TALK the hardness of the track is responsible for the scratchings that have slashed the fields in today's Grafton Cup has been dismissed as "scuttlebutt".
By this morning 35 horses had been scratched from the fields, including $9 Grafton Cup chance Garud, who showed signs of soreness before trackwork this morning.
Clarence River Jockey Club CEO Michael Beattie quoted no lesser authority than Ramornie-winning jockey Robert Thompson to defend the state of the track.
"I had heard the talk about the track, so I decided I would go to someone with the expertise and knowledge of the track going back 40 years," Beattie said.
"I had a long conversation with Robert about the track after he had ridden in two races yesterday and he assured me the track condition was perfect.
"Personally I would take the word of someone with his experience here and around the country over just about anybody."
Beattie said the track had been harder on the first two days of the carnival, but this had been by design.
"To get the track to last for five meetings we couldn't put too much water in too early," he said.
He said recent frosts had made watering the track a tricky proposition, but praised track manager Drew Cookson for getting the balance right.
Beattie said the number of scratchings was disappointing, but said a number of them had been predictable.
"Race horses are no different to athletes and we know that not every player can play every match," he said.
Beattie said he had sympathy for the connections of Garud, who withdrew because of foot problems.
"I know from experience those sorts of issues can be costly and difficult to manage," he said.
Trainers like Luke Griffith, who scratched Valcot from race 4, the Benchmark 60 Hcp, said the track was not an issue.
"It was the wide gate and the extra weight that made the decision for us," Griffith said.
"I didn't want him carrying 62kg at this stage of his preparation."
He said Valcot will be racing at Tamworth tomorrow or Mudgee on Sunday.
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