By Garry Howe
Michael Hodge has resigned as CEO of Pakenham Racing Club.
The decision came as a shock to the PRC committee, staff and most involved in racing.
He has taken on the role of CEO of the Warragul Country Club.
Mr Hodge presided over one of the most critical times in the long history of the club and played a leading role – along with the committee – its relocation from Racecourse Road in Pakenham to a new state of the art facility in Tynong.
Mr Hodge said it was not a decision he made lightly.
“I have a significant attachment to the job, staff, people at the club and the training community,” he said.
“It was a very, very difficult decision for me to make.
“But for me an opportunity presented itself and I have decided to pursue that opportunity.
“I am excited about that, but I am just as excited for what’s ahead for the Pakenham Racing Club, with the pool almost done, an equine hospital on the way and the imminent arrival of (premier trainer) David Hayes.
“There is such a buzz around what the likes of Phillip Stokes and Charlotte Littlefield are doing at the moment and I am confident there will be some big announcements in the next couple of months as well.
“The place has a massively exciting future.”
Mr Hodge said the journey over the past decade has been a very rewarding one.
“It’s one that has made me a lot of friendships and they will be with me for a long, long time,” he said.
The club had to negotiate a number of hurdles along the way – including initial downgrading of the club by racing authorities that led to the decision to relocate, the loss of the first sale of the old racecourse, the battle to have powerlines diverted from the new course and all the challenges that come from building and funding a new racecourse.
Mr Hodge said he took great pride in the numerous awards won over the years both for the racing and gaming and hospitality.
“I have had fantastic support from a very stable committee and a huge contribution from all the committee and staff.”
PRC deputy chairman Rick Tyrrell said the club was saddened by news of his departure.
He said the club was most appreciative of what has been achieved over the past 10 years, especially the move from the old Pakenham track to Tynong.
“We are also looking at the positives and the next person coming in will look to consolidate on Michael’s achievements to date,” he said.
“It presents a wonderful opportunity for the next CEO.”
The club will launch a nationwide search for a replacement.
Mr Hodge said the Warragul Country Club had a “massive future”.
“It is a big operation I look forward to heading in there and adding some value and building on its standing in the industry and local community.”