The Complete A to Z of the July Carnival

THE Daily Examiner put together an A to Z Countdown to help build the anticipation and excitement in the lead up to the 2016 July Carnival.

From 'A is for Awazoff' to 'Z is for Zulu', the countdown features some of the greatest horses to win the signature races, as well as the big personalities, trainers and jockeys, memorable moments and all the aspects that make July Carnival stand out from the crowd as the best country racing carnival in Australia.

A - AKWAZOFF

B - BOB PAVITT

C - CLARENCE RIVER JOCKEY CLUB

D - DAILY EXAMINER

E - ENTERTAINMENT

F - FASHION & FLAIR

G - GRAFTON CUP

H - HATS

I - I DO

J - THE JACKAL

K - KENSEI

L - LADY OF THE CARNIVAL

M - MACLEAN CUP

N - NEVILLE RUSSELL

O - ON TRACK

P - PRISCILLA SCHMIDT

Q - QUIZ

R - RAMORNIE

S - SKEETER KELLY

T - TAKEOVER TARGET

U - UNFAAN

V - VICTORY ($)

W - GAI WATERHOUSE

X - X-FACTOR

Y - YOUTHFUL JACK

Z - ZULU

 

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A - AKWAZOFF

AN IRON horse of country racing in the 1990s, Akwazoff was a regular feature at the July Carnival and a popular winner of the Grafton Cup in 1997.

Trained by Merv Corliss in Tamworth and ridden by Garry Baker, Akwazoff was a seven-year-old when he scored from Dannemora and Mack 'N Me.

Akwazoff won the Grafton Cup in 1997.
Akwazoff won the Grafton Cup in 1997. Bill North

The gelding had placed third the previous year and was third again in 2000 as a 10-year-old.

Akwazoff finished a widely travelled career with 36 wins and just $419 short of $500,000 in prizemoney. As well as the Grafton Cup he also won a Lismore Cup, two Armidale Cups, a Gunnedah Cup, Quirindi Cup, Walcha Cup and a Country Cup run at Randwick. "He was one of the best," said Corliss, who rated the 1997 Grafton Cup win as perhaps the horse's best performance.

After racing, Akwazoff became a mounted horse in the NSW police force and died in 2011 at age 22.

B - BOB PAVITT

CURRENT chairman of Country Racing NSW, Bob Pavitt, was for a long time the beating heart of the July Racing Carnival.

The Grafton resident served as chairman of Clarence River Jockey Club for 15 years and witnessed some memorable Grafton Cup wins in that time.

"July Carnival is terrific; it is something you look forward to each year," Mr Pavitt said.

"I love the atmosphere. It is not just about the main race days, it is about the whole week of racing."  

Bob Pavitt
Bob Pavitt

Read more about Pavitt's love of the carnival in this year's On Track magazine, free inside  The Daily Examiner this Saturday, June 25.

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

C - CLARENCE RIVER JOCKEY CLUB

PART of the magical allure of the July Racing Carnival is its deep history - and going along for the ride the entire journey is the Clarence River Jockey Club.

The CRJC conducted its first official race meeting in Grafton on July 30 in 1861 - four years after the first running of July races. The following year a five-member comittee was elected.

From a humble beginning with 23 horses across six events, including feature races The Ladies Purse and The Town Plate, and about 300 people in attendance, the CRJC steadily grew the July Carnival and by 1906 attendances across the two-day carnival were estimated at 7000.

 

The Clarence River Jockey Club officials in 1909 (back l to r): RR Smith, A Thompson, PC Clarence, CF Tindal, S Harris, J Spencer, E Blaxland; (front) EG Elworthy, GH Varley, TT Bawden, P McMahon and unknown. Source CRJC Archives / 'big river racing: A history of the Clarence River Jockey Club 1861-2001
The Clarence River Jockey Club officials in 1909 (back l to r): RR Smith, A Thompson, PC Clarence, CF Tindal, S Harris, J Spencer, E Blaxland; (front) EG Elworthy, GH Varley, TT Bawden, P McMahon and unknown. Source CRJC Archives / 'big river racing: A history of the Clarence River Jockey Club 1861-2001

The club has since survived two wars and several major changes in regulation, continuing to have a major presence in the community throughout the past 155 years.

For the past half-century its flagship event has remained one of the biggest country carnivals in Australia and now boasts 38 races across five days exceeding $1 million in prizemoney.

Today the CRJC is one of the premier Country Racing facilities, playing host to no less than 25 race meetings per year.  

Michael Beattie and Graeme Green at the Clarence River Jockey Club Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Michael Beattie and Graeme Green at the Clarence River Jockey Club Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

D - DAILY EXAMINER

THE Daily Examiner has been along for the ride since the very start of the July Racing Carnival, documenting its events, capturing its moments and bottling its rich history.

As the oldest regional masthead in Australia, Grafton's proud and long marriage with the racing game has echoed through the DEX for 157 years.

Previously known as The Clarence and Richmond Examiner, it's had its own characters reflect on the carnival over the years, such as racing reporter 'The Pirate', who in 1914 wrote:

"It really seems like wasting time announcing the fact the annual reunion of the CRJC is upon us. Everyone knows it, and the voice of the fact is heard loud in the land."

The crowd was described as "good tempered and well dressed - flitting hither and thither", and "thickest where the loud-voiced bookmakers shouted the odds and where the folk congregated for refreshment". Management was "as usual, first-class".

While descriptive - and fashion - styles may have changed, much else remains the same. The DEX continues to be the reliable mouthpiece for the carnival. Our book is filled front, middle and back with carnival matters, while online commentary including videos, interviews, photo galleries and social media reaction is delivered with unprecedented - and unmatched - immediacy.

Once again in 2016, like an honest stayer, the DEX will be there to provide its award winning coverage.

The Daily Examiner sports editor Bill North (middle) holding the Country Media Award with Clarence River Jockey Club chairman Graeme Green and Racing NSW racing writer Tony White at the Racing NSW 2013/14 Country and Provincial Racing Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on the night of Friday, October 14th 2014. Photo Bill North / Daily Examiner
The Daily Examiner sports editor Bill North (middle) holding the Country Media Award with Clarence River Jockey Club chairman Graeme Green and Racing NSW racing writer Tony White at the Racing NSW 2013/14 Country and Provincial Racing Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on the night of Friday, October 14th 2014. Photo Bill North / Daily Examiner Bill North

 

The Daily Examiner won the Racing NSW Country Media Award in 2009 and 2014, along with nominations in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In addition to July Carnival coverage, the publication also produces an 8-page Supaform liftout previewing all 25 CRJC race meetings each year.

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

E - ENTERTAINMENT

WHILE horseracing is at the heart of the July Racing Carnival, the entertainment and social aspect of this signature event cannot be dismissed.  

Over the years the carnival has attracted some big names in entertainment and in social circles, from Col Joye and the Joy Boys to Sydney swing outfit Harlem Shuffle, to The McClymonts.  

The Sydney fashion set were also regular visitors to the prestigious country carnival. In the 1960s, the editor of Vogue magazine, Sheila Scotter, accompanied Mrs Frank Packer, while the colourful characters that racing attracts have been diverse.   

Who remembers journalist Mike Willesee and former Miss Australia Belinda Green arriving at the Grafton racecourse in a chopper during one carnival?   

 

THE McCLYMONTS: Mollie, Sam and Brooke are among the long line of Cup Carnival entertainers.
THE McCLYMONTS: Mollie, Sam and Brooke are among the long line of Cup Carnival entertainers. Caitlan Charles

 Prime ministers of the time have also graced us with their presence in Bob Hawke and more recently Tony Abbott.  

And while you won't find a Birdcage or other celebrity-filled area at Grafton, you will find some very happy people frequenting the range on offer from the CRJC VIP ticketed marquee, to the Toohey's Tent and the number of corporate sponsors spoiling their staff and clients for the day.

This year's special guests are champion jockey Chris Munce and former NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy and many of the city's venues will unleash a range of entertaining to complete a big day at the track, so enjoy this time-honoured tradition.   

The July Carnival still projects one of the biggest, atmospheric social events in the Clarence Valley calendar.

People from all over the country travel to Grafton for this week in July, catch up with old friends and school mates who make the annual pilgrimage and, of course, make plenty of new friends.  

F - FASHION & FLAIR

Grafton Cup Carnival fashions from 1966.
Grafton Cup Carnival fashions from 1966.

THIS old Daily Examiner social photo from the 1966 Ramornie Handicap shows committee members' wives and their visitors dressed in the fashions of the day, a rather conservative portrait to what you might see at the track these days.   

As with most prestigious racing carnivals, fashion has always been a highlight and played an important role in redefining the industry as not only a sporting event but a social spectacle.  

Of course no racing carnival worth its salt would go without a Fashions on the Field event and the CRJC has seen quite a few different guises over the years.   

While The Daily Examiner held the fashion mantle for a few carnivals, that honour now goes to Grafton Shoppingworld who have done a great job in organising and attracting sponsors to ensure this important social facet of the carnival still thrives.  

This will be the centre's eighth year at the helm which you can read about, and check this year's latest fashions, in On Track which comes free inside Saturday's (June 25) Daily Examiner. In the meantime it's getting down to the serious end of getting those race outfits ready so best of luck to all our 2016 racing fashionistas.

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

G - GRAFTON CUP

THE MAIN feature race of the July Carnival since 1910 has become one of the most prestigious races outside of the metropolitan region.

The Grafton Cup has been won by many of Australia's greatest trainers. None more impressive than Tommy Smith who was a regular visitor to Grafton in his day. Smith had a turbulent relationship with the main race, finishing last in his first ever attempt but returning to claim victory with Carnival in 1966.   

In 2016 the Listed race is set to grow further in stature with an increase in prizemoney for the first time since 2009, with $160,000 on offer for the McKimms Grafton Cup on July 14.

 

Over the years the Grafton Cup has become a a stepping stone for horses on their way to greatness, most notably Kensei in 1987 who went on to win the Melbourne Cup that year. But Kensei is hardly alone with 1986 winner Les' Choice claiming the Doomben Cup the same year, 1992 winner Cross Swords won the 1994 Sydney Cup and 1996 winner Praise Indeed went on to win the Brisbane Cup two years later.   

As such, the Grafton Cup has earned the moniker 'The Springboard to Fame'.

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The Grafton Cup has not run in only three years of its history, during the Second World War.

And while it may have cemented its spot as the feature of our July Carnival there was one year, in 1919, when the Cup was not run until September.

H - HATS

IT WOULDN'T be a racing carnival without the presence of hats.

They are the quintessential accessory, the fashion item most associated with the Sport of Kings.

But why is that?

Apparently in the early 1900s, horse racing was considered the sporting choice of the social elite and well-to-do.

With money being flashed on the fields too, spectators took the opportunity to showcase their wealth and class through fancy fashion.

Hats had fallen out of flavour in mainstream circles during that time, and so wearing one was a statement of individuality, confidence and exclusiveness.   

As seen at Royal Ascot in England last week. Hats are the quintessential racing accessory.
As seen at Royal Ascot in England last week. Hats are the quintessential racing accessory. Alastair Grant

Since that time, hats have been a mainstay on the racetracks around the world.

Today, we see an array of creations from the simple and conservative to the downright crazy concoctions that can be crafted from everything from barbed wire to beer cartons.  

During the July Racing Carnival it is recommended to wear a hat that reflects the season, so wool felt, tweed and other cold climate fabrics are the way to go, especially if you are considering entertaining a Fashions on the Field event (plus they also keep your head warm).  

This year, wide brim hats seem to be all the rage but you can never go wrong with a smart pillbox style either.

Not wearing a hat? Well, that's just not in the spirit of racing.

I - I DO

THE parade ring at Clarence River Jockey Club is always a place of mixed emotions.

Before races it is filled with nervous and expectant jockeys and trainers, hoping their horses will prevail in the race ahead. Once the race is won, excited owners celebrate while the beaten competitors plan for another day.

On Westlawn Race Day last year, for a precious few minutes racing wasn't the focus in the parade ring. Trainer Dan Want, after his talented horse Dantga won the third race, got down on one knee and proposed to his partner, Danielle Cunningham.

Dan knew what was going too happen, but the proposal stunned Danielle.

"I had no idea about it," she said. "I'm very surprised, I'm speechless."

J - THE JACKAL

THERE is no shortage of fairytale stories to from the July Carnival. One from the modern era is the achievements of two-time Ramornie Handicap winner, The Jackal, which claimed back to back wins in the coveted 1200m sprint in 2007 and 2008.

Installed as $4.80 favourite, The Jackal beat home $51 outsider Sir Covet and Gee I Jane ($10) to win the 2007 edition, and in 2008 stormed home at $9 to win by two and a half lengths in a record time of 1:08.02 from Kris Lees-trained Captain Bax ($10), both times with leading country jockey Robert Thompson in the saddle.  

Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap Photo The Daily Examiner
Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap Photo The Daily Examiner The Daily Examiner

Trained by humble Tamworth horseman Paul St Vincent, The Jackal returned to Grafton to attempt a third Ramornie in 2010, finishing fourth behind Pinwheel, and surpassed the million dollar mark in career prizemoney when third in the Falvelon Handicap at Eagle Farm in 2011.

The gelding's last of 15 career wins came closer to home as a 10-year-old in the The Lightning at Quirindi in 2013.

The Jackal's legacy lives on through The Jackal Flying an 1100m sprint held in its honour and held on Tradies Race Day every April, won in 2015 by Miss Caitlyn and 2016 by Crossroad, both trained by Paddy Cunningham.

K - KENSEI

IT WAS Kensei in 1987 who truly put Grafton Cup on the map as a fashionable lead-up race to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.  

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Kensei remains the only horse to win the Grafton-Melbourne Cup double and the only publicly offered horse, via advertisement on Radio 2KY, to have won the Melbourne Cup.

Already saddled up with up and coming Sydney trainer Neville Voigt, the New Zealand galloper just needed someone to take a chance. So they took to the airwaves to advertise a once in a lifetime opportunity.

One group took the plunge and set him up for a 3YO classics campaign. But unfortunately for Kensei, 1986 was also the era of another Kiwi galloper, Bonecrusher, who took all before him winning a string of Group One events.

After this time the syndicate decided to switch stables, transferring Kensei to Les Bridge, who had a new plan for Kensei - a challenge at the Melbourne Cup. And as a regular visitor to Grafton, the trainer knew exactly where to start.

Kensei launched his campaign in 1987 with a dominant victory in the Grafton Cup before defeating fellow Kiwi, Empire Rose, on Australia's grandest stage at Flemington.

While continuing to race a further three years, Kensei never tasted victory on the track again. But the horse still holds a very prominent place in the history of the July Racing Carnival and was the inspiration behind the Clarence River Jockey Club's catchy "Springboard to Fame" moniker.

The name Kensei remains a major feature of the Clarence River Jockey Club through its Kensei Club - a pool of local businesses who go into the draw each year for the naming rights to the Grafton Cup.

L - LADY OF THE CARNIVAL

WHILE the July Racing Carnival is not a new event, some facets such as the relatively new concept of the Lady of the Carnival are in the fledgling stages.

Instigated in 2009 by the Clarence River Jockey Club to increase the fashion and social element on South Grafton Cup Day, the category is now a permanent fixture in the Grafton Shoppingworld Fashions on the Field competition.

This year it is sponsored by Serenity Skin and is now one of the most popular categories on field as ladies vie for not just a title and a bunch of prizes, but also the opportunity to be the Face of the Carnival for the next 12 months.

The Lady of the Carnival winner's smiling face will appear on promotional material in the lead up to next year's event, she will be special guest at social events such as the official launch and the Fashions on the Field judging panel and be spoiled with invitations to VIP marquees.

2015 Lady of the Carnival is former Maclean girl Renee Adams who is extremely excited to play a "small role" in helping to showcase the event around the Clarence and the nation.

"It's not just about the fashion or being the face of the carnival. The whole event is a big thing for the Clarence Valley community. It's a privilege to be a part of that."

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

M - MACLEAN CUP

THE Maclean Cup is held on the fifth and final day of the July Carnival every year delivering a perfect mix of competitive racing and social activities to wrap up the festivities.

 

Part owner of Nautile Gary Powell lifts his daughter Amber up to give his Maclean Cup winner Nautile. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Part owner of Nautile Gary Powell lifts his daughter Amber up to give his Maclean Cup winner Nautile. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

 

While the action on track may not be as top class as some of the earlier days, it is often a final chance for the locals to earn a feature race win, including last year's winner Nautile, trained in Grafton by Wayne Lawson and owned by local connections of the Nautile Syndicate, and Primed to Win trained by Tucabia's Felicity Firth who took out the final feature in 2014 much to the delight of local connection, Paul Plummer.

Winner of the 2014 Maclean Cup, No 13, Prime To Win jockey Matthew Paget, trainer Felicty Firth. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner
Winner of the 2014 Maclean Cup, No 13, Prime To Win jockey Matthew Paget, trainer Felicty Firth. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner Debrah Novak

  It is the action off the track that is highly sought after on Maclean Cup Day with the young fashionistas strutting their stuff in the children's fashions on the field pageant.  

  The Maclean Bowling Club Maclean Cup Day will be on Sunday, July 17.

N - NEVILLE RUSSELL

UNLESS you are horse racing mad and a history buff, you may not have heard of Neville Russell. But you probably should have, as his horse Cuban Song even outdid Makybe Diva in the consecutive gong stakes by taking our four Ramornie Handicaps in a row.

Of course this happened a while ago, 1933-1936 to be precise, so you may be forgiven for not holding such record-breaking pursuits foremost in your mind.

But if you are a regular traveller along Turf St in Grafton there is a reminder of Russell's remarkable feat with the Cuban Song Lodge dedicated to the consistency of this thoroughbred's winning streak, a record likely to never be surpassed.

Interestingly, Cuban Song was saddled up by a different hoop on each win.

Neville Russell trained Cuban Song to four Ramornie Handicap wins from 1933-1936.
Neville Russell trained Cuban Song to four Ramornie Handicap wins from 1933-1936.

You can read about this record and many other Ramornie Handicap legends in Tony White's article on the history of the famous race in this year's On Track magazine.

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

O - ON TRACK

THE Daily Examiner has a long association with the July Racing Carnival, covering decades of the events since it began in the late 1850s. 

As technology changes so too does the way we present that coverage.

Part of The Daily Examiner's carnival stable is is the appropriately named On Track magazine we have produced for the carnival in recent years.

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The premium free publication is one of our finest; full of interesting racing stories with a touch of fashion and social flavour.

It has also helped us snare a few racing awards.

On Track magazine complements our annual coverage but it can only get better with each year thanks to the support of loyal advertisers and carnival fans, so thank you to everyone on board.

If you missed your free copy inside the June 25 edition of The Daily Examiner, it will be available on our website as a flipbook and limited copies will be available out at the track during the carnival.

P - PRISCILLA SCHMIDT

PRISCILLA Schmidt has been a familiar sight at July Racing Carnivals in recent years as a jockey, including being named 2014 Jockey of the Carnival.

However, she has switched careers and is now part of the Sky Racing commentary team who will be trackside throughout the 2016 edition.

The 26-year-old's transition from the saddle to the screen is featured in The Daily Examiner's free carnival magazine On Track, available at the DEX office, or at the Clarence River Jockey Club throughout the carnival, which starts Thursday and ends July 17.

Q - QUIZ

HOW good is your July Racing Carnival knowledge? If you have read your 2016 copy of On Track magazine you should be across most of these quiz questions (answers at bottom of article):

1. Which horse won the 2015 Grafton Cup?

2. Name the champion jockey and special guest at this year's CRJC barrier lunch draw?

3. Who won naming rights to this year's Grafton Cup?

4. Name the horse that won four consecutive years of Ramornie Handicaps?

5. Who is this year's Face of the Carnival?

6. Who is the chairman of Country Racing in New South Wales?

7. Which organisation has been the main sponsor of Fashions on the Field for the past seven carnivals?

8. Name the horses jockey Chris Munce rode to victory in the Grafton Cup in 1999 and 2005?

9. Total prizemoney for the 2016 CRJC July Racing Carnival is: a): $1 million; b): $1.1 million or c): $1.3 million?

10. Which company sponsors the Grafton Cup Prelude?

Missed on your copy of On Track? Pick up one from The Daily Examiner or at the Grafton Racecourse during the carnival.

<< 2016 July Racing Carnival events guide >>

R - RAMORNIE

ONE of the two Listed features of the Clarence River Jockey Club's July Racing Carnival, the Ramornie Handicap is a race steeped in rich tradition. 

The 'Ramornie', named in recognition of the important contribution to Clarence racing by Ramornie Station, replaced the Newmarket as the carnival's premier sprint in 1917, and has run every year since except for a four-year break in the 1940s during the Second World War.

Australian battlers to Arab sheiks have all won a Ramornie Handicap, but none have dominated the century-old gallop quite like Neville Russell. Russell trained 1930s sprinter Cuban Song to a record four victories in a row.

In the 1950s jockey Cecil "Skeeter" Kelly wrote his name into the Ramornie record books, winning the race four times.

Robert Thompson equalled his record when he rode Big Money to victory in 2014, adding to his 2007, 2008 and 2013 wins.  

12 - Rock Royalty ridden by Chris Whiteley wins the Ramornie Handicap in a track record. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
12 - Rock Royalty ridden by Chris Whiteley wins the Ramornie Handicap in a track record. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

  This year's Ramornie Handicap over 1200m on Wednesday, July 13 has increased in prizemoney from $150,000 in 2015 to $160,000, with $96,000 on offer for winning connections.

S - SKEETER KELLY

JOCKEY CD 'Skeeter' Kelly became a July Carnival legend in the 1950s when he rode to four Ramornie Handicap wins.   Kelly claimed the feature Grafton sprint twice on Trevatore in 1955 and 1956, before wins on Blue Dart in 1958 and Glanceful in 1959.  

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A one-time professional cyclist, Kelly claimed to be a self-taught jockey and was a favourite of the Grafton crowds.

Although he never managed to win a Grafton Cup, Skeeter's mounts were invariably well supported by local punters, who would parlay their Ramornie winnings into Cup day.

He died in a Glen Innes race fall in 1967.

As a tribute to the jockey, the Clarence River Jockey Club in 2011 renamed the prestigious award for the winning Ramornie Handicap rider to the Skeeter Kelly Memorial Jockey's Trophy.

Skeeter's son Rex Kelly is the race starter at the Clarence River Jockey Club.

T - TAKEOVER TARGET

FEW racehorses have won the affection of fans like Takeover Target.

The journey of trainer Joe Janiak and jockey Jay Ford and the lightning fast gelding that cost just $1375 from humble surroundings in Queanbeyan to taking on the world is the stuff of legend.

On the way they passed through Grafton in scintillating style to win the 2004 Ramornie Handicap in just the horse's sixth start.    

From that win, Takeover Target confirmed the Clarence River Jockey Club's Springboard to Fame slogan, winning the Group One Salinger Stakes at Flemington at his next start, then hitting top form in the 2005/06 summer when he won four big spring races, including the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.

From there the unlikely trio jetted to Royal Ascot and won the King's Stand Stakes, a victory that saw Takeover Target crowned the best sprinter in the world. The horse's overseas record also included wins in Japan and Singapore.

Although Takeover Target never raced at Grafton again, he and Janiak were always popular visitors.  

Takeover Target was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2012 and retired to Toofrook at Lawrence. He was euthanased in 2015.  

U - UNFAAN

PROGRESS is part and parcel with any industry and invariably it takes an incident to alter the course of history.

In 1954 the misfortune of heavily backed Grafton Cup favourite Unfaan led to the introduction of significant safety regulations.

Unfaan lifted his head in the barriers and caught a strand of the barrier in his mouth. Beaten one and a half lengths by True Bill, the incident cost the horse considerably more than his losing margin.

It led to replacing the strand barriers at Grafton with starting stalls, which had already become popular at metropolitan tracks.

In 1956 the CRJC agreed to purchase a set of mobile barrier stalls which were in use by the 1958 July Carnival - the same year photo-finish cameras were introduced.

When Unfaan was 'a certainty beaten' it another chapter to the tale of mixed fortune for legendary jockey CD 'Skeeter' Kelly at the carnival.

While Kelly holds the Ramornie Handicap record of four winners with current hoop Robert Thompson, he never went on to win a Grafton Cup in his distinguished career.

V - VICTORY ($)

THE racing game is all about winners and losers; The exhilaration of having a punt stands, satisfaction of training or riding a winner and the grand prize riches for the owners.

Punters escape the rain in the non-members stand on Grafton Cup Day. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Punters escape the rain in the non-members stand on Grafton Cup Day. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner JoJo Newby

  And this year's July Racing Carnival sees the stakes raised. The two feature events the Ramornie Handicap (1200m) and Grafton Cup (2350m) have increased in prizemoney from $150,000 to $160,000.

Meanwhile, prizemoney across the entire carnival has gone up, in line with Racing NSW increases from July 1, with every race worth a minimum $20,000, for a total of at least $1,280,000 across the five days of racing.

W - GAI WATERHOUSE

THERE is probably no one, horse racing fan or not, who isn't aware of Gai Waterhouse.

Her larger than life personality, mixed with stunning training successes, have made her the first lady of Australia's thoroughbred industry.

 

Gai Waterhouse after winning the 2015 XXXX Gold Toowoomba Cup with Pornichet on Weetwood Race Day at Clifford Park, Saturday, May 02, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle
Gai Waterhouse after winning the 2015 XXXX Gold Toowoomba Cup with Pornichet on Weetwood Race Day at Clifford Park, Saturday, May 02, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle Kevin Farmer

 

And that success has extended to the July Carnival, with Waterhouse winning the Grafton Cup on three occasions, despite not yet making it to the track.

She first claimed the Cup in 2006 with Rocking On, ridden by Jamie Innes, then had to wait a while before claiming the big race in the past two years, with Queenstown, ridden by Tim Clark, in 2014 and Bonfire (Blake Shinn) 12 months ago.  

Queenstown shoots to the lead to easily win the 2014 Grafton Cup. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Queenstown shoots to the lead to easily win the 2014 Grafton Cup. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

While Waterhouse has not nominated a starter for a potential Grafton Cup hattrick, she will have two runners at the 2016 July Carnival, with Multitude in the Grafton Guineas and Echo Gal in the Ramornie Handicap on Ramornie Day, Wednesday, July 13.

X - X-FACTOR

THERE is something about the July Carnival that keeps the best trainers from around the country coming back to the local track year after year. 

And it all centres on the tradition of the carnival. 

Looking over the races on Grafton Cup day from the members stand. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Looking over the races on Grafton Cup day from the members stand. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

The Clarence River Jockey Club's feature week of racing has more than 150 years of successful history and utilises that every time it runs.

It remains one of the only regional carnivals still run across 10 days, and the last remaining carnival with five race meetings.

While others have been reduced to just two meetings, the July Carnival refuses to give in.

According to CRJC executive officer Michael Beattie, when he took over the role ahead of the 2013 edition, his mission was to take the CRJC "back to the future".  

CEO of Clarence River Jockey Club Michael Beattie Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
CEO of Clarence River Jockey Club Michael Beattie Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

Beattie wanted the club to focus on what made it so great in the past, as that was the only way it would be successful in the future.

Beattie knows the X-Factor of the carnival rests in its own proud traditions.

Y - YOUTHFUL JACK

IT WAS a triumph for the veterans when the ironically named Youthful Jack unleashed a mighty sprint down the outside to win the 2013 Ramornie Handicap.

Stable foreman for trainer Ross Stitt Terry Hoare (right) salutes the crowd as he brings back Ramornie Handicap Winner Youthful Jack riddden by Robert Thompson Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Stable foreman for trainer Ross Stitt Terry Hoare (right) salutes the crowd as he brings back Ramornie Handicap Winner Youthful Jack riddden by Robert Thompson Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

The rising eight-year-old's win was a highlight for trainer Ross Stitt, who said: "I've been training at Taree for 47 years and been coming to the Grafton July Carnival for most of that time.

"To win a feature race like the Ramornie for the first time after all these years is special."  

Piloting Youthful Jack home was legendary jockey Robert Thompson, then just a 55-year-old spring chicken, the win gave him his third Ramornie, a record he improved the following year on Big Money.

Robert Thompson rode Youthful Jack (4) to win the Ramornie Handicap at the CRJC. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Robert Thompson rode Youthful Jack (4) to win the Ramornie Handicap at the CRJC. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner JoJo Newby

The win more than made up for a mistake by Stitt the previous week.

"I actually made a blue when I missed the nominations for the John Carlton Cup last Thursday," he said. "Rob trialled him on Friday instead and was blowing up at me because he says the horse would have won easy."

Lucky punters couldn't have been happier, with Youthful Jack paying a tasty $36.20 on the TAB as he finished ahead of Big Bonanza and Pentasia.

Z - ZULU

FIVE years ago one of Grafton's most loved racing stories from the 1800s was exposed as a myth.

No Caption
No Caption Bill North

It was long believed Melbourne Cup winner Zulu was taken to Victoria in 1881 and raced by Grafton trainer Charlie Page.

However, in 2011 questions were raised when it was discovered Mr Page's name did not appear as Zulu's trainer in a list of Melbourne Cup winners on Wikipedia - rather the trainer credited was Tom Lamond.

"The best explanation I can find is that Charles Page might have trained Zulu when the horse first ran as a two-year-old at Clarence River," Victoria Racing Club consultant historian Dr Andrew Lemon told The Daily Examiner.

"Newspaper reports from the period are explicit and consistent that Tom Lamond trained the horse through its preparation for the 1881 Melbourne Cup.

QUIZ ANSWERS: 1. Bonfire. 2. 2. Chris Munce. 3. McKimms Real Estate. 4. Cuban Song (1933-36). 5. Renee Adams (Lady of the Carnival 2015). 6. Bob Pavitt. 7. Grafton Shoppingworld. 8. Count Scenario (1999) and Storm Hill (2005). 9. c ($1.3m). 10. Westlawn.

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