Alan Bell’s family background was in racing. His father was a trainer and Bell commenced his own racing career as an amateur rider at the age of 13, before graduating to the professional ranks.
Following his early career as a jockey, his first officiating role was as a steward in 1924 with the Northern District Racing Association. Through his diligent policing, the local industry saw significant growth in the popularity and integrity of racing. The Victoria Racing Club soon brought Bell to the metropolitan region as an assistant steward in 1927, and then appointed him as a stipendiary steward when a position became available four years later. By 1945 he had risen to Chairman of Stewards, a position he held until his death in 1956.
In his role as chairman Bell was strict but fair in his application of racing law, and forthright in expressing his opinions. But he also acted to quell problems before they got out of hand. As described by Jack O’Brien: ‘Mr Bell was noted for stopping trouble before it started. A quiet, private word to owners, trainers and jockeys regularly stopped them from falling foul of the stewards, but he cracked down hard on any wrongdoers brought before him.’
Bell’s death in 1956 called forth tributes from all sections of the racing industry. Deputy Chairman of the VRC, Mr. E.A. Underwood, spoke of his contribution to racing: ‘He not only knew the sport intimately – but also the people in it. He knew every trick of the trade and seemed to have some intuition as to what to look for, and when. He was determined that racing should be clean, and due very much to his efforts, it was. The standard he set as a steward should be the aim of every man who follows him’.
'Mr Bell was a tough chief steward, but there was not a racing man who did not honour and respect him. His fairness was a by-word in Victorian racing’. Jack O’Brien, (Argus newspaper’s racing writer)
Image source: Courtesy of Australian Racing Museum