Lest we forget days when Anzac Day races were big time
THIS Friday's Anzac Day race meeting at Murwillumbah will mark the latest incarnation of a popular tradition.
For as long as even the oldest generation of racing fans can remember, there has been racing on Anzac Day at the little track nestled between the fields of sugar cane and the border escarpment.
Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn recalls a time when "cars with Queensland number plates would be parked most of the way back to the sugar mill".
From the corner of Racecourse Rd, along Cane Rd it is two kilometres.
Quinn refers to the days within living memory of many locals when racing was heavily restricted in Queensland on Anzac Day.
It was a time when for one day a year Murwillumbah played the role of Tijuana to eager fans denied racing action north of the border.
"Many of the Brisbane owners, not to mention the Queensland racegoers and punters, wanted to see their horses go around on the public holiday, and we were the closest race meeting going," Quinn told the Daily News.
"Our Anzac Day race meetings back then used to be absolutely huge, and a big, big day for the club.
"The race fields were full of classy city-type horses going around, plus we had up to 25 bookmakers operating in the ring.
"You still see racegoers from those days, and our Anzac Day meetings continue to be very popular."
During 1965 restrictions on racing were lifted as part of a broader easing of Anzac Day trading hours and entertainment by the Nicklin government in Brisbane, and Murwillumbah ceased to be such a heady crowd puller every April 25.
Friday's meeting will feature the running of the 1800m Murwillumbah Services Club Cup as part of a five-race card.
Combined prizemoney of $30,000 will be on offer, plus an extra $6250 in BOBS breeding bonuses for eligible runners.
Full TAB facilities and a strong bookmakers ring will be operating on-course, and there will be free buses to and from the racecourse from the Murwillumbah Services Club.
Gates open at 11.30am, with returned service personnel admitted free on presentation of their badge.
TRJC secretary-manager Rachael Elliott said the track had received some good rain over the spring and was in top condition.
"We're all set for another great day's racing on Anzac Day," she said. "Owners and connections are reminded that nominations close with the Trainers Service Centre at 11am on Monday."