Ipswich’s formula for success
IT'S the envy of other race clubs around Queensland.
As the excitement builds for Saturday's annual Ipswich Cup Day, Ipswich Turf Club vice-chairman Brian North sums up the city's mood perfectly.
"It seems to be a real buzz around the town,'' North said.
"Wherever you go, people ask you if you are going to the cup and whereabouts will you be and all that sort of thing.
"So it seems to be if you're not there, you're missing out.''
North has been to 46 consecutive Ipswich Cup meetings so knows how much work has gone into transforming the event into the state's leading social race day.
With last Saturday's Stradbroke meeting at Doomben attracting 17,200 people, this weekend's Ipswich Cup Day is set to again become the most popular race meeting in Queensland.
"Certainly the last five years, it went up near the 20,000 crowd,'' North said. "We'll have more than that (on Saturday). We'll be the best attended meeting in Queensland this year.''
North said the turf club's successful formula was built about diversifying so it appealed to a wider audience.
"From a committee point of view, you try to get the crowd in,'' he said.
"You have got to realise it's not just all about horse racing these days.
"That's why we have the tent in the middle there for the young ones, and we've got the DJ this year, Havana Brown. And we've got the world record attempt about people wearing sunglasses at night.''
Another initiative this year is a half price general admission ($10) deal, which includes a free drink.
"So you get in for virtually nothing,'' North said.
"We'd rather people come through the gate at a low price and not charge them a high amount because we want more and more people to be there.
"Some people probably don't really care if they see a horse. They just want to get there, see their mates, have a good time and have a few drinks. And there's plenty of good food there too.''
Long-time race-caller Alan Thomas offers a neutral perspective having called the Cup program about 30 times.
"My fondest memory of Ipswich Cup Day is the people, more than the horses,'' Thomas said.
"It's a unique race day for Queensland. It's great for the city.''
Thomas agrees Ipswich does it better where other clubs are struggling to lure big crowds.
"I think the race day always has two parts to it. There's the social and there's the horses,'' he said.
"I think the more people go to the races, the more they appreciate the horses.
"And it's a matter of finding a balance on the day by the clubs to allow the members a bit of space to look (at the horses) for the serious racegoers. And those who want to party normally have their own areas. They get a different aspect of the race.''
Thomas has worked with Sky Racing for 23 years and had a 13 year stint covering other sports at Channel Nine.
"Ipswich is a good place to come to the races because the enclosure is directly in front of you so you get a good look at the horses, as well as the jockeys when you're learning colours,'' the veteran race caller said casting an eye over the racing complex.
"You're not far away from anything. The facilities are just underneath the grandstand and the horse stalls are just down there.
"It's been a very vital cog in Queensland racing, this racecourse here.''
Thomas praised the progressive work of the Ipswich club.
"We've always had good committees here, always had good chairmans,'' Thomas said.
"They are a club that know what they can do. They don't go outside their limitations.
"They know what they are good at and they are successful at what they do.
"I think there might be a message there somewhere.''
Like Thomas, North said the committee under chairman Wayne Patch was a close-knit unit, working closely with club general manager Brett Kitching.
"There's never in-fighting,'' North said. "There might be a bit of discussion sometimes . . . but down here we always get on and we're just trying to do to the best thing for the club.''
Look out for some handy punting tips in Saturday's 20 page Ipswich Cup guide.