Bourke hard at work ahead of Easter Sunday meeting

The Bourke racecourse is in terrific condition ahead of their Easter Sunday meeting. Photos: Back O Bourke Picnic Race Club.

The Back O Bourke Picnic Race Club will host their iconic Easter Sunday picnic race meeting this weekend, with the five-race card tying nicely with the annual Back O Bourke Easter Festival

Club President Frank Kerr expects a good crowd, with NSW country and picnic race clubs well and truly bouncing back from the COVID pandemic and the big wet.

“Everyone wants to get back into it now,” Kerr said. 

“I think people were a bit frightened of COVID and were scared that it was coming back when they were allowed to go places, but we are on the other side of that. 

“We don’t know for sure how many we will get, but we estimate between 1900 and 2200, and it’s a good five-race-program on the back of the Bourke Festival, so we get a few more out of that, and it’s always a good day.”

The Back O’ Bourke meeting is one of the bucket list events on the NSW Country and Picnic Racing calendar, and there will be plenty of locals joined by visitors from all over Australia on the day.

“We get a few people from the little country towns and properties in the Western Districts that want to, as they say, let their hair down, and we get people from Dubbo, Sydney, Victoria, and we have an entire family coming from Tasmania this year,” Kerr said.  

Bourke’s dirt racecourse has come up nicely for Sunday’s meeting, but Kerr explained a lot of work has gone into its preparation. 

“I’ve been doing the track myself now because we don’t have a curator, and we only finished it recently, and we had a shower on it (last week), which was great,” Kerr said. 

“We had an inspection by Racing NSW stewards, and he rated it as good and was pretty happy with it.

“Because it is a dirt track and we only race once a year, we don’t have a lot of machinery to work on the track, meaning there was grass, so we have to grater it, and it brings up a few stones.

“Then we had to harrow it, and you can’t go too deep or too shallow, or it gets too hard, then with the final time, we will have a team of 15 or 16 people walk the track and handpick anything that shouldn’t be there.” 

Many hands make light work, and Kerr would love to see more locals involved with the club. 

“It’s essential we have the track ready, but we don’t get many people there,” Kerr said. 

“I’d like to see more help because it is left to the usual people that do it, and it’s a good community event, and they love the day and support us, but we would like to see more community members involved because a lot of people don’t realise what goes into hosting a race meeting.”

Kerr and his hard-working committee have secured funds for vital upgrades, and the club hopes to have them completed by their 2024 race meeting. 

“At the moment, we have a new big complex down there, and as soon as this race meeting finishes, we already have the finances to knock down the jockey’s room and secretary’s office so we can build a new building for next year,” Kerr said. 

“We haven’t got a female jockey’s room as such, and with female jockeys taking over, we have to provide places for them, and with this grant and upgrade, we will build all new facilities, along with newly upgraded facilities for stewards and our secretary, which will be great.”

Kerr thanked the local council for their help in acquiring the grant and for organising the project.

“It’s mainly all done through the work of the Shire, and I have to take my hat off to the Bourke Shire Council, as they really help out a lot, and if you go to them and talk to them right, they will do anything they can to help you,” Kerr said. 

Racing will be the focus at Bourke, with the $12,000 Harry Hart Memorial Bourke Picnic Cup headlining the card, and off-track, there will be entertainment for all walks of life. 

As with most community race days, fashion on the field is becoming a real hit, and Kerr was proud to offer a good collection of prizes. 

“Fashions on the field is growing every year, and we have over $7000 in prizes just for the fashions, and it is going to be good,” Kerr said. 

“A lot of young people are starting to take notice of it, and we have all ages, and it’s becoming a real drawcard for the meeting, and we have a lot of people, especially the younger ones, dressing up for the meeting.”

The Back O Bourke calcutta on Saturday night, which kicks off at Bourke Bowling Club at 6 pm, will also attract some punters and eager racegoers.

The club will also be working hard to attract horses and jockeys, with incentives meaning trainers will get an extra $200 per horse, while amateur jockeys can earn up to an additional $500 if they take three rides.

For more on the race day, click here, and to chat with Frank Kerr about the race day or race day incentives, call 0428 210 155.  

For more on the Back O Bourke Easter Festival, click here.