Day At The Track

They're bubbling with excitement at the 'hill

03:30 PM 31 Jul 2019 NZST
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Broken Hill Harness Racing Club,Harness racing

Broken Hill Harness Racing Club is still pinching itself it's been included in the whopping $1.5 million Statewide harness racing series in New South Wales next year.

The series will kick off at Broken Hill and finish with a $1 million final at Tabcorp Park Menangle, the richest purse ever offered on an event restricted to Australian-bred pacers.

"We are just rapt to be included - the town's absolutely abuzz," said Broken Hill Club President Tracey Robinson.

"There's already been heaps of interest even from people who aren't in horses, wanting to know more about the series. They are just wanting to get on board," Tracey said.

"It's just so exciting. There's undoubtedly going to be lots of positives come out of it, not just for the club, but the town as well."

Broken Hill is about as far from the bright lights of Menangle as is possible in NSW and it's known as the "The Silver City" because a city was forged out of a hill that was almost pure silver, lead and zinc.

But despite its remoteness, 1200 kilometres from Sydney, Broken Hill has a trotting fraternity that boasts energy and enthusiasm second to none. Its racing is unique in the modern era - possibly the smallest track in the country, being 620 metres in circumference (less than half the size of Menangle).

"The news is probably still sinking in. Harness Racing NSW has been fantastic to us with their support in recent years. They appreciate we are sometimes doing it a bit hard, but they are always right behind us," Tracey said.

"We will run Preliminary heats of $5000 on May 3 and qualifiers will go into a further round of heats of $10,000 at Dubbo on May 10. Quarter finals of $15,000 will be run at four tracks and then the $1million Pace Final and consolations at Menangle on May 31."

The series will involve 14 various NSW tracks and consist of 25 races.

"It would be a dream come true to see a Broken Hill horse go onto the Dubbo heats and then make it through to a quarter final. We'd all love to see that," Tracey said.

Overall the series - the latest innovation by HRNSW - will be worth nearly $1.5million, funded through a tri-code deal struct with wagering giant Tabcorp.

The series is restricted to Australian-bred, NSW-trained pacers, four years old or older with national rating points of up to 70.

"The eligibility of the series hurts us a little because Victorian-trained horses in Mildura play a big part in us able to conduct our 10 meetings each season," Tracey said.

"In a perfect world it would have been great to have them involved, but it's been designed for NSW trainers and their owners," she said.

In announcing the details of the series, HRNSW Chief John Dumesny made no secret it was very much NSW orientated.

"As the funding is created in NSW, the Board decision was to give our trainers the exclusive opportunity to compete for the massive prize money to be offered," Dumesny said.

Broken Hill celebrated its 62nd year of "official" racing this season, but history shows that the sport began in the mining town back in the 1890s. Regular "unregistered" race meetings were conducted, featuring ridden trotters.

It's said that businessmen would compete to buy the rights to run "the booth" and collect front gate sales from the meetings, with "settling up" payments made later in one of the many Silver City pubs.

And for those historians...the city's official name dates from 1844 when the first Europeans, explorer Charles Sturt and his party, passed through the area. Sturt noted the unique shape of the hill and referred to it as a "broken hill" in his diary.

The desert city will take centre stage when the preliminary heats roll around, but you can bet "London to a brick" (a phrase used frequently by legendary racecaller Ken Howard) that the tiny club will handle the spotlight in true unflappable, bush style, and the meeting will be a roaring success.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura


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