Deepwater Jockey Club has won the Community Race Club of the Year award in a state-wide competition.
In a ceremony in Sydney where clubs from all over rural NSW participated, it was given the prize of a crystal trophy plus $2,000 worth of insurance.
The Club’s dedicated the award to Alex Robertson-Cuninghame who was President for 17 years and who has recently died.
The award also celebrates a remarkable history. The club’s been going for 152 years. Secretary, Tricia Stack, said: “We’re only a small village and in the last few years attendance at the January race day has gone from about 2,000 to 4,000”.
In the 1910s, they got 4,000 race-goers but in the 1980s, numbers dropped to around a thousand.
But it’s since picked up. “We expect around 3,000 on January 20, 2018”, said Mrs Stack.
She compiled an 84 page history of the club and the races, complete with vivid accounts going back as far as 1864, and this may have persuaded the judges that the club has a strong role in the community.
It celebrated its 150 year anniversary at its annual Race Day on January 21 this year, though the exact year of the founding and of the first race is not clear.
It’s thought a race was held in 1866 and definitely on the same grounds as today’s races.
Mrs Stack said that the club was founded at a meeting between the owner of the then new Deepwater Inn and the owner of the cattle Station. Racing was held on the owner’s land.
These days, one race meeting is held every year, but before the Second World War two were held each year, with the New Year's Day meeting a large event.
Trains would go from Armidale and Tenterfield to drop off enthusiast racegoers.
With the railway gone, busloads now come from as far as Grafton. For many people, it is the country event of the year.
It evolved into a festivity beyond horses, something like an agricultural show with entertainment tents.
At one period, wool shed dances were organised to keep spectators entertained on the track after the horses had finished racing for the day.
The club and races’ chronicler, Patricia Stack, said the event had evolved over the years to become a weekend increasingly attracting people in their 20s and 30s.
It’s not just about racing. A band plays music from the back of a trailer the moment the last race finishes. Many youngsters set up camp to stay overnight.
It’s this rich history which has given the Club such a treasured place.
And now an award in recognition of that place at the heart of the community