FRESH LOOK: Racegoers enjoy the public areas at the Newcastle Racecourse over the spring carnival this year. Picture: Jonathan CarrollThe Newcastle Jockey Club will review themembers’ area dress code in the new year after the banning of denim and jeanswas a hot topic at its annual general meeting.

About 30 members attended the AGM last Wednesday night wherethe NJC’s $1.6 million downturn and controversial dress code change dominated discussions.

The ban on denim clothing and jeans in the members’ area, which takes in the members’ lounge and part of the betting ring, at weekend meetings was brought in at the start of this financial year but not enforced until the spring carnival in September.

It led to heated exchanges between racegoers and staff at a Sunday meeting last month when many were denied access to the members’ area because they were wearing jeans.

NJC chairman Geoff Barnett said there was discussion for and against the change.

“There was quite a robust discussion about ourdress rules in the members’,” Barnett said.

“The board has taken on board what was said and we are going to review the dress rules early in the new year.

“We were trying to lift our dress standards and we believe people enjoy dressing up to come to the races”.

Barnett stressed that “there are a lot of areas at our club, bars etc, where the dress rules are not as stringent. People can wear jeans, shorts.”

Members also grilled the club on their drasticfinancial slide, which coincided with the launch and maintenance of their multi-million dollar track redevelopment.

The NJC posted a loss, on income attributable to members,of $647,169 for 2016-17, which was down from a profit of $966,169 the previous financial year.The loss in underlying performance of the clubwas $1,007,169, compared to a profit of$324,720 in 2015-16.

“There was quite some concern about our finances,” Barnett said.

“There were some members that were quite disappointed, but I explained that what we did was the right time to do it with the opening of the track and theancillary items that we had to purchase to complete it.

”There was good, activediscussion about that and we assured them with the figures that we’re up to already this year that we’ve already bounced back.

“We’re already more than$100,000 ahead of our budget for this year and going well. We’vereally put the brakes on our expenditure for this year and we expect to be back to a strong position.”

“I think they accepted the explanation that we’d overspent.We spent too much, too quick and that caused the problem and when we realised it, we put the brakes on straight away.

Geoff Barnett

“We have recovered beautifully from our spring carnival where we do give away a lot of prizemoney, but I think everyone is quite relaxed about it looking forward.”

AAP reports:The fall in which popular country jockey Darren Jones lost his life has been judged an accident.

Racing NSW stewards have concluded an inquiry into the fall at Warialda in northern NSW on April 8 in which jockeys Leanne Henry and Melanie Bolwell also fell and were injured.

Stewards said Jones’ mount, Montague Clan, was racing keenly approaching the 450m, with the jockey continually restraining him.

Montague Clan then shifted out slightly and struck the heels of another horse, became unbalanced and Jones fell.Bolwell’s mount, True Commitment, was unable to avoid Montague Clan and also fell while Henry’s mount, Achanizo, became unbalanced after being checked.

The stewards’ report said it was determined there was no rider error apparent and the incident was caused by the manner in which Montague Clan was racing at that time.

Stewards said Montague Clan suffered a fractured off side scapula but there there was no evidence of apre-existing condition. Montague Clan and True Commitment were euthanised.

Before the race, stewards and senior riders had inspectedthe track between the 600 and 400 metresand it was determined fit for racing.

Henry, who suffered a collar bone injury, has returned to riding. Bolwell, who suffered bleeding around the brain and fractures in her neck and foot, is still sidelined.