Barraba Cup meeting will go ahead as scheduled this Saturday, but without the hive of colourful activity the one-dayer is regionally known for.
Jockey club president of 26 years Leon Cummins is stoked that the meeting has gained the green light from the relevant bodies, but is concerned that the racecourse could resemble something of a ghost town with only horses, jockeys, trainers/strappers and the necessary officials on course.
“Along with those will be stewards and barrier attendants, and of course, committee – as long as they have a job like Covid marshals, gate attendants or barbecue/drink stand attendants,” Leon said.
“Last year was to be our 75th anniversary, but Covid stopped that. Now we’ll have to wait until probably next year to celebrate.”
Leon though said that he’d received a lot of inquiries from trainers regarding the meeting.
“Trainers have been ringing me asking whether or not it’s on. And I’ve also been ringing around myself letting trainers know we’re racing, which they’ve really appreciated. We’re basically spreading the word. You can’t just let things happen, you’ve got to make them happen. We’re racing in this format at this stage, but then, you never know. Things may change any day.”
Just as enthusiastic as Leon Cummins about the meeting going ahead is Upper Horton horseman Dave Kelly, who annually combines with either brother Pete Kelly or father Billy Kelly to perform clerk-of-the-course duties. They’ve been redcoatingon a family rotational basis since 1990 when Pete partnered Billy Hannaford in the job.
“Billy (Hannaford) left in about 1993, so dad and I started doing it- whichever pair was available on the weekend.
David and Pete Kelly, who will accompany Dave in the clerking duties this Saturday, are well-known around rodeo circles – both able to boast titles in the popular saddlebronc event.
“Pete even has an American title, I’ve only got few local ones,” the modest cowboy added as he was mounted and mustering cattle with family – wife Penny and daughters Sophie (11) and Zara (9) at the time of interview.
“We both do pick-up and a bit of judging at rodeos. Pete just spent a month in Queensland doing the rodeo circuits up there.”
Racing though must go ahead despite Covid, there are too many horses in work for clubs not to race, according to Dave.
“This race meeting is probably the best thing we have in Barraba, and the biggest thing on the town’s calendar. We love it – get there in time for the luncheon and having a bit of a yarn to everyone before heading out onto the track to do our job. It’s a pretty laid-back day.”
Without the clerk-of-the-course though, race meetings would not go ahead.
“Our job is to basically keep the horses under control and be there to spot anything that may go wrong, which it rarely does. We try not to be seen – just poke around and do our job, but it’s a bit hard when you have to ride past the winning post a few times, much to the amusement of mates at the bar,” he joked.
“Barraba’s a great little club. Leon and Shelly (longtime secretary Shelly Steiger) do a top job and work very hard to put together a good meeting each year. If they didn’t and we couldn’t race this year, the meeting could go by the wayside and we could completely lose it, and that’d be a big loss for Barraba.” By Vinnie Todd