Episode 285: Bruce McHugh

I’ve had several requests over a period of time to organise a podcast with former high profile bookie Bruce McHugh. We actually did just that in August of 2019, but in those early days of the website many missed it. In the 1980’s this was the time of year when Bruce and Kerry Packer would go toe to toe at the big Randwick carnival. It’s an appropriate time to repost that podcast.

Bruce talks of his current interest in racing, and the thoroughbred stallion he stands commercially- the fashionably bred Arlington.

He shares memories of his grandfather Jim who arrived in Australia as a state ward in the late 19th century. Jim McHugh rode an Epsom winner. Bruce remembers him clearly.

Bruce shares wonderful memories of his late father Bill who died in 1999. He remembers his father’s tenuous start as a bookmaker at bush meetings and his elevation to the famous Randwick Flat Enclosure. 

He admits he was a born gambler, the prime prerequisite for a future bookie.

Bruce talks fondly of his maternal grandmother Hilda who dabbled in a little bit of bookmaking outside the  boundaries of the law.

He recalls a couple of early business enterprises and his low key start as a bookmaker.


Bruce remembers his admission to the Randwick Flat and his gradual transition to the St Leger interstate ring. He was promoted to the main interstate ring with the death of an older bookie. He remembers his main client of the era.


He recalls a chance meeting with Kerry Packer in the Rosehill interstate ring. The bookie next door refused a bet from the media magnate. Bruce accommodated him, and an amazing association began.

The Packer segment in this podcast is wonderful memorabilia. Bruce takes us through some high pressure afternoons with one of the world’s biggest punters. McHugh couldn’t be more frank.

Bruce looks back on the day Packer had a gigantic bet on Myocard in the Sydney Cup only to be beaten by a horse he half owned. 

He looks back on 18 rewarding years on the Sydney Turf Club Board, three of those as Chairman. He talks of the AJC/STC merger.

Bruce talks about the massively expensive high court challenge he mounted against a ban on the use of artificial insemination in the thoroughbred industry.

Many theories have been advanced about Bruce’s sudden departure from the bookmaking ranks. He reveals why it was time to go.

This is a nostalgic trip down memory lane with a man who was a major player in the days when the betting ring had as much theatre as the racetrack itself.

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