In a major coup for South Australian racing, a leading South African thoroughbred training outfit will relocate to Murray Bridge in mid-2021 at the completion of their season, providing further proof of the tangible benefits flowing from a joint Marshall Liberal Government and industry funding commitment.
Gary Alexander has trained over 1500 winners in South Africa over the past 30 years and together with his young brother Dean forms one of the nation’s most formidable stables, steeped in horse-racing tradition.
However, a recognition of the giant strides currently being taken by South Australian racing, particularly the ongoing development of Murray Bridge Racing Club as training centre of excellence, sparked the duo’s decision to move.
“Gary and I are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead and are super excited about the opportunity that has been afforded to us by Thoroughbred Racing South Australia (TRSA),” Dean said.
“It is encouraging and attractive to see the facilities that will be available at Murray Bridge. From what we can gather this will be a world-class training facility and that is exactly where we want to be, in order to give our horses the best opportunity of success.”
Aimed at protecting and creating local jobs, and making South Australian racing more competitive, the Marshall Liberal Government announced a $24 million industry stimulus package last year, including $2.8 million set aside in the Racing Industry Fund for 10 projects across the state.
Among those projects was the recently unveiled $505,000 uphill training track at Murray Bridge’s Gifford Hill facility, while the club also benefited from an additional $5 million funding commitment in the 2020/21 State Budget, that supplemented with funding from TRSA, will fund up to 150 on-course stables and a 70-metre equine pool.
Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Corey Wingard, said attracting a very well credentialed international stable to Murray Bridge was yet another key indicator of the effectiveness of the Marshall Government’s targeted investment strategy, and would help generate more jobs in SA.
“We’re delighted to welcome the Alexander racing dynasty to South Australia,” Minister Wingard said.
“They’re looking to start their local operation with 30-plus horses and build that team to at least 80.
“Those numbers are important, because for every four thoroughbred horses racing in South Australia, one full-time job is created.”
TRSA CEO Nick Redin noted that news of Gary and Dean Alexander’s imminent arrival followed hot on the heels of rising star Michael Hickmott becoming the Murray Bridge Racing Club’s foundation trainer, allocated the first 30 on-course boxes at the facility and Scott Westover returning from the Northern Territory to commence training at Morphettville.
“This ongoing investment in the industry is paying dividends,” Mr Redin said.
“It’s great to see we’re now having international interest, further endorsing the Marshall Liberal Government’s resolve to invest in the industry and also TRSA’s funding decisions.
“Michael Hickmott said he changed his business model to be more involved with Murray Bridge. What a great vote of confidence, by a young, up-and-coming trainer, in the future of the club and the SA industry.”
“SA is fast regaining its rightful place on the national stage. We are becoming a destination where participants want to live and work, we are seeing that through both trainers and riders moving back to SA starting to reverse the exodus of participants experienced over the last few years. SA racing offers a great work life balance.”
Dean said setting up the Murray Bridge stable would immediately create local jobs.
“We will not be bringing along any management staff with us,” he said.
“We will employ local staff.”
Dean also flagged a stable focus on syndication.
“This is something we have had a huge amount of success with in South Africa,” he said.
“We believe our syndications will attract international and local shareholders. Racing is very attractive in Australia in terms of control, facilities and stakes, so these syndications should be appealing to a number of enthusiasts.”
Gary Alexander was granted his training licence in 1982, taking over the reins from his father, Duncan. He went on to establish a world-class training facility at the famous Turffontein Racecourse and his winners’ tally includes over 100 Group and Listed winners.
In 2000, Gary and Dean combined to set a South African record for the most stakes earned in one day, winning two Group 1 races and a Group 2 race. The pair have twice trained six winners at Turffontein, acknowledged as South Africa’s premier racetrack.