Rich start to Wauchope’s TAB life

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By Mike Hill

IT\’LL be the biggest ever meeting staged at Wauchope\’s Bbet Park, says Rex Nairn.

The long-serving president of the Hastings River Greyhound Racing Club was commenting on the monster two-day carnival later this month.

\”The carnival (Saturday, October 17, and Friday, October 23) will launch a new era for the club,\” said Nairn.

\”It\’ll be the first time we\’ve had TAB coverage on our meetings and we\’re kicking off with a $10,000-to-the-winner feature race.

\”A series of heats will be run on the Saturday with all finals and support races on the Friday matinee meeting carrying TAB B class prizemoney plus more.\”

It\’s a dream come true for the man who took over the chairman\’s role way back in 1998.

Nairn said his main goal back then was to get TAB coverage for the club and although it\’s taken two decades to achieve he admitted he was a happy man.

\”I hope it\’s something that the region will remember for a very long time,\” he said.

Nairn said the principal feature – the Harry Pledger and Norm Ahrens Appreciation – carries winning prizemoney of $10,000.

\”Another three races are worth $4000 to the winner, five races carry $3000 for winning connections and the maiden final winner will receive $1800,\” he said.

Nairn said Tweed Heads club secretary-manager Steve McGrath had donated $20,000 for the carnival, with the main race honouring two men vital in the development of greyhound racing in the Tweed.

In 2016 the Tweed Heads club sold it 14ha track complex to the Gold Coast Airport for $16 million and in August officials signed a $2 million contract for a 32ha property at Chinderah ending a four-year search for a new home.

\”Before racing ended at Tweed Heads, we had a close connection with the club,\” said Nairn.

\”Over the years we\’ve staged the North Coast Challenge involving several clubs including Tweed, Grafton, Kempsey and ourselves.

\”I get on very well with Steve (McGrath) and John Corrigan (Grafton club president).

\”They call us the Three Amigos. While Grafton is having its track rebuilt we have been given six of its meetings.\”

Earlier this year Bbet Park hosted a race meeting with the highest prize pool in the club\’s history.

Nairn said a generous donation from McGrath had allowed the club to stage the $30,000 Tweed Heads Border Park-Wauchope Challenge.

The final in mid-January was won by the Tony Brett-trained sprinter Skilled.

\”At the time, Tony said he\’d love to come back for our big carnival,\” Nairn said. \”He said \’if I can get there, I\’ll be there’.\”

COVID-19 restrictions and border closures are making it difficult for the movement of interstate trainers at present.

Meanwhile, Nairn was full of praise for Bbet Park.

\”I\’d like to think people will get to know Wauchope because it\’s a big track, it\’s 600 metres around and there are no corner starts,\” he said. \”This suits what TAB meetings are after perfectly.\”

He said  legendary broadcaster Paul Ambrosoli, who enjoyed calling races at Wauchope before his retirement in 2014, once called the grass track the Harold Park of the north coast.

\”He also said it was the best track in NSW,\” Nairn said.

\”I\’m hoping trainers will come from everywhere and I\’ve even spoken to trainers in Queensland who want to bring dogs down if they can.\”

Caption: Top Queensland trainer Tony Brett and Steve McGrath after Brett’s champion Skilled won the $30,000 Tweed Heads Border Park-Wauchope Challenge earlier this year (Photo: Port Macquarie News)

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