Brett’s final column: 16 years of massive change, progress
TODAY was not only the final Ipswich race day for 2020 but my last edition of this column as I am soon galloping off to retirement.
It has been a great joy to report on thoroughbred racing in Ipswich and to work with The Queensland Times.
The paper for many years has played a huge role in supporting Ipswich thoroughbred racing and helping to maintain the prominence of the Ipswich Cup.
Special mentions for guiding this column and providing insight go to Peter Foley and of course David Lems, the positive, passionate sports enthusiast who has been of enormous assistance to the club over his 36 years at the QT.
Since commencing this column in early 2005, there have been many changes to the Ipswich Turf Club and to racing as we knew it.
Technology growth means no need to go to the races: The introduction of smart phone and online technology over the past two decades has turned media and communications upside down while also allowing punters to view, and bet on, the races from almost anywhere.
Increased pressure on racing funding: Options such as sports betting have added to casinos, pokie machines and lottos, creating a need for racing to promote like never before.
Wagering has always been, and remains, the major industry funding component still at around 90% of totals. Accordingly, race clubs have taken a major hit.
Clubs forced to change: The reduction in attendances and funding for the sport has forced clubs to change their operations in two primary areas - provide non-racing attractions for patrons to attend race meetings, and to develop alternative sources of non-racing revenue.
Ipswich Turf Club has responded: The ITC probably has like no other club in Queensland responded to these two major changes in technological and societal trends.
DJs on Ipswich Cup Day at an infield festival along with the new Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre are the two clear examples of such change.
The transformation of the Ipswich Turf Club: The Ipswich Turf Club has responded to changing trends and evolved into a modern facility as the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre (IEEC), featuring the Grange Lounge as well as a refurbished Eye Liner Lounge, the Trackside Lounge, the Barn Family Restaurant which continues to grow in popularity, the Thoroughbred Sports Bar, the Ipswich Racing Museum and a children's playground.
The reason for the club's being is Ipswich thoroughbred horse racing, which continues to add more history to the existing 160 years.
Importantly, there has never been a better racecourse surface over that time as again shown at today's races.
THERE have been many personal highlights including over the past 16 years. They include:
2004 - Melbourne Cup Day racing returns to Ipswich as a non-TAB meeting and lasts until 2011.
2005 - Tony Pattillo collects a Cup Day feature treble of wins.
2006 - Jibboom Lounge opens on 140th anniversary of that galloper's win of the oldest known Ipswich Cup.
Jim Byrne wins his third Ipswich Cup aboard Sphenophyta.
"Legs" race day with Human foot racing commences.
2007 - ITC is the first Australian Race Club to operate a major race meeting as an 18+ event
Equine Influenza outbreak causes racing interruption for four months.
Labour Day racing commences.
2008 - Major ITC redevelopment is announced at AGM though later failed as in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015.
2010 - The late Stathi Katsidis wins aboard Our Lukas for that galloper's second consecutive Ipswich Cup. Stathi credits the performance of both rider and galloper to the infield DJs,
Later to become five time Queensland horse of the year, Buffering has a significant two-year-old success at Ipswich for trainer Robert Heathcote at the Labour Day meeting,
2011 - A record Ipswich Cup crowd attends as the Ipswich community blew away memories of earlier floods.
2012-13 - The ITC partners with the Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club and successfully submits a joint infrastructure project which is later canned.
2014 - Tegan Harrison becomes first female jockey to win the Ipswich Cup on Brave Ali.
2015 - Danchai becomes the first international galloper to win the Ipswich Cup in track record time for top trainer Chris Waller. At that Cup meeting, there is later a world record attempt at wearing sunglasses at night.
2016 - Ipswich celebrates 150 year anniversary of oldest known Ipswich Cup.
2017 - After earlier false starts an infrastructure project is approved by all parties.
2018 - The Ipswich Racing Museum is opened.
2020 - Ipswich Cup is lost as COVID creates patron-less race meetings - unexpectedly, racing wagering and interest booms.
The IEEC and new racing precinct at the ITC opens on September 19, 2020.