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Club Spotlight: Yeppoon

31081538-968798509952226-944018146559028264-n.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

As a man who has visited dozens of racetracks around Queensland, Paul Hoolihan knows a thing or two about the beauty of a turf club.

In his somewhat biased opinion, the former politician and lawyer rates the Yeppoon Turf Club, just north-east of Rockhampton in central Queensland, as the most picturesque racetrack in the Sunshine State.

After a diverse career that took Hoolihan to places like Mount Isa, Brisbane, Longreach, Rockhampton, Townsville and visiting most of the towns and cities in between, he believes the Capricornia track of Yeppoon is the best of the best.

“We have a beautiful course; ...I have seen a fair few of them over the journey, I personally believe it is the most picturesque,” Hoolihan said.

“It is one of the loveliest rural clubs in Queensland, bar none.

“It is just superb, I am including Cluden in Townsville and Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park as well.

“As a small club, a country club, it is second to none our track - it is just glorious.”

Hoolihan is of course the president of the Club now after a lengthy working career around the state, having retired in recent years.

In regards to its picturesque nature, it should only get better from here, as well.

Yeppoon is close to finalising a brand new running rail, which was completely rebuilt recently, with the help of funding from Racing Queensland.

The new running rail is in place and looking perfect for this Saturday’s non-TAB five event program from the track.

It is set to be the first race meeting at the track with patrons for some time.

It is all set for race day, but there is remaining works to be done to complete the rail for track work in the mornings, which will be completed in the near future.

Furthermore, Yeppoon is about to have their irrigation system upgraded as well as a brand new judges’ box to be built.

All the funding for the shiny new judges’ box has been secured, with the construction to commence and hopefully be completed in the next few months.

Hoolihan (pictured) is a “racing lifer” having started out as a bookmaker’s assistant in 1973, before going on to own race horses.

He worked closely with the racing industry when he was in the Queensland parliament for just under a decade, and is now the president of a country club.

b881302050z1-20180330060716-000gje11nu8a3-0-d6c8co05uqcsicjj0q2-t1880.jpgHe raced horses with other members of parliament during his eight-year stint as Member for Keppel, and before that Hoolihan was a judge at the Mount Isa Turf Club in his younger days. 

The famous Saunders racing family of Mount Isa also played a part in Hoolihan’s journey.

“I have been tied up in it for years and I have just gravitated to the other side of it now, being the president,” Hoolihan said.

“It is something that is near and dear to my heart.”

Yeppoon-Turf-Club-09-Supplied.JPGAnother “racing lifer” on the committee at Yeppoon is club secretary, Mary Hornery.

Hornery, born into the racing industry, has held similar roles at clubs like Yeppoon, Emerald and Middlemount over more than three decades.

All up, Hornery was at Emerald for around 17 years and Yeppoon for 12, on top of Middlemount for 25 years. 

“Someone has to do something voluntary to help these clubs out,” Hornery said when asked what drives her to continue on with the race clubs.

“Dad was a racehorse trainer, as was my brother as a trainer and a jockey, I have been in racing my entire life.”

The Yeppoon Turf Club is run by a hard-working volunteer committee of eight, who declare they are an active club that love their racing and put their time and effort into make the club as strong as it can be.

In a quirky aspect of the club, prisoners from a near-by Queensland correctional facility help cut and maintain the racing surface.

Yeppoon has been on the TAB stage in recent years, hosting a few nationally televised race days last year, but do not have one allocated for the rest of 2021 just yet.

Yeppoon and Rockhampton work closely together as race clubs, the Yeppoon committee says, as they will often transfer race days between each other if needed.

“We work in well together as the two different clubs to the benefit of the two clubs,” Hoolihan said.

“We have hosted Rockhampton race days before and they will bring all their staff down, so it does not hinder us.”

There is 42 kilometres between Yeppoon, based on the coast, and the slightly in-land Rockhampton with around a 40 minute drive getting you between the two.

It was not long ago that the two clubs were actually just the one, as the current president recalled.

“I was instrumental in 2003 accepting the Club back from Rockhampton Jockey Club, who had taken it over because the Yeppoon committee had collapsed,” Hoolihan said.

“The committee on the coast, many of them were getting on in age and they could not get volunteers any more, they could not get the people to volunteer.

“The Club was going pretty well generally outside of that.

“As a member of parliament back then, I was not actively involved in the Yeppoon committee at that time, but I have got on the committee since and then taken on the job as president now.”

When Yeppoon does run a race day, Clinton Thompson is the only stable that can be classed as a local, with the majority of runners coming from Rockhampton, Mackay and Gladstone, among other venues.

Club spotlight will be a regular feature that shines a light on the unique and individual racing clubs across Queensland.