CARRATHOOL Jockey Club president Mick Armstrong admits human error was to solely to blame for the abandonment of Saturday’s iconic race meet.
Less than two hours before the scheduled start time, stewards deemed the track was unfit for racing due to a number of large cracks and holes scattered across the dirt track.
Attempts to dig up the problem areas with a tractor and then smooth them over with a heavy roller were futile with jockeys still refusing to risk themselves or their horses, forcing the annual meet to be called off at 3.45pm.
Armstrong, who told The Area News last week the track was in good shape, conceded the club did not inspect the surface closely enough in the lead-up to the races.
“It’s probably my fault, I suppose, for not having a bit of a dig around,” he said.
“I just had a quick look (in the days before the meet) and said she was alright.
“But there were a few cracks in there that were a bit deeper than they looked and they were even deeper once they were busted open.
“It’s disappointing but safety has to come first.”
The third abandonment in the space of four years left racegoers, trainers and bookmakers frustrated and upset considering the disaster could have been avoided.
Conditions were the best Carrathool had seen in many years after the 2009 meet was marred by searing heat, and the 2010 and 2011 editions were washed out.
Refunds for patrons were not an option given the costs of holding the event, Armstrong said, although there was a float rebate for trainers and compensation for jockeys who had travelled to the tiny town.
Asked if he thought the track should have been properly tended to during the week, bookie John Datton said: “You would think so. But they probably don’t know what they’re looking at.
“I think when you’re a once-a-year club and you’ve got volunteers, they’re doing their best. It’s just disappointing for everyone.”
Armstrong vowed that the club would never be “caught out” in this manner again, confirming stewards from out of town would be asked to come and make repeated inspections of the track before next year’s event.
But just because the track was declared unfit for horses, it didn’t stop punters from taking part in the famous Jackeroo Dash and Jilleroo Sprint - even if the former got off to a false start.
Griffith Swans captain Guy Orton was streets ahead of the pack in the first race, but it was Andy Ball from Dubbo who claimed the honours after runners were called back to restart the Jackeroo Dash.
For the second consecutive year, Griffith’s Jessie Wythes took out the Jilleroo Sprint.