By Mark Brassel
The wait is over … this Saturday heralds the first of the $150,000 Country Championships Qualifiers with Coffs Harbour having the honour of kicking off this year’s edition.
The Country Championships has been a revelation in the five years since its inception and creates tremendous interest around the state with seven regions hosting a Qualifier.
First and second placegetters go through to the $500K Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on 4 April, with those missing out having one final chance in the Wild Card at Muswellbrook on 22 March.
This will be Coffs Harbour’s first Championships Day representing the NSW Northern Rivers region.
“We’ll hopefully get 2500 people here and the town’s pretty excited for it, especially being on a Saturday,” Coffs Harbour Racing Club’s CEO, Tim Saladine, told Racing NSW.
Another ‘new kid on the block’, Shoalhaven City Turf Club, will then stage its first Championships Day on Sunday at Nowra.
“This will be a watershed day for our Club and we’re donating all our gate proceeds to the Rural Fire Service,” declared SCTC’s CEO, Paul Weekes.
“The Country Championships concept is now widely acknowledged as the pinnacle of country racing and we’re delighted to have been chosen by Racing NSW to be the SERA [South East Racing Association] host venue in 2020.
“In terms of prizemoney, it will be the biggest meeting ever held in Nowra with total prizemoney for the day of $370,000.
“Our Club has been heavily promoting the meeting and there will be some exciting on-course activities for all patrons including live entertainment, Fashions on the Field and plenty of fine food.
“We also have kids’ activities including a jumping castle and mini-train rides.
Bedgerabong Picnic Race Club, located near Forbes, will hold one of NSW’s biggest picnic meetings on Saturday.
“This year we have increased the total prizemoney from $21,000 to $30,000 for the six-race program,” said BPRC’s secretary, Michelle Whiley.
“Western Tree Care is this year’s Bedgerabong Picnic Cup major sponsor, and this is truly appreciated in such trying times.
“We have an auction of various donated items, footraces for children and adults alike, plus a jumping castle to keep the little ones entertained. A Melbourne band, Trainwreck Trio, will be providing live entertainment from 6:30pm.
“Our undercover bar area has mist fans to keep our patrons cool and we also have an undercover bookmakers’ area.”
Next Sunday, Dubbo City Turf Club will host its McDonalds Dubbo and Wellington Family Fun Day.
“We’ll have a Junior Fashions on the Field, the Kids Club and plenty of children’s entertainment,” said DCTC’s GM, Vince Gordon.
On Thursday, Murrumbidgee Turf Club will hold its first BOBS Gold Bonus race - an initiative announced by Racing NSW in late November - that offers the winner (if BOBS-eligible) up to $115K in prizemoney when including the double-up option.