Grafton racecourse manager Drew Cookson.
Grafton racecourse manager Drew Cookson. JoJo Newby

Cookson on course for race

GRAFTON racecourse manager Drew Cookson hasn't turned religious but the 30-year-old has taken up praying.

“Fingers crossed, I'm praying we can get through without bad weather,” Cookson said.

“The predictions are for showers this week then fine into next week.

“The weather patters have been coming in fortnightly periods. I really hope we can jag it for Ramornie-Cup week.”

How's the stress level been? Cookson, normally a jovial type was asked.

“Mate, it's loading. This is the wettest I've seen leading into the carnival,” he said.

“The hair is thinning.”

With less than a week before the XXXX Gold July Racing Carnival blasts into action, Cookson and his staff are working overtime to ensure the track and surrounds are in first-class order.

Wet weather has played havoc in the carnival lead-up, hampering normal preparations.

“Weather wise, this has been an abnormal year,” Cookson said. “Conditions in the lead-up haven't been ideal to say the least.

“Sixty to 70% of our meetings have been rain affected. That's a rare situation. We certainly don't want any more rain.

“The additional meetings we had this year compared to last year and the number of runners, we've had 120 on some days with 10 races and trials to follow, haven't helped but we're coping as best we can, doing our level best to get the track right.”

Cookson has 10 staff currently working feverishly, in all conditions.

“That will grow to 20-25 over the next couple of weeks,” he said. “It's heads down and bums up.”

Supervising his third carnival as racecourse manager, Cookson will use the same strategies as previous years.

“On Prelude Day (July 7), the moveable rail will be three metres out from the 1000 to 350 metres with the cutaway in use,” he said.

“It (the rail) returns to true on South Grafton Cup Day (July 10) and in the same position for Ramornie and Grafton Cup day.

“Believe me, the inside pad, the Cup pad, is impeccable, in top order.

“Dependent on conditions, wear and tear, we'll make a decision after the Grafton Cup if the rail is moved for Maclean Cup day.”