BALLARAT Turf Club is racing the clock in a bid to have its track ready for next month’s inaugural two-day jumps carnival.
The club’s staff are working around the clock to overcome drainage issues in the home straight in time for the much-hyped August 20-21 event.
BTC chief executive Lachlan McKenzie said two sections of the straight – one at the turn and another at the 200m mark – were struggling to drain properly.
McKenzie said the issue wasn’t a new one and had come about due to works that filled the track’s infamous “dip” during major renovations following the running of the Ballarat Cup in 2013.
“There’s been a lot of remedial works to fix the issue over the last two years which have been very effective apart from in these two spots,” McKenzie said.
“It’s better than it was 12 months ago and a lot better than it was two years ago, but it’s still causing some concerns.”
McKenzie said covers have been used along the home straight to keep as much rain as possible off the surface.
“Although the tarps are very effective, the constraints are that they can only be left on for three days maximum because the turf needs sunlight and air,” he said.
McKenzie said he was reasonably confident that enough could be done to keep the jumps carnival, which will include the running of the time-honoured Grand National Steeplechase.
“If I thought that we weren’t going to be in a position to run the Grand National, we would be saying that right now. And we’re not at that point, but we do have some challenges in front of us that we’re working through,” he said.
Champion Irish female jumps jockey Katie Walsh has been booked to fly out to Australia for next month’s carnival.
Walsh is the sister of legendary hoop Ruby, who partnered Bashboy to a memorable victory in last year’s Grand National Steeplechase in Ballarat.
Walsh, who is the most successful female jockey in Aintree Grand National history, will represent the Emerald Isle in a four-race challenge between Australia and Ireland.
“Ruby spoke really fondly of his experience at Ballarat last year and the passion of Australian jumps racing fans, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to head down under,” she said at the time of announcing her visit.
The BTC has had some meetings transferred away from the course to allow it to have the circuit in good order for the carnival.
A big weekend of racing in Ballarat is set to get underway on Saturday, August 20 with a seven-race card being run before an eight-race meeting concludes the two-day festival.
Ballarat’s Saturday races are set to run alongside Moonee Valley’s metropolitan meeting, while Sunday is scheduled to be a standalone card in Victoria.
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