Bookie says you can't beat being on track
LONG-TIME Toowoomba bookmaker Pat Kynoch remembers when there were 39 bookies in town. Now there are just two.
His first Weetwood Race Day was back in 1974 as a clerk to his dad, Des. These days son Michael is also part of the business. But there's no doubt local track bookies are under threat.
Pat lays the beginning of the bookmaker's demise squarely at the feet of Kerry Packer introducing Betfair - an internet betting exchange - to Tasmania in the 1990s.
Today's young punters, he said, have been lured by internet offers and the convenience of phone apps and computers screens, betting and watching the races onscreen, so they don't need to go to the course. Caught up in busy lives, they don't realise they are missing out on the true spirit of the races.
"That atmosphere of watching the horses on track - that can't be replaced by watching a race on a screen," Pat said.
So, it's time to grab the kids and grandkids and head back to Clifford Park on Saturday, April 8 for this year's running of the Weetwood Handicap and Toowoomba Cup, and show them what they're missing.
"The Weetwood is the pinnacle of Toowoomba racing," Pat said. "It's the mini-Melbourne Cup of Toowoomba, and it's very much a social event as well as attracting top horses from here, Brisbane and across the south-east."
This will be the richest day ever conducted at Clifford Park with over $600,000 in prizemoney on offer. And being a stand-alone meeting, with no racing at either Brisbane or the Gold Coast, all eyes will be on Toowoomba, including extensive Sky Racing coverage.
"It's Toowoomba's chance to shine, to showcase racing here" Pat said.
And with the Weetwood traditionally "the community's race", up to 6000 patrons are expected on course.
While it was still too early at time of writing to be definite about which horses will race, last year's winning trainer Tony Sears is hoping Choice Bro will make history with consecutive wins. Only four horses have done that in the race's 127 years, but the Toowoomba trainer said Choice Bro was doing just as well this year as last, and he "couldn't see why he wouldn't be just as competitive again".
He'll also be racing Hard Stride and Fellino.
"I've had bigger wins in terms of prizemoney than the Weetwood, but it's very rewarding to win when you live and train here, and it's not an easy race to win," Tony said.
Pat, meanwhile will be busily studying the form of all the local and visiting horses to give punters prices every bit as good as those they might get on the net ... with the added bonus of local know-how.