By Andrew Adermann
Racing will resume at the Ipswich Turf Club on Monday for the first time in 2020 following a major track refurbishment.
Over the past six months, state-of-the-art drainage and irrigation systems have been installed at Bundamba which is expected to provide a much-improved racing surface.
The track refurbishments come off the back of the club officially taking handover of the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre earlier this year.
The Centre provides improved amenities for jockeys, stewards and the media, along with one of the region’s premier hospitality venues.
“We were in a very precarious position over the last 12 months with the vulnerability we had to weather,” Ipswich Turf Club Chairman Wayne Patch said.
“If we had 15-20 millimeters of rain within 24 hours of a meet, we were in threat of being cancelled because some of the areas of the track, well the drainage was almost non-existent.
“The evidence now shows that with all the heavy rain we received at the start of the year, our course manager indicates that we wouldn’t have needed to cancel any meets had we been racing at the time.
“We are in an exponentially better position than we were 12 months ago.”
Racing has not been seen at the ITC since October last year, a day where gun apprentice Steph Thornton rode a double, and future Saturday metro winner Alpine Dancer scored in a thrilling photo finish.
A series of gallops were held on the course proper over the past weeks, with locally trained horses and jockeys on-hand to participate, and the feedback from all involved was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve had a few on-course gallops with some locally trained horses and it’s fantastic,” Patch said.
“We had the QRIC stewards observe the gallops and it’s all systems go for Monday now.
“All the feedback from the jockeys and the trainers who participated said it was all positive, there’s no track bias – we are ready to go.”
The much anticipated return will take place on Easter Monday, with a blockbuster field of acceptances confirmed for the Club’s first meeting in almost six months.
Star jockeys including Michael Cahill, Ryan Maloney and Andrew Mallyon will also step, having selected to ride in the Metro South West zone as a part of the new regionalised zoning model.
“We’ve got 122 acceptances across nine races this Monday, there’s no shortage of quality horses here – and (the zoning model) is a great way to fit within the boundaries of the COVID-19 restrictions,” Patch said.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, it’s a responsible, pragmatic and sensible move that Racing Queensland have made and at the end of the day it’s only a bit of short-term pain having to go without the feature races and winter carnival.
“As we’ve seen with other sports that haven’t been able to continue, it’s a credit to the administrators and the regulators in racing and all the participants that we’ve been able to come up with a sensible model, stick to it like glue and carry on.”
The decision to abandon the Winter Carnival does however mean that the club’s 154-year-old event – The Ipswich Cup – won’t proceed in 2020.
“Unfortunately it does mean that 2020 will be without an Ipswich Cup,” Patch said.
“We have an allocated day on September 19 which we hope will be a welcome back to the crowd but in the current state of play we aren’t sure when that will take place.”