Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn and apprentice jockey Corinne Miles promote a Melbourne Cup Day meeting.
Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn and apprentice jockey Corinne Miles promote a Melbourne Cup Day meeting. Scott Powick

Winter racing program heats up for Cup

TWEED River Jockey Club's winter program has begun, and will culminate with the running of the 2017 Murwillumbah Cup on Tuesday, August 25.

The club's chairman Bernie Quinn, in the industry for 46 years and part-owner of three racehorses, has seen many changes in his time.

Prize money for a race used to be $1000 in his younger days - now it's $20,000.

Ownership of a racehorse is accessible to many more race fans, with syndicates of sometimes 20 people, each having a share.

Race meetings at Tweed River have diminished over time.

"Once upon a time, we got 33 race days a year," Bernie said.

"We only have 11 race days a year, of which nine are TAB.

"We don't race Saturday, we only race during the week.

"Once every three or four years, we might get a Saturday."

Melbourne Cup Day attracts the biggest annual crowd of about 4500.

Three other Northern Rivers jockey clubs operate at Ballina, Casino and Lismore.

"We meet once every three months to work out what's happening," Bernie said.

"We propose the race days and Sydney (Racing NSW) makes the actual race days.

"Ballina has about 15, Lismore has 13, Casino has about five."

With the good prize money on offer in NSW, horses are entered from as far away as the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba.

Bernie says racing brings economic benefits to a town like Murwillumbah.

For example, Matthew Dunn Racing based in the town has 80 horses in work, employs 25 people and pays out thousands of dollars a month for feed.

And what is it that attracts race fans to the Tweed River Jockey Club?

"People like to have a bet. Some just love the atmosphere, looking at Mt Warning when they're having lunch," Bernie said.

After 43 years as chairman, in a voluntary role, his succession plan is assured.

His youngest son Damien is deputy chairman of the club.

Bernie says, as long as horseracing is profitable, it'll keep going.

When he took over, the club was on its knees financially and could barely afford to hold race meets.

At one stage, he and another director put thousands of dollars into the club to keep it afloat.

In 2013, Bernie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the racing industry and his volunteer work.

He explains his long involvement simply...

"I just enjoy racing. We've always had horses on our farms."

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