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  4. Graham Rewald reflects on lifetime in racing industry

Graham Rewald reflects on lifetime in racing industry

rewald.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans 

From an unlikely start as a race horse trainer in the 1970s to becoming one of the most valuable contributors to country racing in Queensland, Graham Rewald has seen it all in the racing industry.

Now in his 80s, Rewald has spent time in racing as an owner, trainer, teacher of apprentices, administrator and almost everything in between.

While he has touched many parts of the racing game in over half a century of involvement, arguably his greatest legacy will be his tireless efforts as a member of the Country Racing Advisory Panel since August of 2009.

The respected administrator has only recently retired from his role on the Country Racing Advisory Panel at their most recent meeting. 

He believes he is leaving regional racing in Queensland in a much better place than when he first got involved.

“I feel like I am retiring when we are on a high, since I have been there the committee has achieved a lot and a lot of those things were things I went fighting there for,” Rewald said.

“It might have taken me 11 years to get them, but we got there. There has been a big change in racing in that time.

“I am passionate about country racing and that is why I got into the political side of it all, to keep country racing strong.”

Back in Rewald’s early 30s, an involvement in the racing industry did not seem likely.

While he grew up riding horses around Taroom, working on a station, an involvement in the racing game proper did not come until he purchased a race horse – to re-sell – in Ipswich when his family was moving back to Taroom many years later. 

When he could not on-sell the galloper, friends and family suggested Graham have a crack at training the horse, which he did, leading towards almost four decades as a trainer.

Blue Brolga was the first horse Graham officially prepared to the race track and immediate successes followed for the rookie trainer.

“As it would happen, we won two races with him on the same day,” Graham recalled.

“We could not do that these days. I had an interest and it went from there.”

While Graham got the training bug almost instantly, so did his family.

All five Graham’s sons would become jockeys, some he took on as apprentices himself, as the Rewald name was a constant through regional areas of the Sunshine State for decades to come.

As his handful of sons got more involved in the gallopers, his stable of horses had to grow with them.

It was not just his sons who Graham mentored, also taking in apprentice riders from outside of the family, some that he still has a close bond with to this day.

The 61-year-old David Rewald is the only one of Graham’s sons still riding and training in 2021, based at Blackall these days as a dual-licensed participant.

David is a proud man of his father when he reflects on his contribution to racing over the years.

“Dad, he has been really good, he started training and worked his way through and he just understands country racing,” David said.

“He understands what you need to try and keep the industry going strong.

“Country racing is pretty strong at the moment; you just have to look at the numbers of horses that are going around.”

While having racing as a hobby on the weekend and in the mornings and night, Graham worked in a number of different jobs to pay the bills during the week, including being employed at the local council and selling insurance, among other jobs.

David feels those experiences dealing with countless people from different walks of life prepared his father for a successful period as a racing administrator.

IMG-7038.JPGAfter decades of his own in the industry, David remarks that his father knew that there was more to country racing than just a flash looking surface, it is about the fashions on the field and great food and drink for the punters, as well.

“You have to have people that have been through the industry to understand what it takes and what it is all about,” David said.

“It is not just the social side or the racing side – on the committees – you need to understand both sides of it all.

“If you can get that to click on the committee, you can have a really good race club. Dad understood both.”

Before stepping on to the Country Racing Advisory Panel, Graham was the president at the Taroom-based Dawson Jockey Club for 14 years. 

In Graham’s time on the Panel, he pointed to successes such as the Battle of the Bush and the Country Cups Challenge and Stampede, as well as delivering more QTIS races, higher prize money, increased payments to the clubs towards costs of race days to pay for services such as ambulances, security, barrier attendants and vets.

In a life dedicated to racing after turning 80, he believes racing in the bush is as great as it has ever been.

“We have a whole lot of benefits now that we have never had before,” he said.

“It is the best it has ever been, country racing. It is going really good; we are getting record crowds at our races all around our area.”

Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace and the Racing Queensland board have played their role in lifting thoroughbred racing in the regions around the state, Graham says.

He remembers a time as chairman for the Eastern Downs Country Racing Association that he would have to fight with racing administrators from Brisbane to keep clubs open in the bush.

That is what spurred on his first involvement in a state wide role in racing, his desperation to keep regional clubs open and racing for the betterment of towns and communities.

Those fears have long been alleviated, with clubs and facilities growing, through the Palaszczuk Government's Country Racing Program.

“To have a Racing Minister that understands the economical benefits and the social benefits of country racing, it is important, she is very good to deal with,” Graham said.

“And, we have a board that is very similar.

“It is a much friendlier place down there at the moment.

“We have seen an increase in prize money, which is very good, we still we need a bit more for stakeholders to be sustainable but we are working and pushing towards that.

“We are confident in the Racing Minister we have got and the board.”

 

Graham Rewald

  • Involved with Taroom-based Dawson Jockey Club since 1973, including 14 years as president.
  • Trained horses for approximately 40 years.
  • Red and white stripes of his jockey colours were prominent in the 1980s particularly around the Callide Valley at race clubs such as Thangool, Monto, Theodore, Banana, Camboon, Wowan and Ridgelands.
  • Stepped down from training to get involved in administration of racing on the Eastern Downs Country Racing Association, where he became Chairman, and also a member of the Country Racing Advisory Panel.  He has been a member of the Country Racing Advisory Panel since August 2009 before recently retiring.