Rac­ing sea­son opens

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era

Red dust once again flew un­der hooves against a blue sky as the Nor West Jockey Club’s marked 150 years of rac­ing.

About 400 peo­ple turned out for the club’s first meet of the year on Sun­day, and were re­warded with some ex­cit­ing races.

Pin­jarra-based trainer Tom Pike had a good first few runs on the track, with his horses Mar­ble King and My Name’s Bruce win­ning the first two races of the day.

Toru Waimarie was the strong­est horse on field for the third race, be­fore the ODH Me­chan­i­cal Hand­i­cap win­ners’ list was dom­i­nated by Pil­bara horses — won by Ex­mouth trainer Pe­ter Del­lar’s Ro­man Fighter and fol­lowed by Just Hop­ing, King Cool and Run­nerdal, all from Hed­land.

Ber­na­dini Ge­nie came front of the pack in the fifth race, and the fi­nal race of the day was won by Tom Pike’s Zi­pline.

Open Day sig­nals the start of four meet­ings for the club, the sec­ond-old­est in WA,

The club’s mod­ern era has been one of sig­nif­i­cant change. Un­til the 1950s, all horses raced came from the sur­round­ing re­gions, with Sher­lock, Pyra­mid and Kar­ratha sta­tions some of the main­stays of the club and push­ing each other with a healthy sense of com­pe­ti­tion around the races each year.

So avid were some lo­cals about their horse-rac­ing scene, they bred a spe­cial type of horse in the early 20th cen­tury, dubbed the Nor West Bred thor­ough­bred, sev­eral of which be­came Perth Cup win­ners.

NWJC races were opened up to horses from out­side the Pil­bara in 1950 and it even­tu­ally spelt the end for the re­gional breed in the late 1970s. The Roe­bourne club has since gone on to see a fair amount of horse-rac­ing suc­cess over the years and at­tracted some top jock­eys, horses, train­ers and race call­ers from around WA.

The club was in dan­ger of clos­ing when the in­flu­en­tial Stove fam­ily moved on in the 1970s, but scraped to­gether enough sup­port to con­tinue.

Hard times came for the club in the late 1980s when a cy­clone caused mas­sive dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture, leav­ing the build­ing in a con­demned state and the cost of re­pairs well into the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

The com­mit­tee had to to un­dergo a large-scale and ex­pen­sive re­build.

It fol­lowed that with a large-scale in­stal­la­tion of mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties and tech­nol­ogy in­clud­ing a colour photo-fin­ish cam­era, mod­ern TAB ma­chines and a car­peted mem­bers’ lounge to have some of the best fa­cil­i­ties of any WA coun­try rac­ing club at the time.

NWJC life mem­ber Dar­ryl Rooney, who was club pres­i­dent at the time, said in­stalling the new in­fra­struc­ture and get­ting the club back up and run­ning in a dif­fi­cult time had been no easy feat. “When the cy­clone took the build­ings out, the club didn’t have enough money to build the fa­cil­i­ties, so 10 of us bor­rowed the money and were guar­an­tors,” he said. “It would have folded if we hadn’t done it.”

An­other con­tro­versy was the prospect of mov­ing the track to Kar­ratha, a pro­posal to pro­mote pa­tron­age and spon­sor­ship and re­duce drink-driv­ing, which was dis­cussed un­til about 2004.

The project was even­tu­ally aban­doned, leav­ing the race­course firmly in place in its lo­ca­tion on the out­skirts of Roe­bourne.

At­ten­dance num­bers — and spend­ing — sky­rock­eted dur­ing the min­ing boom. NWJC com­mit­tee mem­ber Terry Mil­li­gan re­mem­bers num­bers of about 7000 at Roe­bourne Cups dur­ing that pe­riod, and big money chang­ing hands as cashed-up re­source com­pany work­ers brought their high salaries to spend.

Crowd num­bers and funds have sta­bilised since, but the com­mu­nity spirit of the Roe­bourne club re­mains strong.

NWJC pres­i­dent Kevin Kin­in­month said the com­mit­tee took pride in pro­vid­ing a day of fun and es­capism for res­i­dents, sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­ness and char­i­ties and hold­ing the big­gest sin­gle-day event in the Pil­bara with the Roe­bourne Cup.

“Peo­ple come from Kar­ratha and sur­rounds to for­get about Kar­ratha for the day,” he said of its mod­ern legacy.

“They get out of there for five or six hours. They come out here to have a great day and hope­fully en­joy what goes on and have a few beers and a bet.”

He said the an­niver­sary was a “mas­sive achieve­ment”.

“Hope­fully we’ll have an­other 150 years to come,” he said.

Pic­tures: Ali­cia Per­era

Horses gal­lop down the red-dirt track dur­ing an Open Day race.

Jock­eys Si­mone Altieri, Chelsi Forder and Alan Kennedy await their next race.

Heidi and Grant Bar­bera, Billy Mar­shall, Susy Grif­fiths, Robin Con­greve and Woody Jack­son.

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