By Brad Gray
Champion bloke. That’s the overwhelming consensus of anybody in racing who has had dealings with Lindsay Murphy, the Australian Turf Club’s long-serving general manager of racecourses.
Murphy recently celebrated 40 years with the organisation having started out as a junior clerk at the Sydney Turf Club when he was just 21.
“It wouldn’t seem like it’s been 40 years by any stretch of the imagination. You just keep going and next minute 40 years has ticked away,” Murphy said.
“I was always going to the races just as a follower of racing. I was very keen on it. I started work and a few years later I saw a job as a junior clerk in the racing office of the STC. I applied for it and fortunately got it. I was married at the time but I said to my wife (Bernadette) it’s only a junior role but I’d really like to work there. She said go for it and I’m still here.
“My parents used to always have the races on. I had an uncle that was a jockey around the wartime. He didn’t go on with it after the war but then worked in stables so as a little bloke I was interested.”
Murphy’s progression from clerk to working on the tracks themselves came about when STC’s then racecourse manager John Jeffs, who was charged with Rosehill Gardens and Canterbury Park, was on the lookout for an offsider and an enthusiastic young Murphy piqued his interest.
“I knew nothing more, nothing less but the club approached me and I was happy to try it. I’d do anything and I haven’t left since.”
“It was always that we’d work one Saturday and then I’d go to the races the next Saturday. It was easier to go and spend the day with friends in a bar and enjoy the racing,” Murphy said with a laugh, “But it’s different now being so full on with one club.”
Murphy has committed his life to racing and said without a moment’s hesitation that he wouldn’t change a thing but what is it about horse racing that has captured his imagination for decades?
“I don’t know the specific thing,” Murphy pondered, “I do like the horses as athletes and the jockeys as athletes. I like the colour and the different elements that you get on track. You have some of the great rogues and the hierarchy of the country all there rubbing shoulders and I think that’s a great thing.”
Murphy has seen plenty change in his time in racing, including the scrutiny placed on the performance and presentation of tracks.
“The changes in technology where everything has gone from a manual operation to being assisted has led to a huge improvement in the professionalism of everything that is undertaken in all aspects of racing. There has been a general raising of standards all over which has been fantastic,” Murphy said.
“We’ve got much better machinery now and there has been advancements in treatments and chemicals for grasses that have helped. It’s all been beneficial.
“People didn’t have access to race replays or anything and now they do so the scrutiny is ten times more. People say these things didn’t exist years ago – well they actually did but people just didn’t realise.”
Horse racing is certainly in the blood for Murphy and he raised four children who remarkably all went on to be involved in the sport in their own ways.
“My wide Bernadette isn’t and she’s the odd one out. She is a school teacher but loves the races. She enjoys them and comes along quite often,” said Murphy.
“My eldest son (Tim) trained for a while. He is not training at the moment. He is now an engineer but was still poking around with horses up until a couple of months ago for his father-in-law who happens to be Peter Wells’ Dad. Tim is married to Peter’s sister.
“My eldest daughter (Jill) worked at Racing NSW for a while, then at TVN and then was racing manager for a few stables down in Victoria. She still works for Sky Channel on Saturdays producing but is now a psychologist.
“My next son (Patrick) was a jockey. Both my boys rode track work whilst they were at school. He became a jockey but gave that away 18 months or so ago and he and his partner are training out at Goulburn. His partner is Tash Burleigh.
“They all worked casual jobs at the STC when they were at school on the gates and things like that.
“My youngsters daughter (Joanne) went overseas for a while and came back to work at Racing NSW as the personal assistant to (former chief steward) Ray Murrihy. Now she is married to a steward, Sam Fitzgerald, and lives at Dubbo.”
— Patrick ?urphy (@PWMSmurf) July 18, 2017
There is another generation of the clan currently being raised with Murphy currently counting four grandchildren and when quizzed as to whether it is Pop’s job to steer them in the direction of racing he chuckled before suggesting that “they’ll do it themselves but there is certainly an inclination that way.”
Murphy has spent countless hours preparing all four of Sydney’s metropolitan race tracks and seen even more stars of the turf come and go.
“We lived on Canterbury Racecourse for 22 years as the kids were growing up so it certainly holds a soft spot for us because of our family memories. As far as racing goes, I love Golden Slipper Day but I also love the big days at Randwick,” Murphy said.
“When I was young my local track, having lived at Chester Hill, was Warwick Farm. We used to go there as kids so it has some terrific memories too. They are all very special to me.
“Kingston Town was my favourite horse. I liked his versatility. He’d perform first-up in short races, in two mile races and everything in between. He just performed every time he turned up.”