The Narrandera Cup has had a few changes this year. A new day, a new date, a new format of racing and a shiny new bundle of prize money have already paid off huge dividends for the club this year.
“We’ve had 194 nominations for Sunday. And 32 nominations for the Narrandera Cup, and we can start 12,” said Michael Bailey, the manager of the Narrandera Race Club.
“That’s over our limit by 70. That’s reflective of our change in format and prize money. I’m absolutely stoked.”
It’s a huge turnaround from last year. The 2017 cup was only contested by five horses. The 2016 Narrandera Cup only had six entrants. By moving the Cup to a Sunday, the club have been able to work around restrictions on prize money offered on Saturdays. Instead of last year’s $12,000 race, the club is now able to offer $30,000 for the Narrandera Cup. The total prize money for the entire weekend is now $150,000.
The weekend’s race will now run at a traditional 1600 metres, as opposed to the 1400 metre race it has been. This brings the club in line with other clubs, and it has already paid off.
The Narrandera Cup on the weekend will be broadcast by Sky Racing 1, in conjunction in the TAB. Narrandera and Coffs Harbour will be the two feature races on the day.
The weather is set to be fine and sunny, with a maximum of 15 degrees. While there is some rain predicted for Friday, it’s unlikely to have a major effect on the track.
Moving the races from a Saturday to a Sunday could well have an effect on the social calendar, but Mr Bailey said that change would be positive for the future of the club.
“The Narrandera Race Club has come from just about closed in the late 1980s to have some of the best, if not the best, facilities for a club our size in country NSW. Change is always a hard thing to accept, but if you don’t move with change you can’t survive.”
It’s one of the last races for the Southern District Racing Season, but it’s the beginning of the Victorian Melbourne Cup season, which Mr Bailey hopes will attract trainers from across the border. The longer racing format, the 2100 metre races – sometimes called ‘slow races’ – are also being implemented at the Narrandera Racing Club, which will attract more southern trainers.
The gates will open at 11am, and the first race is expected to be run at 12.10pm.
Insights on excellence
Wagga trainer Trevor Sutherland has been keeping an eye on the developments at the Narrandera Race Club, and so far he’s happy with what he sees.
“It’s good to see this kind of initiative taken by the Narrandera racing club, and racing NSW. Narrandera’s a great club.”
It’s been a year of great developments for the Narrandera Race Club, with TAB and Sky racing coming on board with the club. This has allowed for more prize money to be offered, and has meant that the club have been able to change the structure of the races.
“Just going up to 2100 metres opens up another category of horses – they’re slower in gait, but have a better construction.”
These longer races – or staying races as Mr Sutherland calls them – opens up a different class of horse and trainer to the Narrandera Cup.
“It’d be good to see staying races pick up in NSW. Right now they’re pretty common in Victoria; they have a lot of staying races.”
Mr Sutherland is planning to bring two or three of hisown horses to the Narrandera Cup, speculating that he’ll bring Willy White Socks and Gentleman Max.
Gentleman Max, a five year old gelding, has had nine wins from 71 starts, and has a placing average of 42.3 per cent. Willy White Socks, who recently won the MTC Country Cup in Wagga, was a bargain buy at $2000, as part of a $4000 package deal with another gelding, Hangin’ With Willy. Willy White Socks has since won $155,000 in prize money, so someone got a good deal there.
The two Willies are a testament to Mr Sutherland’s reputation as a trainer who can ‘reprogram’ troublesome horses, and can turn difficult animals into race winners. The Sutherland’s stables have developed a reputation for buying cheap horses that have been barred and turning them around. One of Sutherland’s horses, Wrapped Up, had broken so many ribs and arms before Mr Sutherland’s training that it was hard finding a jockey who’d go near him. Wrapped Up went on to be named the Southern District Racing Association’s horse of the year.
Having trained 32 winners so far for the season Mr Sutherland is staring down the barrel of securing a fourth Southern District Racing Association (SDRA) trainer’s premiership.
“I’m well in front, they won’t catch me. I’m pretty safe and will get over the line. It’s another opportunity to prove yourself. It’s always better to win than to get beaten, but it doesn’t change my style.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another trophy. But I still like to win.”
Best foot forward
The biggest race event in Narrandera is coming up, and with it will be the Fashions on the Field. The biggest event – with the biggest prize – is the Lady of the Day, according
to organiser Rosie Beeche.
The categories for this year’s Fashions on the Field are unchanged from last year. There are categories for junior boys and girls 0-5; junior boys and girls 5-12, and the teenage boys and girls.
“Then we’ve got the teenage boys and girls, and the under 18 and over 18s couple – which we want to stress is open to all couples – the millinery award, the man of the day and the Narrandera Shire lady of the day,” Ms Beeche said. “It’s winter, so remember to wear your winter wardrobe. Definitely leave the straw hat at home.
“Your outfit doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s more about the way you put the ensemble together. It really shows when you feel comfortable in your clothing. Be warm, have a go, and join in.”
There are $4000 total in prizes to be won this year.
“We’ve got some great prize money,” Ms Beeche said. “The major prize for the Lady of the Day is two nights’ accommodation in Echuca, as well as $1000 cash.”
The prizes are the result of generous sponsorship.
“Our three main sponsors are Patton Racing, who sponsored the prize money for the Lady of the Day, Adelphi Apartments in Echuca, and the Angler’s Retreat, who provide the
prize for the Man of the day,” Ms Beeche explained. “But I want to thank the many local sponsors who’ve been amazing. There’s a huge swathe of local businesses, from Coroco to
Sunshine Dry Cleaners to Sew Fab, who have been so generous with the prizes.”
The judges this year will include Mikayla Beeche, who works as a stylist in Melbourne, and Jason Curry from Leeton Toyota. The first categories will take place after the first race, which is scheduled for 12.10pm.
“Put your best foot forward at this year’s Narrandera Cup, and have some fun!”
A very good start for Richards
Sometimes it’s hard to step back from the slightly frenetic nature of racing to realise that most of the people in the industry are working hard at a job they love.
Like any industry, the Southern District Racing Association rewards those who do well, with a premiership awarded to the best apprentice jockey each season. Josh Richards is currently in the running for this season’s premiership, and he will be riding this weekend at the Narrandera Cup.
“He’s in front at the moment with three meetings to go before the end of the season,” said Mr Richards’ trainer, Leeton local Peter Clancy. “It means a lot, in that it’s his first year riding. In your first season you’re up against people who’ve been riding for four years already. It’s a very good start to an apprenticeship.”
Mr Richards – who won a race in Albury in the middle of the conversation – will be riding Mitchell Road, Sister Hazel, “and he’ll probably ride Working Together,” Mr Clancy said.
Mr Clancy has had an excellent career over the years as a horse trainer, with a total of 378 wins. He has been taking on apprentice jockeys for years now, and some of his trainees
include Tim Clarke, who now rides predominately for Gai Waterhouse, as well as his older brother Brad Clarke, who had a successful career around Wagga.
“I think to be a good jockey they’ve got to be determined, because it’s a very hard life. You’ve got to learn to ride; the kids that come out of pony club aren’t always good jockeys, because it’s a very different style of riding. A bad habit is harder to get out of than a good habit is to teach. There’s a lot of mental stamina in it.
“Josh hadn’t ridden much. Mostly they’re about 15 when they start their apprenticeship; most of them come straight out of school. Josh had been a builder by trade. He only started
this because he’s so small, people suggested to him to try it and so he thought he’d give it a go. He’s had a complete career change at 24.
“He’s done very well, and he’s a perfectionist. He will make a good jockey, although he’s still got a long way to go.”
Mr Clancy’s apprentices live with the family, although Mr Clancy’s wife has recently passed away.
“The good ones we’ve had, you know when they’ve got it in them to be good, because you don’t want the bad ones hanging around. They’ve got to be good people; it’s fairly strict that way. You get a lot back from them. They’re like family. We’re very lucky,” Mr Clancy said.