By Julieanne Horsman
Christmas is time for family and with everyone heading home for the holiday season, it’s also a great time to go to the races. There’s no racing on Christmas Day but eleven meetings will be held across New South Wales on Boxing Day and for some clubs it’s among their biggest events of the year.
Late Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes, will be remembered by Nambucca River Jockey Club at Bowraville’s Boxing Day meeting. Phillip was a regular at the track and following his premature passing, the club decided the Phillip Hughes Cup and Memorial Race Day would be a fitting tribute. The perpetual Cup is housed at the Macksville RSL Club, which is the major sponsor for the day. “The Boxing Day race meeting at Bowraville has been a highlight for the locals for many years and the race club was very pleased to dedicate this race day to Phillip,” NRJC Secretary Geoff Harris said.
Kids are king at Ballina Jockey Club’s Boxing Day meeting with free entry for under 18s. There will be loads of entertainment including a jumping castle and face painting as well as free bus transfers to and from the racecourse. Early bird tickets can be purchased for $10 from the club with tickets available at the gate for $15.
Sapphire Coast Turf Club’s Pambula Cup Boxing Day meeting attracts its biggest crowd of the year and is especially popular with young racegoers. A huge fashions on the field competition allows guests to show off their style for a chance to win great prizes. Free courtesy busses running from Eden, Pambula, Merimbula, Tura, Tathra and Bega making get to the races a cinch and guests can either bring their own picnic or choose from a range of gourmet food outlets on site. Entry is $20 for adults and kids under 16 are free.
Quirindi Jockey Club’s newly-renovated bar will be put to the test at the club’s Boxing Day meeting. There will be five local races as well as SKY Racing on television. Off the track fashions on the field will be a hit and there will also be live music, a jumping castle and face painting for the kids.
Inverell Jockey Club, Queanbeyan Race Club, Tumut Turf Club, Wellington Race Club and Wauchope Jockey Club are also holding Boxing Day race meetings.
A whopping $350,000 in prizemoney is on offer at the Muswellbrook Cup Showcase Meeting on Friday, 8th December. Headlined by the $100,000 Muswellbrook Cup and supported by the $50,000 Skellatar Sprint, $40,000 Wayne Harris Handicap and a $40,000 Country Maiden, the meeting is expected to attract quality fields from all over the state. The country charm of racing at Muswellbrook has not been lost despite its close proximity to the cities of Newcastle and Sydney.
The decision to move the Muswellbrook Cup away from Melbourne Cup Day last year paid dividends for the club, drawing a larger crowd and cementing it as the must-attend Summer social event in the Upper Hunter. Muswellbrook Cup Day is gazetted by a half-day public holiday for local residents and is bookended by two major charity events in the town. The Muswellbrook Cup Festival Charity Golf Day is held on Thursday, 7th December followed by a Calcutta in the clubhouse from 5pm. Proceeds will be donated to Where There’s A Will which supports mental health. On Saturday, the popular Power FM Christmas Spectacular is held at the racecourse with free entry for everyone.
The historic Ti Tree Racecourse plays host to the annual Cooma Races on Saturday, 9th December with six local races on the program. The Sundowners Cup celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017 and pays homage to the 1959 movie of the same name which was filmed around Cooma and Adaminaby. 1,000 locals were extras in the race day scene which was shot at Ti Tree Racecourse.
Off the track, fashions on the field will be a highlight with six categories to compete in – Fillies On The Field (18-28) Divas On The Field (28-40) Diamonds On The Field (40+) Best Dressed Gentleman, Best Dressed Couple and Most Stylish Hat. An overall winner will also be chosen to represent Cooma at the South Eastern Racing Association Fashions On The Field Final at the Goulburn Country Championships.
Moree Twilight Races should be a bucket list item for any racing enthusiast and more them 4,000 of them are expected at Moree Racecourse on Saturday, 16th December. There will be six local races on the program as well as full TAB facilities, a canteen, a BBQ run by the Scouts and a courtesy bus to transport guests to and from the races safely.
Local beauty salon Bella Santé will be sponsoring the Fashions on the Field competition with more than $2,000 worth of prizes to be won and “The Boys of Summer” will provide live entertainment as the sun sets.
Racegoers can choose to buy tickets to a variety of themed marquees or simply enjoy the general public areas. The ‘On the Rails’ marquee is suited to mature racegoers and ‘The Party House’ is ideal for the twenty-somethings.
On Sunday Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre is the place to be for the recovery party.
The Ted Ryder Cup is the star of the Murrumbidgee’s Turf Club’s summer program and the spotlight will be on the 1600m feature race on Friday, December 22nd. Carrying $30,000 in prizemoney the event honours a legendary country racing journalist.
Ted Ryder was a long-time sports editor of The Daily Advertiser and also the race broadcaster at Wagga for more than three decades. He called more than 30 Wagga Gold Cups in his career.
The Ted Ryder Cup was run for the first time in 1987 – the year its namesake passed away – and was won by Caesar’s Right.
“It’s a race which has been taken out by some very talented gallopers,” MTC Chief Executive Officer Scott Sanbrook said. “Wagga trainer Dave Heywood holds the record of four Ted Ryder Cup wins, including three in a row (1998-2000) with Pride Rock.”
The winner of the $23,000 Ted Ryder Cup Prelude (1660m) on Monday, December 11th will gain automatic entry into the main event.
Trangie hosts the famous Macquarie Picnic Races on Friday, 29th December and this year they’ve added a touch of luxury to the meeting. Guests can book a spot in The Stables Marquee for $140 which includes grazing platters, drinks, live entertainment and water misters which are a lifesaver during a hot Summer race day in Trangie.
The Macquarie Picnic Cup headlines a six-race local program with the winner picking up valuable points for the NSW Picnic Champion Series. There will be local bookmakers as well as full TAB facilities on site.
Shoalhaven City Turf Club can lay claim to the final race meeting of the year in New South Wales and they go all out to ensure it’s a memorable one. During the day, the seven-race TAB program is supported by live music, children’s entertainment and a range of hospitality options and as day becomes night the fun continues.
Once the races are done and dusted, everyone is granted free access to the racecourse which turns into a family-friendly carnival. Guests are welcome to bring their own picnic hampers, rugs and chairs (no BYO alcohol but it can be bought on site) to create a comfortable space to enjoy the 9pm fireworks. Gilgandra Jockey Club also hosts a similar style New Year’s Eve race meeting.
On New Year’s Day there are four great country meetings to recover at – Gundagai, Port Macquarie, Wallabadah and Inverell where the inaugural Don Bartlett Memorial Bush Battlers Cup will be run. Only horses who have run at nearby once-a-year race clubs such as Tabulam, Deepwater and Warialda will be eligible for the race. The $35,000 Inverell Cup will be the feature race on the day.