George to rein in NZ
RACING: Casino-raised Cameron George is set to become the most powerful man in New Zealand thoroughbred racing after accepting an offer to return to his previous post as chief stipendiary steward.
Now the chief steward of Harness Racing Victoria, he is set to cross codes – and the Tasman – again after holding New Zealand racing’s top job in 2007-08.
The son of Lismore MP Thomas George, Cameron George stands to see his authority tripled if a bold proposal to have all three racing codes operate under a single integrity department is implemented.
The proposal from the New Zealand Racing Board would see George and his stipes take control of harness racing and greyhound racing on top of the major code – thoroughbreds.
New Zealand would become the first major racing nation to implement such a system.
After spending 14 months as chief steward of harness racing in Victoria, the 33-year-old George is perfectly credentialled for the job should the merger go ahead.
“The experience I have gained in my job in harness racing is invaluable,” George said.
“The timing is perfect given what could potentially happen in New Zealand racing in the near future.”
The appointment of George to the top job in New Zealand speaks volumes of the veracity in which he is held – particularly as he is relatively young for such an esteemed position.
From a non-racing family, George began his career in thoroughbreds as a stablehand at Penguin Lodge for Casino trainer Leo Clapham and attributes much of his success to Clapham and senior Northern Rivers bookmaker Jim Dougherty.
“I learned so much from them as a kid, I owe them a lot,” he said.
With his position as chief steward to begin on February 15, George will be straight to business with the most prestigious week in New Zealand racing in March.
Three-year-olds will race for $2.2 million prizemoney in the New Zealand Derby on March 6 before the 136th running of the Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on March 10.
“It’s a great time to be getting back over there,” George said.
“Straight back into the thick of things.”
George will complete his tenure in Melbourne with the last harness meeting to be held at Moonee Valley – the $400,000 Hunter Cup.
The Moonee Ponds venue has been the home of harness racing in Victoria for more than 30 years but is being replaced by a state-of-the-art complex at Melton in the outer suburbs.