By Gavin Stubbs
An atmosphere of anticipation surrounds the historic Woolamai and District Race Club as the first of six meetings for the new season takes place this Saturday 25 November.
Woolamai, with around 150 years of history, is one of the three main picnic racing tracks alongside Healesville and Balnarring.
Riders and trainers will converge from right around the state, but there are some key players to keep an eye on.
Last season’s premier rider, Courtney Pace, is again looking forward to riding at one of her favourite tracks, taking on the likes of Reece Goodwin, who also has a strong affinity with the testing circuit.
“The track is generally in outstanding condition and every horse is given its chance to win,” Pace said.
“It plays fair whether your mount is bowling along in front or coming from back in the pack. The fields are generally strong, the crowd is vocal and it’s a unique feeling to be right amongst the action. It’s also great to see how the picnic circuit is continually endeavouring to better itself.”
Pace, the two-time winner of the Barry Ryan Medal for outstanding horsemanship, has recently taken out her trainer’s licence and can’t wait to boot one of her own home on race day. She is also aiming to ride five winners on a card and better her current best of four – which she has accomplished three times.
Coronet Bay trainer Shae Eden is also a keen supporter of Woolamai and will have several runners this season. Fresh off winning at the Flemington spring carnival with top mare Ocean Embers, Eden boasts a strong stable and is sure to be well represented.
Local Woolamai rider Sophie Logan has ridden several winners on her home track and her talent has been on display numerous times in her short career.
Woolamai has many appealing features, not the least the family-friendly atmosphere and its laid-back feel. Barbecues and picnic rugs adorn the lawns and the shady elms live up to their name perfectly.
Racing.com’s Adam Olszanski will call the action, while kids will have plenty to keep them busy with Pockets the Clown in attendance, and face painting and a jumping castle available.
The picnic races, with its informal country atmosphere, continue to retain the charm of yesteryear.