TUNCURRY trainer Terry Evans played host to show me how Tuncurry-Forster Jockey Club's facilities, through the injection of $900,000 from Racing New South Wales, is progressing towards being a TAB track.
Club chairman Gary McQuillan was on hand to outline the club's progression which may eventuate with RNSW giving the track the green light to stage TAB meetings as early as next season which starts August 1.
No doubt its next meeting, featuring the $10,000 Tuncurry Forster Cup over 2100m, will be a dress rehearsal to determine if the club is up to speed to handle the transition from non-TAB racing to TAB meetings.
The cup and five other races head a big program worth more than $42,000 with trophies on Saturday, March 1.
"We have been happy with three non-TAB meetings until we find our feet," McQuillan said.
Staff members have to be fully trained about the protocols necessary for a TAB venue as distinct from a community-based meeting.
A new grandstand costing around $1.6 million is on the shopping list but with just about everything else in place, the stage is set to launch into TAB racing.
It would house another TAB area, cafeteria, bar and a toilets block, eventually rising to three storeys high.
But in the meantime the marquee which has been filled for past meetings has been fully accepted by the paying public, giving not only cover but other amenities associated with the normal running of racedays.
The Tuncurry track "hill" likened to that at Taree and Port Macquarie tracks give patrons a bird's eye view of racing.
For race days there are six TAB terminals, an undercover betting ring, a new toilet block, bar and eating facilities in the public viewing area.
But it is the administration and everyday racing area where significant development has taken place with the RNSW funds.
The administration centre can house 30 male and 30 female jockeys, with toilets and showers in separation with modern amenities.
This area and the steward's room, with a television screen for the replay of races, is roomy and well set-out.
The weigh-out room where horse numbers are collected is part of the block and there is a large walk-out area overlooking the saddling enclosure where owners, trainers and jockeys can meet before and after a race.
Security is uppermost in the styling of the administration centre and its environs which include the parade ring, winner's stalls and a race commentator's and television area.
New judge's towers are in place and a watering system can reach all parts of the well laid-out track.
Two new banks of tie-up stalls for 100 horses have been built and another block is to be added.
In this area there are four wash-bays, a swab box and toilets for the strappers and disabled.
Safety fencing has been erected to safeguard the public and a sand roll and another wash-bay are to be built in the near future.
With 650 paid-up members, business firms involved in race sponsorship,with an additional 18 sponsors boards on track,and a golf range in the middle of the course,funds are being generated to keep adding to the features.
Around $6000 is being spent on a sound system and the track has been enhanced through advice from top Sydney racecourse curator Lindsay Murphy.
Sydney chief steward Ray Murrihy is favourably impressed with the work so far, there being expectation that 14 or 16 horses could run in each race on TAB days and the track is an alternative should heavy rain of the past few seasons make it necessary to transfer a meeting.
The club, its committee and volunteers are producing a worthy asset for the area.
The Mid North Coast's first million dollar prizemoney galloper, Taree's Youthful Jack, is not being blessed with too much luck in its foray into racing in Tasmania.
The gelding was set to show his worth in a 1400m race at the Hobart Cup meeting two Sundays ago until 135kmh winds hit the course and its $100,000 race and the Hobart Cup were shifted to last Friday.
Unfortunately Youthful Jack had to be scratched on race morning when an old injury struck.
"A hoof abscess flared up and he had to be scratched," Taree trainer Ross Stitt said.
"We couldn't take the risk of running him?it wasn't meant to be."
All going well, Youthful Jack will start in another $100,000 race at Launceston next Wednesday and perhaps stay on for another race or two.
On two sojourns south, the gelding has won four of the $100,000 weight-for-age races and its best so far in two of them has been fourth.