NEW strategies to lessen the impact of wet conditions should be in operation when Coffs Harbour Racing Club holds a TAB race meeting next Tuesday.
But CEO Russ Atkinson insists it's not a knee-jerk response to strong criticism which appeared in the industry press on the weekend, about alleged track bias at the March 23 meeting.
Regional racing writer for the Sunday Telegraph, Grahame Timbrell, described runners heading to the outside fence down the home straight as a “ridiculous situation.”
In his Winning Post column on Saturday, racing journalist Richard Callander slammed the meeting (given a dead 5 track surface rating) as “an embarrassment for the club and for New South Wales Racing”.
“The first horse to the outside fence was the winner,” Callander wrote.
“Race after race we saw a horse that was going nowhere get to the outside - which looked like concrete - and make up 12 or more lengths to win easily.”
Callander suggested the club close the track until the problem is fixed, or utilise a false rail - something the club already had planned in an endeavour to alleviate ongoing problems.
“It's a pity Richard didn't contact us before commenting to learn what our plans are, as we could have told him the false rail will be in operation by next Tuesday,” he said.
“We recognise the situation isn't perfect, that's why we're creating new training surfaces to take the pressure off the course proper, along with other measures the experts advise will make a difference.”
The new track will relieve the pressure of wear and tear on the main grass surface where up to 160 horses gallop on fast mornings.
And Atkinson believes consultations with AJC chief steward Ray Murrihy, eventually leading to reductions in vehicular traffic on race days, will mean further benefits.
“Before each race jumps, you have the ambulance, stewards, veterinary surgeon, barrier attendants and camera operators travelling on the outside of the track where the horses will shortly be racing,” he revealed.
“On any cambered track (like this one) the car tyres and gravity force surface water back to the inside and even with no rainfall during the meeting, constant traffic forces a build-up of moisture closer to the inside rail.
“Once the track re-build is done and the surfaces are re-figured, most vehicles can move inside the course with perhaps just the ambulance staying where it is at present.”
This statement was proved at the last meeting when the winner came down the inside in the opening race, with subsequent winners moving further out on the track once the vehicular and equine traffic flows began impacting.
Acknowledging drainage is a core issue, Atkinson points to the racing pattern at any Australian racetrack that has become rain affected.
“When it's wet, watch the field spread to where the jockeys find the better going,” he added.
“It happens at Flemington, Randwick, wherever ... when it happens at Coffs, everybody knows because we aren't running away from the issue but instead, are trying to correct it.”
With continuing rain expected, Atkinson intends to sound out Clarence River Jockey Club in case a late shift of venue is required.
“If Tuesday is postponed, we risk losing the meeting completely, so Grafton may be the best option,” Atkinson said.
“I won't be taking my eyes off the Elders weather radar for the next few days, that's for sure.”