Narrandera celebrates season to remember

Narrandera Race Club has enjoyed back-to-back bumper seasons of racing.

A month after their season ended, Narrandera Race Club is still flying high on the success of their winter racing program.

With the Racing NSW Country Club Managers Conference just around the corner, there will be talk of the 2022/23 country club of the year, and Narrandera will have to be in the running. 

Since June last year, the Southern Districts race club has been scheduled to race six times but has put on 13 meetings.

With Narrandera being one of the better wet-weather tacks in the state, a small but hard-working committee is always ready when asked at the last minute to host a program due to wet weather impacting other programs in the Riverina.  

Adding to a bumper period for the club, they held their first Narrandera Cup Big Dance qualifier meeting in July, which was complemented by the LW Peacock Memorial race day in June and the Lee Memorial community race day in August.

“Our season has been amazing, and not just the season, but from June last year to now, where we have hosted 13 race meetings, with six that were scheduled and another seven add-ons, and that’s been terrific for us and the local racing community,” Narrandera Race Club Racing Manager Michael Bailey said. 

“Our last meeting was just a really icing on the cake, and hosting our first Big Dance qualifier was a considerable achievement; our Narrandera Cup race day proved very popular.

“Our LW Peacock meeting was a good way to start the season off, while the TC Lee Community race day had the right feel regarding what we were trying to do from a community perspective.

“Tom Lee was just a well-respected man in racing and rugby league circles; he worked with Legacy and was Chief Operating Officer at Narrandera Hospital.

“He just did so much for the community and club; it was a good celebration of his life.”

From humble beginnings, where Narrandera Race Club almost folded back when they primarily hosted community and non-TAB meetings, the club has grown in stature. 

“It’s now a business and a big business, but we still recognise where we came from, and honouring former committee members with our TC Lee Memorial and LW Peacock Memorial race days is important,” Bailey said. 

“Both gentlemen were involved with the club in the late 70s, 80s, and early 90s when the club could have folded, and they were the backbone of the club, and their hard work and vision allowed us to get to where we are now; we wouldn’t be here if those guys didn’t do what they did.” 

Heading into the warmer months typically means a quieter time for Narrandera, but Bailey said the track is ready if needed. 

“We’ve told Racing NSW and Liam (Martin) that the track is ready to go when they need it,” Bailey said. 

“The surrounds got cut up a bit during our last meeting, but we’d be ready to go with 24 hours’ notice as per usual, and we’d be happy to do it.

“Now we have the warmer months, we’re not expecting it and not hoping for it other, as I’d rather see other clubs race, but we’ll be here if needed.”

Bailey and his team are also thinking about the future, with back-to-back profitable seasons meaning more capital to invest in racetrack and facility infrastructure. 

“Everything we have been able to do has helped to keep the industry ticking over, and we’ve made some money, and we’ve been able to put that money back into our facilities,” Bailey said. 

“We’ve got new toilets and judge’s tower this year, and we have big plans for the future, such as redeveloping the secretary office and jockey rooms.

“There has been a lot of work going on in the background over the last four or five months, and we have been applying to Racing NSW so we can commence the development of those areas.” 

The 2023/24 season shapes to be a big one for Narrandera Race Club, and NSW Country and Picnic Racing will keep readers up to date with developments.