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Lady Luck has muso David singing new tune



Lady Luck has muso David singing new tune

 By Tim Howard

 There haven’t been a lot of happy stories to come out of the floods that ravaged the Northern Rivers in the past year, but Lismore musician David Birch has one.

It does come with a qualifier. David lost most of his belongings when the February 28 floods hit Lismore and his move to Grafton has separated him from the friends he made in the region over 20+ years of living and performing.

But on the whole he feels like he has been extraordinarily lucky.

Seven months on from that dreadful Monday he finds himself living in a three-room flat in Grafton, with barely any possessions, no car and his existence turned upside down, but thinking life is looking up.

“I can’t explain how I got here,” he said. “At some stage I filled out a lot of forms and this opportunity came up to relocate to Grafton. So I took it.”

David said like the way the floodwater rose in his rented room in a Lismore pub, things happened fast.

“It came up so fast,” he said of his experience in the flood. “It was so quick you could watch it rise minute by minute.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, then suddenly there was this guy in a tinny outside telling us to get in.”

His rescuer took him to the gymnasium at Southern Cross University, where he was allocated a couple of metres floorspace along with about 300 other people.

David was forced to leave most of his clothes, his bedding and his extensive music collection to the floodwater, but he did grab his most treasured possession.

“I couldn’t take much, but I made sure I had my guitar,” he said.

“As long as I have my guitar, I’ll be all right. I can always get out on the street and busk and get enough money to buy myself a feed.”

For a musician who once fronted The Nightcap Band and put out a CD of his songs, Byron Journey, in the 1990s, busking on the streets was a distant memory.

“I can remember busking on the streets outside Woolworths in Kings Cross, but that was a long time ago,” he said.

Even longer ago, David and his family moved to Australia from Somerset, the home of cider.

“I was 14. We were living in a little village near Bristol, called Uphill,” he said. “My life’s been uphill all the way, you could say.”

David said he still feels traumatised by the floods, but it doesn’t compare to what some people experienced.

“It affected people in different ways,” he said. “I met a woman who had lost her home and was staying at university gym with her five-year-old son.

“The little boy refused to get into the shower. Something about the sound of falling water made him think it would flood again and he would freak out.

“That’s trauma. That’s the sort of things people are dealing with in Lismore now.”

David said what he loved about coming to Grafton was how “normal” people were.

“To be fair I’m probably still traumatised myself,” he said. “But it’s so nice when you go out for a walk – and because I don’t have a car I that happens a lot – you say hello and people smile and say hello.

“If you get into a conversation you talk about anything, not going over and over what happened in the flood and how bad everything is.

“And don’t get me wrong, everything is bad, absolutely terrible. But if you’re lucky enough to be out of it, the relief is fantastic.”

David said he was appalled at the number of people still left homeless after the floods.

“When you’ve got somewhere permanent to stay it’s such a relief. I can only feel for all those people who are still homeless.

“The response has been way too slow. When you think there are still people living in tents and their cars after the fires a few years ago, it makes you angry.”

David said when he got out the recovery was underway, but that was also stressful.

“The army was there, with bulldozers and backhoes clearing out the streets,” he said.

“Everyone’s belongings were just piled up in the streets to be carted away to the rubbish dump.

“There were fridges and industrial gas canisters floating around in the water. It was a torrid time.”

But David said now his walks, which ironically often take him to the banks of the Clarence River in Grafton, where we met at the weekend, were calming.

“Look at this scene,” he said. “It’s so peaceful. Grafton has such wide streets, I call them avenues.

“It just feels so far removed from where I’ve just come from.

“I have somewhere where my sister can come and visit me when she comes in a little while.”

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South Cup rising to top in July




South Grafton Cup Winner

South Cup rising to top in July


By Tim Howard

The South Grafton Cup has risen to challenge the Grafton Cup and Ramornie Hcp as the leading races at the Grafton July Racing Carnival says CRJC executive officer Michael Beattie.

Beattie said the numbers showed that since the race became a qualifying event for the Big Dance, South Cup Day was now a legitimate third big day for the carnival.

He said the South Grafton Cup winner, Cepheus, came to the carnival with a benchmark rating of 106 points, while the Grafton Cup winner was rated 105.

“It means the highest benchmark rated horse that race at the carnival, would show, from a technical perspective, that the South Grafton Cup has become the strongest race,” he said.

Beattie described the change as “very positive” and indicated the carnival was developing away from a two big day event to a carnival with three main days.

He was also excited at the number of big metropolitan stables sending teams to the carnival.

“You’ve got the likes of Chris Waller, Peter and Paul Snowden, Chris Lees, Chris Munce, Annabelle Neesham,” he said.

“You’ve got this depth right through the carnival when these people are supporting its major events.”

Beattie said from a racing purist’s perspective the Grafon Cup winning ride of Blake Shinn on Deny Knowledge turned a good race into a great one.

“It was a sensation race and made better by one of the best tactical rides you’ll ever see to win a Grafton Cup,” Beattie said.

“I suppose the best jockey in the race was on the best horse in the race, but he gave the best ride in the race.

“By the time the race got to the 1200m it was the end of the penny section, because he had outmanoeuvred them all.”

Beattie said the result in Ramornie was also a pleasing outcome that could have been unfortunate.

“He suffered severe interference mid-race, Ka Bling, and if he had been beaten, would have had a real hard luck story,” he said.

“He was able overcome that interference and still pick them up and beat them, so it was one of those situations you love to see.

“In fact I think it was great that all three winners in the Grafton Cup, Ramornie and South Cup were the best horses in the race on the day.”

Beattie said that away from the racing the carnival was a highly successful social occasion with good crowds enjoying a friendly atmosphere.

He said the development of Grafton Cup Day’s Fashions on the Field into a signature event attracting people in its own right was the result of careful planning.

He said the South Cup and Grafton Cup days once shared fashion events, but a decision to focus on Grafton Cup Day as the fashion day was working.

“A few years ago we asked our customers, especially female customers, and they indicated to us that that situation wasn’t suitable to them,” Beattie said.

“Their view was the biggest fashion day should be Grafton Cup Day and I think it’s telling that it’s getting bigger and better from a participation perspective.”
Beattie said it was too early to say turnover the five days of racing generated, but the raw figures suggested not a lot of difference from last year.

“In this economic climate, to be holding your own, is a situation not a lot of racing clubs would emulate,” he said.

He said the club would not be sitting on its laurels and there would be a debrief and assessment of what worked and what needed to improved.

“Overall I would say what we planned and put in place seemed to work,” he said.

“But you always have to try and make things a little bit better each year.

“We’ve extended the members’ area over the past few years and the popularity of that’s been amazing.

“So when the dust settles we’ll have a bit of a review and see what things we can change for the future.”


For more sports news, click here.

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Hit and run raid secures Cup




Grafton Cup Winner

Hit and run raid secures Cup


By Tim Howard

Star jockey Blake Shinn’s hit and run raid on Grafton’s July Racing Carnival has netted him a third Grafton Cup.

Shinn showed why he is rated one of the country’s top riders, piloting Pride of Dubai mare Deny Knowledge to the lead in the $200,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m), galloping home strongly to win by three quarters of length.

Backed into $2.45 favouritism, the Irish born galloper did not have it all her own way, with the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Touristic piling on the pressure in the home straight. The Chris Waller runner Thalassophile was a distant third.

Shinn had kept enough in reserve and Deny Knowledge powered her way to the line.

The Victorian-based rider, who had flown into town just for this race, said he had confidence in the horse from the time she paraded.

“I thought she paraded really, really well, better than last time,” Shinn said in a post race interview.

“Therefore her manners out on the track and in the race were perfect and I was able to put her where I wanted to be in that first two furlongs, which set the race up nicely for the last part.”

Grafton Cup Jockey

Grafton Cup winning jockey salutes the crowd as he rides back to scale after a masterful ride on six-year-old mare Deny Knowledge to secure the cup for a third time.

During the race Shinn made the most of his ride’s abilities.

“She’s a natural leader and at 24(00-metres), we may have been a little suspect,” he said.

“If I was going to burn the candle at both ends it was going to be hard and the pressure in the first 300 was quite quick, so there was an opportunity to drop in and rest around that first turn.

“When they backed off, I made a decision to roll to the top and get her into a zone where she loves to be, and once I was able to find the top, I was confident a long way out.”

It is 11 years since Shinn’s first Grafton Cup win on the Ciaron Maher-trained Mr O’Ceirin.

He won again for Gai Waterhouse two years later on Bonfire.

It was Deny Knowledge’s second start for the Yulong stable where she is trained by Melbourne Cup winning duo Anthony and Sam Freedman.

Purchased at the recent Magic Millions for $500,000, she repaid her new owners $109,000 with her win last Thursday.

Deny Knowledge’s track rider Henry Jaggard accepted the trophy from the CEO of race sponsor Westlawn Finance, Mark Dougherty.

Deny Knowledge hits the line to win the $200,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup from Touristic in second spot.

Deny Knowledge hits the line to win the $200,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup from Touristic in second spot.

He revealed the six-year-old’s good manners trackside and during the race were a fairly recent development.

“She’s definitely a temperamental horse, but she’s worth working with,” he said.

Jaggard said he ride all her track work and has been building a relationship with the horse since she came into the stable.

“She’s a proper athlete,” he said. “That doesn’t make her easy to get on with, but any trainer would like to think they can get the best out of her.”

He said though she was not built like a traditional stayer, she was going to become a very valuable horse for the Freedmans.

Her winnings from her last two starts have taken her prize money close to the $1 million mark with an overall record of eight wins and eight placings from 34 starts.

Jaggard said Deny Knowledge also had promise as a brood mare and was not sure how long her racing career might continue.

“There are some races coming up for her in the spring, so we’re concentrating on those,” he said.

The final race on the program, the $75,000 Sir James Kirby Quality (1000m) provided a fitting end to a high quality day’s racing.

Compelling Truth scored a slashing victory enhancing his credentials for The Kosciusko, coming up in in October.

The Mack Griffith-trained galloper overcame an awkward start to power home, beating Bomarea by nearly four lengths with Immoral further back in third.


For more local Grafton news, click here.

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Winners in the fashion stakes




Fashions on the Field Best hat

Winners in the fashion stakes


By Tim Howard

The fashion stakes for the 2024 Grafton July Carnival attracted fields as hot as those on the race track for this year’s Fashions on the Field.

Traditionally held in conjunction with the running of the the carnival’s premier race, the Grafton Cup, fashionistas from the Clarence Valley and further afield have made it a date not to be missed.

One of this year’s judges, Michelle Page, said with 24 entries in this year’s Best Dressed Lady section, judging had been difficult.

And she said numbers had been up on last year in all the other sections, millinery, best dressed couple and best dressed gent.

The Sweet Sixteen Boutique Best Dressed Lady of the 2024 carnival, Sharon Edmonds, was no stranger to the competition.

Fashions on the Field Best Couple

Daniel McCullum and Emma Clarke wowed the Fashion on the Field judges to win the Village Greens Best Dressed Couple prize.

Last year Ms Edmonds took out the millinery award and this year was considering a repeat performance.

But with a Zoe Kratzmann dress and Sonlia millinery on her head, her choice veered to the best dressed lady field at the last minute.

“I had most of my outfit ready, but I was waiting until the last minute for some accessories,” Ms Edmonds said.

“When I found the right handbag and shoes, I thought I was a better chance there.”

Ms Edmonds said she would be back for another run in Fashions on the Field 2025.

“I’ve always been involved in fashion industry and events like Fashion on the Field gives people with an interest in older styles an opportunity to stay involved,” she said. “It also brings out the creativity in me.”

Best dressed Gent

Graftonian Scott Smith showed dash was more important than cash winning the Best Dressed Gent award in Fashion on the Field at this year’s July Racing Carnival.

This year’s winner in the Connors Best Dress Gent section, Grafton’s Scott Smith, showed dash could outstrip cash in assembling a winning outfit.

Mr Smith said the worth drinks voucher he picked up for reaching the finals of the award would more than cover the cost of what he wore to win.

A first time entrant in Fashions on the Field, Mr Smith said his suit came from Temu, and his tie and pocket square were a $3 Target purchase.

“I borrowed the shirt from my brother and the shoes were an old pair I had around,” he said.

“The hat was one I had that just happened to suit the outfit.”

Mr Smith said he was not confident when he entered the award, saying he’d been persuaded he should enter by people who like what he was wearing.

“It’s not something I had in mind when I came to the track today,” he said.

Best Lady

Sharon Edmonds backed up from winning the 2023 Millinery Award to take out the Best Dressed Lady in a packed section in this Fashions on the Field at the Grafton Race Track.

This year’s Village Green Hotel Best Dressed Couple were another to eschew fast fashion outfits.

Gold Coast and Brisbane pair Daniel McCullum and Emma Clarke like to take fashionable days out attending country race carnivals that stage fashion competitions.

“We like to re-wear fashions and we just picked stuff from our wardrobes that complemented each other’s outfit,” Ms Clarke said.

She said while they travelled to a number of regional carnivals to compete, this was their first visit for the Grafton July Carnival.

“We will definitely be back,” she said. “This is a great way to get around and see a side of Australia a lot of people miss out on.”

She said it had been a last minute decision to come.

“It was something we’d heard about, but never done,” she said.

“On the spur of the moment we decided to come and took the day off work to get here.”

The Elm Colour Your Lifestyle Millinery Award winner this year was Adelaide Zietsch. Ms Zietsch was not available for interview after the awards.


For more local Grafton news, click here.

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