HOME STRETCH: Volunteers ready turf club for Derby Day

ALL HANDS are on deck at a Dubbo club that has reined in debt and got back into stride.

A small army of volunteers are helping the five paid staff of Dubbo Turf Club prepare for Saturday's 2012 Myer Dubbo Derby Day, dubbed "Dubbo's biggest party" by secretary-manager Mark Day.

No job is too dirty or difficult for the volunteers, including club patron Reeve Wheeler, former club committee member Col Hepper, both in their 80s, and committee chairman Robert Ellis, who was brushing down the bookmaker stands yesterday morning.

"This club doesn't have a committee that sits around sipping champagne," Mr Day said.

The secretary-manager is effusive about the volunteers who have helped turn around the not-for-profit club's fortunes with hard work and a passion for horse racing.

An outbreak of equine influenza, the emergence of the stay-at-home punter, and race days set without consultation with the club have been among the hurdles it has had to clear with innovation and determination.

Adjusting and creating new income streams, such as the hosting of weddings and wakes, has paid dividends.

“When I came here five years ago the club was $226,000 in the red,” Mr Day said.

“For the first three months I didn’t draw a wage.” 

Existing equipment needed to be paid off and new gear purchased.

“The club owns everything now,” Mr Day said.

“We are going forward, instead of just surviving.”

Events such as Derby Day help the bottom line but can still be a gamble.

In 2011 rain fell from 7.30am to 9.30am, before the gates opened.

“It knocked off the number of people attending by about 1000 to 1500,” Mr Day said.

“People from Gilgandra, Nyngan, Narromine and other places outside of Dubbo made the choice not to come.” 

The forecast for Saturday is 28 degrees Celsius and fine, giving rise to hope 5500 to 6000 people will converge on the turf club at Merrilea Road.

Yesterday morning 2000 tickets had already been sold and supplies were on their way, including 101 kegs of mid-strength beer and $5000 worth of “bubbly”.

Feedback from taxi drivers and others in 2011 suggested to the turf club committee it was meeting Responsible Service of Alcohol requirements and giving patrons a good time.

Mr Day said the club was paying $4000 to police to patrol Saturday’s event and spending $7000 on free bus travel to and from the racecourse.

He said police would set up a random-breath testing station “in close proximity” of the club, and a police vehicle and sniffer dog would be on the grounds.

“We want people to come and have a good time and get home safely,” he said.

“I’ve hired two young people to walk around and hand out $600 worth of free water on the day.” 

The turf club’s paid staff will jump to 75 on Derby Day.

Information and tickets for Derby Day are available from www.dubboturfclub.com.au, along with the Daily Liberal Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday, November 6.

Mr Day said the latter event was “more relaxed and drew an older crowd of about 1500” people.

The secretary-manager said the turf club committee was proud that Derby Day boosted Dubbo’s economy through participants’ patronage of hotels, accommodation venues, restaurants and service stations.

New running rail for course

A new addition to Dubbo’s racecourse in the lead-up to the 2012 Myer Dubbo Derby Day is a $30,000 two-kilometre inside running rail made of plastic.

Sourced in France, it replaces an aluminium version considered more of a danger to horses and their jockeys.

They “bounce off” the plastic rail if they come in contact with it, reports Dubbo Turf Club secretary-manager Mark Day.

Racing NSW kicked in most of the cost of installing the new infrastructure, with the turf club meeting a $5000 bill.

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