RACING: While numbers were overall down for the two main days of the Clarence River Jockey Club's July Carnival, executive officer Michael Beattie could hardly hide his delight at what were two successful days of racing.
The action on the track was only matched by the action of the crowds as thousands of people took advantage of the CRJC's premier facilities.
Once again the carnival was well supported by some of the bigger stables in Australian racing, including Gai Waterhouse, who claimed her third Grafton Cup in four years - this time alongside training partner Adrian Bott.
"The quality of the racing on the track was first class across the two days,” Michael Beattie said.
"It is obvious that some of Australia's best racing stables are coming to Grafton to contest the big races.
"Look at the first five horses in the Ramornie Handicap. Two were from the Peter and Paul Snowden stable, two were trained by James Cummings at Godolphin and the last is trained by the biggest country trainer in NSW, Brett Cavanough.
"That just speaks volumes as to the prestige of our carnival and who we are able to attract.”
With a number of close finishes across the carnival, most notably in the Sir James Kirby Plate (1000m), where a four-horse photo finish was won by Johnny Roo Boy, Beattie said it was clear stables were bringing their best horses.
Off the track, the carnival recorded a strong number of supporters, with almost 3300attending Ramornie Day and more than 5000 on Grafton Cup day.
"I have got to be honest, I was disappointed we didn't get a record crowd on Ramornie Day, but the atmosphere was absolutely magnificent at the track both days,” Beattie said.
"There was a lot of GDSC members that took advantage of the free entry on Ramornie Day and it showed in the numbers.”
But Beattie said the club would be striving to increase numbers each year.
"There wouldn't be a town of 17,000 people that could achieve those numbers, but that doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels.
"Everybody is aware that we are here - the major players go out of their way to support us. Perhaps it is about trying to engage a little better with the locals that don't come to the track.”
While the two big days have passed, the carnival is not over yet, with Maclean Cup Day providing a great chance for families to head to the track tomorrow.
With children's fashion events and other entertainment for the family, Beattie said he was very much looking forward to the day.
"While we know the numbers will definitely be down from Grafton Cup day, we want to have it so the atmosphere remains the same.”