Unfortunately, Racing NSW advised that following potential Covid-19 exposure sites in the Coffs Harbour area, the race meeting was closed to members, the public and owners, meaning only essential personnel are permitted to attend the meeting.
Not all is lost though, with a bumper eight-race-program headlined by the $30,000 Sawtell Cup on offer for punters.
The feature event over 1500m is wide open, with the betting currently $5 the field with Southern Cross Bet.
There looms to be multiple chances in the race and the favourite is Arctic Wolf for Coffs Harbour trainer Brett Dodson and jockey Matthew Bennett.
The former Victorian is a last start winner over the 2000m journey at Warrnambool when under the care of Michael Moroney and will return to the races after a 5-week break.
Dodson was surprised that his galloper was favourite to win the event.
“I think he is a good chance, but I was surprised with how short he was with the only thing being that he is coming back from 2000m,” Dodson said.
“I thought it was a bit surprising, as it is a very good race, with a lot of seasoned open handicappers.
“It will be a good test for him having only won three races, but he has run some good races in town over a mile, and we are expecting him to be very competitive.”
The four-year-old has been thereabouts in city and provincial races in Victoria prior to his Warrnambool victory, and Dodson expected his Sebring gelding to be charging home at the finish.
“Hopefully the drop from Victorian grade, which is strong, will work in his favour and if there is any horse charging home late, he could be it,” Dodson said.
This will be the first time Arctic Wolf has officially raced the NSW way of going, but this didn’t faze his trainer.
“I really don’t know what he has done here in NSW, but he has given me no indication he won’t handle it,” Dodson said.
“He is perfectly mannered and has no issues with that type of thing and from the inside gate, it should help even more, and with Coffs Harbour being a big track, it is a good place to kick him off.”
Dodson hasn’t won a Sawtell Cup yet, and he admitted it would be nice to add one to the mantle, after going agonisingly close in 2019 when the aptly named Sawtell finished second in the feature race.
“No, I’ve not won it yet, I’ve only had a couple of runners in it, but Sawtell went close a couple of years ago and ran second,” Dodson said.
“These are good races to win and ones you definitely aim for.”
Today’s Sawtell Cup is just a steppingstone for Arctic Wolf, with the $50,000 Ken Howard Cup over 2000m, that is scheduled to be held on Coffs Harbour Cup Day on August 5, the main goal of this preparation.
“Last year, we had a bit of a luck over the carnival,” Dodson said.
“We won the Ken Howard Cup with Galway and after this run over 1500m, he (Arctic Wolf) will jump up to 2000m and go for the same race.”
With Coffs Harbour getting set for their annual carnival, Dodson felt for the club who had prepared for a big Saturday crowd, and he hoped the Covid-19 situation settled down before August 5 and the time-honoured Coffs Harbour Cup meeting.
“It’s a very good day of racing and it is such a shame we have gone this long and had a scare,” Dodson said.
“Hopefully it is just a scare, and we can get crowds back for Coffs Cup Day.”
Racing at Coffs Harbour jumps at 12.10pm and punters can click here to see full markets.