by grant morgan
I must admit that in the past, I haven’t been the greatest fan of the Ipswich track.
I’ve often felt that investing significant money into the old Bundamba track and facilities might well be a waste of money.
I believed that there was a good argument to find a ‘green field’ site and start again.
I still think there is a great need for a new racing and training facility in South East Queensland, but we will leave that topic for another day.
Last week I visited Ipswich for the first time since the $24.8m upgrades were unveiled in September. I’m pleased to say I walked off the course feeling buoyed by the improvements.
When it comes to race clubs, my primary concern has always been the course proper, training and horse facilities. If these things aren’t right, we have very little as industry participants. Flash bars and corporate boxes do little to stimulate and nourish the grass roots.
The Ipswich course proper looks to be racing very well at the moment. Has a great grass cover and looks a millions dollars. It was hit hard in the Queensland floods of 2011. The track has been battling ever since to regain some stability. The reports now are good, so lets hope it continues to have a trouble free run which will give trainers, owners, jockeys and punters confidence to support the track.
The upgrades included state of the art drainage and irrigation systems, including the installation of PH sensors and acid injection machines. These enhancements will improve the tracks access to useable water to overcome a previous issue with salinity.
The new raceday horse stalls are a huge step forward. The old tie ups were virtually falling down. It was very pleasing to see a large part of the funds invested into Ipswich will assist horse welfare, and also that of the strappers on raceday. I’m sure this will only continue to be enhanced with subtle improvements as it gets bedded down.
The upgrades also feature jockeys and stewards room as part of the impressive, but practical new members stand.
With the upgrades now unveiled, the club is now marketing itself as the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre. It appears well placed to gain market share in the corporate events and wedding market, as well as non raceday dining and bar sales.
The track now has two impressive new bar and dining areas for both raceday and non-raceday functions.
The Barn Restaurant is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in addition to offering raceday dining. The restaurant has a great feel to it and is being market as a family restaurant. It also features a kids playground, kitchen garden and bird aviary.
The Thoroughbred Sports Bar is open on racedays and also form 11am till late on Saturdays and Sundays. It appeals as a great facility to watch the races and sport in air conditioned comfort.
Full credit must go to Ipswich chairman Wayne Patch and outgoing CEO Brett Kitching for the upgraded facilities and their persistence in turning the track and facilities around. Its been a long slog for Patch and Kitching but both men should feel very proud of their achievements, as should the clubs staff.
Credit also to Racing Queensland and the Queensland State Government. Both organisations often come in for significant criticism. Putting politics aside, the reality is the thoroughbred racing industry in Queensland has never been stronger thanks to a series of major enhancements over the past five years.
With Ipswich now ticked off the list, we look forward to the planned track upgrades at the Gold Coast. Like Ipswich, they are well overdue.