Towong stand closed to cup goers

TOWONG Turf Club’s historic grandstand will be off-limits to cup day racegoers for the first time in more than a century tomorrow.

The oldest remaining grandstand of its kind in the state was built 107 years ago, but has fallen victim to recent major flooding in the Upper Murray.

Major structural damage to the base of internal timber columns was uncovered when a renovation job on the function area beneath the grandstand began late last year.

Towong Council deemed the upper seating areas of the grandstand unsafe and subsequently forced its closure for the Towong Cup meeting.

But the function area will be open tomorrow.

Club secretary Rohan Whitehead said the repair bill would be close to $180,000 and a funding partnership was being pieced together between the club, council and Country Racing Victoria.

“We had hoped to have it fixed for this meeting, but the wheels of progress can turn slowly unfortunately,” he said.

Horse racing has been held at the track since 1871 and the grandstand was constructed in 1907.

The grandstand hasn’t been dedicated to one of the club’s many long serving committee persons, which has opened the door to securing a naming rights sponsor to assist in covering the costs of the repair job.

“We would be open to talking to a corporate sponsor who would like to sit their logo on top of the grandstand for sure,” Mr Whitehead said.

“It is a pretty handy vantage point for traffic travelling on the Murray Valley Highway.

“There is no name attached to it presently so that wouldn’t be a conflicting issue.

“It is our icon and it would be a fairly desolate place without it.”

The grandstand was used as a backdrop during the filming of the movie Phar Lap in the early 1980s when Blazing Inferno raced as the country’s most famous racehorse’s double.

Repair works to the function area were among a list of projects which attracted a $243,000 state government grant in May last year.

The racecourse was maintained by Racing Victoria until the late 1990s when the council became the responsible authority.

It is regarded as having heritage significance.

The club has kicked off a local fund-raising effort with a “save our grandstand” campaign.

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