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Club Spotlight: Alpha

Alpha-03-FB-finish-at-post.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

The Alpha Jockey Club are one of the great comeback stories of the racing industry in Queensland.

In the wilderness of the thoroughbred racing scene for a decade, the Club are this week preparing to host upwards of 3000 people at their 2021 Cup day.

As Alpha president Kevin Wiltshire details, the local Jockey Club has gone through tough times over the last couple of decades, not racing for around 10 years before slowly building back up, with this Saturday being their eighth year back with a regular meeting.

“Basically, the place was overgrown,” Wiltshire said of the Club’s facilities nearly two decades ago.

“Racing in the west was very quiet and the dates we had were not very viable.

“It was not a strong club back then, there was a heap of reasons why it was not working.

“At the point when we were not racing, it looked like it was impossible for us to do...and when you looked at the venue before our first meeting, we had plenty of knockers from around the area.

“They told us that we did not have a hope of getting things going.”

Now years on, the Alpha committee believe they are going as strong as ever.

Wiltshire was recently speaking to a participant from the central-west of Queensland that remarked that Alpha’s facilities are the envy of many clubs in the region.

Alpha secretary Anna Appleton came on board as the club was aiming to reform.

“It was just a decline of country racing here, it just sort of fizzled out as several clubs lost their race days,” she said.

Alpha-06-FB.jpg“There was a push to get the country racing back again and Alpha got a race day, which is great and fantastic to have one day back for the year.”

The rebuild of Alpha did not just happen overnight as the long-time president explained, it involved countless hours of volunteer time and effort, on top of donated machinery and equipment.

As the rebirth of the club started, they had one building that was falling down as well as an old toilet block.

Through the work of around six working bee days, which almost 30 people attended each of them, the Club started to take shape again.

It was also aided by several grants which helped with building stables and sheds, as well as all the material that goes along with it.



Alpha | Alpha Jockey Club | 1:00 PM


Prize money


Alpha-11-FB.jpg“We had members come on board with machinery and expertise, we pretty well started from scratch and rebuilt it,” Wiltshire said.

“We did keep the inside running rail, we never gave that away, which was lucky and Mackay Turf Club gave us their outside running rail- we took a truck up there to pick it up.

“We had bulldozers, loaders and tractors to knock down all the timber down inside the track to get it back to being of standard and we have progressively over the eight years built up a camping area that can hold around 2,000 people.

“The committee we have got, we wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, a lot of people have been generous with their machinery and their time.

“There has been a lot of time spent there and still to this day to keep the grounds tidy for one day a year to race.”

The Alpha committee feel their club is going as strong as it ever has.

“This time around, things are going really well,” the president says.

Appleton agrees.

“We have a few other events for the Club, the Jockey Club runs a big Australia Day event over the last four years, which is a good one,” she said.

After fighting through all the tough times, Alpha in 2021 sold out their 3000 tickets for Saturday’s race day within a fortnight but the phone keeps ringing, the committee say.

It has become an annual event for people from all different areas around Queensland, descending on Alpha for the Cup meeting and camping.

Wiltshire notes that the weekend in Alpha has became increasingly popular with the younger generation, which in turn brings new eyeballs to the racing industry.

Appleton, who was born into horses with much of her family involved, says it is always a special weekend in Alpha when they race.

“It is a really good community event, we are a town of 250-300 people probably and we end up with 3000 here for the race day, it is a really good influx for the town,” she said.

“We are close enough to the coast where trainers from Rockhampton and Mackay can come, as well as the people from towns near us - they are happy to travel that four or five hours to race

“We have a big weekend for the club and the town.”

Alpha-02-FB.jpgWhen they do race their six-event non-TAB program on Saturday, there will be no locally trained horses entered with no permanent stables based in the town.

Wiltshire recalls a time when there was several trainers and jockeys based in Alpha, but not for over a decade, he says.

Plenty of people in Alpha race gallopers with other provincial and country trainers, with several having horses with Mackay’s Trinity Bannon.

The 2021 Alpha Community Cup will be held this Saturday over 1700 metres with an impressive purse of $25,000 on offer. 

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