The grand old man of Wingatui

Jockeys Terry Moseley, Chris Johnson and Samantha Wynne with longtime Wingatui race day official Jack McLeod. Photo: Wild Range Photography
Jockeys Terry Moseley, Chris Johnson and Samantha Wynne with longtime Wingatui race day official Jack McLeod. Photo: Wild Range Photography
For a man with no background in racing, Jack McLeod sure has made an incredible contribution to the industry in Otago.

The 89-year-old is in his 61st season as a steward at Otago horse racing clubs and is showing no signs of slowing down.

McLeod's incredible stretch of service to Otago racing, which is almost incomparable, started from unlikely beginnings by racing standards.

The Dunedin resident was not born and bred into racing and did not find himself mucking out loose boxes at a tender age, like many racing people do.

But McLeod is such a part of the fabric of Wingatui race meetings that might be hard for many regular racegoers to believe

Racing was something that surrounded him in his youth, growing up on the horse-rich Taieri Plain, but it was never something he was involved with.

Instead, McLeod's passions in life were hunting and clay target shooting.

Later in life, racing would become a source of income for the former Hillside worker and his wife, Doreen, and their family.

McLeod was first employed to drive stipendiary stewards to their vantage points around the track at Forbury Park meetings.

''There was one in the front straight, one in the back straight and one at the start and I used to take a doctor - they always used to have a doctor around at the start,'' McLeod said.

He would soon be doing the same job at Wingatui and tracks throughout Otago and Southland.

When races started to be televised, stewards in towers were replaced by cameras.

That resulted in McLeod moving to work in race day offices.

He would travel with racing administrators to meetings and he was such a trusted and reliable figure he was landed with a long list of race day responsibilities.

''I used to do all of the driving for them. We were always first there and last home. We would get there at five or 6am in the morning with the gate money and we wouldn't get home until 11pm at night.''

McLeod's responsibilities even stretched to helping the newspaper industry. He would hand deliver racing results to the Star offices and would do other administrative chores to help former Otago Daily Times racing editor, Jack Morris.

Fast forward to now and McLeod is still contributing to the Otago racing industry as the saddlecloth clerk at Wingatui meetings.

Ask him why he has stayed involved in the industry and his answer is simple - the camaraderie.

''The owners and trainers in the old days, everyone had to go in to the office.

''With computers now, it's all done differently. That was the thing, though - that personal touch between the workers and everybody. That is why I stayed there so long, the contact with everybody.''

McLeod has no plans to retire from his role at Wingatui, although he admits some old rugby injuries are slowing him down slightly.

''I just go on how my health is. My knee is starting to pack up from football injuries in the old days.''

Star New Zealand-born jockey James McDonald showed he has not lost any of his class after 18 months out of the saddle with a win on return in Sydney yesterday.

McDonald won on the Chris Waller trained Cormac when having his first ride back from an 18-month disqualification for breaking betting rules.

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