By Stephen Senise
That famous, first Tuesday in November which every year welcomes hundreds of thousands of race-mad patrons to racecourses Australia-wide, is upon us.
The Murwillumbah track will be the focus of local interest, with gates opening from 10am. Beaming Tweed River Jockey Club officials are confident the traditional Melbourne Cup day races, as hosted by the little track among the cane fields, will prove better than ever.
Whether a once-a-year punter, or a keener variety, all fans of thoroughbred racing will be catered to: full TAB facilities will be available on-course plus a local and interstate bookies' ring. The fashions stakes have come on better and stronger every year at Murwillumbah, with $1,100 in gift cards now up for grabs courtesy of Tweed City. Categories including best-dressed ladies, men, couple, and kids. The sartorial elegance of the pageants has become one of the highlights of a great afternoon's country racing and together with the big race from Melbourne, brings everything else to a standstill.
Buses to the racecourse will cover the Tweed Coast, the southern Gold Coast, and there will be a shuttle service to and from Murwillumbah. For details, visit the Tweed River Jockey Club website at - tweedriverjockeyclub.com.au
The raceday card will feature six events including the main cup race, the Ellis & Baxter Solicitors & Attorney Cup a Benchmark 45 handicap over 1530m. The event is race 4 on the program and due at 3.35pm. Beaudesert-based trainer Ben Robinson will have three horses in, the best of which is Red Bohemia who had been thereabouts at her previous runs before failing badly over 1650m on her home track, last time out. She's back to a more suitable distance here and has shown a liking for the Murwillumbah track with a handy third place in this race, last year, when it was run as an open handicap.
Another of the handy types is the lightly raced, Devlann, the topweight. He's been knocking on the door for most of his present campaign, and a recent let-up should put him in good stead. He's been suggesting he's looking for some extra ground, and he'll get his chance with the near-mile distance on offer.
Strombo is the veteran of the field at 10 years of age, but he's been racing competitively, out the 'back of beyond' including a win at Betoota (look it up on Google maps) in August, and scored a hard-fought runners-up prize at Birdsville eight weeks ago. He ran second here on Anzac Day in 2015 over the distance, and knows his way around by now. With 86 runs under his belt, six wins and 26 placings, for over $100,000 in prizemoney, he could find his way to the line, easy enough, and possibly blindfolded.
The other feature race of the afternoon is the Jason Birney Memorial Benchmark 46 handicap over the old Murwillumbah Cup distance of 2020m (4.15pm). A real stayers test, topweight Time's Up will be making the trip from Inverell. Though missing out on a placing, he was far from disgraced in the recent $60,000 Lismore Cup (2100m) where he made his presence felt.
Two days later he won by the length of the straight in a three-horse, non-TAB race at Barraba over 2450m. He has disappointed since, but he will get over the ground without a worry, rain hail or shine. The main chance is Alfie Junior, who has gone close to winning at two of his last three starts, including here, over the distance, against some nice horses in a Benchmark 60 hcp. His stablemate, Journalist, is also in the running. He won at Beaudesert on Saturday and is displaying some consistent form of late.
The meeting will welcome a new face to racing at Murwillumbah following the departure of former secretary-manager, Brian Charman, to greener pastures as head of Country Racing New South Wales. Leanne Moore takes over the reins and is a welcome addition to the TRJC. She has a strong family and childhood association with the Tweed, and arrives with direct, civilian employment credentials from the Queensland Police Service.
The weather continues to provide a mixed-bag, with the track officially rated a Good 4, and looking postcard perfect. The racing surface received 5mms of rain on Sunday night. The first race of the day will get underway at 12.55pm.