Dubbo racing has enjoyed one of its greatest years on record.
More winners, major feature success and growth on and off the track has also contributed to an unforgettable 12 months at Dubbo Turf Club.
Brett Robb winning the Country Championships with Sizzle Minizzle and then becoming the first trainer from Dubbo to earn a start in the Kosciuszko was the biggest highlight but was only a small part of the year that was.
Clint Lundholm won the NSW premiership for country trainers while Connie Greig won the Picnic Championships, Garry Lunn contested the Little Dance and a number of other Dubbo trainers and jockeys enjoyed career years.
Even just last Saturday, December 2, Robb's name was up in lights again when he scored a winning quinella in a Highway event at Rosehill.
Sam Fitzgerald, the general manager at Dubbo Turf Club, said it was a "special" year and he's spoken about a number of those who starred in 2023.
A simply stunning Country Championships victory and more than $1.5 million in prizemoney won in a 2022/23 season that included 49 wins has made it a special time for 'Snow'.
He's a laidback character and often a man of few words but when it comes to working horses there's nothing lax about it.
"The thing that stands out for me with 'Snow' is just the attention to detail that he puts in," Fitzgerald said.
"Quite often I'll be out walking the track at 4pm in the afternoon or doing things around the facility and he'll be riding a young horse through the trees or educating it on things.
"I think it's that level of detail that he puts into his stable is the reason why he's so successful."
With 81 horses to his name, according to Racing NSW, Robb's stables continue to grow. Dalavin, Moetta and Simply Xtravagent are just some of his gallopers who have been standouts while the hugely exciting Gallant Star will return to the track this weekend in a Highway Handicap at Rosehill.
" I think he's going to have a really, really successful year with the likes of Gallant Star coming back into work," Fitzgerald added.
Lundholm is another whose star continues to rise and he was crowned the top trainer in the bush for 2022/23.
As well as being number one in the country, Lundholm was eighth overall for trainers in the state and collected more than $1.7 million in prizemoney for the season.
"He's obviously grown up a horseman and he doesn't leave too many stones unturned," Fitzgerald said.
"When it's quiet later in the day, he's often seen educating his young horses or putting time into growing his owner base and he's invested very strongly in a lot of tried horses this year.
"I think the measure of success for that is firstly the success he's having with those horses but then also, how quickly they're sold within his ownership base.
"I think that's testament to the professionalism of his stable and also the success that they're having both on the track."
The fairytale story of eight-year-old Listen To The Band winning four straight races, including the Country Championships Qualifier, captured the hearts and minds of racing fans Plentitude won the Dubbo's Silver Goblet, while veteran Notabadidea winning another country cup and Quasimoto's Magic Millions quest were other memorable moments for Lundholm.
While Robb and Lundholm may steal many headlines for their success on the big stage, Greig's stables have been going from strength-to-strength in recent years.
She was crowned the NSW Picnic Trainer of the Year and won the NSW Picnic Championships but there were much more to her skills than dominating the non-TAB circuit.
"She had a significant number of TAB winners as well," Fitzgerald said.
"Last season, I think she trained about 59 winners of which, more than 50 per cent were at TAB meetings so credit where it's due.
"She's doing a really fantastic job with her horses and she's one of those trainers, when the horses turn up to the races they looking healthy, they're fit and they put themselves in positions to win races.
"Her operation has grown steadily over the last three or four years and she's certainly a trainer who we could become quite accustomed to seeing her training 40, 50, 60 winners every year now.
"I think we have to take your hat off to her and her ability to use these tried horses that she gets and places them right."
There's been much more to the success of Dubbo racing than the previously mentioned trio.
"Guys like Michael Mulholland, he had a career best year," Fitzgerald added.
"Garry Lunn, Dar Lunn, Michael Lunn, they all trained plenty of winners as well."
It hasn't just been about trainers, with jockeys putting their names up in lights as well.
Clayton Gallagher is developing into one of the best hoops in the bush and is dominating the western circuit while Leandro Ribeiro has formed an outstanding combination with Greig.
"We've got a few very, very good riders now in the Central Districts," Fitzgerald said.
"Clayton obviously stands out as probably our leading rider and that's based off the fact the amount of winners that he has a meeting wouldn't go by where he would ride a winner if not two.
"He's a very strong rider, tactically, very smart.
"And, at a picnic level, Leandro Ribeiro and the partnership he has with Connie is up there with one of the strongest trainer-jockey relationships in the state.
"I think that's a lot to the fact that Leandro is just a natural horseman who, tactically in those races, he's on the best horse and he knows where to put the horse to win the race."
Racing to a bright future
As the level of training and success in Dubbo hits new heights, the local club is improving with it.
"We're very happy with the way things are going with the club," Fitzgerald said.
"We've invested well in some key infrastructure this year and we've also got plans over the next six months to replace a few of our ageing infrastructure to certainly make our facilities better for our patrons and our trainers.
"I think if you look at it from a pure data perspective, certainly, it was the highest year for the number of winners and trained starters from the venue.
"I struggle to find a year where we've had more financial members than we've got this year. Sponsorship and revenue is up.
"Our financial report was extremely positive and it will go down as one of the one of the best years financially the club's had."
The dream for Fitzgerald is to having racing in Dubbo similar to that of places like Scone and Wagga, which enjoyed major festivals of racing each year.
"I think the key thing with Dubbo is probably a fact that goes beneath the radar a bit is we are an extremely large operation," he said.
"We were the second largest training operation in regional New South Wales based on the number of trained starters (last season) and so far this season we're number one.
"We've got a lot going on and we've got a lot that we've got happening behind the scenes that I think will be able to take us to the next level and we're looking forward to the next 12 months, at least."