Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tech-savvy teenager a photo-finish revelation

21 July 2022

By Darren Cartwright

If not for their tech-savvy teenage granddaughter, Toowoomba Turf Club’s experienced photo-finish team, Margaret and Steve Fahey, may not have made a smooth transition into the digital age. 

Breanna was just 16 when they invited her to accompany them to an information and training session for the upgrade of Toowoomba’s digital photo finish. 

Breanna was so adept at grasping the system that the couple, who had been managing the camera for more than a decade, brought her into the fold as possibly the youngest ever photo finish operator assistant in the state, if not the country. 

“They went through it all with Steve and I, and Breanna took all the notes and wrote it all out for us. She’s an expert on it,” Margaret (pictured with Breanna) said. 

Now three years into the role, Breanna has been the educational bridge between generations and a “god send”, said Margaret as she sat alongside Breanna at Toowoomba races on a Saturday night. 

“She is just on the ball and makes sure everything is working, so we have that confidence for every race of having a sharp image. She’s a god send,” Margaret said. 

“You need a good photo so we can see the noses.” 

Breanna’s first meeting operating the photo finish software was the same day the technology was turned on in 2019. 

“You know what old people are like with new technology,” Breanna said with a slight giggle. 

“I came in to help with the new system and I started the first night when the new camera came in and it’s something I really enjoy doing.” 

Being a photo finish camera operator is not quite as simple as testing the software and camera before the start of a meeting and expecting everything to be OK for the remainder of the night, said Breanna. 

Before every race, she conducts a colour balance and clarity check. 

It’s a must at night meetings where the first race is usually held in broad daylight, another in fading light, as day turns to dusk, and the remaining races are under artificial light, the Toowoomba University student said. 

“Before the race, you make you have good colour balance and the image is clear,” she said.  

“Being a twilight meeting, it changes from daylight to dusk and then night, and you have to a sharp image as you need to move the line to each nose.” 

It’s far more complex than one may think, said Margaret, who could not reiterate how serious the role was when so much was on the line for owners, trainers, the race club and punters. 

“She’s forever having to get it right so you can see the horses and the colours and it is difficult to get a crisp nose under lights and that’s what we are after,” she said. 

“We take it 100 per cent seriously and you have to be focussed and that’s why it’s good having Breanna because she is focussed and she gets the right photo no matter the light.” 

As for Breanna being just 16 when she took on the role and is still relatively young and inexperienced compared to many who work behind the scenes at Toowoomba, club CEO Lizzy King said she had complete confidence in her ability. 

King said she was also leading the way for the younger generation, keen on pursuing a career in racing. 

“Steve and Margaret are staples of racing in South East Queensland, so professional, reliable, trustworthy and the club knew Bree would be under the watchful eye of her grandparents, which gave us great comfort and assurance,” she said. 

“Being the younger generation, Bree took to the technology extremely well and was a great conduit for her grandparents into the new age – they were able to learn from each other, which is great. 

“There are so many opportunities for young people in racing and Bree is leading the way.”