By Chris Scholtz
Massive nominations have underlined how much industry participants in southern NSW and north-east Victoria are looking forward to the return of racing to Albury this weekend.
Albury Racing Club has been in a state of limbo since the autumn while the new course proper, laid down at a cost of $1.2 million, has been given time to consolidate after a successful Albury Cup carnival in March.
Three meetings were held on the new track in March without any issues including the all-important Albury Cup on March 24. However, Albury Racing Club, in consultation with Racing NSW and stewards, decided to suspend racing on the new track through the winter months to give the surface more time to consolidate.
“It was our decision and we believe we have done the right thing by everyone by giving the track ample time to bed down and consolidate,” said newly-appointed ARC chief executive Michael Wighton. “Holding meetings on a new track during the winter months would not have done the surface any favours.
“Obviously now is the time to showcase the track and see the improvement that have been generated from the work that has been carried out. We’ve got consistent drainage now and it’s become an all-weather track. We believe we now have one the best racing surfaces anywhere in NSW and the entries for Saturday’s TAB meeting seem to support that view.”
Saturday’s inaugural St Vincent de Paul Society Community Race Day has attracted a massive list of 151 entries for seven races. Wighton paid tribute to trainers from across the border region for their patience.
“They have been working horses on the grass for a couple of weeks now and getting a feel for it. The feedback has been very positive,” Wighton said.
Wighton will be overseeing his first Albury race meeting as chief executive of the ARC, having been appointed in May to replace his long-serving predecessor John Miller after he took up an appointment with the Sunshine Coast Turf Club in Queensland.
Saturday’s meeting will raise money for the St Vincent de Paul Albury Regional Council to aid disadvantaged families in the region.
The meeting starts a busy schedule for Wighton and the Albury Racing Club with its traditional feature spring meetings on Cox Plate Day (October 28), Melbourne Cup Day (November 7) and Oaks Day (November 9).