The opportunity of a lifetime awaits next year’s Gunnedah Cup winners with a start in the $2 million race ‘The Big Dance’ on Melbourne Cup day. 

The field for the drawcard event is drawn from the winners and second placegetters across almost 30 country cup races run in NSW over the previous 12 months.

The Gunnedah Cup, held annually in May and worth $40,000, is in quality company on the eligibility list.

Also eligible are big regional tracks such as Scone, Ballina, Wagga Wagga and Coffs Harbour.

Gunnedah Jockey Club secretary Lyn Tongue said the race listing is based on merit and a tremendous honour for the small country club.

“It very exciting for us,” Lyn said. “I think it is an acknowledgement of how far we’ve come the last few years.”

She said the eligibility will also encourage class thoroughbreds to the Gunnedah meet, all eager to make their bid for a shot at the $2 million prizepool. The Big Dance is run over a mile (1600m) at Randwick.

This year’s inaugural race was won by the Kris Lees-trained Scone Cup winner, Rustic Steel ($12). 

Christmas Ham racing returns

Gunnedah Jockey Club is gearing up for a bumper crowd for this weekend’s Christmas Hams Race Meet.

The annual fixture is traditionally the club’s biggest calendar event as racegoers kick into the early festive season.

Local racegoers as well as groups from areas such as Coolah, Maitland and Manilla are among those expected to attend.

The event will feature a seven-race card which had fielded 170 nominations by Tuesday.

Jockey club president Kevin Edmonds was thrilled to be back racing at Gunnedah after several months of washouts due to repeat floods in the region.

“It will be good to get people back to the track,” he said.

Gunnedah-based trainers Gavin Groth and Sally Torrens are among those expected to field starters at Saturday’s race meet. 

Edmonds said the track is expected to be in great condition for race day.

“The track is rated a Good 4 at the moment and with the grass cover it should hold that,” he said.

The Gunnedah meet will feature full TAB, bookmaker and canteen facilities on course including the ice-cream van, fresh coffee and plenty of cold beer.

Fashions in the Field will be judged by a local identity and entertainment provided by musician, Sam Snape.

In addition to the usual spoils, all winning trainers also receive a Christmas ham for their efforts.

Punters are not left out either as every ticket holder through the gate will go into the draw to win one of three hams available for racegoers.

Gates open at 11.30am at Gunnedah’s Riverside Racecourse. A courtesy bus will make two runs to the racecourse, the first leaving from Gunnedah Golf Club at 11.30am, picking up patrons at the Parkview and McDonald’s bus stops.

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