The Cootamundra Turf Club held their annual Cootamundra Cup horse races last Friday, October 22, and they went down as a great success.
The official TAB event had eight races, with gates opening at 11am and closing at 6pm. Zakeriz ridden by Nyssa Burrells won the Cootamundra Cup in race seven, but the day was much more than just the feature race.
The Times spoke to Cootamundra Turf Club committee member Brad Shields about the day that was and touched on everything both on and off the course.
Cootamundra turned on beautiful weather for the day, producing a warm 26-degree day, with the turf club limited to a 500-per-son capacity due to COVID restrictions.
“The fact that it was a last-minute postponement to a Friday made it difficult to advertise and get a big crowd there,” Brad said.
“It was a small, intimate crowd, but I think everybody there had a great day.
“It was a beautiful day out there with the weather, but probably from a turf club point of view, we were a little bit disappointed not to have a crowd like we normally would of a thousand people plus.
“There were a lot of regulations that we had to adhere to in regard to COVID and safety concerns.”
The Cootamundra Turf Club worked hard to overcome strict regulations to make the day happen, with officials working tirelessly in the weeks leading up.
The Cootamundra Cup was originally scheduled to be on Sunday, October 3, on the October long weekend, as it is usually on the calendar.
“It’s always difficult to attract a crowd at short notice. We actually weren’t made aware that we were able to have a crowd on track until very late in the peace,” Brad continued.
“President Anna Mullins and Lynn Smith did a lot of work with Trevor Collins from Elouera Hire to do safety plans and fences.
“We had to separate the trainers, jockeys and stewards from the public.
“Normally with country race meetings if they are called off, they usually cancel them, but it would’ve been nice if it was on a weekend rather than a Friday.
“The changes were beyond our control; you race when Racing NSW and TAB tell you to race.”
Although, despite the late notice of the race meet and impending COVID situation, Brad said it was a positive day.
“It was great to get back out there after COVID. The track was in terrific condition, I’ve been involved with the turf club for about nine years now and that’s the best the track has ever been,” he said.
“Michael Chester and Richard Coulton – who is the track manager, has done a lot of work on the track in the last few years.
“They’ve put some new grass in and have been feeding, fertilizing and watering it and the track was at good as it’s been.
“It’s a pretty good standard of track for a once-a-year club.”
The Cootamundra Turf Club was pleased with patrons’ willingness to abide by the double vaccination requirements when entering the venue and noted that all spectators behaved well.
“Everyone was terrific. I don’t think there was any issue at all in that regard. People came in in small streams and everyone was more than happy to show their double vaccination certificate,” Brad explained.
“If you want to go out at the moment you need to be double vaccinated and aware, so it wasn’t an issue at all.”
The bar and food vendors received decent support from the public on the day, with volunteers running the hospitality sector.
“They went pretty steady. There weren’t any massive takings, but the barbie was run and supplied by the girl guides and the Coota Bulldogs old boys did a great job behind the bar,” Brad said.
“The drinks were cold, the food was nice and everyone there had a great time.
Brad said the quality of racing on the day was fantastic, noting Nyssa Burrells’ Cootamundra Cup-winning ride on Zakeriz was impressive. “It was a terrific run,” he said.
“The horse that ran fifth in the Cootamundra Cup actually won the $75,000 Coonabarabran Cup on Sunday – only a couple of days later. It shows that the coun-try cup circuit is all pretty level.”
“We were very happy with the standard of horses, support from the trainers and very happy with how the track played too.”
The Cootamundra Turf Club is hopeful that they will be able to host a full-capacity event in 2022 at the racecourse on the October long weekend.
“Last year we couldn’t get a crowd at all. This year we had a smaller crowd, so we’re very enthusiastic about getting it back to the way it has been next year,” Brad hoped.