Cash injection to boost country racing

EXCITING times are in store for racing from Rockhampton north to Cairns in line with a windfall of $80 million from the State Government to upgrade racecourses throughout Queensland.

The money is to be redirected over three years from the Government’s slice of taxes generated by the racing industry.

Mackay Turf Club (MTC) officials were cock-a-hoop last week with the announcement by Queensland Racing Limited (QRL) chairman Bob Bentley that at least $10 million was to be spent on Ooralea racecourse.

Speculation has been rife for some time about the future of racing in Mackay as facilities there needed urgent attention.

There had been talk of relocating the racetrack to another venue which could include the Mackay Showground while some gloom merchants feared for the very future of racing in the city.

Now, through Bentley’s timely announcement, the longevity of racing in Mackay has been assured.

“I can tell you it is a weight of our shoulders. We have been in talks with QRL for over a year about Ooralea and Bob Bentley’s announcement is both positive for racing and for the city of Mackay,” MTC chairman Ian Joblin said.

He said that work, which would include a grass-track revamp, on-course stabling as well as new viewing and state-of-the art facilities for racegoers, could get under way later this year.

More than 100 horses are now trained at Mackay but that number is expected to expand quickly once the new facilities are built.

Given the size of the investment forecast for Mackay by Bentley, it would not surprise, given time, if the club gets more TAB race dates.

About 17 years ago I forecast in this column that the midweek TAB racing in Rockhampton would come into vogue to replace mundane Saturday afternoon meetings at Callaghan Park.

I said it would be the salvation of racing in Central Queensland and it has been.

You don’t have to be Einstein to see that the regional midweek TAB circuit in the north is going to be a big player in the future of racing in Queensland.

It would not even surprise if Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns are given some TAB Saturday dates.

Rockhampton, where around $7 million has just been spent, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns (which is also to get an injection of dollars) will form an imposing midweek/Saturday TAB circuit.

Good luck to Mackay as the city is growing rapidly and racing there in the future is in for the time of its life.

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