Ponder clears out to an easy win in race 1 at Grafton.
Ponder clears out to an easy win in race 1 at Grafton. Adam Hourigan

Wet weather, no worries for races

IT’S 4.20am in Yamba yesterday morning and I awake to pouring rain.... I mean a serious rain, puddles filling quicker than a bookmaker’s bag when the favourite gets beat.

The news of the morning, a monsoonal deluge hitting the Gold Coast, south-east Queensland and the north coast.

Hours later, it’s still pouring and it’s bloody raceday in Grafton.

About the only thing that will be racing today in Yamba are ducks and even their feathers would need to be pruned I mused.

Surely it’s the same in Grafton. Wrong, so wrong.

A quick call to chief steward Craig Pringle quickly quashes my weather form guide.

“We’ve only had 43ml until 6am, the track’s a heavy nine but it’s only light rain and unless that changes we’ll be racing,” Pringle suggests with authority.

“Are you guys on the same planet?,” I inquire.

Laughter was my answer.

Even driving into Grafton, the wipers were at warp speed trying to gain vision through the continual downpour.

Just outside Grafton it was like arriving in the eye of a tornado – the rampaging rain encircling Grafton all but non-existent. I half-expected to run into ET; it was surreal.

After the first race (Caldwell Electrical Maiden 1100m) won by the Neil Godbolt-trained Ponder, the way the track played was amazing. Monies spent by the Clarence River Jockey Club rejuvenating the racing surface and drainage were justly rewarded.

Ponder, by Startegic, led and carved out its final 600m in 35.22, terrific considering the heavy track. Other horses improved on that mark.

“He trialled well and has been working the place down at home,” Godbolt, a talented Port Macquarie horseman suggested.

All jockeys reported the surface, while definitely heavy, was safe however.

A group of CRJC directors including chairman Bob Pavitt smiled broadly despite the adverse conditions when the John Shelton-trained Darshan Joh (Joshua Jones) won the Bidvest 3YO Country Plate (1100m) in a deceptive photo finish from the Brett Bellamy-trained Lotsahula.

And for part-owner Jamie Kenneally the win was a timely tonic. Kenneally underwent a knee operation yesterday.

“It was a brave effort under 59 kilos,” Shelton said. “He’s still doing some things wrong. When he puts it all together he might be all right.”

I Love Legs, trained by Tas Morton at Port Macquarie romped home by 4-1/2 lengths winning the Clocktower Hotel Class 2 (1000m) from stablemate Port Commands.

“I told Matt (McGurren) to jump in front and keep improving,” Morton said tongue-in-cheek of the local apprentices winning ride.

Local trainer Bruce Swan and major stable backer Ron Skinner lobbed with an impressive winner, four-year-old Mauled winning the Bloomer Transport Benchmark 54 Handicap (1402m).

“Bruce has a good eye for a horse, he brought Mauled up the coast as a tried horse and asked me to go in with him,” Skinner said. “I trusted his judgement.”

Following race five a couple of jockeys complained of visibility problems and horses slipping at an inside section near the 600m mark.

After a quick track inspection, stewards ruled the show would go on.

Justin Stanley hugged the rails to win aboard the Peter Stanley-trained Misswan, narrowly defeating Urnfield in a bob of the heads go in the Grafton Air Benchmark 60 Handicap (1602m).

“I’m hitting that many hurdles lately I feel like the Grand National course is outside my front door,” lamented Urnfield’s trainer Stephen Lee after yet another frustrating placing.

The last word goes to CRJC CEO Bradley de Martino Rosaroll.

“It’s been insane. I’ve been looking at the radar all day. It’s pouring all around us but we’ve been lucky to be in the eye of the storm.”

Hoofnote: I’ve borrowed an inflatable dinghy for the trip home.

About the only thing that will be racing today in Yamba are ducks and even their feathers would need to be pruned I mused.



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