By Duane Ranger
If the Albion Park Harness Racing Club is to move, then its new Executive Manager Scott Steele is more than ready to take the club into its new chapter.
But hosting the Inter Dominion Championship, and the construction of an owners, trainers and drivers lounge near the stabling enclosure are more pressing issues for the Winton-native.
“Obviously staying in Albion is the preferred option, but we are ready and well prepared for anything that Racing Queensland throws at us,” Scott said.
“The Inter Dominions and projects on-course are a bit more pressing here, we want to have the best horses here and we want more innovation.
“We want more people on-course and good horses, and new ideas will achieve that.”
Steele took over the reins at Queensland’s harness racing headquarters from the long-serving Damian Raedler on May 5, the latter at the helm for more than 40 years over two stints.
He said if Albion Park was to move, then the club was in a good state to re-locate.
“Obviously where we are now is a perfect location and has been the heartbeat of harness racing in this state since 1895,” Steele said.
“There’s a lot of water still to go under that bridge, but we are always ready for change.
“There are several options out there but my main focus is building the club where it is now.
“Hosting the Inter Dominions is a major focus.”
Steele is well equipped to do just that, and there’d be fewer racing administrators in the country that have more love for harness racing than the die-hard Queenslander.
“I was raised in the country and my father Billy was a bush bookmaker,” Steele said.
“Actually, the bar under the main grandstand at Redcliffe Paceway is named after him.
“I’m the youngest of three boys, (brothers) Nicky has owned a few standardbreds over the years and Brad is an administrator, and a GM, who also has big support in his heart.
“Brad is on the Albion Park Harness Racing Board and has also owned horses over the years.
“Harness racing has played a big part in our family’s life for a long time.”
Steele said he was proud to be a country boy raised in Winton (15 hours north-west of Brisbane) – the town where both Qantas and the anthem Waltzing Matilda originated.
“I think that’s why we all love horses and animals so much,” Steele said.
“We were raised around horses, and even though I’ve owned a few horses over the years and worked at the Brisbane Racing Club for eight years before coming here, I’ve always bled harness racing.
“I’ve gone full circle now, and you could say I’m home again, it’s a dream and absolute honour to be the Executive Manager at Queensland’s metropolitan harness racing track.
“Albion Park has always been a special place to me, and after almost a month here I’m loving it - it is a privilege to be able to lead harness racing into the 2020s.”
Steele was educated at De La Salle College in Redcliffe and excelled in math and economics - he was also a loyal altar boy.
“When I left school I worked for Main Roads as a cost clerk, and then worked as a bouncer for a while before I managed the bar at the Redcliffe track in the early 1990s,” Steele said.
“I was there when the poker machines were introduced.”
Steele then got a diploma in Hospitality and Management while working in clubs and pubs.
He also played 50 A-grade rugby matches as a prop for the Redcliffe Rugby Union side and latterly Norths.
He worked at the Redcliffe Leagues Clubs as well as clubs in Cairns, Mackay and Arana Hills before being appointed Operations Manager at both Doomben and Eagle Farm Racecourses in 2012.
“I’m addicted to harness racing both here and across the Tasman, and am friends with leading trainers like Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen,” Steele said.
“I’ve been to the last eight New Zealand Cups, I want to get all the leadings trainers and best horses from Australia and New Zealand racing at Albion Park.
“I’m also keen to get new owners and trainers into harness racing, we have to be a voice for all sectors of harness racing whether they breed, train, own maidens or open classers.
“I have already built a close rapport with Racing Queensland and will continue to do that for as long as I’m here – I am here to stay.”
For the record, Steele has also trained a harness racing winner; the Fake Left mare, Diamantina Dreamer, who triumphed at Redcliffe in the winter of 2001.