The new watering system in action at Coonamble Racecourse – the track and grounds are in top class condition to host the biggest racing carnival in the west.
THE Coonamble Jockey Club members are stampeding down the home straight to organise the high-profile Western Districts Country Championships Race Meeting on Sunday 15 March.
The Championships are one of just five trials held around NSW each year with each district’s top runners vying for a spot in the finals at Randwick and a prize purse of $500,000.
Coonamble’s Jockey Club stunned punters around western NSW when they mounted a campaign to host the event, prising it away from Dubbo, who had hosted the qualifiers for the past five years.
“We will be the first of the smaller clubs in the Western Districts to host our region’s Country Championships qualifier,” said Club President Ken Waterford. “But hopefully we won’t be the last.”
“If all goes well this year, we can expect to see the event eventually move around other Clubs in the Western Districts, bringing big prizemoney and bigger crowds back to bush racing.”
The prizemoney at Coonamble is also set to break all records with the Country Championships Qualifier race offering $150,000 and an unheard of $370,000 across the eight race program.
With the stakes this high, punters and horse lovers can be guaranteed that only the top thoroughbreds will be on display in the Mounting Yard.
But the weekend has more to offer than just a big day in the betting ring for racing enthusiasts.
As with any quality event of this scale, the trackside social scene will also be out of the box.
The Jockey Club will be introducing the Raindance Dash with $600 from the Coonamble Raindance Committee on offer to any fleet-footed adult on course willing to gallop 100 metres down the racetrack.
The Club will host a V.I.P. luncheon for high-profile guests such as Peter Vlandys, CEO of Racing NSW and Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, and other racing heavyweights who will fly in from Sydney for the weekend to join the region’s top trainers, owners and jockeys at this gold standard event.
“They’re all looking forward to getting back to grass roots racing at a small town racetrack,” Mr Waterford said. “They’re all talking about it.”
Organisers are ramping up their cocktail and cheese bar with help from TP Catering and all categories of the Fashions on the Field will be well worth the extra grooming with impressive prize packs.
Groups are also invited to hire marquees to enjoy a day with business colleagues, friends or family members at a bargain rate of $50.
Brad Haling’s live acoustic performance will add a festive feel to the afternoon.
The Jockey Club received a setback on Monday when Lachlan Valley Rail (LVR) advised that their Tin Hare had been vandalised in Orange over the weekend and they would not be able to source a replacement windscreen in time for the train to head to Coonamble on 15 March.
“It is disappointing but there’s nothing we can do about that,” said Ken Waterford.
“I did suggest they patch it with some wire netting but they said that would’ve worked in the 1920s but it’s not really acceptable in 2020.”
“LVR assure us they’re working on getting the train here for our October Gold Cup Carnival and in the meantime I’m sure the passengers who’ve already booked are working out another way to get to the Country Championships,” he said.
For local residents and those overnighting, the Calcutta planned at the Terminus Hotel on Saturday night 14 March promises to be an entertaining night.
And, off the back of an enormous fundraiser last year for the Coonamble Cancer Survival Group, the Jockey Club and Terminus Hotel proprietors are promising the proceeds of this Calcutta and a special Charity Auction to equally good causes.
“Coonamble has many parent volunteers working hard to support their kids’ sporting interests,” said Jockey Club Vice President Mick Heaney.
“The proceeds of the Charity Auction will be shared among local junior sporting clubs to buy equipment, uniforms or other things they need.”
Mr Heaney says that with soccer, tennis, rugby league, rugby union, two netball clubs, swimming club and pony club already in their sights, other junior sporting groups still have time to put their hand up.
“We don’t want anyone to miss out,” Mr Heaney said.
“This is a chance for us to help keep kids involved in organised sport and we’re hopeful that the idea will get good support.”
He says the prizes donated so far by their sponsors are extraordinary.
One prize alone has been valued at more than $10,000 with 15 lucky people to be hosted in the Number One Suite at the 2020 Golden Slipper.
Another prize would see the lucky buyer joining Brad (Freddy) Fittler on the main oval and in the Blues’ dressing room during one of this year’s State of Origin matches.
A range of sought-after NRL apparel will also be up for grabs including a signed Blue’s guernsey.
The other beneficiary of the Calcutta night at the Terminus Hotel will be the events at Coonamble Show which cater for re-educated racehorses.
The funds will sponsor prizes for the Off the Track Series with a class for Ridden Open Hacks and Led Hunter Hacks which are open to thoroughbreds who have officially trialled or raced.
With the autumnal temperatures now upon us and the weather gods on board to get the course in 5-star shape, Sunday 15 March should be one of the main highlights of the 2020 calendar.