NEXT GENERATION: Kellah Pholi, 2, is part of a family with a long history of horse racing.
NEXT GENERATION: Kellah Pholi, 2, is part of a family with a long history of horse racing. Marc Stapelberg

BOXING DAY RACES: Pholi's festive folly

BALLINA'S Boxing Day races is a highlight of the social and horse racing calendars on the Northern Rivers.

For one Ballina family, the oldest race day in town's history is historically engrained into their Christmas celebrations.

Since she was a young girl, Antoinette Pholi - daughter of respected, local trainer Bill Pholi - recalls working at the races with her father at the Ballina Jockey Club.

"Being in this family, Christmas day you go to work anyway because the horses need to be done in the morning and the afternoon so Christmas just fits around the horses,” Ms Pholi said.

"We've never minded that it's actually been quite nice because the whole street goes to work and does their horses with a sort of Christmas-y vibe, which is really lovely.”

Glistening trophies around Mr Pholi's house, aptly located near the Ballina Racecourse, mark his stellar racing career.

A household name in the North Coast's racing community, Mr Pholi won the prestigious Northern Rivers region trainer's premiership for nine consecutive years.

The long-time trainer had dozens of winning horses in his more than 30-year career, including In Phuket which won Ballina's Boxing Day Cup in 2009.

"As long as I can remember, Boxing Day was always a big day,” Mr Pholi said.

While he can appreciate the social side of racing, the races - such as the Boxing Day meet - were another day at the office for Mr Pholi.

"We never sort of socialised at the races, we always had work to do you'd take your horses there and start them and when they were finished come home,” he said.

"There's a lot of behind the scenes than just race day, there's so much work you put in with them.”

Mr Pholi will watch the race on the silver screen this year and predicted a few Queensland horses to run in the coveted race.

Hype is building for the family fun day said the Ballina Jockey Club's general manager Matthew Bertram, after it was cancelled due to rain last year.

He is confident the event will go ahead this year and described the occasion as a great opportunity for young people home for the uni break to catch up with family and friends.

With no runners in the race and not as many horses to look after in their stables, the Pholi's will be watching the track from afar this year.

"It's just a family Christmas again, but we'll still go and do the horses in the morning and the afternoon,” Ms Pholi said.



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