Double blow for Tomingley picnics

A scene of the chaos: Tomingley Picnic Races last year after Ricky Blewitt, Michael Hackett and Michael Gray fell from their horses before being flown to hospital.

Tomingley Picnic Races will be one of the club’s hit hardest by Racing NSW’s decision to ban crowds at race meetings, as the governing body scrambles to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from putting a cease to all racing.

With no crowds, picnic race clubs have no other option but to abandon meetings, and as a result, the Tomingley meeting set down for May 30 won’t go ahead.

This will be a hard pill for the small club to swallow, especially after their 2019 meeting was marred by a fall that left Ricky Blewitt, Michael Hackett and Michael Gray hospitalised.

The incident, which garnered nation-wide attention, occurred during the running of their second race and resulted in the remainder of the meeting being abandoned.

This, accompanied by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, means the small picnic club will need to focus their attention on 2021; or risk a bleak future. 

Tomingley Picnic Races, traditionally one of the most popular NSW Picnic Racing Association meetings, is suffering after consecutive seasons of interrupted race meetings.

Tomingley Picnic Races president Jason Hartin didn’t beat around the bush either, suggesting the club would be working overtime to get people back on track, supporting the small club and community. 

“It is indeed a tough decision and it’s going to have a big impact on our club,” Hartin said. 

“The meeting is one of the only things that keeps that community alive and we will just have to work harder than ever to get sponsors back on board, or attract new ones.”

Hartin admitted they were already facing an uphill task after last’s years hindered meeting, and said that they had been putting measures in place to create new supporter base for the club.

“We were going to have a free marquee, which was basically there to welcome everyone and say sorry to our sponsors and supporters for last year,” Hartin said.

The Narromine local, who put his hand up to be president during one of the toughest times for the club, wanted to remind people just how important picnic clubs like Tomingley were in the grand scheme of racing in NSW and Australia. 

“Trainers, jockeys and everyone in the industry come from these communities and without clubs like us, the industry would be buggered,” Hartin said. 

Hartin is hoping once the pandemic has passed and racing has returned to normality, Racing NSW and governing bodies will consider compensating clubs or helping towards future meetings. 

“If we could get any compensation next year with our sponsorship and dollar for dollar prize money, we would use it to put on a massive meeting and really get people behind the club,” Hartin said. 

“I know we won’t be the only club either, we will all need some assistance from governing bodies.” 

With more meetings falling by the wayside, only time will tell how Racing NSW will support these clubs and the future of NSW picnic racing.