Featured / Social / Sport / Community / 26th October 2023
Coona Cup attracts record crowd
On Sunday, 22 October, hundreds of racegoers from the region and afar flocked to Coonabarabran Racecourse to attend the event of the season, the annual Coonabarabran Cup.
by JIMMY WHALAN
After the 2022 event was cancelled due to wet weather, the 2023 Coona Cup was back and bigger than ever with this year’s cup being described as one of the largest ever.
Coonabarabran Jockey Club president, Adam Freeman said these near-record numbers coupled with some great weather created an amazing atmosphere throughout the day.
“With the lack of rain around at the moment we could see that forecast was going to be fine from a few weeks out, so I think that attracted a lot more people to the event as well,” Mr Freeman said.
Fine weather conditions in the lead up to the Coona Cup also made for some great track conditions on the day.
“The track team pulled off one of the best tracks that we’ve had, and the stewards were exceptionally happy with it.”
With people coming from all over to attend Coonabarabran’s event of the season, Mr Freeman said there was an abundance of returning racegoers from Sydney, the Hunter Valley, the Mid North Coast, and strong local support.
“There were groups from everywhere and most of them were returning groups that come up for the whole weekend every year and go to the yabbie races and Calcutta, then head up to the track on Sunday for the Cup,” Mr Freeman said.
“It’s great to see those people back in town year after year to support the event and have a great weekend.”
Mr Freeman said the thing that keeps people coming back every year is that there is so much activity throughout the weekend including the unique yabbie races event and Calcutta on Saturday, and the Coona Cup on Sunday.
“There’s just something about the whole Coona Cup atmosphere, it’s special, and once you’ve experienced it, you’ll want to keep coming back year after year – it’s just the place to be.”
Although no local horses got up on the day, this year’s Coona Cup did predominantly feature horses and jockeys from regional areas.
Mr Freeman said of the eight races held on the day, six were won between two jockeys.
“Anna Roper rode three winners including the cup winner on the day and another jockey, Clayton Gallagher rode three winners as well,” Mr Freeman said.
“There was also a trainer from Scone, Cameron Crockett, who trained two of the winners.”
Mr Freeman said it was also a big day for Baradine Racing Club, with the 120th Baradine Cup also being held on the day.
“It was just an overall great day of racing, a great crowd and great atmosphere.”
Mr Freeman said the Coona Cup weekend also benefitted the local economy, with the benefits having a flow-on effect throughout the town as people come to stay in motels, go out to eat at restaurants and cafes, and have a night out at clubs and pubs.
“The whole weekend is a massive benefit to the whole town, it brings in a lot of money from visitors and also brings the locals out as well,” Mr Freeman said.
“It’s not just the influx of visitor money, it’s also local people getting out and supporting local business.”
Racegoers embrace colour for the Cup
by KAYLA HARRIS
All ages and personal styles were represented in this year’s Fashion on the Field (FOTF) competition, from the gorgeous little Turf Tots to the dignified Silver Selection.
This year, Abby Baker, Lachlan Cusack, and Dimity Douglas took on the responsibility of judging – and did not disappoint.
With high standards across the board, it was a tough competition this year, however, the winners rightfully deserved their titles.
Turf Tot Princess was awarded to Adelaide Mudford, from Gilgandra, while the outstanding Turf Tot Prince was crowned to Jalen Ankrett, from the Central Coast.
These gorgeous toddlers took the judges by surprise with their adorable age- appropriate outfits.
“She looked happy in flat shoes,” said Sarah Baglee, FOTF coordinator.
While there were no local winners in this section, Coonabarabran dominated this year’s teen selection, with Indi Williams and Austin Alberts taking the lead in the competition.
However, the competition in this section was lacking, with only one boy and three girls participating.
“It was extremely disappointing, so that category will now be scrapped next year,” Mrs Baglee said.
The title of Filly on the Field for a visitor and a local, were won by Tahlia Henry, from Newcastle, and Jess Skinner, from Mendooran, respectively.
“I laughed, because I’d seen photos of Jess two days earlier and she’d gone out and shot 25 pigs with the rifle,” Mrs Baglee said.
One point to feminism – showing that country girls can wield both a knife and a clutch purse while looking stunning doing both!
The gorgeous winner of Colt on the Course was Harry Duncombe, from Binnaway.
The Gent of Fashion was awarded to the stylish Doug King, from Coonabarabran, for his stunning attire.
“I was quite disappointed with the numbers in the male section this year,” said Mrs Baglee.
“I really found the numbers overall to be down this year.”
The Lady of Style titles were taken by Ellen Griffiths, from Mudgee, with Larissa Wilkin, from Coonabarabran, the local winner
“Larissa attracted the judges’ attention with her beautiful home-made dress,” Mrs Baglee said.
“This year, home-made dresses and a large selection of colours filled the crowd.
“I found there was a beautiful range of colours this year, with vibrant oranges and aquas, as well as beautiful pastels such as baby blues and light lemons.”
There was a large number of participants this year for the Silver Selection, designed specifically for the over sixties population.
“I think once you get to your sixties your fashion sense doesn’t die, you get more in tune with it,” Mrs Baglee commented.
The winners of this section were Charmaine Ledden, from Coonamble, and Ashley Scifleet, from Dubbo, with their gorgeous outfits.
Fashion winners this year received various prizes, from flowers and wine to cash.
“The Coonabarabran race meet is all about country people getting out, having a good time dressing up, drinking and punting,” Mrs Baglee said.
“Racing might not be for everyone, but the socialising and the fashions are the additional elements that make the Coonabarabran Cup so different.
“I’ve been involved in the Coonabarabran Jockey Club for over 15 years,” she said.
“Back when I was younger, it was daunting starting out as it was all men in the Jockey Club, besides Helen Wilson and myself.
“I remember saying to them that I wanted to start Fashion on the Field, but they said no.
“I was determined, so I said that the girls would come and dress up and they’d bring their boyfriends who would drink and punt, so they’d make money.”
Mrs Baglee said she faced various challenges in creating the incredible Fashion on the Field event – now such a popular addition to the Coonabarabran Cup.
“I had to hunt down sponsors and figure out how to organise everything,” she said.
“Later on, I wanted a stage built, so the Men’s Shed created one for me, and soon I hope to get a banner to put at the back.”
While Sarah Baglee has done a terrific job as the coordinator for the Fashion on the Field, she has now decided to step down and hand the reins over to the “brilliant Abby Baker”, who she said will continue to bring this community event to every Coonabarabran Cup.