Gunnedah's Riverside Racecourse may be drought-proof within the next 12 months.
The jockey club has applied for more than $127,000 under the Crown Reserves Improvement Fund to complete an irrigation project started last year.
The total cost of the project is more than $190,000 to which the club will contribute $48,000. As part of its recent application, the club asked Gunnedah Shire Council to approve a $15,000 co-contribution if it is successful. This was granted at this month's ordinary meeting.
The work would include the installation of a booster pump; and electricity, pipework and sprinklers to the second half of the track. Irrigation for the first half of the track was installed earlier last year with funds from the federal government's Drought Communities Program.
Club secretary manager Lyn Tongue said a water storage tank was also installed a few months ago so there was a back-up if the site bore ever runs dry.
"If it happens, heaven forbid, if it happens, we've actually drought-proofed in the sense of using a tank as a back-up water supply," she said.
The water security has enabled the club to keep the track in good condition, which has attracted other race meets, which could not run at their usual courses because of drought.
"We didn't have a problem through drought and were able to host meetings from other clubs in the Hunter North West who did have problems," Ms Tongue said."
"We just thought moving forward, if that opportunity arose again to host a meeting from within the Hunter North West, our tank situation would help."
The men's jockey room is also receiving attention, thanks to a $5000 grant from the council.
"We're currently unable to satisfactorily distance jockeys in our jockeys' room. The facilities are quite small, however, we've undertaken to improve the jockeys' room because it's a bit archaic," Ms Tongue said.
New carpet is going down this week and heating will be installed but the main feature is a mural designed by ex-locals Kelly and Cassie Swain.
Ms Tongue said there was "a crude, coarse brick wall" before but now there are "galloping horses", a gold cup, and jockeys spread across it.
"It looks fantastic," she said.
The club is now preparing for a race meet on August 18 after the success of the recent picnic races.
It wasn't quite the usual affair because of COVID rules and restrictions, but Ms Tongue said about 200 punters turned out for "a wonderful day".
"It went quite well. We didn't have any trouble ... we engaged 'the hygiene police' ... [and] we had security on the gate to ensure people didn't bring alcohol on the course," she said.
"We have to provide hand sanitiser, segregate areas, mark out distances. People weren't allowed to consume refreshments standing. We've got to provide seating for all the patrons.
"Members of the committee were reminding people of regulations and restrictions and the general public were very obliging."
We've actually drought-proofed in the sense of using a tank as a back-up water supply.Lyn Tongue, Gunnedah Jockey Club
Ms Tongue said the club had to create a COVID safety plan and register with the government, but they didn't see it as a drama.
"It's no big deal. It's pretty easy to comply to keep horse racing running along," she said.
"It's good for Gunnedah. You get a lot of people come out here."
Ms Tongue said a steward visited the racecourse on Tuesday to "ensure our facilities are up-to-scratch" for the next meeting, but "who knows what will happen in August?"