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Club Spotlight: Winton

By Jordan GerransNorth-Gregory-Turf-Club-facebook-17.jpg

In a drought stricken community like Winton, an afternoon at the North Gregory Turf Club is the solace hundreds need.

In the north-west area of Queensland, they have battled the drought for some time.

On top of that, many of the region's social and sporting events last year were put on the back burner following the impacts of the pandemic.

At the Winton-based North Gregory Turf Club, they did not race at all in 2020, with the club’s committee and the local community desperate to get back to their beloved track this coming Saturday afternoon.

As club secretary and treasurer Linda Young explains, with much of the community living on stations out of town, a day at the races brings everyone together through the tough times.

“It is a social life for us, we have been in the drought for eight years now,” Young said.

“The races give people an outing, they can yarn to their nextdoor neighbours, people come in from the stations.

“With the drought, people come together and talk and realise that they are all in the same boat.

“We have had some rain, but we have no grass in areas now, it has been tough.”

Young and her family lived and worked on a cattle station near Winton for around 21 years.

Young and her husband retired from that around a decade ago, moved into Winton, and within a year she was on the committee of the local turf club.

These days she looks after the roles of secretary and treasurer, as well as working on the side, despite the earlier plans of retirement.

While Young has not been directly involved in the racing industry for all her life, she does know it well.

Many years ago, her father raced quarter horses while her brother, Neville Shorten, was a successful rider through the 1980s in Brisbane and Sydney.

North-Gregory-Turf-Club-facebook-14.jpgShorten did not ride in Winton, however, with the family growing up north of Brisbane, as Linda moved out west for work purposes years later.

“I have always had a love of horses and used horses on our station,” Young said.

“My father broke horses in and I learnt to ride at the same time.

“With my brother riding at a high level, you knew the things that went on with racing and once I was living in Winton, I knew lots about the industry.”

In a regular year, racing in the region turns to Winton on two occasions, on top of the more regular action at clubs like Mt Isa, Cloncurry and Julia Creek.

They have a six-event non-TAB program set for this Saturday with another race day in the next calendar racing season in late September.

Ray Hermann Next Racing

North-Gregory-Turf-Club-facebook-10.jpg“It is a really good track here at Winton, it is a big track with good facilities,” local trainer Ray Hermann says.

The 62-year-old Hermann is one of the remaining trainers in Winton these days.

Born and bred in the town, Hermann kept his horses in work during the shut-down of bush racing last year, while other small yards had to sell or move on their horses due to a lack of racing in the area.

He travels his team to Mount Isa, up to Townsville and everywhere in between.

With almost 1000 kilometres between Winton and Townsville’s Cluden Park, Hermann will usually spend the evening before in Charters Towers to break up the drive.

And, they are a consistent bunch of gallopers.

Hermann horses have run in the top three on three different occasions from five starters this year, before last Saturday's Longreach meeting. 

While he is yet to crack a winner in 2021, one cannot be far away, especially with racing on his home track this week.

Hermann breaks in many of his horses and until only recently was riding much of his own work.

He has a substantial team of horses, as well, having as many as a dozen at a time in work.

“If we have a jockey coming through town, we will head into the track to work them, mostly with the young ones,” Hermann said.

With no jockeys based in town, Hermann will usually work his horses on his own property himself.

At the dirt racing surface in Winton, the race club share the facilities with their local motorbike club, the camel races and even the show committee to ensure it is used all year round.

As Young explains, this Saturday’s race day is the smaller of the two they host ever year.

The September race day is always a significant event as every second year it coincides with the Winton Outback Festival.

“Many people come back to town for that weekend, lots of people who have moved away and return for the Winton Outback Festival,” Young said.

Following the abandonment of the final race at Cloncurry on Saturday due to storms, a replacement race has been added to the North Gregory Turf Club non-TAB race meeting scheduled for this Saturday.