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Club Spotlight: Richmond

Richmond-Turf-Club-02-facebook.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

In the town of Richmond in North West Queensland, the interest and following of thoroughbred racing has boomed over the last 18 months.

That is the view of Richmond Turf Club vice-president Nick Buick, who is a long-time administrator, and he thinks the claim is backed up by the numbers. 

With travel limited around Australia and overseas, Buick believes dozens in the area and visitors have turned to a day at the races for their fun fix since the start of 2020.

The Club will hold their final race day for the year this Saturday, with a five-event non-TAB program set for decision, with 50 gallopers nominated across the card.

Buick, a local businessman and politician in the Richmond area, explained that the town has seen unprecedented tourism numbers in the five cooler months in the middle of the year, which has led to a greater interest in the Club’s race days.

“We are seeing a lot more of this at our race meets, where we will have 40 or 50 more people made up of people coming from caravans in the area, or tourists in the area,” Buick said.

“It has been a real win for towns out here, there is no two ways about it.”

The club vice-president, who has lived in Richmond for a decade after growing up on Sunshine Coast and moving out west for work, says tourists can roam free in the North West without fear of lock downs and quarantine.

“The last 18 months with COVID, obviously we have been largely free of it up here, but people are appreciating a good day out more than ever,” Buick said.

“People want to go out and have a good time, as when there is something on in their town or a town not far away, they are making the extra effort to be there, that they may not have in years past.

“I think people are wanting to catch up with people, closer to home, in a safe environment.

“People are not travelling as much away from this area and they are appreciating the little things more.

“The races were always happening here pre-COVID but it has been highlighted now in recent times.”

Townsville-based hoop Jeffrey Felix is a regular at Richmond and has had great success at the track of late – riding a winning double earlier this month at their most recent race day.

The experienced Felix is known to travel far and wide for rides across Queensland, including piloting the entire card at Prairie earlier this year, and enjoys getting to Richmond.

“It is has a good turning circle on it with a good straight,” Felix said.

“From where they start the races from, it has a good circumference of a thing, as you would say.

“You have got to be up handy with the dust, that is the only problem, you cannot get too far back because some horses just do not like the dust.

“You need the horses to be on the pace, you need to be right there.”

On top of their race meetings, the Richmond race course is home to many annual events on the local community calendar, the club says.

Richmond-Turf-Club-05-facebook.jpgThe biggest race day of the year in the town, of the four they host annually, is their June meeting that is run in conjunction with their annual event Richmond Field Days. 

The formation of the Richmond Turf Club in 1956, following a number of different incarnations of race clubs in the area, was to promote registered race clubs in the west and to form a circuit from Mt Isa to Charters Towers.

Trainer Shryn Royes prepares a team of horses at Richmond and has eight gallopers nominated for this Saturday’s program.

The 48-year-old Felix praised the club’s facilities.

“They have a great jockeys room at Richmond, it is fully air conditioned and the girls have their own room, as well,” Felix said.

“The facilities are very good.

“It is a big jockeys room, too, which is important.”

On top of their own four race days a year, the Maxwelton Race Club also host one meeting a year, which is in the same shire as Richmond.

This Saturday’s race day marks Ladies Day for the Richmond Club, which Buick explains is always one of the biggest days on the calendar.

Buick was a regular race goer since moving to Richmond, after being introduced to the sport by his father, who was a big racing fan, and eventually moved onto the committee.

It has been a learning experience for the club’s vice-president, he explained.

“The last year has shown me a whole different side of the racing industry, it is hard work when you are doing it but it is always enjoyable when you do it together as a committee,” he said.

“Learning the official part of the racing side of it, it is great to get an understanding of that.

“We have a great club that is run by a great bunch of people, we are having some of the best race meetings that I can remember in recent times.

“We are getting some really good crowds.

“A lot of hard work by the committee has done wonders behind the scenes.”

Like many regional communities in Queensland, the local race day in Richmond is much more than just horses running around.

“It is more than the races, it is that social connection, it brings people together,” Buick said.

“The races count for so much more out here than just horse racing and that is why they are so important to these communities and without them, you are not just losing race days but something people count on for months and months to connect with their friends.”

Buick detailed the club was actively working to upgrade their facilities, including improving the bar area for punters, increased stables as well as a hopefully acquiring a new set of barriers.

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