Michael Buckley is the real deal.
The Tamworth Jockey Club's incoming general manager's love for racing was fomented as a child growing up near and attending picturesque Oakbank Racecourse in the Adelaide hills.
His father had small shares in racehorses. "I just tagged along to races with him and fell in love with the animal and the athlete that is the horse," he said.
When Buckley was "about 14", he obtained a strapper's licence and did his certificate one in racing (stablehand).
"And that enabled me to have a day off school each week to go to the races on a Wednesday, going around to the provincial and country tracks in South Australia."
Upon finishing high school, Buckley said he "tried to do the smart thing and go to university".
"But the love of the horse took over eventually and that's what saw me back in the racing industry."
Buckley worked for about a year at Makybe Racing and Breeding in Geelong, the stud that produced three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva.
He then worked for leading South Australian trainers David Jolly and Tony McEvoy for some six years in total. At the same time, he obtained a trainer's licence.
"It's a pretty tough game, being a trainer," he said. "You need to have someone backing you, or a lot of luck along the way - and I didn't really have either.
"I decided I wanted to keep my house, and decided to try and take another avenue in the game - and racing administration ended up being it."
Buckley's entry into racing administration was as the industry liaison and racing supervisor at the Newcastle Jockey Club - a position he has held for the past four and a half years.
He starts at the TJC on May 12.
"I certainly wasn't looking to leave Newcastle for any reason other than for [career] progress and opportunity," he said.
"I was very happy here, but the carrot of heading up to Tamworth just proved too strong in the end."
Buckley was in Tamworth last Friday for the Tamworth Cup, where he met TJC sponsors and key stakeholders.
He aims to have "a positive impact on the club" - in part by "engaging" with the public and "rekindling" key sponsorships.
Buckley has replaced Wayne Wood. He is the TJC's fourth general manager in four years.
Wood's two-month tenure ended in January when Racing NSW appointed administrator David Jewell to oversee the club. Jewell is still in the position.
"Wayne has only been at the club a short time, and he was of the view that the job that he accepted has changed," Jewell had said.
Jewell told the Leader on Thursday that the inquiry was expected to conclude shortly.
"My role will be reviewed by RNSW when the inquiry is concluded," he said, adding that his role would be reduced once Buckley was onboard.
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