Walcha readying for race-day reunion

Walcha Jockey Club will be a hive of activity on Friday February 3 and Saturday February 4 when hosting their popular two-day carnival. Photo: Bradley Photos.

The annual Walcha Jockey Club two-day carnival is only just around the corner, with the club hosting their Walcha Cup showcase meeting on Friday February 3 before rounding out a big two days of racing with a non-TAB program on Saturday February 4. 

Jim Nivison, who has been Chairman of the Walcha Jockey Club for 21 years, said the two-day carnival was a good opportunity for friends and families to get together in Walcha. 

“It’s just a big reunion for the town,” Nivison said. 

“A lot of people leave the district but tend to gravitate back for the Walcha races and they make a weekend of it.”

The $45,000 Walcha Cup – which is run and won over the 1440m journey – headlines Friday’s program, along with other feature races such as the $35,000 Lightning Handicap over the 1000m, the $35,000 Graziers Cup Class Two over the 1000m, and the $40,000 Ron Martin Maiden over 1000m. 

“It’s a good couple of days of racing, and the Friday meeting attracts horses from Newcastle to the border,” Nivison said. 

“The committee for a long time tried to boost prizemoney above the normal level, and we’ve always been able to attract some good horses while looking after the participants.”

There is some long history behind two of the races, with the club still honouring those events to this day.

“The Ron Martin maiden was named after a good old trainer from Walcha, and at one stage there, it was the richest maiden in the state, if not the country, and it would bring some smokies from everywhere and there would be 40 or 50 bookmakers,” Nivison said.

“With the Graziers Cup; that’s been going for 30 or 35 years, and all the local landholders chip in a couple hundred each and they all get their race.”

As far as the Walcha Cup, the event generally attracts some quality provincial and open class country gallopers, but Nivison said you need the right type of horse to win the main prize on the day.

“You need a good horse to win the cup; I’d say a good mid-week class of horse,” Nivison said. 

“Some horses won’t handle the track, because it is quite a tight course, but we always get some good types coming for the main races.”

The Saturday meeting caters for the lower class of horse, and Nivison said the community got right behind their two-day carnival. 

“Both days are greatly supported by local business houses, and it’s a bit easier because we only race once a year, so we aren’t always asking for their support,” Nivison said. 

“Plus, it’s one of the biggest weekends of the year in town. Accommodation is booked out, pubs are full, and it’s just good for the town.”

Walcha Jockey Club share the spoils of their race day with community groups, and Nivison believes it is this gesture that makes their race day very special for all involved. 

“For us, it’s a community-based event,” Nivison said. 

“The Lion’s Club run the bar, and we go halves with them, and it is one of their major fundraisers for the year. 

“The Rotary club do the catering and run the canteen, and they keep all of that because they do everything.”

“It’s just a really community-orientated event, and I think that’s why people come back every year and support it.”

Fashions on the field is another talking point, and Nivison said the event was part and parcel of the off-course action. 

“We get quite a few for fashions. The girls have a social committee and they’ve pumped that along for years, and they get a fair bit of sponsorship, and we’ll have a couple of thousand worth of prizes up for grabs,” Nivison said. 

It wouldn’t be a two-day country cup carnival without a calcutta, and Walcha Jockey Club host theirs at the Walcha Bowling and Recreation Club on the Thursday night before their main race day.

“It’s always a good night, and the club runs that, and a few locals will play touch and hang around for the calcutta, plus we get a few people here for the weekend that come down that night for the calcutta too,” Nivison said. 

There is a members and friends marquee, along with plenty more on the day, and readers can click here for more details.