Grafton on track for grand opening

\"\"Caption: Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis pictured with Grafton Greyhound Racing Club President, John Corrigan, Greyhound Racing NSW CEO Tony Mestrov and ‘Rusty’ the greyhound outside what will be the new state-of-the-art kennels.

 

MAIN GRAFTON WINTER CARNIVAL SCHEDULE

June 28: Maiden heats (450m).

June 30: Grafton Cup heats (450m); Maiden final.

July 7: Grafton Cup final; Stayers Cup (650m) for best eight noms.

Also racing on July 2 and July 9.

 

By TERRY WILSON

OFFICIALS are gearing for a seriously big opening of the $4.6 million redeveloped Grafton Greyhound Racing Club’s track.

The annual Grafton Winter Carnival, which was not held last year as work was done on the swish new track, will herald the return of dog racing at the Clarence Riverside city from late June and early July.

The carnival covers racing on six nights stretching from June 28 to July 9 with the showpiece events being the Maiden final (June 28) and the Grafton Cup and Stayers Cup on official opening night, July 7.

Official prizemoney levels will be confirmed as soon as possible with the Maiden money set at $15,000 to the winner.

The Grafton Cup purse is expected to be at least Group 3 level according to club president John Corrigan.

“We’re hoping to have a lot more than the $6000 first money it was in the past for the Cup,” said Corrigan.

“And so will the Stayers Cup be a lot more than that.”

The Grafton Cup will undergo a change of tradition in that it will now be run over 450 metres on the new circuit.

The old event was run over 407 metres and the past two winners – Painted Picture (Mark Wilkes) and Cosmic Bonus (Evelyn Harris) – were local sprinters.

Understandably Corrigan is keeping his fingers crossed that all goes well at the brand new racing venue, work on which is expected to be completed by May 7.

It is a costly exercise with $4.6 million outlaid by the time it is opened and overseen by Greyhound Racing New South Wales.

“It’s all about welfare, basically,” said Corrigan of the new design.

“It was envisaged when they announced the funding for greyhounds to improve their welfare.”

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and GRNSW chief Tony Mestrov were among a party of five to inspect development progress at the track recently.

The new track is being built to the latest design and construction minimum standards with wider turn radius, improved track cambers and transitions and strategically placed starting positions to provide a safer transit for greyhounds.

Gulaptis said he made a commitment to local greyhound racing participants some time ago to not only secure the sport’s future in the region, but also to ensure safer racing.

“This new modernised facility will tick both boxes,” he said.

“For as long as I can remember greyhound racing has been synonymous with Grafton. The local track has always enjoyed a strong patronage and this multi-million dollar investment will help greyhound racing thrive into the future.

“Welfare and safety in racing is paramount, and this new facility will ensure that Grafton not only has one of the best greyhound racing tracks in New South Wales, but also one of the safest.

“It is also a shot in the arm to the local economy with a number of local contractors working on the project.”

Something to look forward to is the installation of an electronic device that allows trainers and owners to know exactly what speed their runners are clocking during races.

Grafton started life as a racing venue way back in 1933 when runners went around clockwise, a-la-Queensland and NSW gallops, before a new track came into being in 1946 when racing went anti-clockwise.

Those were the days of grass surfaces, but Grafton went sand in 2004.

For the record, the late Glen Smith is the only person to have won both the Grafton Cup and Stayers Cup in the same year.

Meanwhile, Tweed Heads club president Rod Collins confirmed a visit from Mestrov and three other GRNSW people to inspect the site of the proposed new track near Kingscliff.

The new track on land purchased for $2.1 million by the club is envisaged as a replacement for the defunct Border Park track, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the deal can be completed.

Collins said Mestrov and Co were impressed by what they saw.

“They love the site but we’re still very much in the early stages,” said Collins.

“Indications from them is they want it to go ahead.

“Things are progressing well at the moment with all our development applications.”

The Tweed club has a big task ahead convincing all levels of government officialdom that a greyhound racing facility, a modern-age one, will be a boon for the Tweed Coast area.

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