TRACK ISSUE: The area of concern after flooding on the Ipswich Turf Club racing surface.
TRACK ISSUE: The area of concern after flooding on the Ipswich Turf Club racing surface. Cordell Richardson

Track decision causes angst

THERE was quite a bit of conversation surrounding the last hour abandonment of the metropolitan race meeting at Ipswich last Wednesday.

Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) stewards received criticism for not calling off the meeting earlier.

An irrigation malfunction last Monday night caused flooding of the course just after the winning post. This resulted in a heavy rating being given to that portion after a steward's inspection at midday on the Tuesday afternoon prior to the meeting.

The remainder of the course was rated as a soft five and all portions were deemed raceable by stewards.

On raceday morning, the course was still raceable although stewards actually downgraded the patch past the winning post to a heavy nine prior to inspecting the course.

An hour prior to the first race there was a senior jockey's inspection with stewards.

While jockeys deemed the affected patch raceable, they had concerns about pulling up from a straight rated good four/soft five, into a heavy patch soon after the winning post. Safety of the riders is of paramount importance.

On this advice, stewards determined to abandon the meeting due to jockey safety concerns. This led to outcry from trainers and owners who had transported their entrants to Bundamba from as far away as Rockhampton.

Stewards were in the firing line. However it was difficult to blame QRIC for the situation.

The track was raceable, however jockey concerns meant that the meeting could not proceed, and rightly so.

The whole problem was an irrigation malfunction.

The outcomes were positive for all in that trainers were compensated for transporting their entrants, jockeys received riding fees, additional races were put on at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, and Ipswich on Tuesday.

Racing Queensland and the Ipswich Turf Club (ITC) are jointly investigating maintenance of the aging irrigation system.

Additionally, it was proposed jointly by ITC and QRIC to seek jockey and trainer input at future track inspections.

However, this latter proposal is more difficult than it appears as no jockeys were available for a track inspection today before Tuesday's meeting at Ipswich following 13mm of rain on Sunday.

Ipswich track curator Sean Tou did however organise a track gallop this morning with local trackwork riders captured on video and tweeted out receiving more than 150 views within a few hours.

The view of these riders was that the track has much more cushion in it following recent refurbishments and that there is a consistent rating around the circuit with much less variation at the point after the winning post than last Wednesday.

Hartnell highlight

THERE were five Group 1 races contested over the weekend in two states with the highlight being the win by Hartnell in the Epsom Handicap.

This grand galloper is in the twilight of his racing days however he was still good enough to win the Epsom at Randwick on Saturday.

Hartnell rose to be rated in the top 10 in the world a couple of years ago despite often finishing second behind the super mare Winx.

The clearest example of this situation was the Spring of 2016 when Hartnell dodged Winx in three consecutive races winning the Chelmsford Stakes, Hill Stakes, and Turnbull Stakes by combined margins of 17 lengths, before being beaten into second behind Winx in her second Cox Plate win - by eight lengths.

Hartnell also placed in the Melbourne Cup at his next run in 2016 showing great versatility as top weight behind Almandin over the two mile journey.

Two years later, the Godolphin import was placed back in the Epsom with trainer James Cummings giving a clue when he committed to starting the hardy galloper as he was happy with the 57 kilograms handicap on Saturday.

Hartnell duly saluted at $16 to take his prize money earnings to $5.4m from 44 starts.

Group 1 racing continues on Saturday with the traditional Caulfield Cup lead-up - the Turnbull Stakes being contested at Flemington. However, last year's winner Winx will be a short-priced favourite again this week, taking the same path to a possible fourth Cox Plate in three weeks.

Next meetings

Ipswich racing continues on Tuesday with the postponed metropolitan meeting from last week.

Other meetings this month are on Friday, then Wednesday, October 10, Friday, October 19 and Wednesday, October 24.