Racing in the air
When the autumn air hits the Hunter Valley it signifies not only the change of seasons but also the season of racing.
The time-honoured Muswellbrook and Scone Cup meetings are an institution and the 2019 versions were no exception. Dating back more than 70 years, the Cups provide locals and visitors alike with a reason to frock up and head to the track. Both the Muswellbrook and Scone Race Clubs leave no stone unturned as they host thousands of racegoers, providing entertainment both on and off the track. Councils from the Upper Hunter shires support the Cup meetings with half-day holidays, allowing locals the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon of racing. Muswellbrook kicked off the racing festivities hosting the Wild Card of the prestigious Country Championship on Sunday, March 24.
The race provided trainers with a last chance to gain a spot in the $500,000 final, which was run at Randwick on April 6. It proved fortuitous for Queanbeyan trainer Todd Blowes, with Noble Boy taking out the $50,000 Muswellbrook race and going on to victory in the final. Five days later the crowd was back again in even bigger numbers as the club hosted the 2019 $100,000 Muswellbrook Gold Cup. It was the inaugural running of the Cup in autumn, with the club opting to switch from their traditional November date to March.
Fashions On The Field were as hotly contested as the races, with smartly attired women and men vying for the top prize. CEO Duane Dowell believes the large number of racegoers who enjoyed the day justified the change of dates. “It was a great day and we had plenty of support from the local community. Most of the reasoning behind the move was for racing purposes, relating to attracting larger fields and quality horses, and also our track is in the best nick that time of year.
“We hope, if Racing NSW continue to schedule the Wild Card here, we can make it a unique carnival, with meetings five days apart giving people time to catch their breath in between. I can see it continuing to grow in coming years as people become used to it being run in March,” he says. Media personality Richard Freedman, who returned to training last year after a lengthy break, stole the show taking out the two feature races, the Cup and the $50,000 Skellatar Sprint, with The Bandit and Latin Boy.
Just 30 kilometres up the road and six weeks later, Scone took centre stage with the running of the 72nd Scone Cup, which kicked off their two-day carnival. Even bigger numbers of fashion forward racegoers took part in Scone’s Fashions On The Field, running over both days. The contest is almost as prestigious as those being fought out by the fourlegged fillies and colts, with men and women bringing their A-games to the fashion stakes. The Freedman name was again front and centre in the $180,000 Scone Cup, with Richard, fresh from forming a partnership with his brother Michael, winning the race with Special Missile. The Cup action continues at Muswellbrook on June 16 with the running of the $24,000 Aberdeen Cup.
For Winter racing in the Hunter Valley see https://www.muswellbrookraceclub.com.au and http://sconeraceclub.com.au.
Story by Frances O’Shea, photography by Bradley Photos
Read more in issue 94 of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine