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HOW THE COAST WAS BORN


MALCOLM Cusick was chairman of The Entertainment Grounds for 35 years and a Board member for nigh on six decades.

But surely not even the iconic late Gosford administrator, who passed away in 2009 while still a sitting Board member, could have imagined his beloved club hosting a near $2m metropolitan raceday, highlighted by a $500,000 feature, on a stand-alone Saturday.

“Probably not,” agreed son Michael, now following in his father’s footsteps by holding the reins as chairman, with Michael Griffiths his deputy.

“Dad was always keen to have a bigger meeting built around the Gold Cup, and of course the introduction of the Hawkesbury stand-alone (in 2006) was so successful,” Michael Cusick said.

“However, I doubt he could have envisaged a $500,000 race being the pinpoint of such a huge race day as we have on Saturday.”

The Coast, a 1600m Quality event for three and four-year-olds, is in its third year and supported by the $250,000 Listed Buterin L’estrange Gosford Gold Cup (2100m), $200,000 Listed De Bortoli Wines Takeover Target Stakes (1200m), and $175,000 Triple M 107.7 Thunder Thousand (1000m) on a mammoth 10-race program.

Rather ironically, the birth of Gosford’s feature race arose virtually “out of the blue”.

“There was a likelihood we were going to get a Saturday stand-alone date about nine years ago,” Cusick said.

“James Heddo (now Hawkesbury chief executive) was CEO here at the time and we were investigating the possibility of starting night racing at Gosford.

“Whilst that stand-alone didn’t eventuate then, we were having a meeting at Racing NSW a few years ago, aware that as well as Hawkesbury, other Provincial races as The Hunter and The Gong had become Saturday stand-alone features at Newcastle and Kembla Grange.

“We put the idea of a Saturday metropolitan meeting at Gosford on the agenda virtually as an afterthought as we were walking into the room.

“Thankfully, Peter V’Landys (RacingNSW CEO) was very amenable to a $500,000 race being run for three and four-year-olds at Gosford, and that’s how The Coast was born.

“Other features such as the Gold Cup and Takeover Target were added to make it a very attractive program.”

Both Cusick and Griffiths understandably view The Coast and the raceday itself as not only being such a massive event for the Central Coast, but also an important vehicle for owners and trainers eyeing the Brisbane winter carnival with their horses.

“Trainers tell us that the Hawkesbury and Gosford meetings provide an excellent pathway to the big races in south-east Queensland,” Cusick said.

“The Coast raceday has quickly established itself, and there’s no doubt it is here to stay.

“But we won’t be sitting idle either. We want to continue to build on this meeting, focusing on the Gold Cup and also particularly increasing awareness about the Triple M Thunder Thousand.

“There aren’t many feature races in NSW at 1000m, which is an ideal sprinter’s distance.

“Racing NSW has boosted the prizemoney this year to $175,000, and our goal is to make it one of four feature races on the day.”

May 8, 2021 marked the inaugural The Coast raceday, and how interesting to note that first race winner in the 2YO Handicap (1200m) was $2.70 favorite Overpass, who recently also won Perth’s newest race, the $4m The Quokka, for the same connections (trainer Bjorn Baker and jockey Josh Parr).

Sydney pair, trainer John Sargent and jockey Regan Bayliss, combined to land The Coast with $8.50 chance Brandenburg.

Nine races carrying prizemoney of $1.6m were run, and last year’s May 7 date saw 10 races conducted for overall prizemoney of $1.825m, with the addition of a Midway Handicap.

Newcastle’s Kris Lees kept The Coast in a Provincial home, jockey Jay Ford scoring on his Rustic Steel ($7.50) (pictured above), later to also win the inaugural $2m The Big Dance (1600m) at Royal Randwick in November.

It’s 10 of the best again on Saturday with prizemoney increasing further to a record $1.965m.

That clearly isn’t lost on the chairman and his deputy, who pay due homage to previous chairmen in Malcolm Cusick and the late Peter Norrgard.

“Those men played such a huge role in putting our club in the position it is now,” Michael Cusick said.

“We’re very appreciative of the tremendous contribution made by them. They would be very proud indeed if they were here now to see Gosford grabbing the national spotlight by staging the biggest race meeting in Australia this weekend.”


*Words John Curtis - Pics Bradley Photos*

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