All eyes on the farm


THE fate of the scheduled race meeting at Coffs Harbour for September 18 could rest on the success of today's 'phantom' TAB meeting at Warwick Farm.

The Sydney meeting only allows for horses trained and stabled at Warwick Farm to compete and if successful, Coffs Harbour's next race meeting could follow similar lines if the current quarantine restrictions put in place by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) remain.

"It obviously comes back to DPI's restrictions and what the racing industry find what happens after this weekend," Coffs Harbour Racing Club's CEO Russ Atkinson said of the upcoming meeting.

"No decisions will really be made until following Warwick Farm and seeing how that comes out."

Due to the outbreak of equine influenza in NSW, this afternoon's meeting will be closed off from members of the public but Atkinson still holds some hope that in 10 days time there may be some relaxing of the restrictions.

"If we do get racing, there's also the matter of whether or not we'll be able to get the public here," Atkinson added.

"We're a little bit different to most venues because we're a closed facility if you like, we've got an enclosed grandstand so we may able to seek dispensation to allow the public on course but we're awaiting more advice."

Since the horse flu outbreak was first diagnosed a fortnight ago, the impact on so many people attached to the industry has been enormous.

To help out the local jockeys, the club has found work for them to do around the club including track maintenance to help them with earning income that has disappeared without any payments for race rides coming in.

"Obviously it's impacting on everybody, not just the trainers and owners and we're doing what we can but it's a lockdown so only horses that are stabled on course can be trained here," the CEO said.

"We're intensifying the restriction of access to the area as we get closer to the opportunity to race."

With the next scheduled race meeting quickly approaching, Atkinson is hoping that the public continue to follow the quarantine orders so there can be minimal risk of EI finding its way into the Coffs Harbour stables.

"We just hope that the public respect what's happening and don't come down to the stabling area, that's something that we certainly want to put out there with the quarantine issue."

If the quarantine restrictions on travel happen to continue for a while longer, they will seriously jeopardise the chances of Coffs Harbour's two star sprinters and their dreams for spring glory in Melbourne.

At this stage, Takeover Target and Natural Destiny are still being prepared to tackle Group 1 events at Flemington during the spring carnival.

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