EASTER Saturday's Coffs Harbour matinee Westlawn Finance race meeting seemingly went off without a hitch.
In brilliant autumn sunshine, a big crowd rolled onto the course after gates opened at 10.30am for the earlier than usual start but behind the scenes, industry participants were wondering aloud if unsettling trends were looming for the future.
With 'community' meetings at Lismore and Port Macquarie competing against the local eight-race TAB meeting, a jockey shortage forced an unusually large number of late scratchings, simply because there was nobody available to ride the horses.
One owner who asked not to be identified blamed the clash on RacingNSW.
"Surely they must have known this could happen with so many meetings happening around the state," he said.
"I can understand the meeting at Port Macquarie has nothing to do with us but couldn't Lismore, who are part of our Association, have left their meeting until Monday?
"A TAB meeting should get first crack. I know people who have and they won't be happy if they have to scratch at the last minute because there isn't a jockey."
With Jasen Watkins in Brisbane, Darron Coleman and apprentice Melinda Kinny in Lismore and usual visitors Matt Paget, Mark Hanneybel and apprentices Matt Knight and Robert Agnew remaining in the Hastings, Coffs had no margin for error.
It also meant Allan Chau, who rode the first winner at Coffs Harbour and fulfilled commitments in the following four races, had to head south to ride in the last two races on his home track, including a victory in the feature Easter Cup.
The problem worsened when Raymond Spokes was injured in a freak accident while being legged aboard Feral Cat by trainer Philip Minter as runners paraded for the second race.
As Spokes prepared to vault onto the horse's back, a loud crack signalled he'd severely dislocated his shoulder, forcing him to stand down.