40th anniversary of race club

TAREE-Wingham Race Club will mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Bushland Drive Racecourse with a function to be held at the Winning Post Centre during the October long weekend.

This was to be further discussed at a club board meeting last night.

The track was opened on Tuesday, September 10 by the North and North Western District Racing Association chairman Stewart Nivison. It cost $200,000 to build. The club previously raced at a rundown track near Taree Recreation Centre, which it shared with Taree Greyhound Club.

Taree-Wingham Race Club chairman Greg Coleman said it was impossible to make the anniversary function closer to the date the track was opened.

"The function centre is booked out for September,'' he said.

"And we think the long weekend will work better because we're going to make it a reunion of all the people who have been involved with the club and the track over the 40 years. We're hoping that people who attended the first meeting will also come along.''

This includes a streaker, who made his way up the home straight, with the clerk of the course in hot pursuit. The streaker disappeared into nearby scrub land.

"If we can find him we'd love to have him back,'' Mr Coleman laughed.

Channel Nine rugby league commentator Ray Warren was one of the guests for the opening meeting in 1974 while legendary jockey Athol Mulley was among the riders.

Mr Coleman said the club will also look to engage a guest speaker for the night.

He pointed out that the anniversary dinner will be about five weeks after the running of the Taree Cup carnival.

"So that gives us a bit of time to get this organised,'' he added.

The Manning River Times described the 1974 meeting as 'the biggest in Taree Race Club's history and probably the biggest in the Central and Lower Coast Racing Association.'

It was front page news, with the report even carrying selections for the seven event program.

The Taree Cup was the feature event, won by Forerunner, raced by a syndicate from Kempsey that included Don Hopkins, who would later devote more than 30 years to the Taree club and Country racing. Mr Hopkins died last year.

A pre-cup function held at Taree RSL attracted a crowd of 450, where Ray Warren provided a phantom call of the Taree Cup.

Meanwhile, the Don Hopkins Gateway will be officially opened at a date to be confirmed in July.

However, the gateway will be ready for the club's Golden Slipper Day meeting on Saturday, April 5.

Mr Coleman said work on the $33,000 Racing NSW sponsored project is just about complete.

He said the club is looking at two dates, Monday, July 10 and Friday, July 25 for the opening.

"We'll be working in with the Hopkins family along with Racing NSW before we settle on a date,'' Mr Coleman said.

"Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys wants to attend.

Mr Coleman said the club is reluctant to include the gateway opening with the Taree Cup Carnival in August.

"We think this deserves to stand alone,'' he said.

The club will run a matinee meeting on Golden Slipper Day with the first race getting underway at noon.

Doug Ryan will preview the meeting for the Times in the Friday, April 4 edition.

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