Ardlethan picnics bracing for bumper meeting

Another big crowd is expected to turn out for the Ardlethan Picnic Races meeting on March 20. Photo: Coolamon Shire Council.

With just over a week to go until the annual Ardlethan Picnic Races meeting on March 20, the club has already sold over 1000 tickets and organisers hope to sell plenty more after missing out on their chance to race in 2020 due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I was talking to Lou (Clemson), our secretary and she said we had already sold over 1000 tickets online,” said Ardlethan Picnic Race Club President, Alex McDougall.

“We are obviously a very community-based event, and the meeting gives a boost to the community and it is great.

“It is a rapid influx of people for the day but more importantly, it is a good chance to go to the races and get out and socialise in a Covid-safe manner.”

McDougall won’t lie though, admitting it was heart-breaking after being forced to abandon their 2020 meeting after the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the nation. 

“As far as being an organisation, we were 10 days out when they changed all the rules and basically ruled out any sort of gathering,” McDougall said. 

“We were then in a mad scramble to shut everything down and be as sympathetic as possible to suppliers.

“It was a tough decision and It had a little bit of an impact, but thankfully nothing fatal for the club.

“We were right on the cusp and if it had been the next week, it would have been very significant and would have caused a lot of damage to our finances.”

After a topsy-turvy 12 months, getting back to the point of hosting a picnic meeting in 2021 has been no mean feat, with the club only deciding they would push ahead with the meeting on January 7.

“Initial indications through the latter part of last year was to expect not to race, especially with the way the world was spinning,” McDougall said. 

“That was due to the regulations and stipulations, but they changed towards the end of the year and at around Christmas, there were some relaxations, then there was a significant shift on January 1, which increased the outdoor allowance and our thinking was some clubs would be able to race and some wouldn’t.

“Then we rolled around to January 7 and we were good to go and we went from zero to flat-stick overnight in trying to organise a meeting.”

After getting the okay to race, the committee still thought long and hard whether to race, with McDougall explaining the club was taking every possible precaution, especially with the expectation of a huge crowd. 

“The question of should we, or shouldn’t we race was definitely asked,” McDougall explained. 

“There were obvious concerns as to what exposure we would have and we needed to adapt to Covid regulations and get Covid teams organised.

“The amount of work going into the compliance side, which has never been as grand an issue before, has seen a significant shift.”

The long-standing picnic club that celebrated their 60th year celebrations in 2018, should have some good racing on offer next Saturday, especially after racing NSW’s recent decision to increase picnic prizemoney, making the minimum race valued at $3000. 

“Any opportunity to bolster prizemoney and introduce better incentives to get better trainers and fields makes for a better day and we support that,” McDougall said. 

A full six-race-card will subsequently entertain racing fans, and a big fashion on the field competition will keep fashionistas happy. 

“It is a good family day out,” McDougall said. 

“We have a full bar and good facilities with country and metro bookies, Sky Racing and plenty of room for the kids.”

The club will also show off new infrastructure, after spending over $60,000 on improvements. 

“We have spent just over $60,000 for a shed and upgrades, expansions, shading and general capital expenditure,” McDougall said. 

“Everything is looking great.”

Tickets to the event are only available online, and anyone interested in attending can visit the ‘Ardlethan Picnic Races’ Facebook page for more information.