The 2021 Armidale Cup was meant to be held back on February 28, but following torrential rain, the always-popular race day was postponed.
For some racing fans and punters, the meeting was presumably abandoned, but the Armidale Jockey Club are now gearing up for their new Armidale Cup date, with the $60,000 feature race and Showcase meeting, which carries a whopping $275,000 in prize money, set to be held on Sunday, December 12.
Armidale Jockey Club General Manager, Jim Dedes, hoped the new December cup date would remain a permanent feature on their 12-race calendar.
“We usually run our cup at the end of February or early March, and earlier this year it was washed out, and previously we had been toying about running the cup in December because our crowds had been dwindling,” Dedes said.
“This gave us the perfect chance to try it. At the time, we were thinking business houses would have their Christmas parties there, and since we have announced it, we have had quite a good response.
“I think it will be a permanent move, and talking to Racing NSW, they don’t have a lot of country feature races on a Sunday at this time of year, and they were quite happy for us to run our Armidale Cup in December.”
It has been a tough period for Armidale Jockey Club, with the drought, bushfires and then Covid-19 impacting racing, the track and crowds, and Dedes was pleased to be returning to some normality.
“It has pretty well only been our last two meetings that we have had big crowds back,” Dedes said.
“We have a good following here in Armidale, but we had Covid, and before that, we had the drought and we have had bushfires and it really knocked us around.
“We are on town water, and we couldn’t water our track for 18 months because of water restrictions and at times, we were paying up to $100,000 a year for water.
“We are trying to put bores down or maybe put a dam in. We have sunk a couple of test bores and we will keep trying and keep trying to improve the track.
“It’s been really hard for everyone, and with some good racing coming up, we hope to see good crowds and support.”
In what will be another big weekend for Armidale Jockey Club, they will host their Calcutta at the Armidale Services Club on Saturday night, with Dave Stanley a special guest.
Fashions on the field will no doubt attract plenty of interest too, and with full bar, catering and bookmakers’ services, the meeting will give locals and visitors plenty to do on Armidale Cup day.