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Club Spotlight: Kumbia

Kumbia-Race-Club-00-permission-HERO-HANNAH-ENGLISH-SQUEEMI.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

For millions around Australia and the world, the first Tuesday in November signifies the annual running of the Melbourne Cup – the race that stop’s the nation.

On the border of the Eastern Downs and South East Country Racing Association zones of Queensland – it is instead the Kumbia Cup that captures the attention of hundreds.

Dozens of clubs around Queensland race just one day a year, like Kumbia do, with most of those race days being run on a Saturday afternoon in those individual towns.

When Melbourne Cup day for 2021 rolls around and there is 12 race meetings going on around the Sunshine State, the small town of Kumbia will be the only club to be holding their annual and only race day for the year.

So much so that Kumbia Race Club is known locally as “the iconic Flemington of the Bush”.

The club has been racing on Melbourne Cup day for 51 years and Kumbia Race Club vice-president and secretary Myolene Voller detailed just how they landed on the famous day to host their yearly race day.

“It was a conversation over a few drinks one night, is how I had it told back to me, between Brian Lenihan – a guy in town that everyone knows – and his mate Barry Andrew Arthur,” Voller said.

“Barry is involved with Huston Motors, who has sponsored the Kumbia Cup for all that time and still do to this year.

“It just went from there.”

Lenihan, who is nearly 80 years of age and is the local butcher, is an icon of racing in the area as a former jockey and long-time administrator of the club.

He currently holds the title of president of the club, after growing up around the industry with his father a successful hoop.

Racing in Kumbia dates back to 1922 and at one point the club raced eight times a year but now only races Melbourne Cup Day.

“The race day continues to be a major annual event for the Kumbia community,” the club says.

And, for the hundreds that descend on Kumbia for the day – with punters and racegoers expected from all around the state – Voller says the local track does have some similarities to Flemington, as well.

“The straight is very long – wide and grassy – and that is quite rare for a bush or country track like us,” she said.

Lenihan, who has been the president for over 40 years, might be a little biased but believes his club’s track is as good as it gets in regional areas.

Kumbia-Race-Club-03-facebook.jpg“It is a beautiful track, one of the best tracks in country Queensland,” Lenihan said.

“It is a mile track; from the 1400 metres you go along and then it is a two furlong straight.

“Everything gets a chance here; it is big and wide.

“It looks as good as Flemington, a bloke once told me they could play billiards on it that it’s so good.”

Jandowae trainer Geoffrey Schrader trained a winner at Kumbia in 2020 and agrees with Lenihan, declaring it a great track to visit with his stable.

Schrader is hopeful of bringing four from his barn to Kumbia in early November.

Lenihan says the club couldn’t run their annual race day without their 94 volunteers, who he personally contacts in the lead-in, that all chip in to ensure the day’s success.

Trainer Tom Moloney is on the committee at Kumbia and lives near-by, being the closest trainer to the club itself, preparing his gallopers at Wondai and Kumbia.

Moloney qualified Diggity for the Country Stampede Final last year in Brisbane, which Voller said created a great buzz in the area.

Kumbia will debut a new set of starting barriers this year, with the barriers making their way east from Chinchilla Race Club.

The race track is based on the town’s local golf club, which benefits the race club and their volunteer committee as the golf club’s team tend to all the track and facilities and keep it a high standard.

With five non-TAB races set down for decision – including the Cup to be run over 1400 metres as an Open Handicap – the purses’ across the race day are as attractive as they have ever been at the track.

“This is the most prize money for a race day we have ever had, $52,000 all up,” Voller said.

“We have kind of bumped it up a bit, the Cup was going to be $11,000 but we got it up to $12,500, which is great and noteworthy for our club.”

The club receives an abundance of repeat patrons, people from all over the state coming back year on year for the annual Kumbia races.

“It is well supported and just a bloody fun day for everyone,” the club’s vice-president said.

“People want to go to somewhere on the big race day, so they are all poking their way down to Kumbia.”

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