Spotlight to shine on Cowra following crippling floods

The Cowra Jockey Club racecourse during the 2022 floods. Image – Over and Above Photography.

Two separate floods ripped through the Central West in November 2022, causing damage in Cowra, Parkes, Forbes, Molong, Eugowra, Canowindra, Blayney, Young and Yass, to name just some impacted communities. 

Millions of dollars worth of damages occurred, with many businesses impacted, and the Cowra Jockey Club felt the brunt of both waves.  

“We were hit twice,” Cowra Jockey Club president Peter Ford said.

“Just after Melbourne Cup, there was a metre-and-a-half through the bar and over the track surface, but it receded well, and the damage was minimal.

“But the 15th (of November) was a big flood. The height was around 2.4m above the track, and it took a lot longer to recede.”

It wasn’t until the water receded that Ford and his committee could take stock and come to terms with the actual damage to their racecourse. 

“We had a sand track, and all that got washed through and laid in the low areas, and getting that out of there wasn’t easy,” Ford said. 

“We have the harness racing track on the inside, and all that damaged the track, and to make things worse, we had debris from the service station and other businesses washed down to us.

“There was glass, chairs, metal objects, gas bottles, and after all that was cleared, the outside and inside rail had to be spot on.”

A lot of work and subsequent Racing NSW inspections took place before Cowra Jockey Club’s racecourse was considered fit enough to host a race meeting. 

“We did nothing half-arsed, and things were put back properly, but it took a lot of time and work,” Ford said.  

“Sections 200m on either side of the winning post had to come up, and during all of this, we had a new irrigation system going in. 

Cowra Jockey Club made a successful return to racing on November 25. Image – Racing Photography.

“It’s a new electronic system that was started two years ago, but it came into place in about August, and everything has come together.”

A year after some of the worst flooding Cowra has seen, Cowra Jockey Club was back racing on November 25 when hosting a six-race non-TAB meeting. 

While it wasn’t a TAB meeting for everyone to see, Ford was proud to have his beloved racecourse back in action. 

“It’s been a long, drawn-out process, but we’re finally back racing,” Ford said. 

“We had a dress rehearsal in November with our community race day, and there were a few little issues we had to sort out, but they’ve been taken care of.

“We were getting really good momentum, and at our last Cowra Cup meeting, we had a good crowd.;

“Everyone went away with a smile on their face, and it was a job well done to the committee.

“Then the floods hit, and we had the Cowra Cup in Orange last year, and it’s just not the same; it was the first time the Cowra Cup hadn’t been run in Cowra. 

“This year, I’ve spoken to a couple of local trainers, and they’ll have horses racing on their home ground, which is good, and we’re looking forward to a big day.

“As you’d expect, there have been a few teething problems, but the course proper looks amazing, and we couldn’t have it in any better condition for Sunday’s meeting.” 

With their ‘Go Troppo’ theme, Cowra Jockey Club will be in the spotlight on Sunday, hosting an eight-race meeting headlined by the $36,000 Cowra Cup (1700m) and $32,000 Cowra Japan Cup (1200m).

There will be tropical-themed fashions on the field, entertainment, full bar facilities and a food van, and Ford hopes to see the meeting well patronised by locals and visitors alike.

“The (Cowra) Cup meeting is our feature meeting of the year, and we look forward to getting a good crowd,” Ford said. 

“The tropical theme suits our race day; you dress for the heat, and I keep looking at the calendar and the weather, and it makes for a comfortable and relaxed day.

“The ladies still get right into the fashions on the field, and we’ve got some good prizes on offer, and as far as a good country race day goes, you couldn’t get much better.” 

On the day, Cowra Jockey Club will host the Reg Paine Memorial Jockey Challenge, honouring the former top jockey, who passed away in late 2022.

Paine was inducted into the Cowra Sports Hall of Fame and received a 2017 award from Racing NSW to mark his massive contribution to Western Districts racing, which included well over 1000 wins as a jockey.

The winning jockey will receive a trophy and a $500 gift voucher in an honour befitting the local legend. 

“Reg was such a lovely man and loved by all inside and outside of racing,” Ford said. 

“He’ll be sadly missed, but this is a way the club can honour his memory.”

On what should be a big day at the races, the gates open at 11 am, the first race will jump at 1.20 pm, and for more information, click here.