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Some Thoughts On Country Racing

Long time club member John Horton has been reflecting on the state of country racing, a matter dear to his heart and those of many of our members. It’s not all bad news and I will kick of with some of his positive observations.

The first concerns the efforts of a country trainer who is doing his bit to encourage people to go to the races. Peter Stanley was a jockey for a number of years and now trains at Orange and does his level best to enhance and promote racing in the country. As an example of his efforts to stimulate popular interest, I was sent a news item about the prospects of a maiden

at an upcoming Bathurst meeting that Peter had got the local newspaper to run in an effort to get people to come to the races.

John Horton also points to an experience he had a Mudgee races where the track was packed with young folk. Perhaps they were more interested in the rock band that had been put on than the horses, but were enjoying themselves in an outdoor social setting and watched the races. Whether they were betting or not on the outcomes, they were there and having paid at the gate and supporting the food outlets and bars were financially benefiting the club. John also gave a tip of his hat to those running the progressive Mudgee club.

However, on the other side of the coin, he describes his experience at another mid week country meeting. He had a couple of horses running at Bathurst. He drove from the city and stopped at the Bathurst shopping centre, but didn't eat or drink while there, as he thought he would wait until he got to the race club. On arrival at the track he looked around for a takeaway stall. Nothing was open. He went upstairs for a cup of tea and saw the barman putting sausage rolls and meat pies into a warmer. He asked directions to a take away food outlet and was informed that this was it. As he very rarely eats meat pies or sausage rolls he thought he’d settle for a cup of tea only to be told that they hadn't got any tea or coffee on. Hunger eventually got the better of him and he had a sausage roll. It was lukewarm and there wasn’t any tomato sauce (although he later noticed half way through the meeting a gentleman arriving with two big tomato sauce bottles).

One of his horses came second, so he went with his trainer and a partner in the horse to watch a replay of the race. The TV was dead and there was a queue at the bar with people waiting to buy hot food (but somebody else was complaining that the food was still cold). He could not be bothered to wait to get a drink and went to the manager’s office where they had a kettle for trainers, jockeys and strappers.

When he complained of the lack of facilities, he was told that they had had so many abandoned meetings, and “what did he expect?’” He pointed out that a hot water urn and an operational TV wasn’t much and received an apology. He didn’t want to upset anyone, but he travels a lot to watch his horses run and although he doesn’t expect lobster mornay at these country tracks, thinks that basic tea or coffee facilities and something a bit better than a sauce-less cold meat pie or sausage roll to be enjoyed watching a replay of the last race isn't much to ask. I doubt if anyone would disagree with him. He points out that if the clubs do not want to provide these facilities then perhaps they could be outsourced to a local charity.

John thinks that some of these midweek country meetings are so dismal as to encourage people to just sit home and watch on the TV.