Carey Hobbs has been at the helm of Taranaki Racing for nearly four decades, but he has decided to hand over the reins as he quietly transitions into retirement.
“I love the people in racing, I love the horse and I love the fun. For 36.5 years I have been doing what I love, and it has been a terrific career,” he said.
While he hailed from a non-racing background, Hobbs caught the racing bug young when attending race meetings with his grandparents.
He initially pursued a career in education, but the pull of horses was too strong and at the age of 30 he took up an opportunity as chief executive with the Taranaki Racing Club, a position he would hold until this year.
“My grandparents used to take me regularly at a very young age and I became a racing tragic,” Hobbs said.
“I was a primary school teacher for seven years before taking up my role with Taranaki Racing.
“I started with a passion for the racing industry and very little else. I went to night school so I could read a balance sheet.”
Hobbs is particularly proud of the innovation his team has shown over the last decade to attract young racegoers to their meetings, something he believes is vital for the future of the sport.
“I am very proud of what Taranaki Racing is doing and the team that I have got here,” he said.
“I think we are one of the most innovative clubs in the racing industry with the Interprovincial and the twilights.
“We have really concentrated in the last 10 years on oncourse attendance. If racing is to survive and flourish, we have got to have the oncourse experience available for the younger generation coming through.
“Racing has got to be fun and people have got to be comfortable coming to it. At New Plymouth we do get a very young crowd who enjoy the raceday and it’s great for the future.”
Hobbs said he has been lucky to witness a lot of high-class equine athletes compete at New Plymouth racecourse under his stewardship and rates the locally-trained Rough Habit as the best horse he has seen.
“Some personal highlights were Bonecrusher beating The Filbert by a nose in our weight-for-age race that we used to have. Another year Mickey’s Town beat Horlicks and Rough Habit.
“Rough Habit was something special. He was a warrior. If horses went to war, that is who you would want to go to war with.
“I said on TV one day that I thought Rough Habit couldn’t win carrying 68 killos after an injury, and John Wheeler (trainer) said the same thing, but he won alright. He was a champion.”
Hobbs was honoured at a function at New Plymouth Racecourse on Thursday where he was presented with an engraved Mere from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and was bestowed life membership with the Taranaki Racing Club.
“On behalf of the NZTR Board, Management and all racing stakeholders, we would like to recognise Carey Hobbs for an incredible 36 years as the CEO of Taranaki Racing,” NZTR chief executive Bruce Sharrock said.
“His dedication has made a huge impact on New Zealand's Thoroughbred racing administration, helping it grow and thrive in the Central Districts.
“Last night we witnessed a special moment when Taranaki Racing awarded Carey with a lifetime membership, presented to him by his father who is also a life member of the Club.
“Carey, your love for the sport has truly made a difference, and we're grateful for your long-lasting contribution.”
Hobbs is handing over the reins of the club to former police officer Anna Duncan but will remain with the club as racing manager to ensure a smooth transition.
“They have appointed another CEO, Anna Duncan, but I am staying on for 12 months in a part-time capacity to make the transition smooth and to handle a lot of the racing matters through the transition period,” Hobbs said.
Duncan takes over at an exciting time, with a sporting hub set to be developed alongside the racecourse in collaboration with the local council.
“One of the plans is to make it a blueprint for how racecourses can get more utilisation,” Hobbs said.
“I do believe it is something that the racing industry has got to look at. The good thing is, as people get used to coming to the racecourse – whether that is to watch sport or go to the races – they will be more comfortable coming here for racing as well as sport.”
Hobbs believes the club has a bright future and is proud to have been a part of laying a solid foundation for racing in Taranaki.
“New Plymouth punches well above its weight nationally and long may it continue,” he said.
“I have been pleased to have been part of the team that has helped do that for Taranaki and New Plymouth.”