Ballina getting back on track
By STEVE SPINKS firstname.lastname@example.org "WE'RE BACK!" With these words, Ballina Jockey Club president Gary Kliese joyfully announced that racing would return to the Ballina Racecourse on Friday, September 28.
NSW Racing and Department of Primary Industries officials inspected the BJC facilities yesterday afternoon and gave the seaside club the all-clear to hold a closed meeting.
Racing has been shutdown in New South Wales since the equine influenza outbreak was revealed on August 25.
It is undecided if horses from Grafton or Coffs Harbour will be allowed to race at the Ballina meeting, but no spectators will be allowed in.
"The big thing for us is that we're back," Kliese said yesterday.
"They (NSW Racing and the DPI) gave us the tick of approval this afternoon.
"I would say, reading between the lines, they would be just trying to hold an in-house meeting.
"If there are no hiccups, we push forward. We will probably race in a fortnight after this meeting and there will be other meetings at Grafton, Port Macquarie and Taree."
Coffs Harbour will host a closed meeting next Tuesday. The decision by NSW Racing and the DPI has given the BJC a glimmer of hope that the postponed Ballina Cup, which was set down for September 13, can be held in mid-November.
"I'd say our board wouldn't like to make a decision until the end of this month or early October," Kliese said.
"If we get this first one out of the way we're well and truly on track to do something."
According to Kliese, DPI official Rory Arthur was impressed with the way the BJC had dealt with the equine influenza threat.
"After going through every stable he said the Ballina course was equal to the set-up at Warwick Farm," Kliese said.
"He said the trainers had done all the right things with their safety checks."
Kliese is especially pleased that jockeys and trainers can start earning a pay day again.
"It's great that there will be some sort of income coming in," he said.