THERE WERE NO BLINKERS ON WHEN MINDY POWELL-HODGES ACCEPTED THE ROLE AS CEO FOR THE FINANCIALLY CHALLENGED TOWNSVILLE TURF CLUB.
Just a few months into the role, new Turf Club CEO, Mindy Powell-Hodges, is already implementing her bold vision to revitalise the Club and return it to its glory days as a community centrepiece.
Aware of the challenge before her, Mindy wasted no time in consulting and lobbying all levels of Government, Racing Queensland and local entities for funding and long sought-after solutions to drive the Club forward.
“You can’t just take off on your own track, not with something this big,” she says. “This is part of the community and you have to involve all the people in it.”
The local racing community are embracing Mindy as they realise the depth of her experience. Mindy’s passion for the industry started young, as her family travelled like gypsies from race tracks and stud farms throughout America.
“I broke horses out of the gate, did sales, got my trainer’s licence and trained horses for my Dad and my own clients,” she says.
She became the first woman in the United States to hold the position as Stall Superintendent, managing the placement and movement of horses, liaising with up to 200 trainers, and dealing with unions.
“It was quite a juggling act, and let me tell you something, that job made you tough,” she says. “But it taught me so much and from there I was invited to go to the Middle East to help write the rules of racing.”
Mindy stayed for seven years as the Director of PR and Marketing, handling all their international contracts and sponsorship of the French Derby.
After her daughter was born in Dubai, Mindy and her husband Chris returned to America, where Mindy’s knack for picking out young horses and growing them into yearlings saw her hobby expand into a 100 acre farm with an annual turnover of $5 million.
Mindy and Chris had always talked of coming to Australia, and decided the time was right, but the first few years in Sydney were tough.
“You’re at the top of everything and you’ve got all this knowledge, and then, nothing. It was absolute agony, so hurtful. You’d meet someone in the horse industry and pounce on them and try to sell yourself.”
When she saw the CEO role advertised for the Townsville Turf Club she flew in for an interview.
“I stood in front of grandstand and looked down the stretch and thought, I can do something great here.
“Not everyone wants to be part of the horse racing,” Mindy says. “I look out here and I see charity events, corporate events, weddings, where else in town do you have this backdrop and access?”
After evaluating the spend on hire equipment, Mindy invested in a permanent trackside marquee, cold room and new furniture in a bid to make events profitable.
“If you look across any race track in the world, racing alone isn’t going to support these grounds,” she says. “If you came out here with an idea, I think there is very few things we’d say no to. If there is ever an event, I want to be on the shopping list.”
Mindy is highly efficient and driven, and while she expects a lot of those around her, she is a natural leader who enjoys mentoring and leads by example.
With her industry knowledge, business acumen and marketing experience, Mindy seems a good bet to get the Townsville Turf Club across the line, and she is revelling in being back in the horse racing industry.
“The smell of them, the energy they put out, it makes my heart sing,” she smiles. “Sometimes I get here really early in the morning and sit in the old grandstand and watch them train. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.”