Next step horse racing for Gill McLachlan? The industry hopes so

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Prominent racehorse trainers Ciaron Maher and John Hawkes believe racing should move heaven and earth to attract outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan to the industry.

The AFL farewelled the long-serving executive on Monday morning in front of staff with a presentation from the chair Richard Goyder, with McLachlan’s departure immediately beginning speculation as to where the 50-year-old might land next.

Gillon McLachlan attends the Emirates marquee during Victoria Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse in 2015.Credit: Jesse Marlow

Hawkes, who trains at Flemington, said having McLachlan on the board of Racing Victoria or involved in another prominent role within the sport would be outstanding.

“From what I have seen with what he has done with the AFL it would be the greatest coup in racing for a long, long time,” Hawkes said.

McLachlan has not indicated his plans beyond his desire to take a significant break, including a trip overseas this month, but he is a racing fan who also has an understanding of horses through polo.

He confirmed to this masthead that he intended to be back in Melbourne for the Flemington spring carnival. He said he would not consider his next career move until after his break.

“I think he would be a good fit,” Maher said. “The AFL is about attendance and growing the market. Gill is probably someone who could turn his hand to a lot of things and I think racing would be one of them.”

Mike Hirst has been Racing Victoria’s acting chair since Brian Kruger stepped down in June, but he has given no indication that he wants to remain in the role permanently.

Racing Victoria’s board members are appointed by the Victorian Racing Minister Anthony Carbines and the minister also appoints the chair after a nominations process.

There is an AFL connection with the Victoria Racing Club board with Essendon president David Barham on their board while VRC chief Steve Rosich was Fremantle CEO from 2008 to 2019.

NSW sports administrator Peter V’landys.Credit: Getty Images

The racing minister’s office was contacted for comment.

Racing NSW, under the leadership of Peter V’landys, has made bold attempts in recent years to challenge Victoria’s stranglehold on spring racing. V’landys is both the CEO and a board member of Racing NSW and chair of the National Rugby League.

Under V’landys’ stewardship NSW hosts huge race meetings during Victoria’s carnival, with The Everest and The Golden Rose events running in front of big crowds for big prize money.

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