Racing back on track after EI -- Tweed racing Nov 26

By BOB ANTHONY & STEVE SPINKS

HORSE racing finally looks set to resume at Murwillumbah next month after Racing NSW yesterday announced a schedule for the return of country meetings.

Authorities say they are now confident the equine influenza (EI) crisis is under control. The Murwillumbah meeting is set down for Monday, November 26, as had been previously scheduled prior to the outbreak of Equine Influenza (EI) but sadly weeks toolate for any chance of coinciding with the club's Melbourne Cup meeting, traditionally the Tweed River Jockey Club's biggest day of the year.

With racing in the state severely disrupted by EI since August 25, Racing NSW yesterday announced what it called a "road map to recovery" for racing, with public access to recommence this Saturday at Kembla Grange. Each Saturday in November there will be special events at Gosford, Coffs Harbour, Wyong and Kembla Grange, allowing these clubs an unprecedented chance to promote racing on the premier day of the week in conjunction with the Spring Carnival in Victoria.

Other meetings set down for the Northern Rivers include racing at Ballina on Thursday, November 15 for the Ballina Cup (originally scheduled for September 13), and at Grafton on Friday, November 23.

Originally set down for September 13, the Ballina Cup confirmation came after after the NSW Racing and NSW Department of Primary Industries had given prior approval.

"We're over the moon," Ballina Jockey Club president Gary Kliese said yesterday.

"It's been a slog, but that's why we rescheduled so we could hold a Ballina Cup."

EI remains a threat to proceedings, but Ballina horses have already received their first vaccine shot and will receive their booster shots this Saturday. Horses start becoming immune to EI a week after their booster shot.

Prizemoney is unknown at this stage, but the race will be held over the traditional distance of 1600m.

Horses from Tweed Heads to Taree are expected to be allowed to nominate for the meeting and the racing will be open to the public.

Kliese expects the quality of the race to be strong, with leading jockeys Larry Cassidy and Allan Robinson already committing to rides.

The BJC president even thinks the meeting could be extended to nine or 10 races if nominations allow, with many trainers looking to give their horses a good run.

"With daylight saving we could be holding the last race around 6.30pm," he said.

Kliese praised Silver and the Ballina Council for their support.

It seems likely that the Ballina Cup will be the only NSW TAB meeting scheduled for November 15, which means betting turnover could be at an all-time high.

The Lismore Turf Club, which has tentatively postponed its Cup meeting from September 27 to November 29, is currently in negotiations with NSW Racing to secure its own date. Meanwhile, metropolitan racing is set to resume in Sydney on December 1.

Randwick, which was the first major training centre to become a victim of the virus, will host the first meeting, with Rosehill the venue on December 8. Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'Landys said he was confident that midweek meetings would get under way in January. It is presently envisaged that from January 1, 2008, hoped NSW racing will resume its normal calendar from January 1.



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