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By Michael Beattie | Monday, June 20, 2016

The start of the five race-meeting July Carnival at Grafton is less than three weeks away and there is plenty of good reason for trainers and owners to be looking very closely at what the Clarence River Jockey Club has is on offer at their Carnival which stretches from July 7 until July 17. Club CEO Michael Beattie spells out the long list of incentives designed to add extra spice to the 2016 edition of this important event.

The Grafton Carnival has been given a massive boost this year ... in part through the bad luck that Queensland has had in relation to the upcoming drop in its prize money level.

That drop is coinciding with a significant increase in prize money in New South Wales, funded by Racing New South Wales. In addition to that, the race club has thrown in some additional funding as well.

This means that for the two major days of the carnival every race will be conducted at above Brisbane midweek prize-money levels and we believe that is going to be a significant carrot for not only for Queensland trained horses but for horses trained in country New South Wales that have currently been inclined to go over the border.

We think they will now be drawn to Grafton. That’s a fairly significant change for us.


In addition the Cup and the Ramornie have moved from $150,000 races to $160,000 races which makes them more attractive ... and of course, one of the great advantages we have is that there is no pay up costs to compete in those races so it is a shot at the stumps for no cost.

Our Guineas is a very interesting mix because, while it is a $50,000 race, it is also part of the Inglis Bonus Series.

If you happen to have a horse that is paid up for Inglis and is paid up for BOBS and you win that $50,000 race it ends up being the equivalent of winning a $200,000 race on normal prize money distribution.

So there are lots of incentives for that race for the right horse.


The other big change that we have made ... and we made it fairly quickly ... has been with the Mother’s Gift race.

This race was formally a Benchmark 70 race two seasons ago for fillies and mares, and run for $40,000 in those times. We’ve now increased the prize-money to $50,000 and it is now an Open Company race for fillies and mares so it is certainly going to be attractive.

The South Grafton Cup, the Kirby Handicap, the John Carlton Cup and the Grafton Cup Prelude will all still run under the Quality conditions.

Whilst the prize-money levels aren’t through the roof for those races, even though two of them are $50,000 races, the fact that they are Quality handicaps, which sees the top weight limited, means that they do cater for the better horses and we think all of those races this year will be significant.


The other big advantage we’ve got from a New South Wales perspective is that we’ve been given permission by Racing New South Wales to run the Rural Plate over 2200m at set weights on Ramornie day for a Class 6 and below ... and also permission to hold a 1200m race, again for Class 6 and below, on Grafton Cup day, also under the set weight conditions.

These are things that make a big difference to New South Wales horses because there is no set weight racing here in the state and the higher benchmark horses are advantaged in those races.

It probably doesn’t make that much difference to Queensland horses because Queensland run similar style races anyway, but it is another positive factor for us.


Interestingly, last year we ran a 2350m race on the last day of the carnival which was the final lead-up in New South Wales to a 3200m restricted race conducted at Newcastle two week later.

Now this year, bouncing off the back of what happened last year, we’ve actually extended that 2350m race to 2950m.

We see that as a much better lead-up to the Newcastle event.

So we are really trying to be proactive.


My skill set isn’t around being able to run the business model of the club. My skill set when the club employed me was programming knowledge and I’m thankful that the board have been happy to let me run with some of those ideas.

The changes that we have made over the last few years have been subtle changes. We haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water anywhere along the way ... but we have just kept trying to make these little changes to make the carnival better.

With the changes this year the proof of the pudding will be in the eating but I’d like to think that the program we’ve put together caters for as many horses as possible and as many benchmark levels as possible.

That was what we set out to achieve.

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Blake Shinn partnered Bonfire to victory in the 2015 Grafton Cup
The Gai Waterhouse trained Bonfire set a new track record in that 2015 Grafton Cup victory
The Gai Waterhouse trained Bonfire set a new track record in that 2015 Grafton Cup victory
Chris Whiteley celebrates his 2015 Ramornie win aboard the Liam Birchley trained Rock Royalty
Chris Whiteley celebrates his 2015 Ramornie win aboard the Liam Birchley trained Rock Royalty

Photos: Darren Winningham

Photos: Darren Winningham
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