23 February 2023

Thoroughbred Park doubles down on plans to showcase Canberra’s finest creators

| Morgan Kenyon
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Race day patrons drinking on the Gin Lawn

Race day patrons enjoying a drink and relaxing on the Gin Lawn. Photo: Dalice Trost.

Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park has been the home of Australian thoroughbred racing in the nation’s capital since its development in the 1960s.

Led by the Canberra Racing Club, the Lyneham venue has hosted numerous Australian prime ministers and the likes of Queen Elizabeth II in its time.

Under the helm of the new CEO, Darren Pearce, the Canberra Racing Club has doubled down on its efforts to become a positive force in the local community.

Arriving at Thoroughbred Park in September, Darren has a strong background in the Australian racing industry spanning nearly two decades.

Darren says among the initial steps, the club needed to develop and embrace values-driven policies such as its Reconciliation Action Plan, Inclusion and Diversity Policy, and environmental and sustainability policies.

“The club is also keen to refresh our approach to apprenticeships, allowing us to provide Canberran youths with a great career pathway and attract some new blood into our industry that shapes the next generation of racers,” he says.

Underground Spirits bar

The Underground Spirits Bar at the Gin Lawn. Photo: Dalice Trost.

Darren says Thoroughbred Park’s biggest mission of late is to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to Canberra’s best creators of food, liquor and artisan goods.

“What I’ve learned very quickly in my short time here is just how passionate Canberrans are about their local artisan producers. The transformation we’re going through is really about aligning our values and operations with that passion.”

Local businesses have jumped on the opportunity to showcase their goods at Thoroughbred Park, including Canberra’s Underground Spirits and BentSpoke Brewing, plus Murrumbateman’s Clonakilla, and Collector Wines. Foodie favourites Grease Monkey and Spit Shack are also on the park’s list of Canberran businesses providing food for visitors.

“Our Underground Spirits Gin Lawn has been a hit on race days,” Darren says. ”We are currently working with Underground Spirits on a Black Opal Gin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canberra Racing Carnival. This gin will reflect the unique character of the region, as well as some of the flavors and aromas from the pageantry of racing.”

Spit Shack food truck

Spit Shack at Thoroughbred Park on Melbourne Cup Day 2022. Photo: Dalice Trost.

Black Opal Gin will make its debut at Thoroughbred Park’s Black Opal Gin Party on 2 March. The Canberra Racing Club is keen to foster similar creative partnerships and harness their potential to advertise Canberra’s finest.

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“We have just partnered with Grazing @Gundaroo to deliver an incredible culinary and racing experience on Black Opal Stakes Race Day and introduce the St Covet Row marquee,” Darren says.

”Grazing’s head chef Kurt Neumann has carefully selected every ingredient in each dish to design a menu fit for the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Canberra’s greatest horse race.”

Also debuting later this year is the new Owner’s Room for visiting horse owners. As host to the club’s ”Regional Showcase” buffet, the Owner’s Room will provide both a social hub and an opportunity to put seasonal Canberran goods firmly in the spotlight.

“The racing industry is a social one,” Darren says. ”Owners and visitors not only enjoy the horses, they also love our unique hospitality and are happy to invest in it.

“Many horse owners travel from out of state and much further afield to watch their horses race with us, so it’s a huge opportunity to advertise Canberran businesses and products.”

Darren Pearce

Canberra Racing Club CEO Darren Pearce. Photo: Supplied.

Darren says the emphasis on local offerings is the first iteration of Thoroughbred Park’s new-found vision.

“The Owner’s Room is not only a chance to show our gratitude for owners racing with us in an industry that is full of choice, it also displays our passion and pride for Canberra,” he says.

The Canberra Racing Club aims to transform Thoroughbred Park into a forum that highlights everything from vineyards and paddock-to-plate farmers to artisans, restaurants, bakeries and more.

“We want Thoroughbred Park to be more than a racing venue. It will be a place that showcases Canberra’s finest food, liquor and goods to all of the visitors attending our events,” Darren says.

“If I can look back in a few years’ time and see a club that reflects the talents of Canberran creators and fosters a thriving connection with the whole community, I’ll be happy. Our journey is only just starting and I’m excited about what can be achieved over the next year.”

For more information on Black Opal Stakes Day, visit Thoroughbred Park.


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