Bob Lisle is the official starter and president of Calliope Jockey Club Jim Neil-Ballantine. Photo Paul Braven / The Observer
Bob Lisle is the official starter and president of Calliope Jockey Club Jim Neil-Ballantine. Photo Paul Braven / The Observer Paul Braven

Racing legend in awards final

ALMOST 50 years of volunteer service will get the recognition that Calliope Jockey Club president Jim Neill-Ballantine will receive at the prestigious Coastline BMW Sunshine Coast Turf Club Service to Country Racing Award this Friday night.

Neill-Ballantine is one of five finalists who will attend the Summer Racing Carnival Gala Ball with the winner announced on the night.

The chosen five were selected from 14 nominees who had to meet the criteria such as being a current club racing member, employee, volunteer or industry participant.

The president said it came as a complete surprise, but he is looking forward to VIP-style treatment which includes attending the $700,000 Feature Metropolitan meeting that features the Coastline BMW 2yo Classic.

"I am surprised and honoured actually and was sent through the particulars from the lady at the Coloundra racing club," Neill-Ballantine said.

His rich connection and love affair with the elegant setting of the Calliope Jockey Club racecourse came about the best part of 50 years ago.

"It was in the mid-60s I became closely involved with the CJC when I started going to meetings," he recollected.

Fast-track almost five decades later and Neill-Ballantine is just as passionate and he fondly took his mind back to when the Calliope track hosted multiple race meets.

"When Queensland was under Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Russ Hinze was the Minister for Racing and he was a very progressive race minister," Neill-Ballantine said.

"He would support country racing and that was when we had four to five meetings a year in that time and then there was a change of government and the meeting numbers reduced."

Neill-Ballantine hopes the glory days trackside at the CJC will return on the back of how the Boxing Day race was received.

"That is the aim, but it is done some 12 months in advance and in 2017 that is what we're aiming to have more than one meet," he added.

Chief executive of the Sunshine Coast Turf Club Mick Sullivan said the five finalists will be treated like Royals.

"It's just our second year where we have introduced to recognise the commitment these people have to country racing," Sullivan said.

MORE ABOUT JIM NEILL-BALLANTINE

BORN: Galloway Plains, 35kn from Calliope

- 4th generation descendant of original settler Hugh (1863)

- CJC president for 49 years

- Twice Aust Day Citizen of the Year



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