Bug invasion proving costly for Racing Club

INVADING arthropods have been accused of being the villains behind the latest cancellation of a Coffs Harbour race meeting.

An invasion by the bugs, coupled with overnight rain, conspired to see another fixture lost and the race club out of pocket.

Northern Rivers Racing Association stewards abandoned Friday's TAB meeting after a track inspection between the 400m and 200m marks revealed a slippery patch that couldn't be made safe in time.

The course in Howard St received 19mm of rain in the 24 hours leading up to the final inspection but Coffs Harbour Racing Club CEO, Russ Atkinson, said the real damage was done in the September-October period.

"During that time we suffered a mite infestation at parts of the racecourse," he revealed.

"They attacked the track in two places - at the 1200m point and at the spot around 350m from the finish that caused all the trouble on Friday.

"Other tracks on the Northern Rivers have endured the same problem and while we took measures to treat the grass and soil to get rid of them, there's been no heavy downpour like tropical rain that's best to wash them out of the system."

The mites causing so much angst burrow into the subsoil and attack the grass roots.

They eat every type of vegetable matter available and denude the surface of plant life.

When rain falls the racing surface without a protective covering of grass turns slippery and makes it treacherous for horse and rider.

Atkinson denied rumours that army worms had also invaded the track.

"No, there's no sign of them at all,' he said.

"We have around the 1200m under control but when I talk about the bad spot at 350m causing trouble, I mean it.

"It's about nine metres out from the inside fence and while only a very small patch, it's still not feasible to put the false rail that far out.

"Also frustrating is that's where runners are starting to accelerate for the run home.

"We're in a difficult position."

NRRA chief steward Mark Holloway inspected and took photographs of the racing surface the day before the meeting.

"With storms forecast, we needed to look at all possibilities," Atkinson said.

"After the rain, Mark came back on Friday and watched as two horses were galloped around the area of concern.

"Based on his observations and after talking to the jockeys, the meeting was called off.

"It's so frustrating that such a small piece of the track caused so much trouble but the safety of horses and riders has to be our only concern.

"Had the meeting gone ahead and a fall caused injury to horses and riders ... look, I don't even want to think about it."

Alarm is being expressed by those who earn their livings from racing and the punting public.

The track has undergone numerous touch-ups.

In October, a further $500,000 was allocated to drainage works but these won't begin until after the Pink Silks Ladies Day in mid-January.

The club is due to race next on December 30. Atkinson said fingers are crossed that there won't be any more misadventures.



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