Armidale Regional Council’s decision to reinstate a half day holiday for the Armidale Cup races would help bring the day back to its former glory according to Armidale Jockey Club secretary manager Jim Dedes.
The action is set to get under way on Monday, March 20, with the gates opening at 11am and the first race of the meet at 1pm.
“We want people to come and enjoy this special event and we are asking that businesses, employees and residents come and support the jockey club,” Dedes said.
“The Armidale Cup has always been a big meeting, and with the half-day gazetted holiday we are hoping for crowds of around 3000 people.”
Last year, when council refused to gazette the part-day holiday for the shire, resulted in a loss of 30 to 40 per cent of turnover for the jockey club, as the crowd numbers hovered around the 1200 mark.
“The races are a celebration for Armidale and draw visitors and money to the city,” Dedes said. “We want our cup carnival to be the best.”
So far 129 horses have been nominated for the nine races, with the 22 for the Armidale Cup.
“It’s quite a big prize purse for the day of $190,000 and it’s the pinnacle of our racing year in Armidale,” Dedes said.
Last year’s winner, Hunter Jack, trained by Tim Martin has been nominated and is set to return and defend his title.
The senven-year-old gelding could have some stiff competition from the Rod Hilton-trained Elegies – who has won his/her last two outings on the Armidale track – an a couple of locally trained horses like Carry Me Gee Gee and Kingston Time that are also familiar with the track.
Elegies won the Armidale Cup prelude race at the Guyra race meeting and is assured of a start.
“Elegies could be hard to beat,” Dedes said, “the horse loves the Armidale track.”
And, this week, the track was described as being in “top condition”, with rain this week freshening the surface.
“There will be plenty of tables an chairs for punters, as well as a huge television screen near the winning post so the crowd can get a good view as the horses race around the track,” he said.
“All the facilities including food, a bar, book makers and TAB will be available on the day.”
The Armidale Jockey Club has also organised a range of prizes for the best dressed on the day, with the Fashions on the Field to be announced between race five and race six.
Courtesy buses will be available to take racegoers to and from the event.
The shuttle bus will start to pick up people from the bus stop near the old Armidale Courthouse, in Faulkner Street, at 12.30pm.