Right on the money

COFFS Harbour Racing Club chief executive Russ Atkinson has built a reputation for innovation since taking the reins but his latest attempt at 'staff recruitment' is novel, to say the least.

Searching for another bookmaker to add extra competition to race days, Atkinson asked for expressions of interest on the RacingNSW website while also following the traditional path of writing to the local Bookie's Association in search of a starter.

"Since (bookmaker) Ernie Selby passed away last year we've been on the lookout for somebody to replace him as soon as the time was right," Atkinson said.

"After consultation with the other fielders, the Board and members, a decision was made to seek a new face to take up a stand in the upstairs members bar as many have expressed a view they'd like to have a bet while continuing to entertain."

Several approaches have been received and the club is confident an appointment will be made in time for the Gold Cup carnival.

"At least two people have said they've always wanted to work closer with us and the time is right," Atkinson added.

"The change we made recently to the upstairs betting ring received overwhelming support with less congestion around the bar area and with the bookies and tote directly facing each other it's certain to lead to better and increasing competition."

The Racing Club is poised to break all records when the feature season begins on August 3 with the running of the Sawtell Cup.

Prize money for the renamed Daniel Baker Sprint (1200m) on Thursday, August 7, has doubled to $40,000 and the reduction in the Gold Cup distance to the metric mile has been compensated for by now catering for stayers in the Ken Howard Cup with the journey increased to 2300m.

But linked to the success of the Carnival is a meeting in Newcastle on Friday to protest the continuation of ratings-based handicapping in country racing.

With many local trainers having horses engaged at the Clarence River Jockey Club fixture in Grafton on the same day, Atkinson said it's a pity we may be under-represented at the Newcastle gathering.

"Many of our people have frank and forthright views on the ratings system and have a right to be heard," he believes.

"The basic problem is confusion and many anomalies that become evident when comparing performances of horses."

When reminded high profile trainer Gordon Yorke was warning of inequalities from day one, Atkinson said the same man had already pointed out difficulties for the feature races.

"Gordon feels it will impact greatly on something such as the quality of nominations for Daniel Baker Sprint," he said.

"There's plenty of evidence a good horse with a strong recent record may get weighted out of the race and be no longer competitive at that level.

"If for nothing else it's the main reason why we need a range of views expressed in further discussions on the system."


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