The 2017 July racing carnival concluded on Sunday, with a family fun day and the running of the Maclean Cup.
Clarence River Jockey Club [CRJC] CEO Michael Beattie said that despite a drop off in crowd numbers, this year’s carnival went particularly well.
“The crowds were down just marginally across the carnival which is of slight concern to us and certainly something we will be trying to investigate into the future,” Mr Beattie said.
“The betting turnover was pretty much on par with last year and there were no major issues with crowd conduct at all, over the five days.
“The quality of horses that we were able to attract to Grafton, would probably be up on last year.
“Gai Waterhouse has won three out of the last four [Grafton Cup races]; she’s certainly making the race very much her own.
“It’s great, because you’re talking about one of the major players within the industry here on the eastern seaboard and it’s clear that the Grafton Cup is now very much cemented in the programs that she’s putting through for her better stays, in the winter.
“It might be a fluke that you win it [the Grafton Cup] once, but when you target it three times and win it three times with nice horses, it’s a good result.”
Mr Beattie said that he would love to be able to attract Gai to Grafton.
“I’ve no doubt that the [Gai Waterhouse] stable will continue to be represented,” Mr Beattie said.
“Trying to get Gai here is a bit tricky because traditionally through late June and early July, she takes holidays.
“There’s not a lot of major metropolitan racing on at that time and there’s also no yearling sales for her to attend, so she does take that opportunity to take a break.
“We will be certainly talking to her and hoping that we can get Gai here in person, in the very near future. It would be a great result.”
Mr Beattie said that the track was in top condition for this year’s carnival.
“I think if you speak to the jockey’s they would say that this is best Grafton Carnival track that we’ve produced for some years,” he said.
“We took a marginally different approach to how we prepared the track [this year] and I think we got the benefit of that.
“Looking back at the video coverage of previous years, it’s in better condition at the end of the carnival, than it’s been for many other years.”
In summing up this year’s carnival, Mr Beattie said that it was hard to be disappointed.
“Certainly, there is an air of concern with the slight drop off in the crowds but that’s something we’ll address and we’ll try and work out what we can do to attract more people,” Mr Beattie said.
“Don’t get me wrong, the crowds were very good – we had well over 3000 on Ramornie Day and well over 5000 on Grafton Cup day, the numbers were not anything like where we were in 2012 when the crowds were dismal.
“We’re still up around the mark, but you need to be growing new customers, for the industry and business to continue on well.
“That’s perhaps where we need to be trying to concentrate into the future, trying to get some younger people who come to the races on a ‘one off’ [on one day only, during the five day carnival].
“We need to convert that, to them coming two or three days and get the crowds back to where I think they should be.”