Ask anyone in Australia to name some Race Tracks or Jockey Clubs that they know of and many will likely say Royal Randwick, Rosehill Gardens, Flemington (being home to our most iconic race), Caulfield- others that may get a mention include Mooney Valley, Warwick Farm, Doomben along with Australian Turf Club (ATC) and any Jockey Clubs they are familiar with. More times than most you will find that most of the tracks people talk about are what we in the racing world refer to as Metropolitan.
Australia is a nation that is enriched with a long history of Horse Racing, we are also a nation where our love of racing is rewarded in the fact that there is never a day in the country where there is not a horse racing meeting on. New South Wales is no different, while on Saturdays our eyes are usually cast on Royal Randwick or Rosehill Gardens in the Metropolitan category, Provincial race meetings sometimes running alongside these meets would include Newcastle or even Gosford (both on the Central Coast of NSW).
More often than not, people forget that we also have some quality racing meets that occur at country and Picnic tracks. These are the race meets that take you a while to get to as they are usually held in the smallest of towns, while the crowd may lack in numbers that the larger counterparts attract, they still definitely offer a lot of fun for those that do attend, usually a great day out for the family- kids included!
Situated 451 km North West of Sydney and approximately a 6 hour drive, between the Central West and North West slopes nestles a small country town that at census in 2011 had a population of 3,174- is a town that most people struggle to say the name or even spell it, Coonabarabran or to the locals simply referred to as Coona.
On Monday 23rd October, this small town came alight and no we don’t mean it was set on fire, well it was in other ways that did not require matches. It was a long weekend for the town folk as it was the running of their annual Coona Cup.
A day attended by many and lots of activities on track for people of all ages. While it may not be as big as The Everest or the Melbourne Cup, this day is one where locals can get dressed up and enjoy local racing at its best, celebrating with those who have made the long drive to be part of the action.
Events like this regardless of size require a lot of coordination to put the event together to ensure that the crowd enjoys themselves but mainly are catered for in their every needs on the day. While the much smaller clubs may not have the support of the bigger organisations, it is usually a team of hard working individuals that come together to make days like this a success.
Coonabarabran Jockey Club is no different, behind the fun and excitement of the day is a team of very hard working people who strive to make the event a success. One of the key parts in an events success is marketing the day or drawing in the crowd. Our Winning Wednesday interviewee is tasked with being the Publicity Officer, therefore her main responsibility is telling people about this event and getting the crowds in the gates.
Fair to say that Monday was a success as evident by the photos that have been shared on Social Media Platforms, this success belongs to none other than Sarah Baglee.
Sarah, thank you for giving us some of your time and especially after a successful on Monday. Firstly, Congratulations on what looked to be a great day!
Now let’s get to know you!!
Who is Sarah Baglee? Tell us about yourself.
I live on a small farm just out the rural township of Coonabarabran.
I am 46,Â wife of 25 years to Clinton and mother to Alex ( 23)and Madalyn (19).Both of my children are in the Australian Defence Force which makes me very proud. I am also Grammie to our granddaughter Arianna .I work full time as a Hospital assistant. I also write a weekly column for our local paper.
How did you get involved in racing/how did you get the bug for racing?
My Nan lived on Todman Ave in Kensington and every holidays my parent would send me down to the big smoke to stay with nan, every morning I would wake up to the click clack of hooves on the tar which was TJ Smiths horses heading to track work! I would open the window and lean out to catch a glimpse of the majestic beast, the jockeys would wave and I would feel so special.
My father also had around 20-25 mares for breeding and was involved in the Jockey Club at Baradine (small town 500people) so we were dragged along and soon fell in love with it. Nothing is more peaceful than brushing a horse, the smell of them gives me instant peace
Do you own any race horses (shares or out right), tell us about your horses
I am in shares with a beautiful grey filly called Cinderconi. Thanks to Sharon Lenton who I met at Racing NSW awards night a few years ago and said “let’s do something together” as I was impressed with her passion for horse racing too. She has had 1 win which I was so lucky to be there to witness.
Do you have a special routine that you go through when your horses are racing?
I don’t do anything special, just get ready to enjoy the day if going to the track or find somewhere quiet to watch.
How did you celebrate Cinderconi’s win?
Our 1st and only win I drove 4& 1/2 hours to watch and had on this terrible dress I bought at daggy Big W with a $20 hat and now it in the photo on my wall, lol! That will teach me as next time I will be prepared and celebrated with a coffee and pastry from the bakery at Merriwa half way home… There was a lot of screaming because she paid 50/1 and I didn’t put money on her!!
Now you also have a very important role with your local race club, tell us about that?
I am the Publicity officer for Coonabarabran Jockey Club, I started there a few years ago now when there was one other women and no one under 65! So it was a big learning curve but now days it 1/2 women and young and old and all want to make Country Racing better .I am the person who handles all the social media, articles, FOTF, all radio interviews, EVERYTHING to promote our Jockey Club.
We have a fantastic committee, very forward moving .They embrace new ideas and are always looking at ways to improve the club! I came about as I can talk under water with mouth full of marbles! Seriously I love our club, no one else wanted to do it, I have worked in Radio so am familiar with public speaking and they created the position for me.
What is your favourite and least favourite thing about your role with the local race club?
Least favourite is SPONSORSHIP, I hate asking small business who are struggling for money to sponsor a race! To sponsor a race at Coonabarabran Cup it $1100 BUT there are junior soccer, basketball, kids swimming, pony club, Rescue helicopter all asking for help too and having been in a business I can see personally that yes I would have a hard time giving money to horse racing instead of Timmy or Sally new soccer nets etc.
My favourite thing is the people in my job I get to talk to the jockeys, owners, punters, Strappers and race goers. The girl that gets to stand on the stage for Fashions on the field (FOTF) and how her face beams with pride, that makes my day or when a jockey tells me that they love coming and thanks me for the yummy cake a committee member has especially made for them. The people I met who love coming to our town, getting up close to the horses and cheering them home down the straight, breathtaking! It’s amazing to watch a 53kg jockey have such control, to me they are legends.
The Coona cup was on Monday, tell us about the day…
Our big race meeting was on last Monday 23rd with a great crowd it made for an outstanding day. People travel from Sydney, the coast and outback just to experience the Coonabarabran Cup. Saturday kicks off the weekend with the dish lickers (greyhounds), then we hold the Yabbie races Sunday, Sunday afternoon we invited all visitors up to the track for a welcome BBQ and then Sunday night we host the Calcutta at the local watering hole, then of course it’s off to the races Monday!
We really encourage family and friends to make a day of it, hire a marquee, enjoy the jazz band and get up close and watch those beautiful horses. We have jumping castle for the children, champagne marquee for the ladies and men can enjoy a day on the punt. The crowds are lush and green and we have a fantastic photo marquee so you can have you photo taken to remember the day. We have Rotary, Girl Guides, local P&C running the bar and this is a major fundraisers for these community groups. Our FOTF is fantastic and we have Turf Prince and Princess through to Silver Selection lady & gent for the more mature and elegant race goer.
What would you say to someone who has never experienced the Coona Cup?
I would love to personally invite you all to our Coona Cup meeting, country racing is so important! We have so many amazing, talented trainers, Jockey and horses out here in the country and we would love you support all our country clubs.Coona Cup is about coming and making new friends, leave all your cares behind and have a great time.
How do you describe being involved in horse racing to others?
Horse racing is part of you, it becomes part of your life, if you want to dress up or just throw on a pair of jeans and boots, it’s the thrill of the ride, the people you meet, the joy it brings but also the sadness of death of a horse or jockey, it’s the roller coaster of life in one day.
Is there anything else you would like us to make mention of?
I just want to personally thank Thoroughbred Events Australia for giving me this opportunity and Sharon Lenton for getting me involved in the ownership of my very own horse.
Article by Kylie Johnson