THE early decision of Central District racing stewards to cancel Sunday's Orange Gold Cup over 24 hours before the scheduled start, due to a partly waterlogged Towac Park track, was not pre-empted by the potential of a debacle similar to that of Bathurst's recent water-based failings, which led to the suspension of the club's licence.
In November last year, Bathurst’s track sprinklers spurted to life as a field of horses turned into the home straight.
A meeting on January 17 was then cancelled due to “over-irrigation” of the track.
Stewards made the decision to cancel Sunday’s meeting at 9.30am on Saturday morning.
In most cases, any decision to cancel or reschedule a meeting is routinely held back until at least the morning of.
Racing Orange chair Ellie Brown said it was based “on the amount of rain we had on Thursday and Friday”, almost 11millimetres and just over 8mm respectively, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
“With the forecast saying it would keep raining, we thought we should make the decision as early as possible,” she said.
“It is never a light decision to cancel a meeting, we had taken penetrometer readings on the days leading into the meeting.”
Ultimately the decision was correct, as Orange went on to receive almost 23mm of rain on Saturday and almost 34mm on Sunday.
Central District steward Sam Fitzgerald conceded the call was made unusually early, but dismissed speculation the timing was based on Bathurst’s previous shortcomings.
“Ultimately the issues in Bathurst were put down to human error,” he said.
“It had nothing to do with rain so I find it hard to draw comparison to the two situations. Normally we give these meetings as much time as possible, but the guys in Orange were worried about the state of the track. The crossings at Orange seem to hold a lot of water and the horses are likely to cross one of them at the start of most races. It also gave travellers more notice.”
Towac Park has three course crossings, on the 1600-, 1400- and 1000-metre marks, which have proved troublesome in the past as they become waterlogged quickly, and are a key component in a $1.3 million dollar master plan to revamp the course.
The current sand-track will be relocated to the inside of the course proper, and upgraded, the old sand-track will be re-turfed and the trio of crossings removed. Drainage work will also be done.
“The work we’re having done might have potentially stopped this problem [had it already been completed], but it’s still in the works,” Brown said.
“Mother nature is mother nature, we can’t control the weather. We would have loved to race on Sunday.”
The meeting has been rescheduled for Wednesday, and will feature a substantially boosted program as a result of Dubbo’s corresponding cancellation on Sunday.
Wednesday’s rescheduled meeting has received 134 nominations over eight races.
Sunday was supposed to be Racing Orange’s Family Fun Day, but this has been suspended indefinitely.
“We will definitely host it at a later stage,” Brown confirmed.
Gates open on Wednesday at noon.