On Saturday at Deepwater Jockey Club, the 152nd running of the Deepwater Cup will be staged. And as far as Moree trainer Peter Sinclair is concerned, long may the annual race day, and others like it, continue.
Sinclair, who has eight-year-old gelding Free Billy entered in the Cup, has spoken about the importance of picnic meetings on the racing calendar. He said picnic meetings played an important role in bringing communities together.
And with many communities gripped by drought, the veteran trainer said, the meetings provided an opportunity for people to unburden themselves of an emotional weight, for however briefly.
There was also the financial benefit, he said. The Deepwater Cup (1400 metres) is a $17,000 race, with $7,175 going to the winner.
“They’re good, because we need these meetings,” he said. “When you say the attraction, my attraction of going there on Saturday is, on paper, it’s a race that I could possibly win.
“There’s no use running in a $100,000 race and running last. You may as run in a smaller prize-money race … try and get up the pointy end of the smaller prize money.
“I love them [picnic meetings]. Sometimes they're the best days to be at a race meeting, because it’s just a different atmosphere one day a year … the townspeople, they’ll have a day out on Saturday. Part of the day they might forget about the drought.”
The first Deepwater race day was held at the same location in 1866. Each year that six-race non-TAB meeting attracts crowds of up to 3,000, providing an economic boon for the small New England village, located 40 kiloemetres north of Glen Innes.
“Racing would be pretty stale without those once-a-year meetings,” Sinclair said.
Free Billy is the equal-second top weight (56.5 kilograms) for the Cup and will be ridden by leading country apprentice Wendy Peel, who claims 1.5kg. Free Billy has had four runs this preparation, finishing a last-start third at Glen Innes (1400m) on January 12 .
“He’ll run a good race … his last couple of runs have been good,” Sinclair said, adding that he was concerned about how the horse will handle the tight track. Free Billy has 11 wins from 59 starts.
The race’s top weight (61kg) is Marenostro, an eight-year-old New Zealand gelding.