Gunnedah Christmas races ‘sold out’

Gunnedah Jockey Club won’t be able to host as big a crowd as usual when they run their Christmas meeting on December 5. Photo: Gunnedah Jockey Club.

The annual Gunnedah Jockey Club Christmas race meeting that is set down for December 5 has officially been sold out.

One of the region’s biggest Christmas events, attracting upwards of 2000 people each year, but unfortunately the club was forced to limit the number of patrons to 500, mainly due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. 

“The reason it is sold out is because we are limited to 500 patrons,” said club secretary and manager, Lyn Tongue. 

“Normally we would get up to 2000 people and I’m getting a lot of phones from people that they have missed out, but unless anything changes from now until then, we are still going to be limited.”

Despite being forced to reduce the number race goers, Tongue said the chance to race during such a tough period for the industry was a win in itself.

“We didn’t race at the beginning of the year, we missed three meetings when Covid first hit because we were unable to satisfy the requirements to host jockeys in the male jockey’s room,” Tongue said. 

“Bigger clubs have had the same problems but the fact we are conducting a race meeting is great in one sense.”

The club has since taken time to address concerns with the male’s jockey room, which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the popular country race club. 

“The jockey rooms were set out in such a way that permanent fixtures took up a lot of space,” Tongue said. 

“We have since gutted it, painted it, put air conditioning in it, carpeted it and made it a little more pleasant for them and without any permanent fixtures in there, I can manage jockeys’ numbers.”

Tongue further explained that Gunnedah Jockey Club faced extinction without making necessary changes, both now and into the future.

“We had no other alternative but to do something with our facilities, I told our committee that if we didn’t do something, we wouldn’t race again,” Tongue said.

“Whether it was that serious or not; I don’t know, but we need to be changing and working on these issues.”

The club, that missed out on hosting their annual cup meeting, has since raced three times, hosting the abandoned Wean Picnic meeting in July, before two more meeting in September and October.

Usually races eight times a year, Gunnedah Jockey Club even stepped in to help out Tamworth Jockey Club when one of their meetings was transferred. 

“We raced here in July and have been going along nicely, it’s just disappointing we didn’t get to hold our cup meeting, and it hurts that we have a smaller crowd for our Christmas meeting,” Tongue said. 

In news that won’t surprise many, the loss of major meetings, and restrictions on crowds, will certainly knock around the club and their bottom line. 

“It is going to impact us, our gate takings, our bar takings, our food sales. It is a big impact on the financial side of the club,” Tongue said. 

“We have to deal with it, hopefully we can have a big 2021.”

Once the club gets through their December 5 meeting, the next racing date on the calendar is January 14, and for the club’s sake, hopefully they will be able to host a few more people.

“Restrictions are easing every day, so who knows, we can only hope at this stage,” Tongue said.