Track dead, not Cup
By ADAM HICKS
HEAVY rain has slowed the track but it has not hampered preparations for Thursday's $20,000 Carlton Ballina Cup (1600m).
With more than 150mm of rain recorded in Ballina over the past five days, the cup will race on a track rated between dead and heavy and has punters searching for wet weather runners.
When nominations closed yesterday, a record 239 horses had been put forward for Thursday's race meet and organisers were considering splitting the field and increasing the program to a 10-race card.
Acceptances and jockeys will be announced today and runners with good form on rain-affected tracks are expected to firm in betting.
The 21 Ballina Cup nominees will be whittled down to a field of 14, but with most having had some success in the wet, the acceptances will depend more on weight than on weather.
The Stephen Lee-trained Felixtrinidad has won both of its two starts on soft ground while stablemate Lost Weekend has won two from three starts on slow tracks.
Kevin Nipperess' lightly run I'm So Democratic scored on its only start on a dead track
Danny Bowen's Special Voyage has placed in all conditions and isn't expected to be troubled by conditions.
Taree raider Carael Boy has a one-in-four strike rate in the wet but hasn't won since August last year and will need a big turn around in form to challenge here.
As of yesterday, the Ballina racecourse track was rated heavy, but sandy soils coupled with clear and windy forecasts are expected to dry out the ground and improve conditions over the next two days.
However, if heavy rains continue today and tomorrow organisers could be forced to abandon the meet.
Ballina Jockey Club president Gary Kliese said if the track was as wet on Thursday as it was yesterday the cup would be under serious threat.
"It would be in grave doubt if we had to hold the Ballin a Cup today," he said.
It would be a massive blow to the BJC which is catering for 6000 spectators in its first open meeting since the equine influenza outbreak in August.
The cup was in doubt for months after the original September 13 date was cancelled and horse transport bans were enforced around the State.
Organisers needed support of Ballina Shire Council, the State government, Racing NSW, the Department of Primary Industries, sponsors and the local community to secure the November 15 race date with a half-day holiday.
The BJC has already lost its traditional lead-up meeting, the Broadwater Cup. It relies on the Ballina Cup to provide 30 per cent of its annual income.
But with rain clouds slipping off the radar screens, Kliese said he wasn't event contemplating the consequences of a second cancellation.
"We can't stop, we've just got to keep going," he said. "The weather has broken, the prediction is fine and the wind is blowing.
"We can't give up now."