The wet weather raced away in time and sunshine covered Grafton as the Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) welcomed racegoers to the 2021 Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup Race Day meeting on July 4.
Under a clear winter sky, the only reminders of the recent rainfall was the track surface, which was rated a heavy 9 at the start of the program, and several scratchings as horses with wet track form firmed in the market.
But despite adhering to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, it was easier for the socially distanced crowd to put on their face masks compared to picking a winner.
Punters struggled to find form early in the day, and the bookies cheered loudly as two of the first three winners saluted at double figure odds.
In a dominant front running display, New Zealand bred gelding Nature Boy (NZ) lead the field from the jump to the winning post in Race 1, the Crown Hotel Motel Class 1 and Maiden Plate over 2217m.
Given a positive ride by apprentice jockey Georgina McDonnell, Nature Boy (NZ) had the field strung out over 20 lengths at the 800m mark, as backmarkers were hard ridden and struggled to make ground in the heavy going.
Nature Boy (NZ) kicked strongly into the home straight to win by more than five lengths and claim his second win at start number 30.
Following the race, his trainer Lea Selby revealed it had taken her a long time to work out the four-year-old son of Ocean Park.
“He can’t sprint, but he just keeps kicking,” she said happily.
“Georgina rode him well and it was exciting to watch.”
Wyong trained filly Flora, who had failed at her previous attempt on a heavy track at the Gold Coast in May, turned her form around to take Race 2, George’s Tree Services Maiden Handicap over 1005m for jockey Matthew McGuren at 9/1.
The bookies celebrated another winner at double figure odds in Race 3 when astute Tamworth trainer and long-time supporter of the July Racing Carnival Sue Grills produced Jillonni to win the Holiday Coast Meats Class 1 Handicap over 1005m at 12/1.
“She’s still a little bit roly poly, but she should win a few more races,” she said as Jillonni returned to scale.
Following a track upgrade to a Heavy 8, punters finally had a reason to smile after Race 4, the Grafton Hire Class 3 Handicap over 1408m, which was won by Amazingly, ridden by local jockey Ben Looker for Inverell trainer Wayne Oakenfull.
In the market at 5/1, Amazingly put his nose down on the line to defeat game filly Auntie Monnie and deny Sue Grills a winning double.
The good fortune continued for punters throughout the rest of the program following a further track upgrade to a Soft 7 prior to Race 6, with well-fancied runners Mikado, Texas Storm and Ausbred Cooee all saluting at short odds.
The 2021 July Racing Carnival continues today with the running of the time-honoured Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) Ramornie Handicap.