By Geoff Newling
Manilla residents will bus it to Gunnedah again on Saturday for another massive raceday at Gunnedah Jockey Club’s Riverside Racecourse with the feature race the $10,000 Royal Hotel Manilla Iris Rennie Memorial Manilla Cup (1600m).
It is named in honour of Iris Rennie, one of the truly devoted racing owners and racing fans to have graced this earth. She raced numerous horses during her life time and celebrated many wins and plenty of losses with equal fun and good spirit, advised good friends Vicki and Thomas Cocking. They own the Royal Hotel, Manilla and are major sponsors of the Iris Rennie Memorial Manilla Cup.
Some of Iris’s spirit can be seen on the Royal Hotel, Manilla walls, pictures of previous wins such as a Gunnedah Gold Cup win for the Cockings. The Cockings also organise a busload of racing fans to go to Gunnedah every year, something Iris also enjoyed greatly.
“I’ve still got to organise people for the bus,” Vicki said yesterday. “Some say they don’t have anything to wear. If Iris was here she’d just say what’s your problem, get on the bus and come and have a great day out. Or if they didn’t have anything to wear she’d tell them to come down to her house and she’d find a hat for them. She just loved it all.”
Thomas Cocking the Royal Hotel’s sponsorship was the same every year: “The format is the same,” he said. “The girls organise the bus and I drive over for a couple of races (including the Cup) and then drive back to keep the pub open.”
The return of the bus is always a happy and jaunty affair: “Everyone has a great day,” Thomas Cocking said. The bus trip takes about 45 minutes and completes a special day.
This year the Iris Rennie Memorial Manilla Cup (1600m) has drawn a field of eight with Armidale gelding, Melted Moments, Tamworth-prepared Brilliant Poet and Walcha-trained Columkille three of the main hopes.
Melissa Dennett, who won the Bunbdarra Cup last week trains Brilliant Poet, George Woodward has Columkille and Paul Grills prepares Melted Moments, who won at Armidale two starts back.
The Iris Rennie Memorial Manilla Cup jumps at 4.18pm and is the fifth of six $10,000 Sky 2 races set down at Riverside. The first race is timed to run at 1.53pm.