Roses race series blooms for Toowoomba Turf Club
IF TOOWOOMBA Turf Club chairman Kent "Woody" Woodford is seeing things through rose-coloured glasses at the moment, you can hardly blame him.
The 30-year racing veteran, who took over the top job less than two years ago, is over the moon at the new Toowoomba Roses race series which culminates in the Benchmark 80 Handicap final as part of Mad Hatter's Race Day on Sunday, September 23.
He has high hopes of it becoming an annual event tying in with the Carnival of Flowers.
"There's not a better time to do this than when Toowoomba's at its best, and I hope we can grow this event to be as big as possible," Woody said.
Some readers may recall a Carnival of Flowers Cup many years ago, he said, but the series was a great way for it to be reborn and reinvigorated.
With many young punters lured away from the track by the accessibility of watching and betting online, Woody said actually being there and getting caught up in the colour, atmosphere and excitement of racing was something much closer to the hearts of the older generation.
Series and events such as the September 23 race day with its "unexpected" races, including mini-trotters, dachshunds, yabbies and pigs, and other family-friendly activities, as well as the chance to dress up and embrace the day's theme, encouraged more people to discover the enjoyment of being at the track and made racing a bigger part of the community.
With the final of the three-race series worth $25,000 to the winner, and an almost $170,000 pot for the day, which also includes the prestigious Pat O'Shea Plate, Woody said it was a real boon for Toowoomba racing.
The high prizemoney has gained a lot of interest from local owners and trainers as well as those from outside, with the preludes having run on August 25 and September 8.
Woody hopes the Roses final will become like the Pat O'Shea Plate (dedicated to the race-caller synonymous with Toowoomba racing and the country's first two-year-old race of the year), the Weetwood Handicap and Toowoomba Cup, which all hold real kudos and bragging rights for a local win.
It's also another step in gaining the recognition Woody believes Toowoomba, which has on average 560 horses regularly training, deserves from the racing industry and towards being treated as every bit the equal of other provincial clubs like Ipswich, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
On the crowd front, Woody said he wants visitors to Clifford Park "to have the best experience possible" whether that's enjoying the social element, the thoroughbreds in action, or a combination of both.
"I hope people will come out and enjoy the racing and everything we offer, and leave with a smile on their faces," he said.