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Published 30 January 2013 11:48, Updated 31 January 2013 06:33
Kevin Seymour remembers the year he started working at the Albion Park Raceway in Brisbane.
It was 1968. He was a young man and took on a job as a ticket seller to raise a few dollars.
“I’m the only the person who started as a ticket seller at Albion Park and subsequently became club chairman,” the now 72-year-old says.
As well as being one of Queensland’s richest businessmen and a notable property developer, Seymour is a legend in Australian harness racing.
Having sat on the UNiTAB and Watpac boards for more than a decade, Seymour now focuses primarily on his property and mining investments via his Seymour Group. He’s created a $550 million fortune (2012 BRW Rich 200 valuation) but as he gets older and plans for the new generation of Seymours to take the reigns, he says it’s given him more time to focus on the sport.
He’s been chairman of the Albion Park Harness Racing Club three times (between 1968 and 2012), bred hundreds of horses and remains one of the sport’s biggest sponsors.
He also had the champions Fake Left and the winner of the Melbourne Cup of harness racing, the Inter Dominion, Mr Feelgood.
“I love horse racing,” he says. “But especially harness racing. It’s an actual sport. I love the colour, the excitement and closeness of the horses to you – it really is the most exciting part of it.”
Seymour’s also been overwhelmed by the people he’s met. “The camaraderie of the people in the sport is quite an amazing factor,” he says. “I think people in harness racing are genuine. They have a true love of horses; they love being around horses and their integrity is better than most people give them credit for. I find that their word is their bond and that’s rare in business these days.”
Last year Seymour cemented his place in harness racing history as the winner of the Ern Manea Gold Medal. The previous recipient was veteran Brian Hancock, who won the Inter Dominion a record six times.
Seymour’s contributions to the sport have also earned him accolades including the JP Stratton Award in 1999, a Pegasus Award in 2004 and the Order of Australia in 2005.
Seymour has also been on the board of the Australian Harness Racing Council and is a past deputy chairman of the Queensland Harness Racing Board.
He says that while horse racing is where most people invest their money, he prefers harness racing because he always tries to “support the underdog”.
He’s not in the industry to make money, he says, but to make an impact. “I’ve made two profits in all years I’ve been in the sport,” he says.
Seymour recently set up a fund-raiser to support injured trainer and driver John Tabone who suffered horrific head injuries after a devastating race fall at Albion Park last year. “I’ve got a great belief that if you’re in a position to do something good long term you should do it; that’s what I’m known for in harness racing circles,” he says. “This is the way I feel I can help people - when they fall on hard times.”
“People in harness racing may not have a lot of money, but they are very respectful and very genuine and sometimes those qualities don’t shine out in people who’ve been in the galloping side,” he says.
“That’s not to say the majority of people in galloping aren’t good people too. I’m just so thankful I’ve been involved in the sport. People in harness racing have shown me support and integrity over the years. That’s an important part of racing, and life generally.”