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Club Spotlight: Goondiwindi

By Jordan GerransGunsynd.jpg

All these decades on, the legacy of champion Goondiwindi racehorse Gunsynd lives on.

The country Queensland bush track races this coming Saturday with a five event non-TAB program and the topic of the ‘Goondiwindi Grey’ is sure to be broached more than once between on course punters.

After all, the Goondiwindi Race Club is known as Gunsynd Park and there is a statue of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame member not far from the track itself, just a few streets away.

Goondiwindi Race Club secretary Graeme Scheu thinks the Goondiwindi Grey’s enormous efforts from all those years ago still reverberate in the community to this day.

His famed resume reads as a list of races every horse owner would wish to win: The Cox Plate, Epsom Handicap, Toorak Handicap and Doncaster Handicap, among several other of the biggest races in Australia.

Gunsynd (pictured right) eventually finished up with a sparkling record of 29 career wins from 54, starting his journey in Goondiwindi in the last 1960’s before going on to take the racing industry of Australia by storm.

“His feats in the early 1970’s, he left a racing buzz in our district that we still feel today, there is no doubt about that,” Scheu said.

“The history that he left, that is nearly 50 years ago now, it has left a legacy of racing here in the town.

“The council has a Hall of Fame here in town that they dedicated to him.”

The border community of Goondiwindi always pay special attention to the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic every year at Eagle Farm, which was taken out by Supergiant in 2020.

“He is still talked about in circles these days even though there have been horses like Winx, Black Caviar and all that have come along since,” Scheu said.

“He was a great racing story and arguably there has not been better feats since, he was a great horse.

“He was one for our era, for sure.”Goondiwindi-19-club.JPG

At the racetrack named after the legendary grey from the bush, these days Barry Sheppard is the talk of the track.

Of the handful of trainers based there, Sheppard has the most horses in work and goes into Saturday’s races with four winning chances.

Around 15 horses are trained at the facility, split out between four different trainers.

Over the last 18 months, Sheppard has made the move from Cunnamulla to Goondiwindi and admits it is much harder to prepare a winner at his new home.

“It is a bit tougher in this area compared to Cunnamulla, it is stronger racing,” Sheppard said.

“It does not matter where you go around here these days, it is very hard to win a race.”

Semi-retired from his working life, Sheppard relocated to Goondiwindi as he has family around the town, opting to be closer to them while also poking along with a few horses.

He has had horses much of his life, utilising the sand track at his new home to train his small team and putting them on the grass track once a week when it is open.

Gunsynd Park has come a long way in the last five years, club secretary Scheu says.Goondiwindi-17-club.JPG

The club, the Queensland state government and Racing Queensland parented to improve their facilities, including the long awaited refurbished starting gates and other much needed freshen ups.

“Our grounds are amenities are excellent, we have an extremely good turf track that goes for 1600m,” Scheu said.

“There is new tie up stall that have recently been done, as well as a new running rail that was installed.

“On top of that, we have all the great facilities that the public need, as well.

“The track will be fantastic for Saturday; we had some rain over the last week that will make it perfect.”
Scheu has been involved with the Goondiwindi Race Club for over 30 years as well as being a bookmaker in the area.

He will be one of a handful of bookmakers who have a stand at the races this coming Saturday.

Being a border community, Goondiwindi also expect to have NSW-based horses, jockeys and trainers venture north later this week.

One of the more unique aspects of the thoroughbred industry in Goondiwindi is they have two different race clubs based out of the Gunsynd Park facility.

Goondiwindi Race Club races five times a year, including this Saturday, while the Goondiwindi and McIntyre Picnic Race Club host an annual meeting, to be held on Saturday April 10 this year.

Tickets for the Goondiwindi and McIntyre Picnic Race Club are usually hGoondiwindi-16-club-norail.jpgot property and are snapped up quickly.

“The Goondiwindi Picnic Races has been a tradition for over 50 years and has grown remarkably over the years to now be recognised as Goondiwindi’s biggest social event,” the club says.

“The committee is made up of a group of young-ish people that are dedicated to creating a fun day out for all.”

The two different entities share facilities and help each other when needed, Scheu says.

“We have a good working relationship,” Scheu said.

Regardless of which of the two clubs is hosting the race day, local trainer Fred Carter, who will start Zaragigi this Saturday, believes the racing will be excellent.

“It is a beautiful track, the boys have done a good job getting it right with the working bee recently,” Carter said.

Carter previously had as many as five horses in work but only has a couple these days after scaling back in recent years.

While champion racehorse Gunsynd will always be synonymous with Goondiwindi, Murphy's Blu Boy also produced a remarkable career from the town.

Murphy's Blu Boy won his first three career starts around south-east Queensland – all by five lengths or more.

In 2003, he claimed the Group 3 Blue Diamond Preview before running second in the Prelude a few weeks later.

He would finish up later the next year with a career record of five wins from 11 starts, his career cut short by injury, eventually ending up at stud as another success story out of Goondiwindi.