By Alex Nolan
Slowly, but surely, life is returning to normal at the Townsville Turf Club.
Nine weeks since floodwaters inundated the club’s track and facilities, as well as much of the state’s north, horses will today return to the track at Cluden Park for a seven-race program from 1.34pm.
TTC president Malcolm Petrofski said it ranked among the most important days in the club’s history.
“It’s a time for new beginnings,” Mr Petrofski said.
“This is time for Townsville Turf Club and Townsville in general to raise the bar and move forward.”
The president thinks his initial hopes for a ‘soft return to racing’ may have been dashed thanks to the support the club has received from the wider community.
“We were hoping for a low-key affair but there we were on the front page of the (Townsville) Bulletin today and I’ve already done a couple of radio interviews,” he said.
“The whole community is getting behind us.”
Despite extensive damage to the club’s buildings, it was first thought the track had escaped largely unscathed and racing would return in a matter of days.
Mr Petrofski said once the full extent of the damage was revealed, he held grave fears that racing wouldn’t return for some time.
“I was actually confident on Day 1 but then the grubs and seeds turned up,” he said.
“Once I saw the track in its worst state I thought we could be three-to-four months away.”
In the weeks that followed, the club worked in close consultation with Racing Queensland’s tracks and facilities staff to revitalize the surface.
Warren Williams and Greg Puckeridge made weekly visits to the club to not only assist with the remediation project, but to impart their knowledge on the local track staff.
“Track-wise, the support from Racing Queensland was absolutely spectacular,” Mr Petrofski said.
“Greg would take the staff around and teach them as he went. That’s important, as they were not just coming for a quick-hit mission, they were determined to leave their knowledge behind.”
The club will now invest in it’s track’s future, with Petrofski confirming former Randwick staffer Jody Rodgers will join the team from April 16.
“We see it as a very sound investment. Plenty of science goes into preparing a racetrack, it’s a specialist field,” he said.
“But I am really proud of the way our local workers have stepped up with guidance from the RQ team.”
The track will be re-assessed following today’s races, prior to the next meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 18.
Mr Petrofski said it will be important to monitor the track leading into the Winter Racing Carnival, which commences on Saturday, June 8, with the Townsville 2YO Classic.
“We’re planning for the carnival to go ahead as strong as ever on the track, although we won’t be able to accommodate as many people on-course this year,” he said.
“Nevertheless, the community will continue to support us and we’ll put on a show.”