Ballina Jockey Cup is working hard ahead of their two biggest meetings of the season, with a family friendly Boxing Day program on December 26 to be followed by the Ballina Cup meeting on January 13.
The club is set to be met by some brilliant weather, which will lead to bumper crowds, and Ballina Jockey Club General Manager, Matthew Bertram believes there is no better time of the year to be racing.
“I was talking to a local trainer recently, and he said for a period of time, Ballina would host 10 race meetings in the summer period, and you could surf in the morning, and get dressed into your shorts, shirt, and thongs and go to the races in the afternoon, and that was your summer routine.
“Traditionally, it is a great period of time to race, and things have changed with the modernisation of the racing schedule, but as a club we always look forward to hosting our summer race days.”
Ballina’s Boxing Day meeting is a six-race TAB program, and the fields are very strong, with 77 acceptances.
“The fields are excellent,” Bertram said.
“With it being a Sky 2 meeting, it’s never easy to get full fields, but there is a fair bit of history with this meeting, and a lot of people travel from far and wide, and it is an excellent result.”
The day will include free kid’s entertainment and free entry for patrons under 18, while there is enough on-track action to keep racing fans on their toes, and Bertram is expecting a good local presence along with a sprinkling of visitors.
“Our Boxing Day meeting is our traditional social meeting, and there is a lot of history around the race day,” Bertram said.
“Once upon a time, the Ballina Cup was on Boxing Day and the community knows that Ballina race on Boxing Day.
“I wouldn’t say it is easy to promote, but from far and wide, everyone knows the meeting is on, and they come here for the races and because the region is a great tourist attraction.”
Prior to the pandemic, Ballina would attract between 2000 and 3000 patrons on any given Boxing Day, and with crowds slowly building back up, Bertram is cautiously optimist of a bumper crowd on Monday.
“This will be our first year outside of a Covid impacted race day and to be honest, I’ve got zero idea of what to expect, but if we can get 1000 to 1500, I will be happy and any more than that is a bonus,” Bertram said.
Ballina’s Boxing Day meeting leads into their Ballina Cup meeting on January 13.
The eight-race Showcase program is headlined by the $65,000 Ballina Cup, and Bertram believes a different crowd will be on hand to watch some high-class Northern Rivers racing action.
“It’s more of a corporate day for us,” Bertram said.
“Boxing Day is marketed as our family day out, and we have lots of kid’s activities, free jumping castles, and all of that, but at the Ballina Cup meeting, we get a large sponsorship turn out, and good crowds through our marquee structure and corporate bar area.
“It’s a bigger crowd than Boxing Day, but it’s also a different day. Not as many kids come, we have fashions on the field, and obviously the racing is of a higher quality, and I am quite excited to see how strong our Ballina Cup field is this year.”
The Ballina Cup is also a qualifier for the $2 million Big Dance and $500,000 Little Dance, and the club has used this to their advantage, bringing on a new sponsor ahead of their feature race day.
“We’ve got a new major sponsor for the cup, which is a local organisation called Cherry Street Sports Group, and they own a couple of bowling clubs, and one of our selling points to them was the Big Dance promotion,” Bertram said.
“As part of their business, they have the TAB, gaming and promotion, and they know how strongly the Big Dance is promoted, and that proved to be a highly successful bargaining tool when it came to us attracting new sponsors.”
While the Ballina Cup is in the back of Bertram’s mind, he and the Ballina Jockey Club and focused on delivering a big day of Boxing Day bliss for Ballina