Grafton readies for bumper carnival

Jason Collett guides Sixties Groove to a victory in the 2020 Grafton Cup. Photo: Trackside Photography.

The Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) will kick off their Grafton XXXX Gold July Carnival on Sunday, with five epic race days set to keep racing fans and punters entertained over the next two weeks. 

The CRJC was founded in the same year that the first Melbourne Cup was held, and only one year after, the AJC opened its racecourse at Randwick, meaning Grafton racing is steeped in history. 

The club has grown to become one of Australia’s most important country race clubs and their annual carnival is one of the biggest in the country outside of metropolitan racing.

CRJC CEO Michael Beattie said the Grafton course was in great condition after a sprinkling of rain on Thursday.

“I’m very happy with it, we’ve had rain today, which was needed,” Beattie said. 

“We do our irrigation plan very much based on predicted weather, and by the time we got four or 5ml today, we were right.”

When asked how the track would handle five meetings in 15 days, Beattie was full of confidence it would be up for the challenge once again.

“The track handles better than you could possibly imagine, and I think a lot of that has to do with the preparation we give the course every year,” Beattie said. 

“It gets a full renovation in January of every year, so we get very good grass cover from that, and we try and equalise our wear patterns by changing the movable rail, so by the time we are getting around to the carnival, the track has had the same amount of ware since the previous carnival.

“I think we are one of the only tracks in Australia that attempts to run five meetings in 15 days on a turf track in the middle of winter – so we are pretty happy with how it handles the racing.”

With the carnival just around the corner, Beattie explained his committee would be rewarding members this year. 

“One of the things we learned last year from Covid, is that we probably started to take our members for granted a little bit,” Beattie said.

“We have changed a lot of the rules and for example, you won’t be able to buy a day pass for the members through the carnival.

“So, now if you want to take advantage of the members area through the carnival, you have to be a member – we will take membership applications right up until the day.”

Veteran Grafton trainer Greg Kilner highlighted the important of the Grafton July Carnival, not only for the CRJC, but for Grafton and surrounding areas. 

“I’ve been coming to this carnival since I was about 14 or 15, so 50 years nearly,” Kilner laughed. 

“It’s very important; it’s good for the town who get a lot of visitors, and good for the club, who get to showcase their racing.

“On cup day, they will get 10,000 or more and Ramornie day they will get 8,000 or more.”

The extra prize money on offer attracts some of the best gallopers in NSW and Queensland, and while Kilner said his stable would do their best to compete, he admitted it was always tough racing.

“It’s good to race for the extra prize money, but by geez, it’s getting strong with all the Queenslanders,” Kilner said.

On Sunday, the John Carlton Cup and Grafton Cup Prelude, both worth $27,000, headline the meeting and open up the XXXX Gold July Carnival. 

The following Sunday July 4 is the South Grafton Quality Cup meeting, with the feature event worth a tidy $52,000. 

On Wednesday July 7, the time-honoured Ramornie Handicap worth $200,000 headlines a terrific Showcase meeting that also includes the $80,000 Grafton Guineas.

The $200,000 Grafton Cup meeting arrives on Thursday July 8 and is well-supported by the $75,000 Sir James Kirby Quality, the $50,000 Mother’s Gift, The $50,000 Country Magic Showcase Plate and Showcase meeting with no race valued less than $40,000.

Finally, on Sunday July 11, the Maclean Cup, valued at $34,000 rounds out the carnival. 

For more information on these meetings, readers are encouraged to click here

Key dates to remember

  • – Sunday 27 June: Westlawn Grafton Cup Prelude Day
  • – Sunday 4 July: Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup Day
  • – Wednesday 7 July: Grafton District Services Club Ramornie Handicap Day
  • – Thursday 8 July: The Maclean Hotel Grafton Cup Day
  • – Sunday 11 July: Maclean Bowling Club Maclean Cup Day