FIVE MINUTES WITH ... LIAM O'KEEFFE

(@flemingtonvrc

3 August 2020


Flemington Track Manager, Liam O'Keeffe leaning against barrier at Flemington Racecourse

Flemington Track Manager Liam O’Keeffe has one of the most important roles at the VRC, charged with maintaining the quality, condition and upkeep of our world-famous track. 

My role at the VRC is ... Senior Manager – Flemington Racecourse

The best part of my job is ... Working with great staff among our equine athletes on the most beautiful 360-acre site in Melbourne.

A challenging part of my job is ... The weather.

I love my job because ... I love working outdoors on our lush green turf amongst our equine athletes. All of our hardworking VRC staff enables us to achieve outstanding results and that makes the job very rewarding.

My favourite moment in my career is ... Have the track improve to a Soft 6 on Melbourne Cup Day 2018 after 57mm of rainfall fell on the morning of the Cup. The course proper is now 14 years old so these results are testament to our planning and turf renovation practices during the year, enabling the track to perform the way it does.

My career background is ... I grew up in Warrnambool and completed my Sports Turf Management Apprenticeship at the Warrnambool Racing Club. I then completed a Sports Turf Management Diploma before taking on the role as Racecourse Manager at the Warrnambool Racing Club in 2010. I then moved to Melbourne in 2013 to take on the role as Assistant Racecourse Manager under Mick Goodie, before taking over the reins as Senior Manager Flemington Racecourse in February 2018.

I am setting my sights on ... Continuing to play my part in assisting the Victoria Racing Club achieve our vision of becoming a world leader in racing and event entertainment, guaranteeing an unrivalled experience.

Someone who I admire is ... Alistair Clarkson (head coach at Hawthorn Football Club). I once stood on the MCG and listened to him speak to our senior management team about the three Vs: Vision, Values and Venture. It’s remarkable the journey he has taken that football club on, and it was a pleasure to be inspired by his story. (P.S. I barrack for the Western Bulldogs – Go Dogs.)

My favourite racing moment is ... It’s a toss-up between Winx coming from last to win the 2018 Turnbull Stakes and Vow And Declare winning the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup.

A horse I have loved or admired is ... Regal Heir. He won his first start as a three-year-old at Warrnambool and went onto race until he was nine years old, winning the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle and Thackery Steeplechase along the way. He was special to me, as I owned a small share in him.

I like the sport of racing because ... I love the thrill of a day at the races. Whether it’s owning or backing a winner and celebrating with friends – that’s what it’s all about. I cannot think of a better way to spend a day with friends than at Headquarters on a Group 1 race day. (Unfortunately, I’m usually working!)

My job was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because ... My wife is a nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital so I have had to remain flexible during my work week to ensure she is available to assist at the hospital as much as possible during the pandemic. Our workforce has been split up into smaller teams, staggering break times to ensure easy contact tracing and to have as little effect on the business as much as possible if one of our staff was to test positive. Fortunately, through strict biosecurity measures we have been able to continue to race. This has been great for the 70,000 people employed in the racing industry who have been able to retain some level of work during this difficult time. Racing has played an important part for people to engage in during their spare time when there has been minimal forms of live sport and entertainment to take your mind off things.