New training track done and dusted
IF you listen closely, you can hear a collective sigh of relief emanating from the Grafton Racecourse.
For more than two year, trainers, jockeys and racing officials have watched in horror as the incumbent StaLok training track crumbled under the weight of the heavens.
Unusable when wet, the 'all-weather' surface was a trainer's worst nightmare.
But early Tuesday morning, the local racing community woke to a new dawn as StaLok's successor - the Pro-Ride training track - was officially opened for business.
“It is done and finished,” Pro-Ride Racing director Ian Pearse said.
“Everything ran smoothly and there was no downside to any part of construction.”
It has been a long-awaited unveiling for trainers, with the Clarence River Jockey Club announcing Pro-Ride as the saviour of the training track back in May.
The anticipation to road-test the new track is palpable, with around a hundred horses already put through their paces on the synthetic track.
“It looks really good ... and everybody seems to be happy with it,” trainer John Shelton said.
“We've only done slow work on it, breaking the track in.
“But I'm looking forward to when the horses can start galloping.”
Racecourse manager Drew Cookson said trainers would not have to wait long to see their horses hitting full throttle.
“It is a totally different surface ... so I would say maybe four to six weeks,” he said.
“But if the trainers are confident now, I say go for your life.”
However, one final hurdle still faces the new track.
“I'm excited to see how it performs after a big rain,” Mr Cookson said.
“But I'm very confident it will be able to handle the wet weather.”