Club racing ahead

THE crowds have gone, the clean-up is finished and the racecourse is back in its original condition. Coffs Harbour Racing Club CEO Russ Atkinson said it's a nice feeling to look back on such a successful Gold Cup carnival and have so many positive aspects to utilise in the planning of the 2008 event. "Certainly from the feedback we've received from police and security we're on the right track to making sure the carnival days are a safe environment for all patrons but at the same time it a place where people can dress up and have a lot of fun," he said. "Sure, whenever there's a big crowd you'll always get minor issues and next year more attention will be given to any evidence of under-age drinking. "Closing off Howard Street to traffic and making it an alcohol free zone also went a long way toward ending some of the problems that have been about for the past few years." And despite raising some eyebrows by shifting the car park and filling the vacant areas with marquees, Atkinson said it turned out the surprise hit of the week. "Suddenly, there was much more room for everybody and the area could be used to chill out," he said. "That was one of the innovations that worked a lot better than we thought it might." But with racing more than socialising the reason to gather every year, how did things finish on the equine front? "Perfect weather is vitally important not just for crowd numbers but for the style of racing which leads to increases in betting turnover," Atkinson said. "Punters had confidence when they saw a true surface and winners coming from all points of the globe instead of a lane down the outside fence. "To see increased betting figures in several of the support races such as the Ken Howard Memorial Cup re-enforces how important it is getting your racing style right." Atkinson believes few changes will be made to the Gold Cup itself but other feature events may receive extra attention. "To lose two of the biggest chances to injury within two days of the race wasn't a good start but the eventual field was as strong as any comparable race held on the same day in the Eastern states," he added. "Trainers have changed their methods in recent years and no longer set long-term programs, preferring to look at the best race available with the best prize money that's within the range of their horse. "I doubt adding extra stakes is going to get better horses as you're still restricted to those available to nominate at a given point in time." The preceding Grafton Cup carnival continues to have an effect through prestige, prizemoney and format. "Having back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday meetings rather than our Tuesday-Thursday schedule seems to be what the trainers want, so it's something we have to consider next year," Atkinson said. "Also, there's scope for extra attention to our sprints, the 1200m race and the Diamond Dash. "Building the support races on Cup day also will come in for close consideration." Coffs Harbour's next scheduled meeting is a TAB fixture on Tuesday, September 18. GREG WHITE

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