By HARRY CLARKE
THE Chinchilla Race Club is celebrating the success of its first and long awaited TAB meeting, which saw the town host its highest standard of racing in living memory and make its television debut on the Sky Racing channel.
Punters across Australia tuned to watch the seven-race meeting which featured jockeys, trainers and horses from larger racing centres as far away as Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Ipswich, and plenty from Toowoomba.
Organisers were also pleased that close to 200 local racegoers turned up to the track despite the meeting being held on a Monday.
“This is a real feather in the cap for past and present committees,” said Chinchilla Race Club president Don Critch.
“We’re all volunteers and we work hard out here to give back to racing and the town. Life members and previous committees should be very proud.”
The club benefited from a cash injection from TAB and Racing Queensland to host the meeting, but perhaps the biggest benefit was the exposure Chinchilla received from the national broadcast.
As the horses loaded into the barriers ahead of the first race, Sky Racing caller Anthony Collins said “it’s absolutely fantastic that towns such as Chinchilla and other country areas are getting their go”.
Collins’ colleague, Brisbane-based racing presenter Kiaarn Holland, was trackside in Chinchilla to carry out interviews and live crosses during the broadcast.
She said the recent rain made for a stunning setting to show Chinchilla racing off to the television audience.
“I was expecting a firm track, which is it underfoot, but I was pretty surprised at how good the grass coverage is,” Holland said.
“I was born and bred in the bush, so getting back to these country tracks is one of my favourite things to do. It’s so good to see them get exposure and TAB meetings. The punters are going to gauge a bit of interest.
“Hopefully it’s something that grows crowd-wise and gains a bit of momentum because country racing is everything. They’ve got a better vibe than at Eagle Farm on a Saturday.”
Former Chinchilla Race Club president Terry Stewart was part of the committee which first pushed to hold a TAB meeting and said he was thrilled to see the dream finally become a reality.
“We almost got a TAB meeting when the floods happened around the state in 2010-11,” Stewart said.
“We were on the shortlist because Rockhampton was flooded. I think that meeting went to Warwick and we’ve been on the hunt ever since.
“To get a TAB meeting for a country club is pretty much the pinnacle. It means that Queensland Racing sees us in a very good light and the facilities here are second to none for country track.”