THE abandonment of a racing meeting yesterday has reinforced why the reconstruction of Ballarat Turf Club’s racing surface later this year cannot come soon enough.
The track is scheduled for a $1.3 million upgrade at the end of spring, with work to begin immediately after the Ballarat Cup on Sunday, November 24.
The BTC has six meetings scheduled before the project begins, including the Gold Nugget on Sunday, September 22, and the Cup.
Yesterday’s nine-event meeting was called off after three races when jockeys refused to continue riding on what they deemed an unsafe slippery surface.
A naturally disappointed BTC chief executive officer Lachlan McKenzie said he was unhappy with the jockeys’ call, having an issue with the lack of consultation during the decision-making
McKenzie said it was difficult to accept the action taken when world class jockeys were happy to ride on.
He said while not one could come up with a definitive reason as to why the problem had arisen, he acknowledged that a drier than expected lead-up to the meeting – causing the BTC to irrigate the track on Wednesday to help compensate – and issues with the presence of shallow-rooted poa grass were among factors.
The poa, which compromises the surface, is a major reason behind the reconstruction of the track, with eight hectares of poa grass-infested turf to be replaced.
The new turf has been specifically selected to deal with Ballarat’s climate, particularly during the winter months.
Jockeys initially raised concern after the first race.
Katelyn Mallyon reported to stewards that her mount Global Assault slipped on the home turn.
The area in question was scarified and declared safe for the continuation of racing.
The death knell for the meeting was sounded when jockey Chris Symons reported his mount Navajo Run slipped after crossing the finish line.
Stewards again ordered the affected section of track be scarified.
However, an inspection by jockeys failed to give it the tick of approval.
Jockeys deemed the track unsafe after meeting with head steward Corey Waller on the track.
Symons delivered the decision to stewards.
The decision met a mixed reaction, with some jockeys and trainers not agreeing with the decision to bring the meeting to a premature end.
Waller indicated to jockeys during discussions that, given the work on the home turn had been successful in providing better grip for horses, aerating near the finish line should have the same affect.
Waller said stewards had been happy with the track after aerating early in the day, as was a regular practice.