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Club Spotlight: Longreach

Longreach-Jockey-Club-09-RQ.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Modernise and improve while honouring the traditions and history of racing in the Central West region of Queensland.

That is the aim and vision of those behind the Longreach Jockey Club, just days after the club celebrated their well-attended and successful Cup meeting for 2021.

With a young, vibrant committee bringing new ideas to the industry in Outback Queensland, Longreach officials are hopeful of continuing the growth they have witnessed in recent years.

First-year Longreach Jockey Club president Andrew Watts, who is also an owner and commentator of racing, has recently taken on the top job from long-time club president, the respected Rob Luck.

Following a bumper crowd on Saturday, including big numbers of visiting punters from Brisbane, Watts believes the Longreach Jockey Club is in an outstanding position going forward. 

They are one of just a handful of Outback Queensland clubs who can race their meeting as a TAB day.

“Things are going great guns out at Longreach,” Watts said.

“We have a fantastic committee of around 20 people, which all of them have their little things that they are good at helping at around the place, which makes my job easier as president.

“Rob Luck, my predecessor, he left everything in great order at the club and it was a matter of jumping in the driver’s seat and taking over.

“There has been a good buzz around town leading into Cup day, it is exciting as there was a big crowd on hand.”

Luck has recently stepped back as president of the club but is still actively involved in the industry, calling Saturday’s Cup meeting as well as helping guide the new-look committee.

“There is heaps of history in the Longreach area and that is something we are aiming to build on, that is one of goals – to build our profile through the traditions of country racing,” Luck said.

“We do not want to forget our history, but we aim to modernise and improve.

“If you have got the committee behind you and the young people involved, which we do, they are owning race horses, they are having a punt.

“It is so great to see them coming on our committee as that is where the growth comes from as they have new ideas.

“They will take it further; they will build the club and the industry even further.”

Longreach-Jockey-Club-10-RQ.jpgThe Longreach club and their officials are busy on social media, spruiking the industry and the sport in the Central West area, as well as running tipping competitions for keen punters on their local races. 

They have in recent years been upgraded to TAB status, which their Cup race day was ran as on Saturday, with officials of the belief the wider exposure on Sky channel helps not just racing in the town, but the whole of Longreach and surrounding towns. 

“This is an improvement getting to the stage where we are a country TAB meeting, which is our third year running of that,” Luck said.

“It is so good to see that Racing Queensland is doing that across the board in the state, the numbers of non-TAB clubs becoming TABs is exciting.

“For other parts of the world to see what racing is like in outback Queensland and we are able to portray that to our audience and hopefully that leads to our biggest attraction out here, which is tourism, people coming to visit.”

The Longreach Jockey Club have had a number of key improvements to their facilities in recent years as well.

Under The Palaszczuk Government’s Country Racing Program, the Longreach Jockey Club were successful in obtaining funding for the replacement of their existing judge’s tower in the first round of the grants, which was completed in March of this year.

In January, Racing Minister Grace Grace further announced new and improved tie-up stalls at the Longreach Jockey Club on top of running rail improvements at the Longreach track. 

Luck pointed to prize money growth as well as stronger relationships between stakeholders, participants and administrators putting country racing in as strong a position as it has been in some time.

Earlier this year it was announced, as part of an Investment Growth Plan, $4 million in increased prize money for grass roots racing including an additional $2,000 for every TAB maiden (metropolitan, provincial and regional), while minimum non-TAB races prize money will rise from $7,400 to $8,500 per race.

Not just focussed on his own club and area, Luck was pleased to see North Queensland club Ewan land their first ever TAB day late last week.

“Racing officials realise that we are unique in Queensland, we have so many great country tracks, do not make it a disadvantage, look at it as an advantage and let it grow,” Luck said.

“It will take care of itself as the country people know how to take care of things well.”

Longreach-Jockey-Club-08-RQ-Rob-Leanne-girls.jpgAs a track that hosts nine race meetings a year, the currently club president is pleased with the way the year of 2021 has gone so far.

“We have been getting good nominations all year, there have been good nominations all around the Central West this year,” Watts said.

“Jockey numbers have been pretty strong but we do rely on travelling jockeys to make up the numbers.”

Luck thinks he has left the keys to the club in a perfect position with Watts.

“He is handling it so brilliantly, as I knew he would,” Luck said.

“He has been well tuned and prepared for that.”

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