Champing at the bit

Racing is set to return to Narrandera on June 13 follow the success of a crowdless meeting at Leeton. Photo: Kim Woods.

Leeton’s recent successful race meeting has paved the way for the Narrandera Race Club to implement strict new COVID compliant guidelines for its season opener next month.

The six race TAB LH Peacock Memorial Meeting is set down for June 13, offering $72,000 in prizemoney, and to be run minus the general public.

For the shire, it will be the first major sporting event since the lockdown, with other community sporting organisations looking to the race club for direction.

Race day manager Michael Bailey said planning was well underway around the logistics of a crowdless race meeting.

Committee members are due to meet with Racing NSW steward Jason Schultz today (May 20) on course preparation.

“The Wagga and Leeton meetings have been successful under the circumstances – I was so pleased for Leeton, the course looked immaculate,” Mr Bailey said. “Our track is rated a soft five20 and we are hoping to keep to that.”

Mr Bailey said Narrandera’s function centre, toilet blocks and spacious secretary’s office would enable separate facilities to be provided for male and female jockeys.

“Our committee members will be talking to other clubs to hear what issues they found on the day,” he said. “Our saddle cloths went to Wagga and Leeton, which is all part of keeping the industry going until this blows over.

“There will be two entrances for the horses and workers with security checking people in.

“We are looking at the catering to have all the food in plastic containers so people can pick up their sandwich and move away.

“I will be in the secretary’s office on my own – our team normally works together in a small area.”

Mr Bailey said trainers must vacate the track once their horses have finished racing.

“There won’t be bibs for the strappers and the saddlecloths need to be wiped down between races.

“There will be cleaning teams to clean the door handles in the jockey’s rooms and the toilets.

“We won’t be reinventing the wheel but will follow with what has worked for other clubs, and take advice from them, the stewards and Racing NSW.”

Mr Bailey expects strong support from trainers around the state.

“Because we are a Saturday TAB meeting, the prizemoney isn’t the same as it would be for the Cup but they are $12,000 races.

“For the jockeys, trainers and strappers, that is their income so we have a responsibility to keep it going.

“Last year when it rained in Victoria we ended up with a seven or eight race program but this year’s a different story – people have thrown their hands in the air and turned their horses out.

“The fields at Leeton and Wagga were good.

“It will be a test run for our Cup meeting and who knows week by week how this will unfold.”

The Leeton Toyota Narrandera Cup meeting is set down for July 19 and TC Lee ProTen meeting on August 15.

Mr Bailey is not confident of having a public attendance at any of the meetings this year.

The Leeton meeting was well supported by regional trainers with Jerilderie’s Phil Sweeney scoring a double on May 7. The six-race meeting ran under strict new COVID-19 guidelines without the general public was a pilot for other race clubs in the region.

Three-year-old gelding Free Lunch came off a second at Corowa on April 18 to score a win in the 1050m race two with apprentice Tyler Schiller in the saddle.

Sweeney went back to back in the 1050m Class 2 handicap with Happy Lad, which covered the distance in 1.03.15 under the guidance of Schiller.

The feature race of the day, the 1600m Leeton Coprice Cup, was taken out by Bravado Lass in a time of 1.39.68 on the track rated a soft five. The seven-year-old bay mare sired by Zariz is trained by Gary Colvin at Wagga Wagga and gave Tyler Schiller his third win for the day. The Geoff Duryea trained Kapover was one length away in second while Maddie’s the Boss took third place.

Canberra trainer Luke Pepper took out the 1600m maiden plate with the four-year-old mare Miss Matriarch, improving on her third placing last start over 1400m at Forbes. Rodger Waters, Wagga, produced the winner of the benchmark 50 handicap over 1150m, Sizzleonthebridge, ridden by apprentice Heni Ede in a time of 1.09.74.

Chap’s Dream was piloted by Nick Souquet to win the 1150m maiden plate 1.10.24 for Albury trainer Mitchell Beer.

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