Ardlethan Picnic Race Club never fails to attract a bumper crowd to their annual picnic meeting, but this year, their committee has significantly increased prizemoney in a bid to attract more trainers and jockeys to the unique Southern Districts track.
Last year, Ardlethan held a five-race-program and raced for $21,500 and on March 19 this year, participants will contest a six-race-program worth $35,000.
The time-honoured Ardlethan Cup is worth $9000, while the feature sprint carries a $6000 prizemoney purse.
Ardlethan Picnic Race Club Secretary Lou Clemson stressed the importance of her club offering participants competitive prizemoney.
“It’s hugely important,” Clemson said.
“I think we need to look after participants. Without them we don’t race, so we need to make sure we look after the trainers, jockeys and owners.
“We also want to attract good horses and a good roll up and we need to be on par and competitive with other picnic race meetings.”
Jockey availability was a problem in 2021, and Clemson explained there were incentives for hoops to make their way to Ardlethan.
“We also have a jockey’s and trainer’s bonus every year and last year, I collected $50 off the bookies a gave it to the jockeys,” Clemson said.
“I love giving them whatever I can, and we were short jockeys, which is a shame, but we are working to get a few more here this year.”
Clemson also endeavoured to make sure trainers and jockeys wanted to return to Ardlethan each and every year.
“We feed everyone, and we’ve received nothing but positive responses from trainers, owners and jockeys,” Clemson said.
“We look after them really well. It’s got a real picnic racing feeling and a family feeling.”
Picnic racing is the grass roots of the racing industry in NSW, and it doesn’t get more grass roots than Ardlethan, with the club bringing in everything needed to get the meeting up and running every single year.
“We are on the Mirrool Creek, just outside Ardlethan,” Clemson said.
“It’s one of the most unique tracks. We have no power, no water, and we have to put everything up from scratch every year.
“We have to ship in a big generator, and it takes quite a lot of work to get it up and going but it is worth it at the end of the day.
“To highlight what racing means to us; the current committee members are family members of the founding members that started this track all those years ago and we consider our hospitality as being compared to none and it is simply such a unique race day.”
According to Clemson, the Ardlethan course proper is in good condition leading into their March meeting.
“It’s looking great. We have to get the stewards out every year to inspect the track to make sure it’s up to standard,” Clemson said.
“We put a lot of effort into it and make sure it is 100% and the comment from jockeys is that they love riding there.”
While racing will take centre stage on March 19, the off-track entertainment is set to help attract a healthy crowd.
“We sold close to 2000 tickets last year and being an annual meeting, it is Ardlethan’s major event and puts us on the map,” Clemson said.
“Plus, we have spent over $100,0000 on our facilities to make sure it stays up to speed.
“We’ve got the public pavilion and new President’s and guest area. Half is used by the President and half by the public.
“We have extended the bar area and we keep improving things every year.”
It looks set to be another big day of racing and entertainment at Ardlethan and readers can find out more about the upcoming meeting by clicking here.