier and cheaper. In addition, Oakbank Easter Carnival and trials are now easier for New Zealand owners and trainers to coordinate. An initiative fully supported by new Chairman Arabella Branson.

Another significant event in the history of The Oakbank Racing Club was the stepping down of long time Chairman, John Glatz OAM, in 2016 after 25 years at the helm. He was succeeded by Committeeman of ten years and Partner in Tindall Gask Bently Lawyers, Barney Gask, who held the reins until 2019 when Arabella Branson became the first female Chairman in the Clubs history.

ARABELLA BRANSON

Arabella is a Lawyer with her own practice in the East End Of Adelaide specialising in Corporate/Commercial transactional work and Commercial Leasing.

She began her working life with Corporate/Commercial law firm, O’Loughlins Lawyers, for nine years becoming the first female partner in the firm’s history.

Her Horse Racing “blood” emanates from her father’s side of the family. Her Dad’s horse Silpact trained by good mate Neville Sprod and ridden by Dave Kelly won the 1954 SA Grand National Steeple at Victoria Park. His Firm Thomson Brindal sponsored the Restricted Hurdle at Oakbank for around ten years. Both pretty good references for a future Club Chairman.

She currently has two racehorses in training Rohlin Drunk with Jamie Opperman and Magno with Sam Burford having originally purchased a horse from John Glenney (former Oakbank Racing Club Deputy Chairman) and his wife Patti at age seventeen. She has two horses for riding when time permits and runs a Beef cattle herd of 50 –60 on her property near Victor Harbour.

Arabella has a two year old son to Harry (another full time job) and is recently married to Company Director and former Corporate Lawyer John Gerovasilis.

IN CONCLUSION A QUOTE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

“Racing on Easter Monday no longer suites Oakbank’s audience the way that it did a generation ago. Attracting and growing crowds presents a challenge to all sporting codes, not just Oakbank. Our focus for the next two years is on ensuring that the crowds that do come to Oakbank have the best possible time and return year after year. Our Committee has been working tirelessly on several new opportunities to open the Oakbank racecourse to more people in more ways and more often. It is an idyllic location and it should be enjoyed all year round in addition to our race days.

I don’t think that I am the only one who has formed the opinion that the historic Oakbank Racing Club is in good hands with Arabella coming across as a 'Breath of fresh air'.”