A NEW chapter is beginning at the Bathurst Harness Racing Club, with a fresh face now leading the team.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of 17 years Danny Dwyer has made the call to hand over the reins, deciding it's time for both he and the club to enjoy a change.
Mr Dwyer has had a huge impact on the industry in Bathurst, and was part of some great achievements in the club's history, including the move from the showground up to the complex in South Bathurst.
But it's time for a change, for both he and the club, and he couldn't be happier to welcome harness racing enthusiast Brendan Micallef as his replacement.
"It's a bit of a funny stage, but I'm really looking forward to it because I think this man is the best man for the job," Mr Dwyer said.
"I think he's going to do a great job; he's probably me 20 years ago which I think is what the club needs to go forward to the next stage."
Growing up, Brendan Micallef always had a love of racing, particularly the harness industry, with his grandfather being a trainer.
While most kids grow up watching The Wiggles, for Mr Micallef it was the racing channel.
And while most kids have their birthday parties at McDonalds or the adventure park, Mr Micallef was joined by his friends at the Penrith Greyhound Track for his fourth birthday bash - and he still has the plaque to show for it.
However times have definitely changed since Mr Micallef was a kid going to the races, with the addition of TAB apps and Foxtel meaning people can enjoy the races from home.
But getting patrons back to the track and immersing themselves in the live action is something Mr Micallef wants to focus on.
"It's trying to get the younger generation more involved in the sport, not just to come here and have a party, but actually come here and have a keen interest in the sport," he said.
"So looking at what we can do in the week in and week out to increase participation in the sport."
During COVID, Mr Micallef began a syndication group called BPM Bloodstock, as a way of getting his friends and family into the industry by owning small shares in horses.
Becoming the CEO of Bathurst Harness Club gives him a way to share his love of the sport with even more people.
"The reason I started BPM is because I wanted to share the experiences that I had in harness racing with as many people as I could, so going from BPM to the CEO role is a way for me to have a greater impact on the industry," Mr Micallef said.
"Danny's done a wonderful job the last 17 years and so it's off the back of his legacy, not actually trying to change too much but just trying to reinvent the wheel with a few different things.
"I really want to continue to drive participation in the sport, whether it be from a licencing perspective, so trainers and drivers, or whether it be owners, or getting new people to the sport, or getting people who have left the sport to come back."
One addition Mr Micallef is looking to make is introducing a Tony Turnbull race to the meeting calendar.
The late A.D, as Mr Turnbull was fondly known as, was a true Bathurst Harness Racing legend, and because of him the Turnbull name is synonymous with the local industry.
While Bathurst already has a Shirley Turnbull night, with the memorial race being featured every at Boxing Day meeting for 36 years, Mr Micallef is hoping to add a Tony Turnbull event to the program.
The race wouldn't take away from the $50,000 Shirley Turnbull Memorial, but would add to the night.
He said his plan is for the Tony Turnbull Memorial to be a penalty-free race where all horses are driven by Mr Turnbull's grandchildren.
But for now, the new CEO's main priority is to continue his transition into role and build relationships with all industry members, from trainers and drivers to owners and patrons.
Mr Micallef is really looking forward to leading the charge of this new era for the Bathurst Harness Racing Club, along with more new faces after some other long-term staff have moved on.
Clerk of the course of 30 years and track curator of 22 Tony Hagney hung up the stirrups in the second half of 2022, deciding the time had come to embark on the next chapter of his life.
While marketing manager Marianne Donnelly is also set to say goodbye to her role, after working alongside Mr Dwyer for 15 years.
Ms Donnelly was also a big part of the move from the Bathurst Showground up to where the club is now, and has been by Mr Dwyer's side through all the ups and downs the industry has faced over the years.
Mr Dwyer said a huge thank you goes to all of the people he's worked with over the 17 years he's been CEO.
He said he's really enjoyed the role, but is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the club.