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Moree kicks off 2020 Melbourne Cup tour, and raises close to $22,000 at annual Moree Cup charity dinner

The generosity of the Moree community was once again proven on Saturday night, when a COVID-restricted crowd of 100 managed to raise close to $22,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service at Moree Race Club's annual charity dinner.

And that doesn't include the funds raised from the gate and Calcutta at Sunday's Moree Cup race meeting, which will also be donated to the Westpac chopper.

Moree Race Club president Rob Mather said the fundraising effort was no small feat, especially considering the dinner was close to being cancelled at one stage as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

"It was good considering what's going on at the moment," he said.

"In normal times you'd be a little disappointed, but it was great because of the people who turned up and were willing to bid."

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Normally, the weekend rakes in about $30,000 for the rescue chopper, but Mr Mather said Westpac were thrilled with this year's result considering it comes off the back of the drought and now COVID-19.

"They were very pleased," he said.

The dinner was particularly special this year, as it officially launched the 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour.

Moree was chosen as the first destination to host the 18-carat gold Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy on its regional tour this year, however as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, the iconic trophy visited Moree virtually on Friday and Saturday.

First it zoomed into an assembly at St Philomena's School on Friday, with champion jockey and Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour ambassador Greg Hall joining the session, recounting his 1992 Melbourne Cup win on cult hero Subzero to students.

Then, two-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Jimmy Cassidy dialled into the Westpac Rescue Chopper Charity Dinner on Saturday night, alongside the 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy and tour ambassador-at-large Joe McGrath.

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) chair Amanda Elliott also sent a pre-recorded video message, which was televised across three big screens under the marquees at Moree Racecourse.

Also on display on the night was the 1920 Melbourne Cup which was won by Poitrel, owned by brothers William and Fred Moses.

Fred's great-grandson Tim Moses from Inverell and his cousin Henry Moses from Moree were in attendance on Saturday night, bringing the "pristine" 100-year-old cup with them.

Guests had the opportunity to take photos with the 1920 Cup, while VRC gave Moree Race Club their own miniature gold Melbourne Cup.

Moree is also one of this year's Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour National Sweep destinations, and will be allocated a barrier for the 2020 Melbourne Cup.

The town that draws the barrier of the winning horse will be presented with a cash prize of $50,000 to put towards a charity of their choice. Moree Race Club has officially nominated Northern NSW Westpac Helicopter Rescue Service as their chosen charity.

Barriers for the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour National Sweep will be drawn in October.

Meanwhile, TV personality and racing journalist Jo McKinnon was the special guest at the dinner.

"She was fantastic," Mr Mather said.

Mr Mather thanked Westpac, who were the major sponsors of the night, as well as all the other local businesses who sponsored the evening.

Pacific National and Orica were the two major sponsors for the Cup day on Sunday, which Mr Mather said also went well, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

As a result of social distancing requirements, there were three different bar areas and COVID marshals patrolling throughout the day.

Moree trainer Peter Sinclair was the big winner on Sunday, taking out the Moree Cup for the second year running with Beacon.

"The committee would like to congratulate Peter Sinclair on another win in the Moree Cup, and thank him for his support year in, year out," Mr Mather said.

Moree Race Club is now gearing up for its Derby Day long lunch, set for October 31.